Finally– The Thung Song Video Extravaganza!

Well, I’ve been promising you 43 minutes of cinematic gold for a few weeks now and the moment is finally upon us (and… please let the facetiousness of that statement be noted). Over the last few days of our time in Thung Song Wayne and I finally realized a project I’d had in mind for months previous: collecting footage for a video in which we rode around and had little chats with some of the Thais that had become a part of our everyday life during our time in the town. Honestly, I had a 10-minute reel in mind, something similar to but a little more polished than the Jiaxing video.

The footage we ended up with amounted to over two hours’ worth, so you can see how whittling it down to even 43 minutes is still a bit of an accomplishment! Also, there’s some pretty sweet jams to hopefully hold your attention through the whole thing. If 43 minutes still seems like a bit too much to bite off at one time, I’ve recently discovered the option to start YouTube links at various times, allowing me to present a sort of “Chapters” set-up and also to introduce and give background into the characters you’ll encounter.

“Chapter” One: The ride from our house to Pa’Daeng’s laundry, and a peek at Pa’Daeng’s new house. Pa’Daeng (literally “Auntie Red”) is a charismatic 66 year-old laundress who brought smiles and giggles into each laundry run. You’ll notice we drive by her old house/laundry headquarters on our way to the new one– one she bought and moved into about a week before we left, and of which she is very, very proud. She doesn’t have to rent anymore! Oh, and as for the four kids hanging out at her house, still not exactly sure what the story is there, but they were all awful cute.
(Music: “Myth” by Beach House)

Chapter” Two: The ride from Pa’Daeng’s to and around the big morning market, where we pick up some coconut water and a watermelon. On our way out we happen to run spot two of the students from our adult class also cruising around.
(Music: “I Was Thinkin’ of a Dream I Had” by the Walkmen; “Juicebox” by the Strokes)

(note: ‘p,’ pronounced “pee,” is a prefix that technically means “older brother/sister” but is used as a sign of closeness and respect with people older than you.)

“Chapter” Three: At the clinic of “the Indian Doctor,” as we all referred to him until I actually discovered his name on camera (Doctor Raj). One of the better English speakers we encountered in our town, he is the doctor that deduced that Wayne’s and my sore throats were a result of eating too much Thai fruit and who performed the ghastly task of slicing off the slough forming on the burn on my leg. Here he waxes poetic about his origins, reveals the funny reason he feels safe in Thung Song, and proves to be a better doctor than meteorologist.
(Music: “Province” by TV On The Radio“Little April Shower” from the Bambi soundtrack.)

“Chapter” Four: Concluding our tour of the town center, where Wayne gets himself a Buddha necklace (there’s probably better terminology for it than that, but that’s what we’ll go with). Then saying goodbye to teachers and students, at our school and at the adjacent temple, where we arrive only after firming up a lunch date with our favorite shopkeeper, Fai.
(Music: “Those To Come” by the Shins; “Prodigal Son” by the Rolling Stones)

collage we made for the teachers as a goodbye present

such a kind, sweet lady whom we were always excited to pay a visit

a few of the students i “interview”. i finally succeed in getting them to speak a bit of english on camera!!!

you may recognize him as the saw-playing extraordinaire.

“Chapter” Five: Lunch with Fai. And her mom, and her mom’s friend. (She left her brother in charge of things.) As happens so often in Thailand, plans get changed up twice and we end up at our friend Vallapa’s restaurant, Kan Yaeng (aka “The Green Restaurant,” aka “The Pink Restaurant”). We feasted upon a fish and vegetable stir-fry (with a fried egg on the side), two plates of pad thai, an entire fish topped with delicious veggies and herbs, a bowl of tom yum goong, and a tofu/veggie dish that was entirely superfluous.
(Music: “Turn Into” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs)

so much more than a lovely restaurant owner to us! always kind and ready to help in any number of situations, not to mention tons of fun. and she spoke phenomenal english– which she claimed developed largely as a result of watching american tv!

