Going Cold Turkey

August 31, 2010

For the last ten days or so I have had troubles with my Internet and for the last week I have had no connection at all.  Seems like it started with squirrels chewing on the telephone lines and now, after new lines have been installed, and after my fifth desperate call to my Internet provider, we still don’t know what is wrong.  One doesn’t realize when one has become addicted to something until you have to go without.  So I am now going cold turkey from Internet withdrawal.

If you are the kind of person who gets bent out of shape and really upset whenever there is an electricity blackout, or a water main breaks, or your satellite TV can’t find a signal, or your Internet goes down, or when you lose any of the 100 other things that a modern person has come to rely on, then maybe Thailand might not be the place for you.  Although Thailand has much more reliable services than before, stuff just happens here to remind you how close modern man is to reverting back to the Stone Age.  Thunderstorms cause the lights to go out, trees fall in front of your satellite dish, water buffalos wallow right on top of you water pipes, and squirrels chew on your Internet cables.  It’s just a fact of life.

Knowing that hasn’t made my going cold turkey any easier though.  With my regular Internet connection, living in Thailand is not really much different from living back in Seattle (especially in the rainy season like it is now).  I wake up to America’s National Public Radio to listen to the news of the day, I check the New York Times front page, Then I go through the excruciating task of seeing how much my investments have diminished, I check my email, and then see if the latest torrent downloads of my favorite U.S. TV shows has completed.  I then check on what my “friends” on Facebook have been up to, and maybe make a video call on Skype to my children and see how much my granddaughter has grown since my last call.  I later view the latest episode of The Daily Show, and then go to bed listening to the BBC’s World Service.  It makes for a full day.

I also keep myself busy writing this blog, updating my webpage (retire2thailand.com), and checking on my eBook business endeavor (ebooksinthailand.com).  That doesn’t include every time I have any kind of question and I Google the answer, or use an online Thai/English dictionary, or check in with my publishers, or see what movies are playing at the local multiplex, or just surf around.  I’m not doing any of that now and am beginning to suffer from cold sweats, muscle aches, headaches and nausea.  Cold turkey from Internet addiction is no picnic.

But maybe this unconnected cloud I am living in has a silver lining.  I now have time to do things I haven’t done in a while and enjoy the reasons I came to Thailand in the first place.  It’s the rainy season and I now have the luxury to sit and watch the rain turning our garden a luxuriant shiny green.  I am taking things a lot more slowly too.  I am typing this blog post on a simple, unconnected computer, and listening to Beethoven on my stereo.  Later I will read an eBook I recently downloaded (when the world was normal and I was connected).   I’m also reading one of my dozens of regular “paper” books that I have ignored for months and months.  And I just got off the phone with my son in the U.S.  We talked over a regular land line.  I might even have a conversation with my wife later today.  Who woulda thunk it?

If I could I would start a 12 step program to help me deal with my withdrawal.  But since I don’t know all the 12 steps, I would have to get on to Google and look them up.   Looks like I may have to ride back into town to an Internet café.  I can check my email, and then upload this post.  But then again, even though I may be “disconnected” from a world I have grown used to, I am beginning to feel more of a connection to a lot of things I thought I had lost.  Maybe I’ll just postpone rejoining the 21st century for a while and give “cold turkey” a few more days.

It’s Dengue Fever Season

August 24, 2010

The rainy season brings relief from the brutal hot season.  The rice fields get flooded and it is time for planting.  Because there is so much water around, mosquitoes start breeding and when they do they come out and bite.  One result of this is the blooming of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne virus. Endemic to this part of the world, it sometimes grows to epidemic proportions.  Looks like this rainy season may be one of those times.

Now I don’t want to scare any prospective retirees away.  Dengue is usually not life threatening (for adults), and not everyone gets it, but it is something you should know about if you are considering living here.  In the last few weeks a number of my friends have come down with dengue.  These include a number of retired Expats.  I had dengue many years ago so I can give you a description of what to look out for.

Dengue starts out with a high fever.  If you have the absolute worst headache behind the eyes that you have ever had in your life, then it is probably dengue.  If you feel like you have been hit all over your body with a baseball bat (no exaggeration, thus dengue fever’s nickname of “breakbone fever”) then you can be pretty sure.  Treatment?  There really isn’t any except fever reduction and pain killers.  Aspirin is not recommended since another symptom is little blood vessels breaking (causing a rash) and asprin might make the symptom worse.

Quite often people wind up in the hospital (where a good friend has been for the last 5 days).  Strong adults with good immune systems will deal with it okay, and later they will have great stories to tell about surviving dengue.  Older adults may need more help and symptom relief.

Children are in the most danger since their undeveloped immune systems may have a hard time fighting off the virus.  Years ago I wrote a features article for the Bangkok Post concerning dengue and Japanese encephalitis and visited a children’s hospital ward.  Many of them didn’t make it.  If a child has dengue, then get him/her to a hospital right away.

