The Voices In My Head

Ramblings of a Bangkokian Girl

Saturday, August 07, 2004


Hey there, I've moved (back) to Xanga.

See you there!

Monday, July 19, 2004


The 15th International AIDS Conference has finally come to a close after a week of moving speeches, angry demonstrations, detailed scientific analyses, and the attendance of some 20,000 delegates, international celebrities (Ashley Judd, Richard Gere, CoCo Lee, Rupert Everett, Oprah Winfrey, Dionne Warwick, Princess Mabel of the Netherlands) and political figures (Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela, Sonia Gandhi).  I was fortunate enough to obtain VIP tickets from my uncle, and was able to listen to Nelson Mandela and Sonia Gandhi speak on the last day of the conference.  Their speeches were very moving and incredibly rousing.  It's sad how political differences can sometimes get in the way of the more significant issues, making us lose sight of the individual people who have been affected by this horrible disease.  In his speech, Mandela mentioned a little something about AIDS patients swiftly being reduced to "mere statistics", and I found myself agreeing with him completely.  When I was in high school, I was lucky to have had the opportunity to visit AIDS hospices and talk and interact with various AIDS patients.  But as shameful as it sounds, before that, they'd been mere statistics in my eyes, too.

I went to an AIDS hospice for the first time in 10th grade as a part of my Catholic Studies class.  We were all a little apprehensive at first, as we didn't quite know what to expect.  A few parents were apprehensive too; it took a lot of convincing and persuading before many of them were finally willing to give their consent and sign the permission forms (No, your child won't contract HIV from interacting with the patients.  Yes, there will be some physical contact - holding of hands, massaging of legs, hugging - but your child won't be able to contract the disease.  Yes, should you not wish for your child to come into physical contact with the patients, your child can observe from afar.)  One of my upperclassmen, who'd already gone to the AIDS hospice the year before, told me that when the time had come for him to massage one of the patients' legs, he almost didn't know what to do.  Not that massaging requires the intellect of a rocket scientist, but because there literally was nothing there to massage - nothing except for loose flesh and brittle bone. 

But besides the issues of physical contact, we were rather nervous because we weren't quite so sure of how we were supposed to interact with the patients.  Should we be cheerfully optimistic?  Brutally realistic?  Or simply keep quiet in fear of offending them?  But when we finally arrived at the hospice, the people we met there immediately put all of our worries to rest.  They chatted with us, laughed with us, held our hands, and smiled so carelessly... as though they themselves were unaware of the skin hanging off of their bones or their sunken eyes and prodtruding cheekbones.  I don't care if this sounds cliche and slightly melodramatic, but it was as if they'd successfully managed to detach Spirit and Body into two separate entities; as if their spirits were free from their disease-ridden bodies.  And the spirits we met that day were such beautiful ones.

There was a girl who was only a few years older than the rest of us; still nothing more than a teenager.  Sounding like a "statistic" in the sad reality that is Thailand's modern-day AIDS story, she was originally from Chiang Rai, but had been sold by her parents into prostitution.  She said that she'd cried in isolation for weeks, putting on watery smiles and doing as her "pimp" told her to do the rest of the time, and hating every moment of it.  She had only been 14 at the time, and missed home desperately.  In fact, she still did miss her home, siblings, and most especially, parents.  How bittersweet it all seemed.  Here she was, a mere ghost of a thing, dying in a Catholic AIDS hospice hundreds of miles away from home, and still she missed the two people who had been the cause of her eventual demise.  Incredibly enough, she wasn't bitter about how things had turned out for her; she only hoped that her family - and especially, her younger siblings - had benefitted from her "sale".  The last thing she wanted was for her younger sister to be sold into prostitution and eventually meet a fate similar to hers.  After hearing her story and talking to her, I was left feeling extremely foolish.  I felt like all my concerns then - college admissions, SATs, high school crushes, exams, school dances - were all paltry and insignificant in comparison to what she was going through, lying there and struggling simply to draw the next breath until the time would come for her to finally draw her last.

