March 7, 2010

An Introduction to Thursdays

Thursdays . . . I've always liked Thursdays. Somehow they're always good days. At school there was always Assembly or ELSR Day or Volleyball or some sort of event, which meant that the beautiful afternoon was almost never spent in academic pursuits.

Here, Thursdays are Home Visit Days, on which yours truly joins a Community Health and Development Centre (CHDC) team on one of their daily visits to one of our contacts with HIV/AIDS who are well enough to live outside the hospice on their own or with family. Normally that team consists on NK and Y, two wonderful ladies with varying levels of English. NK herself has AIDS, two boys, and some non-malignant form of Cervical Cancer. She doesn't skimp on the details and certainly doesn't hold back.

Anyways, this Thursday I went with NK, Y, and T (NK's old partner in visit) to visit three people. One was relatively close to Mercy, and lived by herself in the back room of a restaurant, for some reason cluttered with hairdressing equipment. She picked up work at the restaurant, but kept forgetting to take her pills and thinking about worrying about her boyfriend. It never ceases to amaze me how many older Thais have relationships; in the West, after about the age of 40 having a boyfriend is rare, but this woman was at least that.We talked to her for about half an hour, checked her temperature, and set an alarm to remind her about her meds. We also left her a care package of Thai essentials, instant noodles and Baby powder! With a few other things tossed in too.

Next stop was was visit a Lady Boy at work in China Town. He worked at a cosmetic wholesaler (Y bought 800 baht worth of diet pills from him), and there was a big difference in the visit. No paperwork, no checking meds, just a casual conversation between friends. It lasted no more than 10 minutes; I felt so bad being the only Farang in sight, I drew attention to the conversation. I amused myself playing with a dog on the street in a feeble attempt to seem unconnected.

Chinatown is . . . pretty much a huge string of markets that makes for a shopper's paradise. Its full of wholesalers, who sell huge quantities to people for resale (I've twice seen similar bags, at lest fifty of them, being taken by three little ladies on Tunisian Air; I see the connection now!). At this point it kind of changed from a work trip to a shopping venture, not that that's a bad thing!

When we finally emerged from the tangle, we took a Tuk Tuk past the Grand Palace (yes, I took the flak for still not having been) to Tamasat University for Lunch. Ferry across the river to Siraj Hospital, temporary home of the Thai King during his series of illnesses that have kept him hidden away for most of my time here. Bussed past NK's home to a gas station where our third lady was working at the car wash. She had strange colouring on her hands, and was complaining of shaky legs. Our conversation was maybe 5 minutes because she was surrounded by co-workers, but it was a relatively jovial meeting.

Bussed back, just in time for my five o'clock class with the international girls.

Now, this is rather unusual, but I also went with them on Friday this week. Two women were healthy enough to leave the hospice, but because neither had any family or support network we took them to another foundation called WE-TRAIN, where they would learn a trade and live until they could get a job and home of their own. We also took a woman to a distant hospital so she could pick up her daughter's medication. This is where Mercy is useful; she didn't even think of asking the doctor to sign the papers so she could get the meds at the same hospital they get their IVs, and much closer.

The stint at the hospital took almost 4 hours, so I wandered down to the first floor and ended up making and teaching others how to make paper air-fresheners that look like little polo shirts. It was fun, and I might have to teach some more people here for resale. It was fun though; I doubt they get many Farangs out there, so everyone came over to practice their English. . . The White Girl's Burden I guess.

We made it home, through heavy traffic, at 7 o'clock. The result? One very tired volunteer who fell asleep waiting to go to the bathroom. Barely made it up for the Fast this morning, but it was totally worth it.

Quote tine! The CHDC is by far the most organized department. What did NK and Y's records show for the month of March?

Only one person died this month.

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