TL;DR – After hopping around, I’m back in Bangkok and running out of money.
Well my hair seems to be falling out. Maybe it’s because I spent the past few days in Laos washing my hair with bar soap (thanks, shampoo-less guesthouse!) or maybe it’s because I’m stressing out about my financial situation. The money’s low, my dudes!
No shock there, although it’s still somehow a shock. In my last post, I talked about hemorrhaging money. Instead of turning that around, I decided to not do that and keep on balling out of control. Going to Malaysia and Singapore did not help, and it didn’t help to go on a spontaneous trip to Laos either. Still happy to have those experiences, I guess?
Allegedly I get paid on the 20th, so all should be well (for a while).
So a recap of what’s happened in this past month here in Southeast Asia:
Seeing Tame Impala in Kuala Lumpur was AMAZING. I’ve never been to a concert where so many people were diehard fans before. Everyone was screaming all of the lyrics, jumping and dancing like maniacs. Unreal. After a week in KL, I took the train to Penang where the joys of street food eating were only slightly lessened by the painful, painful heat.
Singapore was a completely different ballgame. I loved how clean and modern it was, but it was way too expensive for a person of my means. Fortunately, a friend’s family opened up their home to me, even going so far as to cook me delicious Indian meals daily. I will be forever grateful for their kindness! I worked on some stories for Munchies and got the F out of the city as fast as possible.
I moved into a little apartment in Bangkok for the month of May and love it. I seem to be an oddity in my new neighborhood. Not many foreigners, in these parts, so when I walk down the road, I’ll hear people say “Farang! Farang!”(foreigner) then turn to stare at me. At first it was a little off-putting, but now we have a neighborhood camaraderie going on. Everyone says hello, people ask me where I’m going, try to speak Thai with me. I wish I was staying here longer, it’s a fun community.
I got back from Singapore just in time for RATATAT TO PLAY IN BANGKOK. Even though Ratatat is one of my favorite bands, I didn’t realize how excited I was for the show until we arrived at RCA Live.
We waltzed up to the front row, no one put up a fight. In fact, there was a huge space in the front, so huge that we wondered if people were allowed to stand there. It turns out, we WERE allowed to stand there, and we did! Ratatat warmed up in front of us, and I started losing my mind. RATATAT IS STANDING RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, WARMING UP FOR A SHOW.
Then the show started, and I lost whatever part of my mind was left.
I’ve never had such a weird reaction to a concert. Because Ratatat doesn’t have any lyrics to their songs, and because I was SO SO SO SO SO SO EXCITED, I just started screaming. Lunatic fan screaming. “What is wrong with this person?” screaming. The rest of the crowd seemed to be pretty calm, perhaps wondering what the actual F was happening to the farang in the front row.
After the show, as though it was the most normal thing in the world, I MET RATATAT AND DIED. Just had a normal conversation like no big deal. I don’t even remember most of what we talked about because of the adrenaline. I do remember Evan Mast mentioning going to a friend’s wedding in Sicily.
I lost my voice from all of the wild screaming and could barely speak for the next four days.
In between story writing and Ratatat fawning, I’ve been loving my newly-minted GuavaPass subscription. It’s like ClassPass in the US, but for Asia and Dubai. It’s allowed me to get into Muay Thai, get back into yoga, kill myself at kettle bell classes. The app is a life saver. There’s no way I’m working out outside in this heat, and I rarely walk anywhere. Without GuavaPass, I’d be a sweaty, sedentary blob.
I’m still not sure if Laos was real. What I saw in Luang Prabang was unbelievable. It’s an hour flight from Bangkok, but you feel like you’re stepping back decades. No skyscrapers, just lush scenery and a slower pace of life. The Kuang Si Falls are stunning. No complaints when it came to Laotian food either.
I would have loved to stay in Luang Prabang for weeks (despite the struggling WiFi situation). But Bangkok was calling, and, as mentioned before, the money was/is running low. I needed to get back to a more productive routine.
Back in Bangkok
Only one week left here in Bangkok. I happen to be leaving the week that the “hot season” is finally breaking. The heat wave is over, and rainy season is kicking off. It’s been HISTORICALLY SCORCHING since I got here, every day in April hit at least 100 degrees. But I lived to tell the tale!
Anyway, now it’s time (but really…) to be productive and get some more invoices going. Freelance writing is like a marathon, and I keep taking excessive water breaks.
