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Semester of Un-health

I’m sick again, but so goes the semester of un-health.

Medications taken since Laos

See, the meds that I’m taking to kill the second presumed parasite in my stomach have lowered my immune system, leaving me with a persistent cold. Or maybe it was the umpteenth round of Cipro that I ingested before the current anthelmintic and anti-infective pills that made me vulnerable. Or, most likely, the unholy union of all aforementioned medication paired up to double team me.

I never got sick in America. Once, I think, I got a bad cough, but it very well could have been that someone farted. Before Thailand, my immune system was my point of pride: “I may be nerdy, of average height, prematurely balding, moody, occasionally lispy, and pale—but at least I have my health,” I often thought. My stomach, which has been the most victimized here, was so regular in America that the Swiss often consulted it during watch production.

One year in Southeast Asia assessed my immune system, found it wanting, and pooped on it.

Going somewhere in the next two months. Doc says, "Shit no."

Some of the more tenured teachers warned, “When we got here, we began to fall apart. Couldn’t help it.” Nestled in my previously robust—untested?—health, I ignorantly treated their statement as something only normies experience. I was, after all, super human.

I was younger and more naïve—dumber—in those days.

Things have gotten so bad that I’ve stopped eating spicy food to allow my stomach to settle. Life without spicy food—especially in Thailand—is like a puppy without eyes.

The kicker? I don’t think Thailand’s once made me sick, which is startling. Never mind walking barefoot through murky soi-puddles, eating lukewarm street meat (I’m no longer a vegetarian), and utilizing sometimes-suspect butt hoses (I’ll explain later); I fucking live in this country. Odds are, if I were to get sick anywhere, it’d be here.

Laos and Cambodia scoff at such odds.

If I had to pinpoint my first stomach bug, I’d put it somewhere in Laos. I felt like a million baht after muay thai in Pai, but by the piss-drenched sleeper bus in Laos, I could barely make it five hours without an emergency trip to the bathroom. (An e-poo, as I’ve come to refer to them.)

Most days it was bearable. Others, I’d have to run to the loo three to six times a day. And, on the most specialest days, I’d writhe in bed in the middle of the night as something peppered my intestines with acid, dynamite, and acid dynamite.

After a couple months, three trips to two hospitals, and three rounds of various antibiotics, I had a colonoscopy at the beginning of January 2012. The antibiotics weren’t working, ruling out a run-of-the-mill stomach infection. (I never thought that I’d use “run-of-the-mill” to describe a stomach infection, but here we are.) With that ruled out, everything else was ruled in.

The whole process went smoothly, except I’m pretty sure I tried to attack someone during the procedure. There’s a hazy memory of trying to bash someone’s head while nurses pinned me back down. I don’t exactly remember—and I sure as hell didn’t ask—but I can’t imagine a half-drugged myself acting any other way. Have you seen the camera they use for the procedure? It fucking looks like one of the sentinels from The Matrix.

My travails aren’t the only notable ones. Indeed, my best friend seemed to live at the hospital this entire year. During the first semester, she toured a pair of hospitals to treat what she assumed was a sinus infection that was working its way down to her lungs: an annual or bi-annual routine, according to her. But the fucking sickness wouldn’t go away. The result: more hospitals, more pills, and more frustration at the consistent exhaustion that affected everything she did, or tried to do. The answer? More pills, etc.

More pills until they reportedly burned a hole in her throat—which seems extreme, until one realizes she had been taking Cipro, a kind of nuclear bomb for infections, for several months.

Thankfully, the doctors stopped trying to hone in on the issue and finally resolved the cause: mold. The white powder-fluff that would appear on her dark clothing within her armoire finally made more sense—as did the smell that would creep into one’s nose every so often.

She moved out of that room.

But in Malaysia, she got stung by a Portuguese man-of-war and was laid-out for days.

The colonoscopy, which proved my piping was flawless (I’ll spare you the photo evidence) allowed for the proper meds to be prescribed and my bowels were once again moving like a champ.