We met other patients who had contracted HIV from drug use, unprotected sex, and in some cases, sex with one's own husband.  There was a lady who hadn't known that her husband was a frequent visitor of the city's many brothels, and so she had consequently contracted the disease from him.  There was another patient who, like so many other women in the world, had gotten the disease through prostitution.  Since her previous job required that she interact daily with foreign men, she was able to speak some English and was even able to chat with the students of the class who couldn't speak Thai.  What made the situtation even more heartbreaking was her infant daughter, who had also contracted the disease while in her mother's womb.  Even sadder than that, was the fact that the baby's mother died while we were there, choking internally on her own fluids as her baby girl cried in her mother's dying arms.  I was left wondering about the child's fate.  Of course she would eventually die, but what about before that?  I'd gone to an orphanage in Pattaya the year before in 9th grade, and remembered playing with a beautiful 5-year-old curly-haired luk-krung (eurasian) girl who no one wanted to adopt, because she had AIDS.

I apologize for the gloomy and somber entry, but the past week got me thinking and made me remember the AIDS hospice visits we used to make back in high school.  I'm grateful we made those visits, for it helped in giving the disease a human face in my eyes, and helped me to see beyond the statistical numbers we sometimes tend to passively overlook.  It also reminded me of how fortunate I am, and how easy it is to become ungrateful and negligent about the small, important things in life.  Family, friends, love - what more could one desire for a more fulfilling life?


Some AP and Reuter photos from the past week.

Elephants greet delegates to the 15th International AIDS Conference.

Activists and protesters converge from around the world and crowd Bangkok streets to raise awareness on AIDS-related issues, including drug prices, clean needle distribution, and condom use.

Lookie here, they can rhyme too.

Subtitles, for your viewing pleasure.

U.S. officials were shouted down at the various press conferences by European and Asian activists.  America was accused of not having a larger delegation presence at the conference, and while the United States is the most generous donor nation on AIDS, they were criticized for promoting "treatment and prevention plans that pander to conservative religious purposes and to the powerful American pharmaceutical lobby".

Kofi Annan and his wife greet HIV-infected children at a Bangkok hospital. He praised Thailand for its past successes in reining in AIDS, and warned that Asia is at a critical turning point in fighting the scourge.

"We need leaders everywhere to demonstrate that speaking up about AIDS is a point of pride, not a source of shame. There must be no more sticking heads in the sand, no more embarrassment, no more hiding behind the veil of apathy."

British actor Rupert Everett with a family affected by HIV.

"Prejudice keeps people in wealthy countries from paying attention to the worldwide AIDS epidemic. We are extremely racist."

Hollywood actor Richard Gere at the AIDS conference.

"I found myself in the last few days getting very teary about [the plight of all the infected youths], and in the middle of the night I started crying and it all came back to me."

Miss Universe 2004 Jennifer Hawkins of Australia greets an AIDS patient and monk at an AIDS hospice in Thailand.

Miss Universe 2004 Jennifer Hawkins at Bangkok's Wat Phra Kaew.

"Messages about safe sex have still not reached most of my generation. There are a lot of things that kill people today, but nothing rivals the stigma of AIDS."

Hong Kong pop star and YouthAIDS ambassador, CoCo Lee, and HIV-positive muppet, Kami (of South African Sesame Street fame), speak to reporters during a press conference.

Nelson Mandela and Sonia Gandhi shake hands after the closing of the 15th International AIDS conference.

Mandela: "I cannot rest until I am certain that the global response is sufficient to turn the tide of the epidemic.  History will surely judge us harshly if we do not respond with all the energy and resources that we can bring to bear in the fight against HIV/AIDS."

Gandhi: "I have seen people who have lost jobs and who have been ostracized, and the orphans not adopted because of stigma, and I have seen people fading away in front of their helpless families."

Ashley Judd and CoCo Lee join a religious rite for those who have died of AIDS-related illnesses at Wat Phrabat Namphu hospice in Lop Buri province.

Ashley Judd and CoCo Lee sit with a HIV patient at the AIDS hospice in Wat Phrabaht Nampu temple.
CoCo Lee was reduced to tears after this visit, and I saw a clip of her on TV saying that "[she'll] never forget all the wonderful people [she] met" and that the whole experience has left her feeling "incredibly sad".