On Monday, I’ll be meeting my traveler extraordinaire mother in Vietnam for a week of fun in the sun (protected by layers and layers of sunscreen). Once we part ways, I’ll be headed to Korea and Taiwan.
I booked a flight back to the United States, and I booked it on the Fourth of July. If that isn’t patriotism, I don’t know what is.
TL;DR – I’m in Malaysia feeling productive and sometimes lost.
Moving slowly on this first morning in Malaysia after a night of tossing and turning. Poor sleeping aside, it’s fun and challenging to be in a new city again.
I flew from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur yesterday to come see Tame Impala play on Saturday. Walked around KL’s Chinatown and found a popular street food spot for dinner. Ate durian ice cream. All very standard tourist stuff for day one, nothing groundbreaking. Just trying to figure out what KL is all about.
I’ve been back in Asia for a little more than two weeks, but it feels like WAY LONGER. My time spent in Bangkok was pretty productive for arriving right before the Songkran holiday (four days of nonstop water fighting to celebrate the Thai new year). Happy to be churning out more stories lately.
Writing a second blog post has been a challenge. I’ve started different drafts with wildly different tones depending on the day. I’m striking while the iron is hot – or rather, while I’m feeling more positive about the whole situation. My last draft was filled with a lot of WHAT AM I DOING HERE in both the immediate and the broad sense.
Well, what am I doing here? The plan had been to come over here, write, travel around, see old friends, etc. Then TAXES HAPPENED. This was my first year paying my taxes as a freelancer and the amount I owed was way higher than I imagined it would be. A chunk of my savings has now vanished, so instead of floating around Asia as I had hoped, I’m going to spend more time lying low in Bangkok.
I need to stop hemorrhaging money on things like massages, too.
OK, the cry baby is going to stop crying (and apparently start writing in the third person??) and go back out into the Kuala Lumpur torrential downpour and eat some roti.
TL;DR – I’m in Japan and celebrating a year of living abroad
Twelve months ago, I left foggy San Francisco and moved to Asia. I guess it’s fitting that I’m ringing in the milestone in overcast Tokyo.
When I got to Thailand last September, I had one main goal of making it abroad for at least a year. I had this fear that I would crumble financially or emotionally at three months and have to crawl home. I also had this reoccurring nightmare that I’d be on an airplane for a visit to the States and realize “oh my god, I don’t have enough money to get back to Asia” and that would be it, I’d fail the goal.
It’s a little surreal that I made it, especially surreal considering two girls dressed up in Sailor Moon costumes just walk by. You’ll see a lot in Japan.
This post could very easily turn into a mega cliché with me reflecting on this year abroad. I rolled my eyes every time I heard a backpacker talk about his “spiritual journey” and I’ve always been the first person to joke about coming here to “find myself” like the rest of the spoiled western foreigners.
That being said, it turns out there’s a reason that’s such a well-known cliché. It’s not like you set off a floating lantern at a full moon party and suddenly you’re reinvented, but spending a year out of your element challenges you in ways you’d never predict. I’m not even saying I’ve changed in a good way, but I’ve definitely changed. For example:
-I have a backpack full of clothes – and that’s it.
I started this journey (barfs in own mouth)with just a suitcase and a carry-on bag, then accumulated some things while I spent 9 months in Bangkok. When I decided to hop around freelancing, I gave away everything that didn’t fit into my traveler’s backpack and purse. So wearing the same four things has been new. [Full disclosure – I have some cold weather clothes and apartment furniture stored at my parent’s house. So by “that’s it” that’s not totally it.]
-I’m much more comfortable being alone.
Moving to a city where I didn’t know anyone was a good introduction to solo life, but backpacking around bolstered my confidence operating as a one man wolfpack. Meals alone, movies alone, sightseeing alone, sometimes it’s great and sometimes it is totally depressing. I have to remind myself that there’s nothing wrong with traveling alone. Emile Hirsch looked badass doing it in Into The Wild, so why do I feel like a total loser every now and then? It’s nice to fall back on the security blanket of saying “I’m traveling for work” when I don’t feel like being brave.
-I’ve learned a lot of helpful and useless new things.
For example: During my first week of working at HotelQuickly, my coworker said “and he didn’t even know that Singapore was a country.” I laughed out loud with the rest of the people in the conversation, but in my head frantically noted “OK SINGAPORE IS A COUNTRY AND A CITY, JESUS HOW DID I NOT KNOW THAT WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME.” So that was an important thing to learn. Less important are things like if you don’t take off your shoes in the Gap dressing room in Japan, people are going to yell at you. Or that teens sling their backpacks really low in India.