“Chapter” Six:  A chat with our neighbor Jalan about his history with Thung Song, a stop-in at Yim Yim Restaurant to be showered with gifts by Peung and her mother (the owner of the restaurant), a riveting performance by Montrey & Co. at Win Win (with a guest appearance of David on the drums), a look around O’s place, a coffee with Kung, and a quick peek around the Dinosaur Restaurant.
(Music: “Doo Doo Doo (ดูดู่ดู้)” by Job2Do, performed by Montrey; and another Thai song I’m unfortunately unfamiliar with, also performed by Montrey)

(i realized the video kind of only suggests they gave me some taro cakes, when in reality, i received so much more!)

o: the man who wears the most hats in thung song. army man, restaurant owner, leader of the fighting fish and lottery racket (jokes, jokes. it wasn’t a racket.)

kung, the sister of our former-agent yax, and our housemate for our first month in thailand! she runs the coffee shop in front of the office, and is a collector of strays.

“Chapter” Seven: Ollie’s last walk! That river is clean enough, pickup truck is a saw (you’ll know what I mean), and the street dogs run the spectrum of ‘placid’ to ‘jerk.’ Then we run into the famed P’Kiew (whose house is driven past and who is seen at the fried banana stand [not to be confused with the… banana stand] in “Chapter” One and who just drove past us as we walked Ollie) to chat for a second about martial arts, and then invite him to our goodbye dinner at Kan Yeang. He was just a sweet old man who’d lived in Thung Song his whole life. He had the tiniest little concrete house and he enjoyed napping outside it, bent over that little table out front. We’d always chat when I was walking Ollie; he knew a little bit of English and we had fun trying to make ourselves understood. We’d often seen him outside doing the yardwork for his sister, who lives in the nice house next door, and we drank beer with him a few times.
(Music: “Take a Walk” by Spoon; “Title Music (from The Darjeeling Limited)” by Shankar Jaikishan

“Chapter” Eight: Final goodbyes! Leaving the house, a farewell dinner at Kan Yeang, a mad dash for the train with a much-beloved entourage. Scenes from our train. Fine
(Music: “This Time Tomorrow” by the Kinks— itself a tip of the hat to DL.)

And if you wanna just watch it straight through… Here you go (yes, I’m aware that you get the same result if you just click ‘”Chapter” One’ up there). Oh, and if you’re watching this in Thailand (or anywhere else with less-than-desirable internet connection) you might think about just downloading it through SaveMedia.com or KeepVid.com. Will probably work better than waiting for the whole thing to buffer!

You Know I Pack Light!

When David came back to Thung Song he had it in his head that he wanted to try to get involved with the music scene there. In a former life he’d done pretty well for himself in the Cali hiphop scene (check him out, he’s pretty rad), and he thought it would be cool to try to incorporate that into our local Thai surroundings. I consider myself lucky to have been a part of this process! It was actually when we went to Tonsai that somehow the idea to do some acoustic/hiphop collaborating entered our little cerebella, but we never put the idea to work until what ended up being the night of the accident. After my wires came off we did end up performing twice more.

I recently re-stumbled upon this video we’d made when we were practicing for our first “show” at Win Win (“practice” and “show” ended up meaning running through like two songs for an hour before meeting up with our crew and then winging a third one once we got there haha), and though I trip up a bit at the end I decided it’s worth sharing, as I look back very fondly on the handful of musical moments I shared with my dear friend. Hope you enjoy our acoustic “mash-up” of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” and David’s own “Pack Light.”

(Oh, and just a warning for those to whom it matters, there is a bit of “adult language” in David’s verse.)

[edit:]

If any of you were wondering just what the heck David means by “steady diggin on a chick like she got the Motts.” The explanation certainly tickled me.

[/edit]

Final Days in Thung Song

Since my diligence has been severely lacking I’ve decided to do one big, low-commentary post as an illustration of moments in our final days in Thung Song. My nostalgia’s kicking in big time! These were some good people, ya heard?

ollie snugglin’ kellie

at chris’ and my birthday dinner, after a failed grouper face

jean’s birthday gift to me: tons of gum to help with my chewing (you can see my jaw’s still funny here). plus david goofin.

cutting the cake, addressed to ‘christy.’

on the way back from nakhon after getting the news that wayne didn’t need to return!

pizza party with wayne’s mom

eating this was a big feat for me. and yes, my shirt says, ‘shut up. my favorite song is playing. MUSTACHE.’

my thai ‘mother,’ who helped me out so nicely in the hospital (her own mother was an amputee in the bed next to me), and her older sister who was also very kind.

