Cheap enough to say ‘Phuket’ I’ll go, and other notes on a move.

Perhaps, I’ll title this blog after I’m done writing. Yeesh…last post was end of March and it is now May! It’s been an eventful April/beginning of May to say the least. For those who are unaware or just joining ‘us’ now…after living in Thailand for 2 years Tyghe and I have now relocated back to the U.S. abandoning our somewhat transient lifestyle for 401K’s and adventures we fully intend to have on the outskirts of Washington D.C. For instance this weekend we are heading to Virginia Beach, VA to take a final joy ride in our rental before giving it up for public transit–our foreseeable future.

I have mixed emotions with respect to leaving Thailand. We made an amazing group a friends there, I loved my work; while living there wasn’t the ‘constant’ adventure that many people envisioned us having every day we’d made it our . Albeit hot and humid home, but home nonetheless and I find myself missing it.

Times like this I find it useful to make a pro/con list or rather things I miss and things I don’t miss:

Things I miss:

  • Our friends, I’d write this several times in the list because we really did connect with another ‘family’ while out there and it was amazing. So many times I’d come across people I worked with that were counting the days til their time there was over and many times its because they hadn’t hooked into a network of friends that fueled them like a second family. If we go back to Thailand to visit, 90% of the reason will be our friends, 10% would be the see the parts of the country we missed seeing while living there.
  • The fact I can stuff a 6’5 man full on about $1.50. We now live in one of the most expensive counties in Maryland—DOH!
  • The ease and cheapness of traveling with SE Asia. You can’t beat a $30 roundtrip ticket on AirAsia…sure the airline is like a Thai bus, I think they’d have people standing in the aisles holding handles if they could. Sure Tyghe never fit in the seats as they were made for people not over 5’4 so he had to sit sideways. But you can’t beat $30 to get out of the city for the weekend.
  • The convenience and ease of public transit, the skytrain, subway, bus system, taxis everywhere, motorbike taxis everywhere, rapid bus transit system…if you wanted to go somewhere you really had no excuse–you could get there so really the only thing holding you back would be your laziness or it could be the 104oF heat and 50-60% humidity…ya that’d promote laziness for sure!
  • The smell of fruit, flowers or right before a storm. There were some amazing thunderstorms. The first year we watched them as they passed along the Chao Phraya river which we had a view of from our apartment…on the 12th story I believe that’s where we were. The second year, in our apartment on the 2nd floor you could see the lightening bursts and the trees outside our window would go ballistic, it was pretty cool.
  • Thais are happy people that will honestly try to help you even if they don’t understand a word you are saying.
  • Frisbee and frisbee tournaments..I hear the parties were pretty awesome too but in the two years I went to tourneys I succeeded in making only ONE party–doh! It’s the laying down after my shower while Tyghe showers that gets me every time.
  • The beaches…oh the beaches…the islands (except for Phuket, I strongly strongly dislike Phuket). Though I am amused by AirAsia’s ads for going to Phuket which by the way is pronouced (poo-ket)…but playing off how foreigners pronounced ‘Ph’….

  • The food, even though I couldn’t eat more than half of it because of the spiciness–I still tried.
  • Our apartment, it definitely had quirks but it was spacious and we could easily have friends over. Our apartment now in Bethesda is nice, though not as spacious–we have a den/office which is pretty cool…it’s very….white. I’ll need to remedy that when our boxes get shipped from Thailand. But it’s in a nice safe building that has a gym, business center, concierge, one parking spot in the garage and is almost spitting distance to the metro and bus stop.
  • Board game nights. I think it’s funny that when we left Thailand and posted everything that we had to get rid of, our friends were all worried about what would happen to all our boardgames–who gets custody of our boardgames since they knew we couldn’t take them all back. We managed to bring back Killer Bunnies, Pandemic, a chess game I bought (now we need to learn to play–well play and not suck so much at it, haha).
  • Dinner nights. In Thailand you don’t normally cook as its so hot, basically no one has an oven. Most have hot plates and a microwave. Food is so cheap on the street so that’s what most people do, but their dinner on the street on the way home. And that’s what we did, it was expensive to cook anything western and more expensive to go out and eat western food. Plus we loved Thai food so it wasn’t a big deal. But there were nights I just felt like cooking and often we would invite our roaming bachelor friends or couples to come join because I have a habit of making too much food anyway.
  • The Thanksgiving we had 20+ people over.
  • Inexpensive maid service you often times just ‘get’ with your apartment rental, after moving back I was like “wow, the dishes and laundry aren’t magically getting done!” That spoiled us.

Things that make me glad to be back in the U.S.