I could go on, and I’d probably disgust anyone reading this in the process. So I’ll leave it at this – and bear with me while I’m shamelessly gross for like two more sentences – it’s been the best year of my life, even despite the head wound, the loneliness, and the excessive sweating. For anyone debating whether or not to take the plunge and live somewhere new (out of the country or otherwise), do it. Life is short.
Reflecting aside, after a year of being gone, I’m finally going home for a while. Some of the best and worst things to happen to our family happened in August, and I’ll be making my way back to California to spend time with loved ones. At this point, I don’t have a plane ticket out of the States yet. I’m still figuring out what to do next. Until then, I’ll just keep wandering around Tokyo.
There are certain things I knew I’d love about living in Thailand.
Before I moved here about seven months ago, I knew I would definitely love Thai tea, the beaches, cheap street food, etc., but there are a few wildcards that I couldn’t have predicted.
Along the same lines, there were things that I knew I’d miss about living in San Francisco. I’d obviously miss my loved ones, burritos, and a San Francisco paycheck. Beyond that though, sometimes I get hit with a homesick feeling for the most specific and unexpected things.
Just to vent, below are five examples of each.
Five things I’m surprised to love about life in Thailand
1.Watching muay Thai
2. Using my tiny little broom to sweep my apartment (for reference)
3. Eating street food whole fish
4. Taking classes at the gym taught exclusively in Thai (I’ve never been more motivated to work hard in a class than when an instructor is yelling at me in Thai)
5. Primarily eating with spoons
Five things I didn’t expect to miss about living in SF
1. Riding my bike to work and the pleasure of walking around comfortably (aka not being hot as F any time I move)
2.Getting paid every two weeks
3.Wearing jeans, coats, and scarves
4. Taking the Muni train to Ocean Beach
5. The ability to use a credit card nearly everywhere
CLICHÉ ALERT: Part of the motivation to move abroad was to have an experience that could make me a better person (key word could, because who knows). I thought I’d be faced with challenges, work through them, be forced to operate outside of my comfort zone, and then one day BOOM, you’re changed for the better. So I knew that it would be hard coming into this, but I didn’t know exactly how that difficulty would take shape. Turns out, a good chunk of my experience living abroad is spent feeling humliated. Sometimes it feels like a constant onslaught of humliation, just one cringe worthy dose of awkard terribleness after another.
I’ll give you an example – Living in Thailand seems to be just about the worst thing possible for my skin. I am putting my skin through hell in this tropical sun. The UV rays are one thing, but the real issue is the heat. I’m constantly pouring sweat from all of my pores — really, all of them. I mean it’s almost impressive — and I feel like I’m back in high school with all of the breaking out going on. Every day, I put on makeup to cover up the breakouts, then I sweat off said makeup, put on more makeup (to continue pore clogging!), sweat that makeup off, put more on, and repeat this depressing cycle until I get home.
Even the breakouts aside, the sweating is enough to embarass the F out of me. I get to events for work where elegant Thai ladies in slacks and blazers are functioning gracefully and I am straight up soaking, my wet hair clinging to my face. It’s a delight. They look at me sympathetically as beads of sweat roll down my forehead and I try to escape small talk to run to the bathroom and dry off.
Ok so the good thing about feeling constantly humliated is that it really breaks down your ego. If I lost sleep over all of the cringeworthy moments, I would really not be sleeping ever. I’ve gotten to the point where I just have to tell myself, “well, this is happening so you better just roll with it” (or I guess it’s more of a “wow, just kill me. How is this real life?”). I have to accept the awful reality and keep on keeping on.
Ultimately, I survive! I’ve learned that even when I do something and feel completely terrible (like almost die at a company retreat HAHAHA), I make it through the situation and the consequences are usually not as bad as I predict they’ll be. Counterintuitively, my self esteem is getting better the worse that things get. I’m learning how to deal with my body, my personality, my strenghts/weaknesses and it’s all very uncomfortable and very real. The byproduct of this learning is making me a better journalist. I’m less embarassed during interviews I conduct because I’ve let go of hangups I can’t control. I used to think that I wasn’t qualified or worthy of talking to people as a writer and that obviously threw me off before the interview even started. Now that I no longer feel capable of impressing people based on social graces or appearance, I can just focus on being better at a job I love to do.
