It’s always good when traveling to keep an eye out for opportunities to explore something off the usual tourist trail and this trip I found out how things work inside a Thai hospital. All the staff, medical and administrative, wear the most stylish uniforms and do everything with utmost professionalism. My key contact there told me he had been trained for 6 years in Sydney, Australia. But slightly veering off the usual day-to-day experiences opens one’s eyes to little things where values and expectations differ in sublte ways from what we expect in Australia and probably many other white English speaking countries.
For one, when my contact (who is responsible for international visitors to the hospital) introduced the nurse who would be the one responsible for my immediate care he introduced her with “This most beautiful lady’s name is ….” Things like that immediately hit one in a way to remind us Westerners at least that we have a whole different social thing going on with feminism and how men have to learn to do things differently from the way they were done in the old days. At least where I worked — in public universities and libraries — such a manner of addressing a woman in a professional situation would always be considered inappropriate. (He spent 6 years in Sydney but the Thai customs never left him.)
Then there was this. The day I was discharged I was being wheeled out and for the first time I saw the walls around me and not just the ceilings …. now I don’t know about other Anglo-Saxon countries, but I have a feeling that we would be most unlikely to be confronted with the following cartoon figure in such a place, (or is my experience of hospital murals way too limited?)
Actually before I went to the hospital I was looking for an ordinary doctor somewhere and following helpful directions I came to an area where there were sort of nurse-like-uniformed girls standing outside a shop handing out flyers, presumably to encourage people to enter — I wasn’t sure if it was actually a doctor’s surgery so I looked in and asked the woman I thought was the receptionist at the front desk for a doctor and she replied that she was the doctor and asked how she could help. There was a quick diagnosis over the counter …. But I will not want to leave the impression that that’s how all doctors here operate! Nor would she always service all clients that way.
Anyway, it was all a very interesting experience, something different, which I always look forward to. Oh, one more detail. When being discharged I was handed a form to fill out. It consisted of dozens or questions — but all in Thai — which I learned were asking me how I felt about their service, would I ever like to use them again, would I recommend them to someone else, that sort of thing, I think. I scarcely know the Thai alphabet so I left it aside.
And while talking of different things, here are a couple more.
I was in an outlying “suburban” area of Bangkok (though it was more like a city centre in many places in Australia) and was waiting responsibly at the lights to cross the road. When they turned green to signal me across I stepped out but not a damn car or motor bike seemed to notice that they had a bloody red light! There must have been about a dozen cars and bikes that just kept on driving through and weaving their way around me. It was a stimulating experience, that’s for sure. Usually cars stop at red lights, even here. But obviously not always. And when I reached the other side I passed two police officers nonchalantly walking back to their vehicle with their purchased lunches.
Anyway, I went into a chemist and asked for something and they searched frantically everywhere for me but couldn’t find what I wanted, so with their smiling apologies I left. I must have been about 50 metres down the street when I heard a woman shouting. She reached me to show me that she had finally found what I was asking for. It wasn’t quite what I was wanting but I couldn’t disappoint her after making such an effort so I returned with her and made the 39 baht ($A2) purchase.
Beer is not such a big deal here. Every shop sells it and sometimes the staff helpfully add a straw before you take it away. I know you won’t believe me so I took a photo to prove it’s true.