One more thing.  It is a little surprise that dengue has for you.  After a few days of misery you will begin to feel really good.  The fever is gone and the aches and pains subside.  Psych!  This lasts for about a day and then everything returns just as bad, or worse, as before.  After about a week or 10 days you’ll be on the other side, but you’ll need lots of rest and chicken soup to get you through.

Here’s some good news:  After you have dengue fever you will be immune to this strain for life and will never get it again.  Here’s the bad news:  There are at least 4 different strains of dengue.

Please try to avoid those little stripped mosquitoes.  They are mostly around in the daytime.  Most likely you will be fine and never experience dengue fever.  But if you do, see a doctor, rest up, and try to eat and drink.  And when it is all over you can tell all your Facebook friends about it.

Your can read more here: http://www.medicinenet.com/dengue_fever/article.htm

Fiction about Thailand on eBooks in Thailand

Occidental Adam, Oriental Eve by John Cadet

Popular as a “paper” book, Occidental Adam, Oriental Eve is now available as an eBook.  John Cadet has been in Thailand long enough (since the 1960s) to understand how relationships in Thailand work.  The stories in Occidental Adam, Oriental Eve are gleaned from these experiences.

Lali’s Passage by Ken Albertsen

Lali, a lascivious young Burmese lady, is ‘discovered’ in northern Thailand by Lee – who takes her to the States to embark on a modeling career. In San Francisco, Lali gets kidnapped, then winds up hanging with a rock group.

You know something has become popular when it starts out as a noun and becomes a verb.  Skype, especially for those of us living abroad, has become one of those verbs.  Facebook is another.  I also think that these have become features of life for some retirees that make deciding to retire overseas much easier than it was before.

Case in point:

I ran into a man on the golf course the other day, a Thai living in Wichita, Kansas.  His one dream was to retire and move on back to Thailand.  “Why don’t you, I asked.”  “I have three grandchildren back in Kansas” he said.  “I want to watch them as they grow up.”  (As I write this Wichita is 38°C –  not a place I want to be in the summertime.)

“Being around” for your children and grandchildren is one of the reasons many people give for not picking up and starting a new life abroad.  I can understand that, having recently become a grandpa myself.  So I did like I always do when I am faced with a conundrum.  I presented my question to my personal oracle, “Google”.  “What do parents think about having grandparents around” I asked the holder of all knowledge.

Here is what my Oracle said.  There were lots of complaints that many new parents see “ too much of the grandparents”.  One who was being pressured by her parents to see more of their grandchild said, “I had a child for me and my husband, not for the grandparents.”  When ask the question of “Who knows better?” the answers were pretty mixed “Grandparents. They are older and wiser and are just trying to help.” and “Parents. While grandparents may be older and wiser, they can keep their opinions to themselves.”  It is funny but the first answer seemed to be given mostly by grandparents, the second, by the parents of the child.  I wonder why.  One parent’s response got a little more detailed, “My mom managed to completely UN-potty-train and UN-sleep-train my kid.   In the course of two days, my previously well-disciplined 3-year-old was suddenly pooping in her pants and waking up at all hours of the night.

By the way, there were also lots of children who loved having their parents around to help with the new grandchild.

I don’t want to be considered one of those overbearing, pushy grandparents, and I certainly don’t want to un-potty-train anyone.  But I would like to see my new granddaughter once in a while, and at the same time live my retired years in a place I can afford and which has a lifestyle I love, and never sees a below freezing or a snowy day.

Skype them.

On the day my new granddaughter was born my son called us from his laptop, right from the hospital room.  Right there was my son, our very tired looking daughter-in-law, and little Natalie.

We couldn’t touch her of course, which is probably a good thing.  But we had a nice long talk with the children and lots of “Goo goos”, and “Hellooooos”, and “I’m your Grandpas” to little Natalie.  And if her eyes were working yet she would have seen how happy we were.

Goo goo, gaa ga, Hi, I'm your Grandpa - Skyping Natalie

My children and I Skype each other frequently, but not too much to get old.  I also Skype with friends, and lately people I know are using Skype to hook up with Thai teachers and Skype-study Thai.

Facebook them.

There are about 100 pictures of my granddaughter on Facebook.  In 98 of them she is sleeping, which is what newborns do a lot of (except at night).  I am a big user of Facebook.  Every time something interesting happens, I post a picture of it, or I link to a song that I am reminded of, or I pontificate on something in the news.  I communicate with friends and family more now than I did before I left the States.

From my Facebook album - another addition to the family

So if you are putting off that retirement-jump because you feel you might be left isolated and alone, think again.  I have over 100 Facebook friends and Skype all over the world (and my son just bought me a new camera so Natalie will get a better look at us once her eyes begin to work).  We are more in touch than we have ever been.

When Natalie is old enough to understand “I’m your Grandpa.” then we’ll get on a plane and do a visit.  Until then we will be Skyping and Facebooking.

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