Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Dental work and other things: This one's for Nicole

I have been told that in the United States, they don't let you take your teeth with you after they've been extracted. I've never had a tooth pulled in the U.S., so I don't know if that's true, but what with our general American germophobia and whatnot, I wouldn't be surprised. (Biohazard, schmiohazard.)

Anyway, as you know, over a month ago now, I was in Bangkok to have my wisdom teeth (2, not 4) extracted, and I joked about having a cloth put over my face while they were yanked out.

Okay, so I wasn't joking. I went to the dentist, whose office is in a hospital, and within ten minutes, she was ready to yank the teeth. And then, when she got all her instruments set up, she literally put a cloth over my face (with a hole for my mouth), and went to work poking me in the upper and lower gums with local anesthetic. After I indicated, by drooling onto said cloth when prompted, that I was numb, the dentist began dutifully wrestling with my mouth. If I winced, I received an exasperated-sounding, "What's wrong?" but exasperation and concern sound a lot alike when emerging from  behind a face mask in someone's second language, so maybe I was taking that a little personally. Then I'd receive another shot, drool to show my gratitude, and the jaw-wrangling would begin again. I actually did think about Gloria Anzaldua's "How to Tame a Wild Tongue" (google it) while staring up at the blue cloth over my face and wondering just how much of a workout the dentist was getting. Ten minutes later, one tooth was out. I heard it plunk down onto the cold metal tray that had previously held the instruments. The dentist rearranged her chair to get a better angle on the upper tooth. That one gave up easily, perhaps not having the same vigorous spirit as its lower-jaw counterpart. Maybe its roots were just a little more shallow.

At any rate, five minutes later, the dentist was threading a needle and sewing up the two open wounds. Then everything was packed with gauze and I was sitting up, again drooling to show my appreciation. Soon, though that turned to disappointment when I realized that the doctor was actually not prescribing any follow up pain medication. "You were already given antibiotics and ibuprofen, correct?" she asked. I nodded. "Okay, well come back next week to get the stitches out." It's hard to say, "WTF?" when you are chewing on soggy gauze. So instead, I asked if I could have the teeth. Call it a consolation prize.

And now, they're sitting on my dresser - testament to the efficacy of local anesthesia, competent medical care, and ibuprofen in maximal doses.

Oh, and the other things: well, you'll just have to tune in next time.


Friday, June 1, 2012

This one's for my mom

A while ago, my mom sent us a postcard (only the second piece of mail we’ve received from state-side thus far) and she asked that when I get the time, I send a few recipes and instructions for cooking aa-haan Thai. Actually she asked about Thai food, but I just translated that for you.

At any rate, a few days or weeks from now, she’ll receive a postcard back with a recipe for naam-prik (or, well, really the translation on this doesn’t make a lot of sense, it’s “chile water” and it’s just an all important condiment that goes with everything here). But in the meantime, I’ve been wanting to write a blog about the cooking here (and not my cooking, either; I haven’t been doing any). (This is also the blog I meant to write almost a month ago that I reported I didn’t have the pictures for, and then entertained you all, and garnered some emails by posting a screen shot of my empty Gmail inbox.)

Anyway….When we moved to site, our neighbors had just started building another house next door to their own – between our house and theirs, actually. Within a month, the house, all one room plus bathroom on top of poured concrete floor and under steel roof was complete. By Songkran, a family had moved in (the sister of our neighbor, who owns the shop next door, and her family). A week later, Pii Gai, the sister who had just moved in, and her husband, Pii Lan, had turned the front of their new house into an extension of the shop. Another day or so passed, and Pii Gai and her mother had turned the back porch into a commercial kitchen, and they were selling two meals a day from the front of the house. Pii Gai is an excellent cook. Within about six days, her curries and soups had almost entirely replaced our mee’s cooking at home. We have also had a new social center. It took me about two weeks to get up the courage to venture over there, which I do almost every day now, and to sit myself down and try to “help” with the cooking. Seriously, a two year old is more help than me most times. I mean this literally, not theoretically, because our paa and mee’s grandson is often over there too, and he at least understands when he’s told to get out of the way, or hand someone the onions.

One day, I brought my camera over and snapped a few pictures while the ladies cooked up geeng kiaow waan (sweet green curry) and geeng som sai nommaai (orange curry with bamboo). I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

Side note for thought: Letting pictures tell the story is a new one for me. I am freakishly uncomfortable with cameras. (Being in Thailand is teaching me many things about my fears and discomforts.) I am rarely comfortable having my picture taken, although life in the digital age has forced me to come to terms with the fact that yes, 90 percent of the time when someone wants to take a picture, I’ll look funny in one way or another (usually rather large) and I should just get over it. Taking pictures, on the other hand, would seem to be comfortable compared to the alternative, but in fact it’s far worse. I have discovered I have a deep discomfort with intruding on other people or doing things without their permission, and somehow taking pictures falls into this category. (Using your nice shampoo without asking while staying the night at your house, however, does not. Fair warning. Go figure.) While snapping these photos, I felt like an absolute sore thumb. Thinking about this, I’ve gained an entirely new type of respect for my friend Jakob, who also happened to snap a great deal of fantastic shots at Josh’s and my wedding reception – and didn’t feel awkward at all! The camera makes me self conscious and clumsy – and that’s probably why so far, our blog (at least my posts) have been mostly devoid of visual aids. And will continue to be, until I get over this photo phobia, so I hope you can all make do with my words.