A day in an expat’s life.


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Picture courtesy of Mr. Steve Yarnold, my favorite photographer.


This one is for those of you who keep asking what I do with myself all day. Yesterday’s sample. It’s not a typical day, but not that unusual either. 

For those of you who don’t know us, I’m an Emergency doc in Upstate NY. My husband Steve just retired. This is our first winter in Thailand. More on my blog.

4:30. I wake up. It’s still dark, but the cars and the scooters accelerating on Huay Kaew road, just outside the balcony, tell me it’s about to be morning. I step out quietly. I turn on the TV. CNN. For the news, companionship and a little light.  I pour two cups of coffee from the cold brew I fixed yesterday. One for me, the other one to make sure there’s some left for Steve when he gets up. I’m not focused yet, so quite a bit goes on the counter.  I check my emails/medium/facebook/website/ Instagram/Twitter/LinkedIn. 

5:30. It’s still dark but I am getting sharper. I’m working on a piece on violence in healthcare. I’m researching the legislation. Not much fun. I start trimming down the 7K words mammoth rough draft, to get it to 2K words. Most of them aren’t mine. They are stories of abuse my people shared with me. Which do I keep? Which do I cut? I work on the balcony and soak in the view. It’s a little chilly – 68F.

Chiang Mai’s early morning from my writing spot.

6:30. Steve’s up. We figure out the day. My neck hurts, so I won’t go running this morning. We booked an expensive wine tasting party tonight. That’s a rare treat. In Thailand, even mediocre wine is expensive. I need to dye my hair. I need a massage for my neck. Laundry can wait till tomorrow. Same with shopping for treats for the pack of homeless dogs we volunteer with. 

7:30. Breakfast/Instagram. I start fixing Steve’s breakfast. That’s usually my Instagram picture for the day. I’ve got the orange juice and the coffee, but I’m running out of books. I only have a few here, the rest are in the North Country, shivering. I have a tired copy of Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” from the library. I spend an hour placing it just so, together with Steve’s orange juice and his bananas. He’s eying them but he’s not allowed to touch them until I’m done. I keep looking for interesting props and backgrounds. It usually ends up being food. I’m on the lookout for red things – there’s only that many tomatoes and chilis one can picture. 

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Yesterday’s Instagram. Also Steve’s breakfast. Except for the book. Too much fiber.

8:30. Back to the Healthcare piece. It’s not as fun as I’d like. I try to make it funnier, but it’s just not a funny subject. I need a drink for that and it’s a bit early. I recheck my emails and request audio demos from the nine people who made offers to narrate my book. I send them a snippet, then go back to work. 

10:00. Coffee time at Joyce’s, our friend and neighbor. Time to chat, make plans and make sure everybody is OK. I’m swamped, so Steve goes alone. He’ll report back.

11:30. Out to lunch. We get out the back way. We head to my favorite place. It’s an open-air family run place, seven minutes walk. 45 Baht will buy you a Khao Soy, the most delicious coconut chicken curry. The shallots, pickles and lime are complimentary. We packed a cold beer for Steve, (they don’t sell beer here, but you can bring your own.) We use their ice – it has a hole inside so it’s OK to drink even for us, Farangs, with delicate stomachs. We sit at a family table with people of all colors, ages, and genders. We eat our noodles with chopsticks, as expected. Unlike China, everything but noodles needs a fork in Thailand. 

Khao Soy. The lovely pain. Coconut curry with a chicken leg and boiled and fried noodles seasoned with shallots, pickles, and limes. Delicious!

1:00. Thai massage. We get parallel massages – and we get to laugh at each other as the little Thai ladies get us contorted in interesting ways. Steve can’t bend, I can’t straighten, and the ladies can’t stop laughing. When we’re done we’re offered a glass of water. Steve makes passes at the orange cat. A gentleman looking like a customer brings Steve a cold beer. It turns out he lives in Berkley, CA. He’s English, a retired carpenter, and our masseuse’s boyfriend. He’s looking at relocating to Thailand. We chat and play with the cat, then plan to meet for a beer next week. 

3 PM.  Back home. I organize the hair dye in my bathroom – I bought it a few days ago at the local supermarket. I hope it’s neither green nor purple. They don’t fit my complexion. Steve helps me put it on. While it works I’m back to the healthcare article. 

Who’s pretty?

4:30. Done with the dying. I prettify myself with a home-made scrub of coffee grounds and local honey while we listen to the auditions. Hearing your own writing read by somebody who doesn’t speak ER – priceless! We choose the best one. I send her the script and the money. God Bless.

5:30. Getting ready. I hesitate between the four pairs of high heels I never wear and a pair of old sandals. There’ll be a lot of standing and mingling. I go for the sandals.

6 PM. We meet our friend John in the lobby. We take a songtaew to the Meridien. That’s a truck with benches in the back. It takes a convoluted itinerary to wherever you’re going, in order to drop the others to their destinations.  It’s open, noisy and smoky, but a lot of fun. I do my best to not smear my lipstick nor swallow my fluttering hair. 

6:15. We arrive. I step off the car. My right sandal feels funny. Sure enough, the sole is completely detached. I limp to a chair. Now what? Steve hands me his Swiss army knife and some cord he got from the concierge. I operate on it in the bathroom and I end up with a mildly functional but completely weird looking sandal. Hopefully, nobody but me cares about my feet. 

6:30. We sit at the bar with friends. They order cocktails. Really? When we paid a lot of money for a classy, all you can drink ITALIAN WINE event upstairs? We ditch them and grab the last available table. 

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Pretty Thai ladies feeding us delicious tidbits. Courtesy of Mr. Steve Yarnold.

7:30. We’re almost full of good Italian wine and delicious little bites of food. Lamb and beef and truffle risotto and tiny little pizzas with chocolate mousse in between – they aren’t labeled, so I grab whatever looks good and find out what it is later. Our friends have arrived and are now standing around our table – there are no more chairs. 

Durian. It looks evil, it smells evil, it tastes divine.

8:30. We head out. I catch a smell and follow it. It’s a truck full of Durian – The King of Fruit. It stinks like a field of corpses three days after a bloody battle. I stop to buy one. The Thai vendors are both surprised and amused. They laugh at me and with me when I snatch Steve’s money to pay for it, just as he’s negotiating for a silk shirt in a nearby shop. He isn’t laughing.

10:00. We made it home. My tied sandal has given up the ghost in the last five minutes. I put the Durian outside, I throw the sandals in the trash, and we call it a day.

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Chiang Mai’s moat by night.

Thank you for being here. This is a big week. My thriller, Overdose is out on Amazon. If you read it, please leave a review. Thanks and see you soon!