Starting the Program!

Tuesday, August 26th

We woke up early this morning to catch a flight to our new destination, Surat Thani, which is in the southern part of Thailand. The flight was only an hour so it barely felt like we were in the air and then we were here. The best part was that our plane was pink and was painted to look like a duck.

We got picked up at the airport by 2 drivers and 3 hospital staff that are associated with this part of the program and have been set up to help us for he next couple of days. We stopped in town for some lunch as a famous restaurant and ate what looked like pho. We stuck to the “don’t ask, just eat it policy” and it turned out really good. This was also the first place I got to try a traditional Thai desert which was very different from the US.

When we pulled up to the hospital it was very green, relaxing and rural looking. It looked nothing like a hospital. Our group was greeted by a couple of patients who had very graciously made flower bouquets out of leaves and presented them to us in very respectable ways. They told us that these “patients” had actually been discharged from the hospital but their family’s no longer wanted them and would rather pay for them to live in the hospital housing… How sad… We were then ushered into a meeting room where the staff, who surprisingly spoke enough English to give a presentation, told us a little about what they do there and how well their hospital functions.

The next part was my favorite! We actually got to go see where they treat the patients and where they live depending on why they are there. The first one was to the house of the people who live there because their families refuse to take them back. These people were very nice, serving us iced tea and speaking what little English they know. As we are all standing in a group, mind you these people are starring at us the whole time like we are some martian creatures, one of the older guys comes up to us, stares me right in the face and screams “DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOD?!” I was so taken off guard that I was at a loss for words… I literally just starred at him then at my teacher with a “save me” expression. That was bizarre…. From there I avoided any other mishaps such as this one and the man got on a bike that pumps water when you peddle. Thank goodness he found a distraction.

We continued to the house where people with substance abuse problems live. They of course starred at us too and wanted to take pictures with the tallest guy in our group because he looks so different. We left there without talking to many of them and continued on to what I thought was the most intense part of the site visit. In Thailand the majority of people who have a mental disorder suffer from schizophrenia. The initial treatment is medication and counseling however if that doesn’t work you are then prescribed electric shock therapy. This came as a shock to me because I thought this practice was eradicated with lobotomies a long time ago… Do they really still do his to people. We explored the room where they preform them and where they recover and hat was enough for me.., I would rather not think about an electric charge surging through someone’s brain inducing a seizure. They said this was a very effective technique but for me that did not make it sound any less scary or painful. We were happy to get out of there and move onto the children’s unit.

Tonight our professor suggested that we go to a market down by the water to have dinner… This was a disaster. It poured rain and none of us had jackets because you don’t ever need them and it’s to hot to wear them otherwise. Long story short, we all got drenched like little wet rats and stumbled into dinner looking as though we had swam there. After a while of being in he rain I decided to just embrace it and feel the wetness because there was no other option and it wasn’t really that cold. I guess I can check running through the rain off my list along with not eating dinner because it was too spicy. Good thing I like plain white rice 🙂 Since I couldn’t eat that much at dinner, we decided to go get ice cream at 7/11 and got a very big surprise! Just walking down the street on a leash was a giant elephant! This is the first one I have seen since we have been here and in such a random place.

Tomorrow we are off to a monastery and to talk to some fisherman. That shall be interesting

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