Hopefully, this is all part of the “becoming a better person” scheme.
This is not one of those stories where a bad thing justhappens to a good person. This is a story where my unbridled spontaneity got me into very predictable trouble. Heads up, this post is long and contains ugly scar photos.
So here’s my mediocre cautionary tale:
It was a Friday, and I was so excited to be traveling to Petchaburi with 40 of my friends and coworkers for our HotelQuickly work retreat. We arrived at our remote hotel in the evening and gathered around the pool for dinner. We had barely finished eating when I saw my friend Gin getting thrown in the pool with all of her clothes on.
“Poor Gin!” I thought to myself.“I’ll jump in with her.”
I took off my shoes and trotted down to the pool to join her in solidarity. Without a second thought, I dove into the pool. In America most pools have deep ends. In Thailand, that fact is useless. My point is, this pool was shallow. Very shallow.
I immediately hit the bottom of the pool with my head.
Things went orange with pain for a second, and I was instantly embarrassed for the mistake. “I CAN’T BELIEVE I HIT THE BOTTOM! I HOPE NO ONE SAW ME!” were the first thoughts that entered my mind. As I came up for air, I realized that my neck and back were in extreme, tense agony. I kept my back to the group as I waded around waiting for the pain to go away.
I heard someone behind me ask, “Is that blood?” I was hoping no one had noticed my diving fail, and was really hoping that I wasn’t causing a scene with blood in the pool. I walked over to the edge of the pool and people rushed over to me. Everyone seemed panicked and I wanted everyone to know I was fine. “I’ll just walk it off, I’m totally fine!” They helped get me out of the pool and sat me down away from the group.
Thank God for shock, because I had no idea that my head was cracked wide-open, gushing blood.
My company’s Co-Founder and COO Christian (a former Captain in the Swiss military) and the QA Manager Kat (a first responder) sprung into action immediately. They joined forces to hold my split head together and stop the bleeding. Kat tried to keep me awake by getting my adrenaline going, yelling out things like “NAT, LOOK AT ME!” and “I can see her brain!” On the other side of the spectrum, Christian tried to tone down the situation and downplay the injury. The two balanced each other out perfectly, and I am deeply indebted to them both for their help coming to my rescue.
With the blood loss, I was beginning to drift off. My memory starts to dilute at this point and I can’t remember what exactly happened when the ambulance arrived. What I do know is that Christian, Tomas (the company’s Co-Founder and CEO), and Noi Na (the company’s Executive Assistant) climbed into the ambulance with me, and we left for the nearest hospital.
In the ambulance, everyone continued keeping me awake. We talked about Christian’s idyllic childhood in Switzerland and In-N-Out burgers to casually pass the time. Despite everyone else’s calm demeanor, I was having outbursts of sobbing. I was so embarrassed and horrified by what was happening. Was I fired? Was this going to cost a fortune? Would I ever walk again? Had I ruined the company weekend?
The ambulance came to a stop and I was rolled into the Petchaburi public hospital. I stared at a gecko crawling on the ceiling while the adults took care of business. I don’t know what I would have done if Noi Na (a native Thai speaker), Christian, and Tomas weren’t there to help. They didn’t wait passively for things to happen; they actively made sure I was properly cared for. While I wallowed in despair, they handled everything.
My memory isn’t great recalling what happened at this point, but we were ultimately told that the hospital could not handle my wound (NEWS FLASH FOR ME, THIS WOUND IS REALLY BAD). We had to go to a private hospital some 40 km away where there was a better/more clean operating room. I kept moving my toes and hands to make sure I wasn’t paralyzed yet.
Back in the ambulance, the shock was wearing off and I cringed in pain with every bump in the road. Far from chill, I was a hot mess crying in pain and embarrassment. We finally arrived at the second hospital. I had some x-rays, a CT scan, and it was finally time for the suturing.
Problem: I had to pee, badly. The nurses brought me a bed pan and encouraged me to relieve myself as they stood around waiting. My First World-conditioned body failed me, and I couldn’t do it. I was too shy to go, even though my bladder felt as though it was going to burst. A team of six or so prepared for the procedure. I asked if I could try going to the bathroom again, and again wasted everyone’s time. I gave up and they went back to, you know, saving my life.