After having been splashed across all the local newspapers and evening news recaps, this image has become rather famous around town. 
A picture can indeed speak a thousand words.
Oh, and sorry for jumping on the Spiderman bandwagon, but after watching it over the weekend, it has to be said - Spiderman 2 kicks major Doc Oc ass.  I may posses an intense loathing for arachnids of all shapes and forms, but Tobey Maguire, I mean, Spidey, can save me from mad scientists anyday.

Currently Playing: Bohn Haw Koy by Sandra (Why are Thai songs always so sad?)

"ฉันร้องตะโกน ฉันคุกเข่า
พูดเรื่องเก่าเก่า เลื่อนลอย
และรอคอย ปลอบตัวเองว่าเธอต้องมา
ห้องมืดกว่าเก่า และว่างเปล่า
อ่อนล้าเกิน จะหายใจอีก"

Currently Reading:  Shopaholic and Sister by Sophie Kinsella (The 4th installment of the Shopaholic series - I finally got it!  What can I say?  Every girl needs a little chick lit to spice up her bookshelf, you know.)

Monday, July 12, 2004

Bug Eyes and Raccoon Eyes

Hmm, what's up with everyone suddenly getting married? What happened to that independent, single female lifestyle a la the chicks from Sex and the City that all 21st century women were going for? (Not that I personally live a lifestyle even remotely Sex and the City-ish, but you know what I mean.) Last June, one of my bestest of friends in the world from middle school, Arwen (a.k.a Mama Goose/Wenny Booby/Wennypoops), got married over in Vancouver. I unfortunately was unable to attend her wedding since I was, oh, halfway around the world. Then, a few months later, I heard from Caro that another girl from my high school days, Jenny, recently got married over in Taiwan. And THEN, news comes by again telling me that my twin, Hanna (back in middle school, everyone said we looked the same from behind), who's living over in Korea now, has gotten engaged.

The latest to get hitched is my blondie friend Rachel, from our RIS days. Rachel, Arwen, Paul, Manesh and I used to be in the same IB Biology class during our junior year, and whenever we weren't falling asleep from Mr. Trautman's (we affectionately dubbed him The Trout Man) insanely monotonous voice, we were busy making fun and giggling at his creepy bug-eyed stare (some of us suspected he had hyperthyroidism); the way he used to pause at the end of his sentences before drawing out a long "O... kay"; and the way he used to try to convince us that amoebas are "actually really cool, little critters, really" in a manner that made us suspect that he was also trying really hard to convince himself that he too was having fun talking about amoebas. If I remember correctly, I think we (the entire class) even succeeded in unintentionally seriously pissing him off once. I forget what the whole ordeal was about, but I remember that he got even more bug-eyed than normal (if that's even possible) and his monotonous voice actually sounded... angry. We learned that day that The Trout Man actually was capable of conveying emotion with his voice and wasn't as robotic as we'd originally thought. We were like the children of the corn incarnate - real devils, I tell you. Someday, we will pay for our sins. But don't feel bad for The Trout Man, everyone; rumor has it he had a really hot Thai girlfriend, and a lot of us suspected he lived a really un-Trout-Man-like life outside of school. Some of our upperclassmen even said that they'd spotted The Trout Man with his girlfriend once, having drinks and dancing the night away around Bangkok's ultra red light Patpong district. But then again, a lot of those same upperclassmen also thought they'd seen our Catholic studies teacher hanging out around Silom Soi 4 in a gay bar once, too. (Please God, please don't let The Trout Man or Mr. F ever accidentally stumble across this. Please.)

Anyways, back to Rachel. Rach is a real smartie farty. Not only did she excel in all her subjects back in high school, but she was/is THE biggest pop culture expert. Go to her about anything pop culture-related, and she'll be able to tell you anything and everything you might want to know about anyone from Britney Spears to the Backstreet Boys (Rachel used to like singing "I Like It That Way" whenever we were rummaging through our lockers). Rachel just flew into BKK from South Carolina the other week to hold her wedding reception at the Rembrandt Hotel with her newly wed hubby, Brandon, but I unfortunately was unable to make it. Jup called me the night before to ask what I was going to wear, and the big question on her mind was "what the hell are you supposed to wear to an American wedding reception? Do they get as glammed up as they do at Thai weddings?" I didn't have the slightest idea, so I told her that I remembered reading from some recycled Vogue or Cosmo column somewhere that it's always better to overdress than to underdress when it comes to social functions. I hope I was right and the reception turned out okay for her. But anyways, congratulations Rachel and Brandon on tying the knot! Aparna told me a few months back that after meeting up with you guys in London, that if there were ever a couple more perfect for one another, it was you two. Here's to many years of happiness and some good South Carolina living.