  • No language barrier, in Thailand though the majority of those in Bangkok spoke a modicum of English–when you live there you have to deal with things like electric bills that are sometimes late, internet that may not be working and you have to get serviced, banking, public transit etc…that makes getting things fixed a definite challenge. By the end of our two years Tyghe and I were functional in Thai–ie. could get ourselves around via Taxi or public transit, order food, hold basic conversations that included a lot of hand waving and ‘arai na?’ (‘what?’).
  • The heat/humidity. Now I lived in Hawaii a long time and traveled to Costa Rica, Brazil, Ecuador… so I thought I was prepared for what Thailand might bring. I actually prefer heat and humidity to cold and dry–I survived Montana to the hum of a humidifier. I thought I was prepared…not in the least.
  • The smells. Sometimes they were awesome like cooking food, but many times walking down the street you’d come across an odor that could corrode steel.
  • I will not miss sweating. Sweating when? ALL THE TIME. Sweating midday, ok understandable, sweating during frisbee workouts–sure of course, sweating during my morning commute to work at 7am–ok a little annoying, sweating at 2am in the morning–say Wha??? Yes, literally. I got up at 2am to leave for my flight and it was 95oF and 60% humidity. That’s messed up. I will not miss sweating so much.
  • We are closer to family. We had some unfortunate things happen within family during our two years in Thailand and living abroad makes it challenging to respond to such things although NOT impossible as we demonstrated by getting back to the states within 24 hours taking a series of direct flights with little to no layovers.

Overall the move was a smart decision I feel as it allows me to gain experience and grow in my own career and Tyghe gets the chance to hold a normal job again which was frustrating for him living in Thailand. I’m sure you can imagine the ire of a computer programmer who can’t program because the internet keeps going out at his apartment and is no more reliable at a coffee shop and he can’t get it fixed because the technicians can’t narrow down what’s wrong and of course the language barrier. Upon moving back he found out we could get 3 to 4G on phones and Verizon FIOS at our apartment and probably had a small orgasm—oh computer geeks.

Now that we are more or less settled I intend to pick up the blogging again. Interestingly I checked my google analytics and since starting this blog in April 2010 I’ve had 990 page views…that’s not to say that amount of people actually stayed on the page but 990 people have been directed to the site and that’s pretty fun. I have a friend that just got over 1000 pages views which was really cool for her. Her blog is actually really neat–so I’m going to shamelessly plug it. Lately it’s encompassed adventures in serving tables in Hawaii. Her anecdotes are priceless and she’s quite a good storyteller so head over there when you get a chance.

Our adventure in Thailand has concluded…our adventure back in the states now begins…

Play by play, frisbee in Vietnam

So this past weekend Tyghe and I went to Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City (a.k.a. Saigon) for a frisbee tournament. The city itself is very different than Bangkok, it has more of a European flair/influence in the architecture of many buildings and baguettes on every corner. There are also millions of motorbikes…I think they outnumber cars. Attempting to cross the street was harrowing at first because the cars and bikes never really stop they simply just ‘magically’ part as you walk slow and steady across the street. As soon as you got used to that, walking around became easier. We stayed in Backpacker central which is equivalent to Khao San Road in Bangkok and it was interesting a lot of cool bars and cafes. I had high hopes of doing some exploring there but unfortunately we ran out of time…can only take so much time off work as it is. But we were there to play some frisbee and did we ever!

So here’s a snapshot of the trip/tournament from the point of view of a relative ‘newcomer’ to the frisbee world on her first out of country (I live in Thailand) hat tournament…

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the good, the bad…the beach

This past weekend Tyghe and I went to the beach thankful for the ability to escape flooding Bangkok, play some frisbee and enjoy the beach. We went to Phuket, a highly built up island in southern Thailand that is run for the most part by the Thai mafia from what we’ve been told and perhaps has links with Russian mafia as well–given the influx of so many Russian tourists, and all three languages (Russian, English and Thai) present on the island, it wouldn’t surprise me. In essence many who travel to Phuket accept the fact they will be overcharged for everything…absolutely everything. But I am not going to talk about our holiday…Tyghe will do a great job of that on his blog so see that for the vacay story and I believe he mentions what I will talk about. His blog will be a great sum up with pictures–the happy stuff which was indeed happy and I had a great time in that respect. Instead I will highlight one not so awesome experience as it resulted in an interesting topic related to faith. This is not a ‘devotional blog entry’…it’s a life entry…life based on faith. Continue reading “the good, the bad…the beach”

Nepal: chaos, color and a lot of monkeys…

So kudos to my cousin Lauren and my friend Heather for reminding me I still haven’t posted about Nepal…but the Masala tea I sent them did make it to them…woohoo! Sometimes mail even from a US APO address may take a lifetime to reach its destination, it might as well have been put on the slow boat to China for all I know…except maybe that wouldn’t work–China is actually quite close to me. But you get the idea.

