This week was exam week so I spent all of what is usually “teaching time” proctoring exams and grading 500 papers. (FUN!) Just at a time when I could sorta kinda relax from teaching a bit, sickness has befallen me.
I’m sick with something. Something that’s absolutely ravaging my digestive system (as promised!) and had me shivering with a fever two mornings ago. Scratchy throat and an incomprehensible lethargy had me dragging through the day today.
In the midst of oscillating between the painstaking grading of exams and the dark moments lost to uncontrollable head-on-my-desk work-naps, Liza called to tell me I needed to get my health certificate for my work permit. I apathetically walked down the street to the village clinic, glad no one was going to stare at me or think I was weird for shielding myself from the sun with an umbrella.
There was a crab in the road.
It scuttled around, but surely wasn’t going to make it at this rate. As I stood pondering appropriate (and safe) ways to handle crabs, a driver stopped his car. He got out and skillfully helped my little arthropod friend to the other side while I was left to wonder how in the world a live crab made its way to the street outside my school. Maybe he was a fugitive from a som tam stand. I would like to think that’s the case. And all the other crabs were like, “Go, Peter (because his name would have had to be Peter), and tell them our tales. Tell them we were here.”
When I got to the clinic, I slipped off my shoes, stepped inside, and handed over the Thai note Liza had provided me. Waited in the waiting room wiggling my toes and looking at the pictures in a Thai magazine.
The doctor surprisingly spoke English. He told me my blood pressure was very low but normal for “people like me.” I wondered, What kinds of people does he mean exactly? White people? Small people? Lady people?
Then I was directed into another room where a nurse drew a blood sample for the required syphilis test. Why syphilis? you may ask. And I asked the same thing to my coworkers while we lunched at The Old Man, to which of course they responded, “They want to make sure you’re not a 17th-century prostitute.” Oh. Right.
I walked back to school as listlessly as I had come.
My energy levels were at zero when I finally got home from school today. I was drained. Bot figuratively and literally, if you know what I mean.
The wonderful thing about being sick here is that there is always khao man gai to comfort you! It’s one of my favorite dishes, even when I’m not under the weather, just because it makes so much sense. Simple: rice boiled in chicken stock, boiled chicken, and a chicken broth soup on the side. Then there’s always the savory sauce they give you, but tonight I needed to keep things really bland.
As I was sitting there eating my meal, a pregnant woman and her adorable five-year-old child sat down at my table. My mood immediately brightened. The little girl coyly leaned into her mother and they seemed to be whispering something about me. When the vendor came to bring them their waters, the woman tried to offer the water to me. (I believe the politeness I experience from Thai people is partly cultural and partly due to my “celebrity” status. Either way, Thais are the nicest people I have ever encountered.)
We all dined silently together, making eye contact and smiling every now and then. I said goodbye and took myself to the gym to take a hot shower (something I can’t get in my apartment). No workout tonight. I bought bananas and a newly-discovered “instant ginger” hot drink mix from 7-eleven and called it a night.
So yeah, I guess that was my day today.