You asked how we were.
We were good. The Chinese tourists headed home, traffic abated, pollution dwindled and the crowds died down, to the point that one could scratch in the elevator.
Then the smoke started. Fires along the hills started by locals to clear the forests for the wild mushrooms Chinese treasure. The air quality went down like a rock and masks sprouted everywhere, from scooters to supermarkets. Everybody wore them, but us. We’re American. We know masks are useless. Still, we tolerated the ignorant masked Asians.
Until the Thai Health Minister’s talk. As Chiang Mai chokes under smoke, he blasted the dirty Farangs (non-Thai) who fail to shower or wear masks, putting everyone in danger.
The light went on. Our lovely housekeeper, shocked that we went out without masks, wasn’t asking for advice. She was giving it. Here, wearing a mask is a way to protect others. It’s not about not catching the others’ cooties. It’s about not giving them yours.
We started wearing masks. Got to tell you, breathing through a mask is a challenge. Eating and drinking too, unless you use a straw. And they’re bad for the environment. Not to mention that fried chicken with lime has a hard time getting through.
The good news: No more congestion in Chiang Mai. The streets, the restaurants, and the shops are empty. Not like I’m bragging, but toilet paper is on sale. Here, toilets have spritzers.
Due to customer shortage, our favorite restaurants started closing. We decided to go out more often to support those who are left. It was too late.
Next, schools, kindergartens, clubs, pubs, spas, massage parlors, boxing stadiums, and all entertainment venues were closed. Gyms, pools, restaurants and just about everything else followed one day later.
Yesterday we walked to our morning market and loaded on essentials: oil, sugar, hot peppers and pork. We’re good with TP. On the way home, we stopped at a coffee shop for breakfast. For 130 baht (4 dollars) we got a cappuccino, an espresso, a mango smoothie, and a butter croissant. We left a generous 15 baht tip. Come back, they said.
Bangkok closed down all venues where people meet. Chiang Mai followed. Everything but food shops, pharmacies and hospitals closed yesterday. The requirements for flights in are impossible to meet: negative COVID test within 72 hours AND 100K of health insurance. Not for the weak of heart. All flights out are canceled till April 25th.
We looked at each other. We have toilet paper, soap, and rum. Books. The internet. Eachother. We’re better off than most.
But I hate being closed in and being told what to do. Claustrophobia? A special type of PTSD? Crossed wires? I’d rather be hungry than locked in, and I’m always hungry. I know I’m better off than most. But I need to run free. Except that I can’t.
I looked at Steve, happily reading his book as he’s watching the news.
“You’re lucky I’m writing this book. It may save your life.” I said.
I’m 60K into this complicated book about Dracula’s gay brother and Mehmet the Conqueror. It requires extraordinary amounts of research and planning, just as I had to cancel my trip to Istanbul. I’m fumbling between oodles of books, word documents, PowerPoint, and a room covered with index cards. This book is not for the weak. It’s Game of Thrones meeting Hunger Games via Harry Potter, the Transylvanian edition.
Steve stares at me. He doesn’t get it.
“Can you imagine living locked up with me for weeks?”
He got it. I can see the fear in his eyes. I hope the book is enough.
Loads of love to all my friends who work in healthcare. love you, miss you, and thank you for everything you do to keep our world safe. You all are heroes. Stay safe.
PS. I plan to report every few days, but I won’t clog your Facebook feed, I know you have better things to do. If you want to follow, please sign in for the updates.
PS 2. I just found out that Martial law starts tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted.
Stay home and stay safe. See you all on the other side.
Rada Jones MD is an Emergency Doc in Upstate NY, where winters are long, people are sturdy, and the geese speak mainly French, but right now she’s wintering in Thailand, maybe forever. She lives with her husband, Steve, and his black deaf cat Paxil. She’s the author of three ER thrillers: OVERDOSE, MERCY, and POISON, and a collection of tongue-in-cheek medical essays, Stay Away From My ER. Find more at RadaJonesMD.com.