But at the end of March came Cambodia, and its suspiciously broken seals on water bottles and uncovered raw meat being delivered via the back of a wobbly motorbike puttering down a dirt road. Like me, the friend with mold poisoning ended up with a healthy dose of what-the-hell-is-in-my-stomach.

Back to most days, some days, and most specialest days.

Back to more medicine than I ever wanted to take in my life.

Back to paying for traveling with checks my ass is forced to cash.

Goddamn you, Laos and Cambodia.

Thailand: home sweet home.

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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Uncategorized


Love is Crap: Student (?)

The first class of the day had just ended. I needed second breakfast. Or water. Or second breakfast, water, and a cold shower. Compounding my early-morning exhaustion, Thailand’s unholy heat and humidity had begun its upswing, stifling any fond memories of the breezy and mild December that I held so dear. My teaching dress code—pants; dress shirt; tie—was nothing but the devil’s getup.

What’s more, and I was contending with the resurrection of a stomach bug. Prior to Thailand, I counted myself among the digestive ranks of cows. Since, however, I’ve proved nothing but a run-of-the-mill, uni-stomached human.

Plus, I probably hadn’t had any coffee before I began teaching. In short, Shit was fixin’ to be hairy.

As a consequence, I nearly bumped into a former student, Golf, as we were leaving our respective early-AM classes. He was one of my most fluent and enthusiastic students and never shied away from a conversation. Therefore, the little shit immediately interrogated me while my mind tried to focus on anything but my stomach.

Everything started according to script: “Good morning, teacher. How is your day, teacher? You go to get breakfast, teacher?”

Then the script was tossed and revelations were had.

“Teacher, you in love?”


“You look like you in love. In your face.”

Well, now that you say it, my gut is either in knots because it needs food or because a colony of parasites is in there, reveling against my stomach lining.

(In hindsight, maybe it was both.)

“No, Golf—no love.”

“You sure? Your face look like in love.”

“Golf, I promise. No love. Actually, my stomach is very sick. I think I ate some bad food at the Burmese restaurant on campus.”

“Oh, like hurting and fire in stomach?”

“Very, very much so, Golf.”


Golf paused, trying to figure out his next move. Expansive, complicated formulas were running through his head as he attempted to align and elucidate any possible cultural differences.

“Well, same-same face. Congratulations, teacher.”

Thank you, Golf.

Lovers? Poopers? How dare you distinguish the two.

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Posted by on March 8, 2012 in Uncategorized


When I Knew I Was Elsewhere

My time in Thailand’s winding down; I’m mentally sorting the shit I’ll take from the shit I’ll leave behind, prioritizing and initiating remaining travel-destinations, and monitoring Kayak notifications for flights back to the US.

I’ve planned this much in advance two or three times in my entire life and, honestly, it makes me really uncomfortable, as if I’m wearing my pack backwards.

As it often goes, forethought has become accompanied by backthink (and, apparently, a love for neologisms). I still have more than two months before I return to the States, but I cannot help but reflect on what has been—not really in a halcyon or heavy way, but rather in a what-the-hell-just-happened way. Besides, the number of people who’ve insisted on my “adventure”—not scare quotes, but quote-quotes—have consequently sparked some kind of reflection.

At the top, at least for blog and self-amusement purposes, has been trying to determine the moment when I felt most foreign–incontrovertibly farang.

The language? Don’t be silly.

The height and size differences? More like a self-high five.

The poverty that screams from under a bridge or within a hut? That stabs more than isolates.

The ubiquitous trans-community? Nope; have you seen my Halloween costumes?

These things, along with many others, were expected to be different. For example, if you come to Thailand and don’t expect another language, I hate you. These differences, rather, are things around which one begins to adapt. They’re part of the list of things of things that one knows will probably be strange. They’re known unknowns.

What got me, rather, was an unknown unknown (or maybe an unknown known, but let’s leave that alone for these immediate purposes):

William Faulkner in Thailand.

From 15 – 16 December, I participated in the Third Annual International Conference on Linguistics and Communication in Bangkok. For two days, I got to nerd out and listen to academics (some alleged) do academic things. I miss grad school terribly sometimes, so an academic conference sounded great. Plus, giving a paper at an international conference probably wouldn’t hurt the C.V. if I ever decide to apply to PhD programs.