chris auditioning for the red light district

david and i rock-starring it up at winwin

(haha, his mic went out and he swiftly had to lean in and grab mine)

saying goodbye to students and teachers

had arranged a lunch with fai, our favorite shopowner. her mother (in yellow) and mother’s friend (in green) were in tow. the first place we wanted to go to was closed. the second place was coincidentally right next to the mother’s friend’s house and they didn’t want to eat there because they went all the time. so… we had to go to gan eng (which is never a bad thing).

on the way to our going-away dinner, when i’d obnoxiously told everyone to make sure they weren’t late, and then doubly obnoxiously showed up late myself. (palm, meet forehead).

at the dinner

haha, our ‘candid’ shot

when (baby) squirrels attack

‘where we goin?!’

stopped by yimyim so peung and her mother could give me a gift. i was told i would be able to use it every day.

they were right!

final night at winwin.

joyce’s rock star shoes

vallapa’s shoes kept going missing. don’t think these were the right ones…

i walked many miles in these little red toms, but the time came to leave them behind.

last family portrait at the house

last dinner at gan eng. i think the girl through the window was supposed to be one of the subjects of this shot but she turned at the last minute.

our down-the-street neighbor, p’kiew (“mr green”) got very excited when we invited him to the dinner, and he showed up in style.

Beer Pong’s Thung Song Debut

So all my posts are going to be really behind at this point, but this one’s really really behind. I think it should have preceded my last Tonsai post and somehow went forgotten.

It doesn’t really require a lot of explanation… as there arose a greater population of Americans and South Africans in our town, the Americans began reminiscing about this totally awesome game we used to play in college– er, uni– called “beer pong.” And… basically we had the Saffers at “beer.”

When we realized that Jean had an ideally shaped table (alright, it was a tad short, but that can be fixed by requiring competitors to step back from the edge, you see) the decision really made itself. There was a bit of arm-twisting when it came to the Bounce Rule (and specifically the fact that it can be slapped away), but all in all it resulted in a night full of fun!

While Wayne and I held the table for the first five games in a row, we were soon to be toppled by the Dream Team, aka Chris and Collette who, if my memory serves, held the table for the rest of the night.

As for current Life News (haha aw… this used to be a pretty regular segment when I first started this blog) I made it to Minnesota yesterday and am currently staying with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. Another cousin gets married this weekend; I have a trip to Chicago planned in a few weeks; I’m heading to Florida to see my other grandma a week or so after that; and I’ll be back in Virginia for Thanksgiving (which will actually be spent… in North Carolina). Since being home I’ve gone to a good friend’s wedding, had a night out in DC, and headed back to Charlottesville for the UVA Homecomings game and related festivities (though, as it turns out no beer pong).

Through the Wire

I was going to apologize for my over month-long absence, but in fact, as many of you probably know, there was good reason for it. I’ve found myself wondering from time to time what the best way to handle the subject of Wayne’s and my motorbike accident would be; if it was something I even cared to include in my blog at all. Ultimately, of all things, intermittently over the course of the past weeks at our house in Thung Song, in the hotel in Bangkok, and now at my kitchen table in Virginia, I decided to write an essay. I didn’t write it for the purposes of my blog, but in the end have decided it’s about all the reflection I care to do on the incident for the moment, and I wanted to get it out of the way so I can move on to some of the more pleasant parts of the last of our time in Thailand. It’s long, as I’m sure comes as no surprise, and the first half isn’t about the accident at all. But here you are.

Preface

When I was 11, I was living on Fort Leavenworth, Kansas with my family. I attended General Omar Bradley Elementary School as a 6th grader– something that didn’t sit very well with me when we moved there from Augusta, Georgia, and all of my fellow 5th-grade graduates were moving up to middle school. In the end I don’t suppose it mattered much at all.

My dad always disagrees when I make the firm assertion that in my younger years I was a bona fide nerd, which I suppose is normal for fathers. When he asks what evidence I have to support my claim, I casually mention the big, round glasses that occupied a prominent position on my face, the fact that I was in the gifted program, and the fact that I played violin, for starters. I will say, however, that in all of my pre-teen years, the 10 months spent in Kansas seemed to be the least bogged down with a sense of any sort of rejection on account of the nerdiness. I attribute this to the fact that General Omar Bradley Elementary School was, as you might surmise from the name, populated almost entirely by military children, many of whom were also there for less than a year. The school was small and judgements seemed to flow a little less freely. We were all more or less in the same boat.