So back in August I traveled to Kathmandu, Nepal to attend a conference/workshop on Flu in SE Asia and it was quite interesting. Though the majority of the workshop didn’t really deal with my specific field I did learn a lot about epidemiology and analysis that goes with that kind of data which is supplemental and valuable to know. So that was neat.

The first day I arrived I was really tired and though I arrived in the afternoon I had little energy to venture beyond the hotel, Dwarika’s Hotel. I made it as far as the intersection. I don’t know what I expected, it was a lot more chaotic than I’d expected and there were tons of people. In my head I was thinking…damn if I can’t handle this how would I ever survive going anywhere in India?! Haha. I think it was just a lot to take in at first. The hotel was amazing, thank God for per diems and conference discounts that allowed me to stay there, it really was beautiful.

And just a note: In keeping with the chaos that Nepal was this blog is written in an organized chronological manner with absolute chaos with regard to the pictures and text. I’d like to think its my underlying ‘motif’ or ‘commentary’ on the crazy…but alas, I am not that smart to have thought that up prior. Instead its more a result of my lack in ability to use wordpress to post pictures in a non-chaotic format with respect to the text. I got better toward the end though. Continue reading “Nepal: chaos, color and a lot of monkeys…”

No reserve, no retreat…no regrets

William Borden was born into great wealth and attended Yale in 1905, but if you do a search on William Borden on the internet you won’t find great business dealings or a discovery of a new drug…he died at 25.  And to many his life was a great waste.

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Khun daeng ngan phom?

So I’ve gotten a lot of requests to know how my Saturday, August 21st went…

We’d decided to go zip lining with my Thai friend Fon and another friend from frisbee AnnaRae. It was actually a pretty perfect day to head out, cloudy but not raining which was amazing considering it’s been raining pretty constantly here. It was fairly cool even…well as cool as Bangkok, Thailand can get (86 degrees and 88% humidity). We headed north-east to ChonBuri to a tour called Fly with the Gibbons and after a brief introduction and getting geared up we were off on a 24 platform romp through the jungle…

Our guide couldn’t say my name, Mel, so I became Miaw (Cat in Thai) and everytime I came to the platform prior to sailing off it, he felt the need to meow several times. Around platform 19 we asked if I was married, I said no, he asked it I had a boyfriend…I said you see the 6’5 man that you just sent off to the next platform? Him. He called Tyghe Yak (but don’t pronounce the ‘k’ really and say it with emphasis on the ‘a’ sound), it means giant apparently.  He then proceeded to ‘marry’ AnnaRae on the next platform where you could go two at a time. AnnaRae said she’d fly over there with him and he surmised that now it would mean they were married.

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Bird poop and buses to Bangkok

So this past weekend I got to attempt to get in touch with my inner entomologist…sort of. I went up to the AFRIMS entomology facility in the North at Kamphaeng Phet. Their main purpose is to wait for patient blood samples collected from the villages to come back positive for Dengue virus then they mobilize and head out to the village. They enroll and collected mosquitoes from houses within a 200 m radius of the index house that has the patient. They use backpack aspirators to collect the mosquitoes record information about the house and give it a unique ID. Back at the lab, mosquitoes are sorted into their respective species, Ae. aegypti females being of most interest, and dissected as we are only interested in their head and thorax for Dengue PCR/isolation. The goal being cluster studies of Dengue in patients and mosquitoes and to track movement from village to village. Then I come in with my all-powerful, mostly open source programs and attempt to correlate/track the genetics vs. epidemiology of host/vector.

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A Month in Thailand

A month in Thailand…amazing how quickly adaptable a person can become given continuously changing circumstances. I work in the Virology Dept of a U.S. military medical science institute (AFRIMS). My focus, dengue virus with perhaps occasional forays into malaria and avian influenza. Being raised in Hawaii and having traveled abroad to Central and South America I thought I was prepared for inevitable massacre of heat and humidity. Alas, nothing can prepare you for the literal melting of your body the moment you step onto the tarmac at Suvarnabhumi airport. I suppose it doesn’t help that I’ve decided to enter Thailand at the hottest time of year. No it’s actually perfectly in keeping in a life where I decided to go to graduate school in Montana, moving from Hawaii in mid-January and stepping off the plane to 10 below zero. Apparently I live for extremes.

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