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Friday, March 16, 2012

The Thailand Trots

The Thai Alphabet
I've been feeling a bit peaked today.

I understand I have what is called "The Thailand Trots". This is similar to - but not to be confused with - Montezuma's Revenge" which one gets in Mexico, or "Delhi Belly" which one gets in India.

The source of the ailment is the same: water. Contaminated water, that is. In my case, it was probably the tap water used to wash out the lettuce and tomato in the salad I ate last night as part of my most amazing meal at Rob's birthday celebration.

Despite Rob's assurances that "everything is safe, I never get sick," I have been scrupulous in avoiding vegetables or fresh fruit and I haven't eaten anything off the numerous carts with amazing looking chicken satay or beautiful sliced pineapple, papaya, mango, etc., which abounds here.

But, this was an upscale restaurant - I mean, we had the prix fix menu - salad/soup, choice of five luscious entres (I had the delicious medallions of boeuf with mushrooms, mashed potatoes and green beans), and dessert (an amazing chocolate and vanilla mousse) - all for 290 baht (about $10 US) which is considered an expensive meal 'round these parts.

I thought it might be safe to have the salad here. Not so, apparently.

Well, I think the salad, combined with being out last night until 2 AM coupled with this morning's 110 degree heat and the most beastly humidity I've experienced thus far (and, it's been fairly beastly) have all conspired together to bring "the troubles" to Paradise today.

I'm learning that it's not a pleasant experience to be ill in a country where one does not speak the language and can not effectively communicate what one needs or wants.

Thank God I brought my own Immodium. 

We went for breakfast this morning at The Cucumber Cafe across the street. I've been getting the Waffles or the Pancakes with maple syrup. Lovely. I couldn't even look at the picture on the menu this morning without feeling my stomach lurch.

I found "hot tea" on the menu (Beverages, #58) and pointed to it. My waitress smiled. I carefully checked the "Accompany" section to find a side of plain, steamed,white rice. Nothing was listed there or anywhere on the menu. So, I tried my luck with the waitress who knows me now.

We operate on a very basic Thai-English communication basis. We actually sound like we know what we're talking about. And, mostly, we do. We're fine as long as we're simply exchanging pleasantries and I can point to something on the menu. A simple bowl of plain, steamed white rice was pushing us both out of our comfort zones.

"Tummy upset," I said.

She looked at me quizzically and I think, registered concern. My facial expression was communicating more than my words.

"Um....plain, steamed white rice," I asked.

She pointed to the picture of the bowl of shrimp soup so many Thais eat for breakfast.  I have no idea what she thought I said, except that one can have that with rice if one prefers.

"Oh, no, no, korb-koon, ka (no thank you, madam)," I said. "Rice. Just rice. Plain rice. Rice."

She looked at me again like I was talking....well.... Greek.

I tried a few more times and then, suddenly, she smiled and said, "Ah, moment, moment. I get."

At that point, I had no idea if she really understood. I was feeling too ill to continue the conversation, anyway. I closed my eyes, took some deep breaths, and waited for the lovely pot of tea I was certain would be at my table momentarily.

To my absolute delight, she did "get it". Suddenly, there was a lovely mound of steamed, white rice on a plate which I ate slowly and gratefully, sipping my cup of hot, lovely tea.

I must sound to them the way they sometimes sound to me.  Case in point:

Rob was supposed to have a massage yesterday for his birthday. Joe was to come to his apartment at 1600 hours (4 PM). He waited until 4:30 and then tried to call Joe to no avail.

"I'll bet he's lost his cell phone again," said Rob, and that was the end of that. The subject of time is an entirely different conversation. Except, this morning, while we were sitting at breakfast - I enjoying my plain, boiled, white rice as if it were a filet mignon - Rob got the following email from Joe.
Hi Peter (he always calls Rob "Peter" for some unknown reason)

You can tell me why not.

I can not see his phone.

I call to my phone. But it can not any influence.

How can I do to get in touch with you?

I immediately heard how I must sound to the Thai people and practically snorted the tea and rice out my nostrils.

The good news is that while my tummy may be out of sorts, my sense of humor and ability to laugh at myself seem to be working just fine.

I fully expect to be "fit as a fiddle" for tomorrow's festivities for St. Patrick's Day. There's a parade with floats and everyone will be wearin' the green. I understand that the Thai people really get into it and drink green bear and eat corned beef and cabbage right along with the farang (foreigners).

I guess it's really true: Absolutely everyone is Irish on St. Paddy's Day.

I wonder what they really understand about it all, and which Buddhist Spirit they compare St. Patrick to in making the translation across cultural and religious lines.

Then again, maybe I don't really want to know that.

Having the Thailand Trots is enough of a cultural immersion for me.


Brother David said...

Imodium, never leave home without it.

Are you using bottled water to brush your teeth?

I never eat from street venders here in Mexico either! Even if they believe that they are clean, they do not have their own bathroom facilities, nor usually much for washing their hands while working. I am even a bit picky about the restaurants where I eat. And if I see something shady that could effect the sanitation of my food, you can be sure that I won;t be back.

Feel better soon.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

David - Yes, I am being Very Careful. Even Thai people don't drink the water here. I brush my teeth with bottled water. I really think it was the salad.

All that having been said, I'm delighted to report that I am much, much better this morning. 97%. Thanks, dear man.

Houdini said...

I am visiting for the Thai vowels, not for the trot :-)
And I like to coment that it is advisable to be not too strict with the diet, if you stay longer in a country, as the body will build an immunity shield (not really, though) in the same way as the locals have it since their youth. Farangs have theirs, too, but it is prepared for the bugs of their home country. I eat everything, even drink the tap water sometimes, and I have had no problems since I moved here 3 years ago. Hygienic paranoia as it is seen nowadays will lead to more allergies. Our generation eat dirt when we were toddlers!