Sunday, March 31, 2019

Lazy Sunday in my local Bangkok Neighborhood

  
By 4PM the sun is low enough in the sky that it is pleasant to take a walk.


Some of my neighbors





One thing I like about this neighborhood is that the people who live along the canal love plants.   If you leave your pickup truck parked long enough it seems like the bed will attract them.  To walk over to a local coffee shop I had to cross the small canal that flows by my hotel.    






I had an iced cappuccino.  


Then I went looking for a place that I had seen that had some nice local pants that I have a feeling my grand children might like to have as a little present from this trip to Thailand.   But there is not much point in giving a present that is not something that the kids wouldn't want wear.  So I took a bunch of pictures so the they could see if there is anything that they might want to try.



These are the pants that first caught my eye a few days ago.  I immediately pictured El and Wren running around in them.  The look so comfortable and the fabric is smooth and feels nice.   Elephants are a big deal in Thailand, all tied up in it's history and culture.

As you can see the bottoms of the legs have elastic sewed into them so they don't drag on the ground.

This is a different style without the elastic on the bottom of the legs


They also come in a variety of colors.
All the pants also have a pocket that is deep enough for my plus sized iPhone



Lady also has a bunch of warm weather tops






In the back of the store she also had solid color pants made out of a thicker material that I'm thinking of getting for myself.  Forgot to take pictures of them.




On the way home the sky clouded up and almost looked like it might rain.  Just wishful thinking as I don't think the dry season is over for several more weeks.





This is the "Family" restaurant where I have dinner pretty much every night I stay around here.   The food is very good and I like being treated like a regular.  They have pretty good wifi so I was able to write up this blog post while I ate Spring Roll and Panang Curry with pork.   Topped off with  a mango smoothie.  What's not to like!



Friday, March 22, 2019

Going native in the tropics. - haven't worn a shirt in five days


     Actually the Title of this post is a bit of "misstatement".  I have put on a T shirt,, but only when I am going snorkeling.  The sun is incredibly intense and just because you are in the water doesn't mean your skin won't get fried.  It is crazy to go out in the intense heat and sun.  As the old song says, "Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun."

     After the diarrhea attack I was getting back to normal in a couple of days.  All signs of intestinal bleeding have disappeared.  I have been stretching and letting my body dance whenever I hear music.  This, together with a lot of walking and swimming and watching sunsets have combined to leave me feeling wonderful.


In Between Paradise.   The tree house beach bar where we watch the sunsets and play music.





    The owners of In Between Paradise are really nice and let me play their guitar.   There is a wonderful magic playing at the beach with friendly people.


The love of my life is with me in spirit

    I brought my swimming mask with me for swimming in hotel pools.  I wasn't planning on going snorkeling or diving so I didn't bring fins or a snorkel.  When I got to Koh Phi Phi I swam out to the reef off of Long Beach and got to see a couple of black tipped reef sharks as well as a bunch of different fish.  But I sure missed having a mask and snorkel.  After I was feeling better I went into town and after checking out five places that sold diving gear I bought a nice set of fines and a snorkel along with a mesh bag to carry them in.

     One thing I hope I have learned in my long life is that when I am trying to do something I haven't done in a long time is that I need to lower my expectations and go slowly and carefully.  It is hard not to remember yourself at your best,  I used to snorkel for miles in Hawaii, but  while I'm in pretty good shape for 74 the reality is that when I arrived on Koh Phi Phi I hadn't been swimming much and didn't know the local conditions.  I also got a bad attack of diarrhea that wiped me out for a couple of days.   I like pushing myself a bit, but it is also good to always quit while you are ahead and leave it to tomorrow to do more armed with the knowledge of how it turned out today.  It is one of the paradoxes of growing older that, even though you have less time, you learn to take more time.

     Over the last week I have learned that the best, and safest, snorkeling here at Long Beach is done at high tide.   At low tide the coral heads are close to the surface, sometimes even above, and it can be a challenge to not get scraped up on them. Especially getting in and out of the water.   The tides on Koh Phi Phi are about 8' so at high tide you float safely well above the the corral.     The water is also clearer and cooler on the incoming tide.  Since we are at the southern tip of Ton Soi Bay when the tide is going out the warmer and more polluted water drains from the Bay and depending on the current will flow right in front of the Viking Nature Resort and Long Beach.  The visibility changes from about 30' to less than 2'.

     The most dangerous part of the swim is getting from the beach across the traffic lanes used by the longtail boats that act as taxis ferrying people between the beach resorts and town.  Swimmers are hard enough to see if they have their heads above water, but snorkeling the only thing that sticks up above the water is the tip of the snorkel.   Besides being vigilant it also makes sense to have a diver's float.   On my walks to town I've made it a habit to pick up trash.  I thing I picked up was a long piece of Day-Glo Orange.  Rather than throw it out I viewed it as a gift from the gods telling me to get my shit together and make a diver's float.

     My first attempt made with a small plastic water bottle half filled with sand wasn't big enough to keep the stick holding the flag strait up in the air.  Just a little wave would knock it over.  But it was a pretty good "proof of concept".   So I made version 2.0 with a much bigger one litter plastic water bottle.  This worked, but over the course of my first snorkeling trip with it the lashing worked a bit loose and the stick would slide slide sideways throwing off the whole balance and the flag would end up in the water.  It was temporarily fixable, but obviously not good enough.