Me, Jup, Pam, Praveen, Caress, Rachel, and Chiki five years ago during our 11th grade Prom.

Rachel and Brandon a few months ago when they visited Aparna in London. Aww.


I had a fantastic time Friday evening. I met up with Xangan bloggers Mati and Bo, who are currently vacationing and having the time of their lives partying their asses away here in BKK. I also met up with Siri and her two friends, Arm and Joe, who are both visiting from Wisconsin and are doing summer internships where Siri works. As always, Bangkok's Friday night traffic was a big, fat pain in the butt. I sat motionless at a traffic light around the Victory Monument area for 17 whole minutes. No joke. Naturally, I was late. (Sorry again, Mati and Bo.) We had a quick dinner at Kuay Thiew Reua Tah Siam at Siam Square Soi 10, where Bo valiantly braved a tall glass of sour Nam Krajiab (Roselle juice). We all parted ways with him after dinner, because he was headed for ABAC to attend a concert.

Afterwards, we headed for Soi Ruamrudee along Wireless Road to a quaint little restaurant called Keep in Touch; to listen to one of Siri's old uni friends perform live. Before that, though, we swung by Central Chidlom to pick up Gug, who fortuitously chose the precise moment to leave her office just as the skies erupted and began to blast relentless sheets of rain at us from every imaginable direction. I'm talking serious rain here, folks. For an attenuated period of five seemingly short minutes, rain literally POURED. While driving, it was almost impossible to see anything more than 3 meters ahead of me. The streets quickly filled with rainwater and the poor roadside vendors had to quickly scramble for cover, lest their roasted pork, chicken, and look-chins (please refer to previous entry) wither away in the rain. (Mati: "I think their food's cleaner now that it's been rained on.") After picking up Gug, we headed to Keep in Touch. No matter how slowly and cautiously I endeavored to drive, t'was all in vain, for I ended up unintentionally splashing about 10 million people along the way. Siri, Gug, and Mati reasoned with me and said that those unfortunate peeps were already soaked anyway, because of the rain. But still... I know my fate awaits me. One day, when I least expect it, I bet you I'm going to get doused by a big ten-wheeler - karma, you know.

Keep in Touch is located right across the street from Holy Redeemer Church, the only Catholic church here in Bangkok that I attend. I remember having passed by Keep in Touch a number of times in the past, but not thinking much of it since it looks rather small from the outside. But you know the age old adage - never judge a book by its cover. Once you go inside, you'll see that Keep in Touch is actually much larger than it appears, and has a wonderfully mellow and laid-back atmosphere.

I dropped Mati and Gug off in front of of the restaurant so that it'd be easier for them to slip inside. Getting out of the car and into the restaurant proved to be quite a task. With torrential rains that could have easily rivaled the ones that Noah and the inhabitants of his famous ark once braved way back in the day, it was rather hard finding a place to park. And when we finally did, it was at such an itty bitty, minuscule spot, my car's butt was practically sticking out into the middle of the next soi. Since I was parked at such a steep slope, if you looked hard enough and had a big enough of an overactive and wild imagination (as I sometimes do), my car appeared to be cheekily mooning all who happened to pass by.

Siri and I ditched our shoes in the car and ran out into the rain in our flip flops. The wind whipped the rain in our faces and after realizing that my umbrella was pretty much useless, we instead relied on our trusty feet to race us as quickly as possible through the murky puddles towards shelter. I didn't care if I got soaked to the bone, but I had to take extra care of Thee Face. Please don't mistake this as vanity, because it's not like I'm a vainglorious, narcisstic, preening peacock or anything. It's just that, well, runny mascara isn't very attractive... unless, of course, you dig that whole raccoon look, which I don't. Just a prime example of Murphy's Law, I suppose. What a day to choose to wear non-waterproof mascara, huh? Fortunately, luck was on my side, and I managed to reach the restaurant sans raccoon eyes.