Though I don’t suppose the glasses did me any favors, some of my best friends were in the gifted program with me and the violin was miraculously almost kind of cool. I took lessons at a place in downtown Leavenworth called the Tune Shop, the threshold of which was adorned with a postcard from Melissa Etheridge, a former Leavenworth local. Turns out her old guitar instructor taught at the same shop, which I felt earned me a bit of cred-via-association (never mind that one of my friends whose mom was also from the area said she was great friends in school with both Melissa Etheridge and Julianne Moore– and that she had a photo of the latter in her underwear at a sleepover to prove it). Another of my good friends took lessons at the same place, and we’d play duets together.

As with most elementary schools, come the end of the school year General Omar Bradley hosted a talent show. Much to my disbelief and excitement, students were able to perform in more than one act– provided their auditions were good enough. This was great news for me, because in addition to playing something on the violin, which was just assumed, I was eager to sing something. You see, I’d always fancied myself something of a vocalist hiding behind a violinist’s exterior, and as far as I could tell my big break had come in Kansas. I’d earned the role of Mrs. Cratchit in our Christmas play, and had a solo verse in the Cratchit family song, “We’ve Got Love.” For a project in music class I’d garnered the confidence to sing Jewel’s “Foolish Games” in front of the whole class. I’d even made sure to silence the tape when she said “damn” when I copied the song over from my CD, just to make sure there would be nothing to take away from the performance. My first boyfriend that year, Dexter (who, coincidentally had been cast as Scrooge in the Christmas play), wrote me a note once listing all the reasons he loved me, and it culminated with “especially the way you sing.”

So as far as I was concerned, I practically owed it to everyone to do a vocal number in addition to whatever I’d end up playing on the violin. One of the favorite movies amongst my classmates that year was Dr. Doolittle, the Eddie Murphy one, and as I’m sure you all remember, Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody?” was, for whatever reason, one of the big promotional songs for the movie. You know, the one with the baby gurgling in the background and Timbaland proclaiming that he’s the man from the big V-A during his rap interlude. The one where she talks about the subject of the song being her prey, and admits various times to being ‘naughty naughty.’

Unfortunately at this point in my life I can’t exactly recall the sequence of events that led to me and my friend Charles, who could not only rap but also dance (not to keep bringing everything back to A Christmas Carol, but I’m pretty sure somehow he was able to incorporate a quick Moonwalk into one of the dance numbers), deciding that “Are You That Somebody?” would be our ticket to Talent Show fame and adoration. But that’s what happened. And I would love to have been a fly on the wall, or privy to the readouts of some kind of mind-reading device inserted in the brains of the pudgy middle-aged white women watching my tiny, equally white, buck-toothed, bespectacled, 11-year-old self kind of bounce around (I didn’t exactly possess Charles’ finesse on the floor) and tell them that “I gotta watch my body; I’m not just anybody.” This just before making way for Charles to pull some more-than-likely inappropriate moves and claim to make “playahatas to believers” during our audition. Though I imagine it was plenty entertaining, I don’t suppose I really need to mention that we did not make the cut for the Talent Show.

To my chagrin, I had to accept that I was a better violinist than hip-hop star. Where my homage to Aaliyah failed, my tribute to Vivaldi paid off; specifically in the form of the first movement of his Concerto in A Minor that I had to memorize from the fourth Suzuki book in my private lessons at the Tune Shop. Though it killed me a little inside that I’d blown my opportunity to croon to a hypothetical man about how “weak” it would be if he “slept” in front of a crowd of presumably awestruck onlookers, I couldn’t deny that I loved that Concerto and was pretty proud of myself for having memorized all three pages of it. It was fast-paced and exciting, with little teasing build-ups throughout and a nice, dramatic ending. It grabbed listeners’ attention instantly with its persistent high A notes and kept hold of their ears with measures and measures of finger-knotting scales– or at least it should have.

I’d been given a coveted slot near the end of the Talent Show, leaving me about an hour sitting on pins and needles while younger students told jokes, juggled, performed magic tricks, or did whatever else it is that elementary schoolers do at talent shows. It also left just enough time for a rogue bird to be about thirty seconds away from an unprotected entrance to the gym by the time I took the stage, meaning twenty seconds into my performance every eye in the place was not on me but on the frantic ball of feathers circling the rafters. The jury’s still out, but it didn’t take long for the bird to either knock a forgotten whiffle ball out of some obscure nook OR to lay an egg mid-flight. This, of course, drew the audience from being silently distracted to engaging in full-on bedlam. They were standing, moving, shouting… doing pretty much anything they could that didn’t involve allowing my well-rehearsed Baroque masterpiece to wash over them.