       Talking with some guys when I swam onto the Viking Beach I good some good advice, "cinch the hell out of it!" and also used a straiter stick and a rubber band for extra holding power and Version 2.1 was launched.

Version 2.1 of my diver's float

      By working into snorkeling I have gotten to the point now where swimming about a mile feels good both during the swim and afterwards.   It has also been interesting to concentrate on just getting to know my local reef.  Every time is different.  For example, yesterday I saw about 8 black tipped reef sharks during the swim and was even able to swim with a couple of them for a good 30 seconds.  Today I didn't see a single shark but several times was surrounded by a school of soldier fish which at times were within inches of my face.

This shows my morning adventure.  Starting at the Viking Beach I swam around the point against the current then walked down two the end of Long Beach.  Then I snorkeled out and then back home with the current.
     After resting and staying out of the mid-day sun and heat I took a late afternoon walk.  If you click on the Strava link below you can see the pictures I took on the walk.



    An interesting thing I find about not wearing a shirt is that my posture has improved.  A relaxed sagging potbelly just seems to feel wrong (as well as looking not so great).   But when I open up my chest, throw my shoulders back and suck in my belly I just can't help but feel better.  At first when I was walking I would find myself starting to feel stiff and hurting pretty quickly even though I was going slowly.  I found that if I stopped and stretched out a bit with  both touching my toes and reaching for the sky I could slowly work my body to where I was standing straiter, with my gut tucked in, and most importantly; feeling pain free.  One way I have been thinking of it is that being a sculptor I can work on my body and see if I can make it a little better.  It seems to be working.  I'm sure some people must wonder what's up with the old guy doing some sort of yoga on the side of the path.  But what if they think I'm weird?  A great thing about being an artist is that you don't have to be normal.  Hell, people even expect and hope that you aren't.



Friday, March 15, 2019

Koh Phi Phi. Life's full of ups and downs, or is it downs and ups?

No question but life is full of ups and downs. After arriving it took me only a day to start relaxing, do some snorkeling, and find a very cool and funky bar in a tree house on the beach that played good jazz. A perfect place to get high and watch the sunset. 




It is also the kind of place where people are friendly. Everything was looking good.



But it seems like I ate something bad. I woke up in the middle of the night and barely made it to the bathroom in time. Fortunately I brought some Imodium with me so after taking one but still finding myself racing to the can several more times I went on the web to find the correct dosage. Once online I discovered that having black tarry looking poop means you have intestinal bleeding unless you have been eating something that would color your stool blacklike squid ink. No squid ink lately for me. Then I read that if you do have black stools you definitely should go to the doctor. And go right away! I went to the World Med Clinic here on this remote Island. Something new since the last time I was here. Very new, neat, clean and professional. 


 

The doctor confirmed that it was intestional bleeding and explained that it can be serious and even life threatening if the bleeding is bad enough. In any case I needed to get a blood test right away and then a colonoscopy as soon as possible, but certainly within a month. There are many possible causes including colon cancer. But, if they don't see the cause of the bleeding going up from the bottom they have to send another scope down from the top.

The blood test showed no signs of the bleeding causing anemia, which is good. My blood pressure was quite low. Usually it is around 135/90 or so.


 

Feeling pretty bad from the diarrhea I tried to figure out some of the different options. The work on the stainless Dance and the Jitterbug Dancers is proceeding well, but there is still a couple of weeks more work before we finish up. When you throw in the time it takes to ship it back to NYC we are on a pretty tight schedule. It also seems that it is best to get the colonoscopy as soon as possible.
Of course there are excellent hospitals in Bangkok, and the prices are a lot less than back un the USA. But I don't have any insurance over here and if there were more problems I wouldn't want to be stuck over here or go through some super expensive medi-vac thing. It is a depressing thought be be really sick in a far off foreign country. Also feeling tired and exhausted from the diarrhea I figured the safest, most sensible thing was to deal with the intestinal bleeding right away by flying home. I went to a cafe with my computer and I booked a flight home leaving after midnight the next day. But by the next morning I was feeling a lot better. Because I bought the ticket with miles on United I was able to cancel with no penalty. I'm feeling normal now, actually quite good, and feel confident I will be able to finish up my work at the foundry in a couple of weeks after I spend another week being a beach bum here on Ko phi Phi. And then I'll get the colonoscopy when I get home. One good thing is that Marianne and I just took the Cologuard Test for colon cancer and rectal bleeding just a few months ago and the tests came back negative. So I am not worried about having colon cancer. It is probably diverticulitus. My mother had a bad attack of it and had to be helicoptered off a cruise ship near the Fauklin Islands back in 1987. After being flown on a RAF jet to London she almost died on the opperating table a couple of times. As she used to say, "getting old is not for sissies."


I have been staying in a Bungalow just outside of Ton Soi, the main and only town.


       The location was fine.  It was neat and clean and quiet except for the Mosque next door broadcasting the call to prayer 5 times a day. No discos near by, but it was hardly inspiring.


Through my new friends from Austria I found out about the Viking Nature Resort where they have been staying for their 4 week vacation since 2011. To get to it with your luggage you have to take a long tail because the trail is rough and often steep. I moved there this morning and it is really nice!



       And check out the bathroom sink.



The view from my private deck is pretty sweet too.




 

Just walking into the room I felt a glow of happiness come over me. The only thing missing is the love of my life.



I think of Marianne a lot. I am so grateful to have her love and our wonderful family. It helps me keep going through the good times and the hard times, through the ups and the downs.



Jay Lagemann
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