Siri's friend, Soy, is a natural born singer. She has such an incredible vocal range and is one of those very fortunate and talented singers who always has perfect pitch; she hit all the notes flawlessly and not a single note was off key. She sang for 4 hours straight, only taking a few short 10 minute breaks, and still her performances were top notch. If there's anyone in all of T-land who deserves a full-fledged record deal, it's definitely her. (Should any fellow Bangkokians be reading this, find a way to stop by Keep in Touch on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night, and have a listen to that beautiful voice of hers in person.) Soy's friend, Pat, who was visiting from Sydney, was so effing good at the guitar!! And boy, does he have a fabulous voice! He sang Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight" and Peacemaker's "Ngao" (amongst a plethora of other popular Thai and English songs), and had all of us singing and swaying along with him. Talk about SMOOTH, people. I bet all the ladies line up before him the moment he opens his mouth and starts singing, lol. (Of course, that isn't to say that Mati isn't quite the gifted musician, too. He did a pretty mean air guitar and air-drummed pretty fantastically, if I do say so myself. )

Soy and Pat performing.
(Sorry for the crappy lighting and the waitress who's completely obscuring Pat.)

Conversation was great. Arm and Mati were a lot of fun to talk to, and so were Soy and Pat. Pat's lived in Australia for over 8 years, and so he has a pretty strong Aussie accent (I couldn't resist pulling a very, very corny and trite G'day Mate quip, but he was very nice about it). Joe and Arm are currently studying in Wisconsin, but coincidentally Arm used to study at the same international school as Siri, back in the day when she used to live in Jakarta. He's also been to international schools here in Bangkok as well as Kuala Lumpur, and so we had a grand old time talking about the whole international school experience. Corny as this may sound, whenever I run into other international school students, it's almost as though an instant connection is made, regardless of the fact that we may have nothing else in common. It's always pleasantly surprising and fun to learn about their experiences and travels; to see different parts of the world through their eyes, and vice versa.

Mati, Arm, Joe

Front: Joe, Arm, Mati
Back: Pat, Soy, me, Siri, Gug

Later, I dropped Mati off and the girls and I headed to Siri's new condo over at Asoke. I love it so much, I want to move in! I remember seeing it almost a year ago, back when her parents were condo-shopping for a new place. It'd looked pretty barren and desolate back then, but her parents have totally redone the place, adding new built-in furniture and decorating it so wonderfully that it now radiates with homey coziness. Oh, and just for your information, MS. LUCKY BUM Siriratana has a pretty fanfreakingtastic view of the city from her room. Anyway, since it was getting late (it was 12:40 AM), Gug and I only intended to quickly poke our heads in, scan and check the place out, and then leave. But innately talented, loquacious prattlers that we are, we instead found ourselves chatting the night away as we helped Siri sift through oodles of pattern samples, so that she could decide on a few possible curtain patterns for her new room. We lost track of time and consequently I got home at 3 AM. I had a nice pair of raccoon eyes the next morning, and mind you it wasn't because of any runny mascara.


Whitney Houston is coming to town. So are The Offspring. I'm not that crazy about the Whitney concert, but The Offspring gig has got me pretty darn psyched. My mom, on the other hand, couldn't be more ecstatic about Ms. Whitney Diva Houston's upcoming show.

MOM: I heard on the radio today that Whitney Houston's having a concert on the 19th.
LYNN: Yeah... are you going?
MOM: Of course I am. I'm trying to convince your dad to go to the Whitney concert instead of the Andy Williams one.
LYNN: (Thinking to self)Oh man, how boring. Andy Williams? The moon river guy?
MOM: But I'd rather go to the Whitney concert.
LYNN: Mom, you only know, like, one of her songs.
MOM: I do not. I know a lot of her songs. Like that Bodyguard song.
LYNN: That's the only song you know, Mom.
MOM: Well, so what? (Begins to sing) And ayeeeeee eeee ayeeeee, will always love yooooooo....
LYNN: That's great, Mom.
MOM: Wheeeeell al-waaaays love YOOOO hoooo OOOO hoooo OOOO oooo (attempts shrill, vibrating, Whitney-esque falsetto by means of shaking head up and down).