I was later asked, many times by many people, why I didn’t just stop and wait for the chaos to subside. Oh, such an easy and practical solution, in retrospect! My answer was that since I had memorized it I wouldn’t have been able to pick up wherever I’d left off– it was one fluid piece in my head and I didn’t trust myself to break it into arbitrary pieces (though my sixth grade explanation probably didn’t include the words ‘fluid’ or ‘arbitrary’). “Oh but you could have just started over!”, they all said. Yeah, I could have. And I think what it really came down to was that I was unwilling to accept that a mischievous bird was more deserving of the spotlight than I was. I had just hoped, prayed, expected that they’d come back to me… I’d worked so hard, I was performing as well as I’d ever done in practice, every note was in its right place… Surely their attention would be redirected before long?

Of course, we’re talking about elementary schoolers here, and they probably would have been more entertained by a sleeping bird in a cage than by Itzhak Perlman himself sawing away on a violin as it was. By the time I commenced the final ritard I’d say maybe only a third of the spectators had remembered that one of their fellow sixth graders was doing something musical on stage. I removed my bow from the strings, gave a little giggle, avoided eye contact with anyone, took a small bow, and rushed off trying to fight the tears forming in my eyes. By the time I returned to my seat I think I’d pretty well composed myself, and was able to laugh off the whole ordeal from there. I don’t know that I ever admitted my disappointment to anyone; my self-awareness as a mere child who’d practiced like crazy in the hopes of impressing her peers, only to be shown up by a lost little bird.

* * *

Two weeks before I turned 25, my boyfriend and I got into a motorbike accident on a highway in the town where we were teaching English in Thailand. We were coming home from a club, making a detour to pick up bread and cheese to serve to the friends we’d spontaneously invited over for an after-party of sorts, when an 18-wheeler cut us off as it made a U-turn from the outside lane. My memories of the incident are choppy– first we’re on the bike making plans for our last-minute grocery run. What could only have been five minutes later I’m looking down at Wayne’s limp form on the ground, surrounded by debris, shouting, “Fan! Fan!” (the Thai word for “boyfriend”) at an anonymous bystander or two before spitting out a mouthful of my own blood. However long later in our town’s hospital I feel a buzz in my pocket, retrieve my phone with its newly busted screen, and tell my friend that all my teeth are falling out. When she asks if I’d been in an accident I can only answer, “I think so.”

That very night we ended up being transferred to the hospital in our province’s capital, an hour away, where there was a better neurologist and dental surgeon. Wayne had a slight fracture in the back of his skull, despite the fact that he’d been wearing a helmet. His brain was swollen and there was slight hematoma. Though I’d fallen into the bad habit of neglecting helmet-wear on account of the fact that they don’t fit when one’s hair is pulled up, I’d miraculously avoided my own head trauma. Still, over my right eyebrow was a nasty cut that stretched in three directions. My left thigh was covered in a sweeping shallow scrape, and my right calf had been subjected to an exhaust pipe burn that required the removal of nearly every layer of skin. Worse yet, I’d broken my jaw in two places (though, in fact, lost no teeth. The broken section of my jaw was just tilted at such an angle that there was a significant gap between my front incisors and one of the bordering canines).

When it became clear that we were both going to be okay, the first emotion to consume me was the realization of our overwhelming good fortune. If Wayne hadn’t been wearing his helmet, if I’d fallen in any other direction, if we’d been going any faster, if we’d hit the truck at any other angle… who knows what might have happened. The second wave of emotion accompanied all the other what-ifs… What if we’d called a motorbike taxi like we’d considered doing earlier in the evening? What if we’d left the club half an hour, a minute, even thirty seconds earlier or later? What if we’d decided against going to that club altogether? Or my favorite– what if I’d remembered I’d left my wallet at home and spared ourselves a trip for groceries we wouldn’t have been able to buy, seeing as Wayne had already spent all his money on mixers? My friends kept warning me that the “What If?” game was a losing one– and worthless at that– but alas, for me it was also an inevitable one.

