Sunday, April 26, 2009

Chocolate, Yellow Shoes, Hairdryers, and Hospitals

About twenty minutes ago, I was exploring part of Chiang Mai with some of my friends and we stumbled upon one of the best places in all of the city. The Chocolate Fact. The tagline is "Live Life Chocolately" and who can disagree with that. As soon as we walk in, there is a huge sign that says "CHOCOLATE 100%." This may not seem like a very cool thing to you, but here in Thailand the consumption of chocolate is quite low in comparison to the states. I have been chocolate deprived on many different occasions and today was one of those occasions. Right next to this huge sign is twenty-five different chocolate desserts and then next to that was a huge menu of over 30 different chocolate drinks!! Definitely heaven. It took us about seven minutes to actually decide on what we wanted to order. So many options... I finally settled on a dark chocolate latte and let me tell you, it was incredible. To top off this great little place, they even have FREE wifi, which is always a bonus.

Every Sunday night Chiang Mai closes down two major streets that run through the Old City for "The Walking Street". It brings in both tourists and locals alike. The streets are lined with people's homemade clothing/paintings/souvenirs etc and food vendors. I have gone a few times before with Johnny's host family and it seems to be more of a social event then a shopping event. Well last Sunday, I was on a mission... my mission was to buy some gifts. The mission failed horribly and I got really frustrated. I ran into Rachel (another ISDSI student and one of my roommates) and we decided to stop in some clothing stores on our walk home. She is a fashion queen and has had a really successful semester in the shopping area of Thailand, which is not usually typical for most foreigners. Most stores have only two clothing sizes: extra small and extra huge. And they usually have only one size of shoes: 6.5 (sometimes 7 if your lucky). So my shopping experience in Thailand has been quite unexciting. While Rachel was trying on some clothes I found a sweet pair of florescent yellow pumas, I got really excited and tried to put them on... but of course they were too small by about 1/2 a size. Bummer. When we walked out of the store (with some new clothes for Rachel and me empty handed and frustrated) I said to Rachel, "You know, all i really want right now is a pair of bright yellow shoes that fit me. I am done trying to find clothes, all i want now are shoes." She laughed and said that she would try to help me find some. We came up to the corner of the street and on our right was a little shoe store of barely worn shoes. As soon as I walked in, I looked to my left and right there in a spotlight were a pair of bright yellow new balance shoes. It was as though they were calling out my name... I put them on and guess what!! They fit, perfectly. The best part was that they were about $5-10. It was a materialistic/impulsive buying moment, but it was definitely worth it. I wore them the next day with my uniform: black skirt, white collar shirt, and bright yellow shoes. I probably looked like an idiot haha, but I was happy. My Bright Yellow Shoes

I had a pretty scary morning last week. I almost lost all of my hair! I was late to school already and my hair was still a little wet, so I grabbed my blow dryer to quickly dry my bangs. Shortly after I turned it on I heard a click sound and then a loud explosion sound and then my blow dryer was blowing flames!!!!! AHHHH! I unplugged it as fast as I could and thankfully none of my hair was affected! It was a little terrifying and not the best way to start a morning :( Sorry Mom for ruining your blow dryer. At least I still have all of my hair :)

On Monday I started to notice a sort of rash on my knee. The next day it started to puss and pop and get really gross. Wednesday it started to spread a little and Thursday I finally decided it wasn't normal. I showed it to one of our instructors and she gave me a band-aid and said she had no idea what it was. Friday, I showed it to her again and it was decided that I should go to the hospital and get it checked out just in case it doesn't spread while we are backpacking through the jungle the following week. By then the wound looked really strange and not like a normal scratch or scab. The reason why I just told you that gruesome information is because it is important to understand the background of the wound to fully grasp the following event I am going to tell you about.

As soon as class was over on Friday (around noon), I decided to go to the hospital. I walked in and sat at the information desk. The receptionist asked me what was wrong and I said "I have this strange wound on my knee that I would like to get looked at." She asked to see it and as soon as I showed it to her, her eyes got really big and she said, "you need to go over to there (pointing to the surgery desk)." Of course I was a little confused and I said, "to surgery??" and she quickly replied, "yes, yes to surgery." Now I am sure you can imagine what was going through my head when this conversation ended. "SURGERY, WHAT THE HECK!?! I DON'T NEED TO GET SURGERY FOR THIS STUPID WOUND! THEY BETTER NOT PERFORM SURGERY ON MY KNEE, THEN I WON'T BE ABLE TO WALK FOR AWHILE, THEN I WON'T BE ABLE TO GO BACKPACKING NEXT WEEK!?!? AND I HAVEN'T EVEN TOLD MY MOTHER! AHHHHH" I looked at her and nodded and walked over to the surgery desk. As I approached the desk (which was surrounded by 5 Thai nurses) I heard one of the nurses say in Thai, "A farang (foreigner) is coming, who can speak English to her." Then a woman walks over and says in perfect English, "Sawatdee Ka, how can I help you?" I told her about my knee, showed it to her, then she took me into a room where I got my temp, blood pressure, height, and weight checked. She looked at my knee asked me in less perfect English what had happened. I then explained to her everything that I told you in the previous paragraph. She said, "ohhhhhh, please go wait in the waiting room." Still at this point, my thoughts are racing wondering if this is normal in Thailand and on top of all of that I am freaking out a little about how I am going to explain this to my mom. About twenty minutes later I am called into a room with what looks to be a surgeon. He looks at my knee, I explain the story again and then after about ten minutes of questions and inspecting my knee he says, "it looks like you may have an abscess of some sort, but you don't need to get surgery for this, so I will have one of my nurses take you up to the dermatology unit." HOLY COW, WHAT A RELIEF! No more surgery, YEAH! :) I saw the dermatologists, she put me on some anti-biotics and gave me some cream to put on my wound. This crazy two+ hour adventure in the hospital ended with a hospital bill of about $30. Not too bad, but definitely emotionally draining. haha. After, I paid my bill I went up to the tenth floor to visit another ISDSI student. She had an infection on her ankle and had to stay in the hospital for a few days and get hooked up to IV and take some anti-biotics. I think that maybe there was a little paranoia with my knee, thinking that maybe it could be something worse... but hey it is better safe than sorry. Later that night, I went back to the hospital with 4 other students to visit Anna. We brought popcorn, m&ms, and a dancing movie. This hospital didn't have any visiting rules, so we had a little movie party for 5 hours in Anna's hospital room. It was awesome.

Tomorrow I leave for the province of Mae Hong Son where I will be backpacking from village to village learning about political ecology, conservation, and human rights. It is going to be pretty intense, but I am really excited. I won't have internet access until May 14th, I believe so until then please pray for our group and for the villagers that we will be living with. Thank you for all of your prayers and support and I pray that you have a wonderful next few weeks!

ally j


  1. Ally! I miss you! Sounds like you are having a great time. xoxo

  2. Ally Johnson,
    Oh my goodness! You're life is so exciting, and hard, but mostly SWEET! I'm glad that you went to chocolate heaven (I agree, that makes everything better) Your shoes are awesome. That's so funny! And I'm glad that your knee is ok, what a crazy experience. I'm praying for your trip and your education. I love you so much Ally and I miss you.