The nurses gave me local anaesthesia and waited for my head to go numb. I didn’t like the idea of being awake for the process, but OH WELL, WHO AM I TO MAKE REQUESTS? The team covered my eyes with cloth and strapped my arms and legs to the operating table which was extremely unsettling. I must have been loopy during part two when they lowered a metal cage/shield over my head and torso. Only my scalp and legs peeked out of the mechanism, but I wasn’t aware of what was happening thanks to the drugs and confusion.
After an hour of disgusting flesh-pulling noises, a panic started to boil inside of me.
I became very aware that my limbs were strapped to a table and my eyes were covered and I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t move holy fuck get me out of here what is happening I can’t breathe.
“I NEED AIR, I NEED AIR!” I cried out from under the shield. “I WANT TO MOVE MY LEGS!”
Despite the language barrier, the doctor stopped suturing and the nurses scrambled to unstrap my legs and one arm. They put ice packs on my legs and removed the cloth from my eyes. The machine monitoring my pulse beeped wildly.
Like any good nightmare, they couldn’t fix the major cause of my terror. No matter how panicked I was, they 100% could not lift the cage/shield more than a few inches. The whole point of the contraption was to keep the area sanitized. I pawed at the green padding that covered the cage, and strained to look through the opening. The staff waited for me to get myself together before getting back to the stitching.
To distract myself from the hell, I tried to recall all of the Michelin star restaurants in the Bay Area. It worked for a while, but soon the claustrophobia flared up again. This time was more intense than before, and I wept as I begged for the cage to be lifted. They explained that they could not meet my request, and I sobbed in panic and misery. I was really losing it.
The nurses did their best to help me. They sang, held my hand, and told me that I only had 15 more minutes to go. There was nothing I could do but weep quietly and try to keep things in perspective. Nothing bad was going to happen to me because I was in a small space.
Skull tissue cleaned and 20 centimeters of 6o stitches later, the procedure was finished. I cried tears of joy as the cage was lifted.
Still desperately needing to pee, I was rolled out of the operating room into a lobby. I was surprised to find more of my friends had come to support me after the accident. True to form, I began to cry.
At about 2 am, I was taken to the ER where I would be monitored for at least 24 hours. The doctor needed to watch for signs of serious brain injuries. TOO MUCH INFORMATION ALERT: I was on my period and forbidden to use the restroom alone. What is a hospital staff to do? Swaddle me in an adult diaper of course! Just some icing on the cake.
After the pampering, I could finally go to sleep across from my new Thai roommates. Across the room, a middle aged guy who made no noise and one of the oldest men I’ve ever seen laid peacefully. Unfortunately, the peace would not last long. The old man would vomit loudly throughout the night and into the morning.
At 6 am, I was woken up for a congee-like breakfast that tasted great, but I couldn’t eat it. I was too nauseous to down the shrimpy porridge.
I drifted in and out of sleep as doctors and nurses briefed me on my condition. A neurologist looked at my CT scan and x-rays and determined there wasn’t any major damage to worry about. HALLELUJAH! The doctors wanted more time to decide whether or not I needed t0 stay a second night for observation.
Christian, Noi Na, Chris, Gin and Abhi came back to the hospital that afternoon, and we soon got the good news that I would be released. The doctors were confident that my brain was ok, and I could return to the resort where I had ruined a perfectly good evening the night before.
The sun set over beautiful Petchaburi as we drove back to the resort. The hotel gave me good will gift basket – jars of bird’s nest and essence of chicken for my health. Instead of partaking in the fun company retreat activities, I tucked into bed and slept.
For the best recovery, I was told to return to a hospital daily to get my wound cleaned. On Sunday morning, my friends and I hopped into a hotel truck and went to the Petchaburi public hospital as ordered. The bumpy ride was bad, but not as bad as spending hours getting your head stitched back together.
At the hospital, the other patients were in pretty bad shape. One woman had a motorcycle accident and a hot part of the bike had burned her leg to the BONE. Another woman had been BITTEN BY A SCORPION. I felt lucky to be in little pain (in addition to feeling lucky for being alive, not paralyzed, mentally unscathed, and so on).
We returned to Bangkok as a company, and I stayed the night with Chris and his girlfriend Etty in case I needed to get to a hospital in an emergency. Not to repeat myself, but I am so completely grateful to the people in my life who were here to help me. In the morning, I was even treated to a homemade breakfast by Chris before we headed to Bangkok’s St. Louis hospital for more x-rays and stitch cleaning.
On Monday night, I had another source of help come to my rescue. My family was so worried about me that my mom bought a plane ticket and traveled more than 13,000 kilometers to help me recover. Although my injury was horrible, it reminded me of how much love and support I take for granted.