You see, I had a flight booked for back home a mere twenty days after the accident, and the opportunity cost of my one week (and Wayne’s two weeks) in the hospital, and the subsequent at-home recovery time, was at times unbearable. He and I were meant to have a romantic getaway to a remote national park we’d had our eyes on for ages the weekend after the accident. For my and a friend’s birthday the weekend after that, a big group of us had made plans to have one last hurrah at one of our favorite beaches/rock climbing havens– a trip we’d been looking forward to for weeks already. We were forced to miss our last two weeks of school, rendering the fun reward lessons I had planned for students futile and forcing us to cancel the “Thank You” outings we’d scheduled with a number of our helpful Thai coworkers. I knew the importance of any and all of these things paled in comparison with that of, you know, our very lives being spared and I tried to keep a chin up in light of all the goodness being shown to us by friends, neighbors and colleagues. Still, it was difficult at times to not get lost in the regret I felt towards an incident I, in the end, had little control over in the first place.

Come my “Birthday Eve,” the day before we all should have been planning to hop on our bikes and set off for the beach-province of Krabi, I was instead on a minibus making the hour-long journey back to the hospital. This had actually become a highly anticipated trip in itself for me, as it meant the removal of the wires that had been holding my mouth shut for eight days, and I was greatly looking forward to working my way up to solid food once more. Wayne was still in the hospital so they could continue to closely monitor his brain; his sister had arrived from China, where she was also teaching, that morning, and his mother had come from their home of South Africa days earlier. I gave them all greetings and hugs when I arrived, then shuffled off to the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Ward.

Perhaps out of my excitement to finally have an at least moderately mobile jaw; perhaps because I’d been clinging tightly to the notion that things would only improve from the time I’d been released from the hospital nearly a week previous; perhaps simply because I hadn’t allowed myself to contemplate what exactly might be involved in the removal of a mouthful of grisly wires, I had not really mentally prepared myself for any considerable unpleasantness in the experience. I’d already made it through the accident itself, the subsequent surgery and swelling and soreness and stitches, the helplessness that accompanied the first few days of Wayne’s recovery– his frustration, confusion, and moodiness that are all prime symptoms of head trauma. There was also the dreariness of our separate wards, where over fifty mostly older men and women, all seemingly on the point of death, laid in beds within an arm’s reach of our own for weeks on end, being cared for not only by nurses but also by steadfast friends and family members who’d make little camps in the passages of the hospitals and even sleep on the floor under their loved one’s bed so there would always be someone present with them. On a few occasions, for both Wayne and myself, we’d wake up to newly empty beds, or beds with different occupants than that night before, in our immediate surroundings. We were always pretty sure the former occupants hadn’t simply gone home. As far as I was concerned, I’d had my share of unpleasantness and was on the up and up.

I loved my surgeon, a beautiful young Thai woman with excellent English (she, for instance, introduced me to the term “maxillofacial”) and a wonderful disposition, and was happy to see her again. When it was time for my appointment, she greeted me warmly, proceeded to compliment how clean I’d kept my “grill” (as friends and I had taken to calling it), and assured me that the two incision points along my gums where she’d operated to insert the steel plates now holding my jaw together were healing even more quickly than expected. “That’s great!” I mumbled back to her, as clearly as I could with my teeth locked in place. One of the many lessons I’ve taken away from the whole ordeal is that I’d make a terrible ventriloquist.

Everything seemed to be going swimmingly until approximately a minute and a half after she doused my entire mouth with some spray-on analgesic and instructed me to hold it in my mouth for a few minutes without swallowing. I felt the numbness setting in, but before long the tiniest bit managed to trickle down my throat, setting me off on a weird combination of choking and coughing, neither of which are very easy or pleasant at all when your mouth is wired shut. I had no choice but to spit it all out– who knows how long before my surgeon planned on giving me the green light to do so. When she heard my sputtering she attempted to stop me but it was too late. My mouth was as numb as it was going to get.

Her assistant pulled back my lips and my surgeon got to work. With a scissor-like tool she’d twist and twist and twist the wire where two teeth butted up to one another, and when it become untwisted, she’d yank. The first few came out rather easily, but still offered both the sounds and sensations of flossing with paperclips. Others, she had to work a little harder for. Twist, twist, twist; then yank (pause)– yank YANK! Though I’d managed not to lose any teeth in the accident I began to feel more and more certain that a few would give up the good fight before the procedure was finished. And where I’d managed to make it through my many rounds of stitches and bandagings without making a sound, I felt myself more and more inclined to issue winces and finally full-on shouts of discomfort during this procedure. After a few agonizing minutes, she put her tools down, reached back into my mouth, and pulled off the silver brace that had sat along my top teeth. Free of their hands, I relaxed my jaw and found that it dropped. My mouth was open for the first time in eight days! It felt wide as ever, but when I went to pass my tongue through my teeth I found even the tip barely made it through.