Oh mom, you can be so corny and embarrassing sometimes, but I love you.

And finally, head on over to Pete's site to see some hilarious pictures of Asian photographers in action. You will bust your gut laughing, I promise.

Currently Playing: Fell in Love With a Boy by Joss Stone (Loving that smokey, throaty voice.)
Currently Reading: Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton (It's a pretty intersting memoir, and I really like what I've read so far. Speaking of all things Clintonian, I just watched Christiane Amanpour's Bill Clinton interview on CNN over the weekend. He may not be perfect, but I always thought he was a better president than Dubya. He was THEE President. Sigh. I miss Bill.)

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

A Histology Lesson - Look-Chin Style

I stopped by my cousin's house the other day to drop something off for my mom, and while I was there, I chatted with my aunt as she prepared some look-chin pla for my cousins. Because I am a nerd, I am going to enlighten you all with a brief Histology lesson, look-chin style.

In Thai, look-chin means meat ball. A great variety of said meat balls can be found here in the Land of Smiles, for example:

Look-chin pla = Fish balls
Look-chin moo = No, not cow balls (moooo!), but pork balls
Look-chin neua = Beef balls
Look-chin gai = Chicken balls (Does this mean that guys are chicken? Heh, j/k.)
Look-chin goong = Shrimp balls
Look-chin pla-meuk = Squid balls
Look-chin maa = Dog balls (Hah! Gotcha there, now didn't I? Don't worry, we don't eat dogs here... at least most of us don't.)

Heh, dog balls. Now why does that sound really dirty? =X Anyways, now that I've gotten that look-chin bit all cleared up, let's continue on with our lesson, shall we?

Look-Chin Style

EXHIBIT #1: Your normal, ordinary erythrocyte, or red blood cell.
Note the nice biconcave disc shape, which provides a 20-30% greater surface area than a sphere relative to cell volume, thus significantly enhancing gaseous exchange. This shape, along with the fluidity of the plasma membrane, allows the erythrocyte to deform readily, and thus erythrocytes are able to pass through the smallest capillaries.
(Yeah, I had to look that up. My brain isn't sophisticated enough for me to spout fancy medical jargon like that.)

An actual image of a bunch of erythrocytes, bouncing along oh so merrily.

EXHIBIT #2: A sickle cell.
Unlike lucky schmuck Mr. Erythrocyte above, poor l'il sickle cell here is sickle-shaped (duh, that's why it's called a sickle cell).
Because of their shape, they are unable to squeeze through smaller blood vessels. As if life weren't unfair enough already, sickle cells only live to be 60 days long, whereas those erythroyte bastards live up to 120 days! Also, because the body cannot make new red blood cells as fast as it loses sickle blood cells, the result is that sickle-cell patients end up having less blood cells and less hemoglobin than your average person. This can lead to loads of symptoms. If you're interested (though I bet you couldn't care less), you can read more about it here.

An actual image of a sickle cell, lonely amongst a sea of perfect, flawless erythrocytes. How sad.

OK, so why have I suddenly inserted a picture of the once popular (where have they disappeared to? I miss them) R&B group, TLC? Because T-Boz has sickle-cell anemia and is also a spokesperson for the SCDAA. Yay for T-Boz.

EXHIBIT #3: A spherocyte.
I'm too lazy to tell you what spherocytes are all about, but you can read more about it here... if you're interested (but lemme guess again, you couldn't care less?).

Spot the spherocyte!

EXHIBIT #4: And the cutest of 'em all... an astrocyte!
Astrocytes can be found in your CNS and are known for having voracious appetites. Since they're phagocytotic, they basically engulf and gobble up any debris that happens to cross their path. Yeah, they're gluttonous little buggers.

And again, an actual image of an astrocyte.


OK, so now that you've all expired from boredom, I will end this here and leave you with this very important public message:

Currently Playing: Flowers in the Window by Travis
Currently Reading: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling (Any HP fans out there have probably already heard that the next installment of JK Rowling's fantastic Harry Potter series is going to be titled "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince". Please, please hurry up with book 6, Mrs. R!)

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