Fast forward to my paper, “’Smelling the Bright Cold’: Benjy’s Linguistic Synaesthesia in The Sound and the Fury.” (I should have said Semantic Synaesthesia, but whatever.) The actual reading of the paper somewhat flustered me; the original 30-minute allotment changed to 20 minutes when the conference started, but ended up being 15 minutes when I actually read the motherfucker. As a result, I had to go off-script to compress and wing the final 70% of the paper. So it goes.

But then came the questions.

Ten minutes into the conference, I realized I did not belong. Most other papers were about statistical analysis of phonemes, grammatical structures, and inter-language differences. Conversely, I read a book and blathered about it—even throwing in a subtle crack about love juices. Therefore, I wasn’t really expecting any questions—at most, maybe something generic from the panel chair—who’s supposed to read the panel members’ papers and have a question or two in her/his back pocket—about semantics.

Nope. Instead, I got one about the author.

Panel Chair: “So, I have a question. This author—“ (Pause)

Me: “William Faulkner?”

Panel Chair: “Yes, him. Is he a very unknown writer? Where could I find his books? a rare bookstore?”

Let me explain my relationship with Faulkner: at least one of his books has been on my Top-5-Books List since high school; I’ve written a paper about him at every macro-level of my education since high school, including my capstone for my MA, which took more than a year total to research, compose, recompose, and argue. He’s even had stints as my desktop image. I may be as familiar with him as I am with many members of my extended family.

What’s more, I come from America and a mostly conventionally American education system, with an emphasis on literature. To imply the rarity of William Faulkner, for me, is like asking, “Does everyone have these opposable thumbs? They’re crazy useful.”

Thank the gods above, below, without, and within that I’m quick on my feet and have a poker face like a dead person. After shrouding my shock with a veil of contrived contemplation, I fired off a quick answer about probably finding him in backpacker and English-language bookstores since he probably hasn’t been translated into most Southeast Asian languages.

True or not, a string of pearls pulled directly from my ass.

To be clear, my shock wasn’t because of Faulkner’s merits as an author and examiner of the/a human condition. I’m not nearly arrogant or closed-minded enough to think that any author, let alone one of my favorites, deserves such acclaim, particularly globally. Rather, yet somewhat related, I was taken back because of my presumptions about Faulkner’s proliferation. “Of course his name rattles around the ivory tower. I could walk into any physics department, drop his name, and expect a rant about the increasing speed of entropy as evidenced by the American South,” I used to think.

My problems, as you can see, began with ‘the’ ivory tower; there isn’t a ‘the’ anything—I think.

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Posted by on February 19, 2012 in Uncategorized, Where else?


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Because of Thailand, pt. Song

I just got back from a near-month’s vacation, kicking and crashing in Pai before heading into Laos for baguettes, coffee, and pains in the ass. Although the stories of Laos are still forthcoming, I can display the soundtrack to the roughly thirty-six hours spent on overnight minivans and buses. I was aiming for something soothing and engrossing, and I hope I’ve hit it. After neung comes song, so here’s Because of Thailand, pt. Song. Like before, e-mail me if interested.

  1. By Your Side                                  GAYNGS
  2. american wedding                        Frank Ocean
  3. The Train                                    The Knux
  4. That Much Further West            Lucero
  5. Cecilia                                                Simon & Garfunkel
  6. Further Away                                    Ben Howard
  7. November Fight Song            The Gay Blades
  8. The Temptation of Adam            Josh Ritter
  9. Cards and Quarters                        The Local Natives
  10. Good Arms Vs. Bad Arms            Frightened Rabbit
  11. Old Pine                                    Ben Howard
  12. Leaves                                                Bass Drum of Death
  13. Earthquake Weather                        Beck
  14. Over The Hills & Far Away            Led Zeppelin
  15. I Want You                                    Bob Dylan
  16. Slow Show                                    The National
  17. Folsom Prison Blues                        Johnny Cash
  18. The Prayer                                    KiD CuDi
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Posted by on October 21, 2011 in Uncategorized


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