And I was reminded that there was still a whole row of wires along my bottom teeth. They gave me a moment to relax, and then jumped back in. More twisting. More yanking. More wincing. The added annoyance of coming close to choking again, this time on the blood that was beginning to collect at the back of my throat. My eyes were pricking with tears, and when it was finally all over I felt as pained and exhausted as if I’d just delivered a baby (of course, I write this as someone who’s never delivered a baby). It was as if the weight of all the physical and mental distress I’d gone through during the previous weeks hit me at once; that I’d been keeping it at bay but couldn’t fight it off anymore and was forced to finally really experience it.

I took a few deep breaths and as the pain started to subside I began to attempt to drag myself out of my self-sympathy. It was over, and that was a source of comfort in itself. I mustered the energy to sit up and rinse my mouth, the cool water strange on my semi-numbed, semi-ravaged gums. Blood came out of my mouth over and over in weird clumps, perhaps an effect of the analgesic. I was handed a mirror which confirmed my suspicion that I might look like I’d just been punched in the face, between the swelling and the crimson stains along my teeth. But the wires were gone, and when I gave it my best effort I was able to create a half-inch gap between my top and bottom teeth.

And then, out of nowhere, my attention was abruptly brought to the faint sounds of the Thai TV playing in the adjacent waiting room. I heard an open E as a pickup note. Five high As rang out in succession, and were soon followed by a series of those familiar finger-knotting scales. For the first and last time in Thailand, perhaps in my entire life, I heard the first movement of Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in A Minor ringing out in a setting that wasn’t my bedroom, the Tune Shop, or the gym of General Omar Bradley Elementary School.

***

Oh yeah… my other artistic (sorry, “artistic”) outlet about the accident came in the form of a rap (sorry, “rap,” and I suppose here is where “of all things” might be more appropriate) after having many people liken me to Kanye on account of his having broken his jaw and then had his mouth wired shut as well. So here’s that as well.

Lyrics after the jump. Continue reading

More Thung Song Happenings (or, an Excuse to Post Lots of Pictures of My Dog)

Every once in awhile I need a theme-less post in which to include miscellaneous photos from around town. This is one of those posts.

in our office a student was carving a flower into a pumpkin one day. beautiful!

haha… a project i do every once in awhile is to assign vocabulary words to pairs of students, then have them translate the word, make a sentence, and include them all on a poster. though they didn’t follow the instructions completely, this poster (for the word ‘decision’) gave me quite a chuckle for sure. (don’t know if it’s clear but in the photo the man is imagining himself smoking.)

wow, it’s a rare occasion i catch jame, o, pok, and top hard at work simultaneously! (it’s worth mentioning that all the girls had been allowed to go to lunch because their work was already finished, whereas the boys hadn’t even started)

jom, my student crush, left me a little note at the beginning of his project: “sorry! i can’t draw and pain colour (so) beautiful.” i imagine he means “paint”

haha. ‘buttiful.’

there he is!!!!

reason number 1244232 to love ollie: he is ALWAYS excited for EVERYTHING!

we saw this chameleon at one of our favorite restaurants, yim yim! he was totally chilling. and we’d just been talking about that movie ‘rango.’

we spied the tiniest gecko!

i blew up an eggplant roasting them to make baba ghanouj, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because, as a result of not having enough eggplant to make baba on its own, i make a hummus/baba combination that was awesome!

david took ollie and me to the vet

i finally snapped a photo of one of the many cows-in-pickup-beds we see around town.

we had some awesome vegan sushi with claire and collette

cheers!

caught the market in this gorgeous light

weight loss aid AND make your body perfect. isn’t that convenient?!