Hospital visits, countless naps, foot massages, pill swallowing, head wrapping – the week after the accident was leisurely , complete with constant spoiling from my mom. My recovery was moving along quickly, and I would be back to work in no time.
Despite the luxurious care, the time was still rough emotionally. I held back tears at dinner explaining my fears of mental damage to my mother. I was left feeling so weird and confused. I had to fight to stay positive.
“I’m so lucky it wasn’t worse” I constantly thought, and by constantly thought, I mean constantly think – present tense. I’m still afraid that I’ll never be as mentally sharp as before. I’m worried people will think, “Natalie was never the same after the accident.” Did I ruin my chances of achieving my life goals? Will my hair grow back normally? Should I change completely? Should I abandon this authentic self that keeps getting me in trouble? Should I start running marathons and work for a nonprofit?
This New York Times article couldn’t have popped up on my Twitter feed at a better time. The author had suffered a trauma much worse than mine, but I could still relate to her recovery experience. She offered an explanation to make sense of why I felt like I did.
I instantly felt better after reading her conclusion “I’m not a better person. I’m the same person. Which is actually kind of a miracle.” I feel less pressure to reinvent myself. I can appreciate that this stupid, stupid accident left me pretty unscathed, and it’s time to be thankful for the life I still have. I am overwhelmed with the support from my family and friends.
As far as cautionary tales go, this one is mild. I am miraculously walking away from this trauma with just a scar, and I will go on to sweatily explore Bangkok another day.
On Saturday, September 13, I left San Francisco to start a new chapter in Bangkok.
As I sat in the Manila airport on Monday morning after a 14 hour flight from SFO, it still didn’t seem like reality. Why would I leave a life I loved in California to be extremely uncomfortable in Southeast Asia?
With a five hour layover in Manila, things were off to a good start. The people were happy and friendly, and there was free WIFI. My friends Haley and Amber, who were off to Vietnam, were with me the first leg of the trip. We managed the 14 hour flight and enjoyed a coffee in Manila as they waited for their plane to take leave for Ho Chi Minh. When it was time for them to go, I just stood there in a stupor. This was it, I was about to be alone in Asia. I’ve never done anything epic alone, so the idea of literally flying solo was hard to take in. I took photos of them in a panic as they boarded their plane.
I paced the terminal and found myself in a 30 person line for the bathroom. I thought it was nice that they had a stall set aside for “Elderly Use Only” even though that meant the wait was wildly long. Using What’s App, I stressfully communicated with loved ones back in the USA until my 8:50 flight to Bangkok.
When I landed in Bangkok and went through customs, I logged into the airport’s free WIFI and opened HotelQuickly, the app I would be working for, to book my first hotel room. After booking a night at the Hotel Icon Bangkok, I found a metered taxi and headed for the city. My taxi driver may have been the least friendly person in Thailand, but I tried to stay happy despite the 24+ hours of total travel time. I spotted a billboard on the freeway that helped comfort me in my insane decision to move here:
“Opportunity has landed, welcome to Bangkok” was a comforting sight to see. Thirty minutes and less than $10 later, I was at the hotel where I was greeted with a sweet, violet-colored beverage and an iced cold towel. I checked into my room and was still in a general disbelief.
After so much travel time and reading up on the possible horrors that could happen to a single woman traveling, I was extremely paranoid to leave my room again. I had been so fixated on the idea that everyone was going to rob me, rip me off, or kidnap me that the thought of leaving my safe little abode was overwhelming. I showered and lingered for two hours before mustering up the willpower to go and buy a cell phone.
I took many wrong turns, went into many wrong buildings, but finally ended up at the TrueMove H store where I bought a prepaid phone for $20 from a man who spoke very little English. I kept finding that whenever I asked people (in Thai) if they speak English, they find it hilarious and usually laughed at me. So that’s great.
Overwhelmed and jetlagged, I went back to the BTS (the skytrain) and got off when I saw a sign for massage. I settled into a comfortable chair at the massage parlor and had one of the best foot massages of my existence. This could have been due to the roller coaster of emotions I had experienced over the past week, or just that the woman was a true genius. Either way, it was heaven. The cherry on top of the day was dinner: my first pad thai at a place called Lee’s near my hotel.
I walked back to my hotel and flopped into my bed. I continued to repeat “how is this real?” as I talked to family and friends online. The first day was under my belt.