chris had a colorful ice cream cone after lunch pad thai

ollie got a crate that’s much too small for him… that can’t be refunded

no really… via email: me: ‘i need a crate to take my 18 kg dog on an airplane.’
lady: ‘for 18 kg dog the 1003 crate is much better.’
me: ‘cool.’ [5 days later] ‘whoa that crate’s much too small for my dog, can i exchange it?’
lady: ‘that crate is suitable for dogs up to 20 kgs. you can exchange but you pay your own freight. it’s much cheaper just to order a new one.’
emilie: ‘what?! that’s like a cat carrier.’
me: ‘right? peace out $80…’

there was this kid sitting under a table at the market

the moon was nearly full the night i went to hot yoga for the first time

and then was totally full the next night. probably my last one in thailand 😦

last friday we went in search of a new waterfall. we were successful, except it was all dried up. so we walked/climbed up the giant rocks, which had been baking in the sun all day not unlike enormous round pizza stones, to the top of the mountain. it wasn’t until we made it home that i realized i’d burnt my feet so badly as to produce half-inch thick blisters on the bottom of each. i walked around with two club feet for two days. sorry for the graphic picture. (haha… i just reduced its size in hopes of the ‘ew’ factor also diminishing.)

à la tonsai, david and i momentarily joined a thai rock band

i burnt a few grilled cheese sambos something awful (but they still tasted alright!)

i spotted someone rocking this amusing shirt whilst bustling around town.

Aaaand… that’s pretty much the long and short of it!

Finally Back in Thung Song

Just so we’re clear… I’ve been back in Thung Song for quite a while now. Three weeks and a day (wait… whaaaat??), to be exact. It’s just taken me this long to catch up and so now, finally, my family will finally reach my own little temporary ‘hometown’ in Blog-time.

night boat and nearly-full moon, 5 am, surat thani

We took another night boat to get here. Well, to Surat Thani, whence we caught a minibus to Thung Song. The fam had the pleasure of stopping by O’s to pick up some motorbikes (and to meet the dear man, of course), and also of meeting Henk, who so kindly drove Mom and Ryan (and our luggage) home. Many thanks to O and Collette for sharing motorbikes in our time of need as well!

Of course there was one very special Thung Song resident eagerly awaiting our arrival at the house: Mr Ollie Pup! He greeted us with a few of his signature jump-spins and then was very excited to go on a walk with Mom and me (while Ryan rested and Dad and Nate “toodled around” on the motorbikes). In the course of their one short day there I think it’s safe to say that Ollie successfully stole the hearts of all, but I won’t feign any surprise.

Then it was lunchtime! We headed to the unique and quaint “River Restaurant” (where we spent my birthday and Loy Krathong), newly renovated to include much more outdoor seating. Our kind and helpful teacher from school, P’Tim, joined us with her two daughters. She was really excited to meet the family and insisted that we meet her for dinner as well.

Then it was time for the main event– hitting the waterfall! I was really torn between Plio and Klong Chang (both featured here), but in the end had to go with Klong Chang. It’s always worth it for the beautiful ride there. Christina, Dan, and Kagiso met us in town and then we were off– in one of those splendid farang convoys.

nate icing a bee sting to the bum (true story)

i’ve since been told we look very crunchy in this photo. i’ll take that as a compliment. crunch crunch crunch.

we’d made friends with these boys at the first level of the waterfall. dad is sure they have different feet-bottoms than farang, allowing them to grip slippery rock faces with more ease than us. in any case, they were good sports about taking this silly picture with us!

We chilled for the rest of the afternoon and before we knew it it was already dinner time. As promised, we met up with P’Tim, who seemed a little disappointed that we were intent on going to the famous pad thai stand (as opposed to a fancier restaurant). Kellie, Hanneke, and David joined us there, and in the evening we couldn’t resist going to the infamous Mai Thong for a nightcap. Christina, Dan, and Vallapa joined in for the last of the festivities, and oh-so-appropriately we left only after the live band belted out their cover of “Hotel California.” So basically, the family got a very condensed helping of what live in Thung Song is like before having to fly out the next morning (P’Tim, showing that Thai hospitality doesn’t end with picking up checks, offered her husband up to take us to the airport. Yes, ‘us’– she even okayed me missing my Monday morning classes in order to accompany them. A class act, that P’Tim!).


the video that sparked my family’s desire to test out proper pad thai

the gang at mai thong

And thus concluded a very wonderful family vacation, the pain of parting diminished considerably by the fact that I fly home exactly a month from today! That being said it was also a sort of “Highlights of Thailand!” reel all in two weeks; a giant demonstration of all the things I know I’ll find myself missing when that month has elapsed. “Bittersweet” doesn’t begin to cover it!