Regular readers of this blog are probably thinking “wow, that’s a lot of blog posts coming at us in a short amount of time!” Well, it just so happens that I (Lindsey) have quite a lot of time on my hands at the moment. Let me take you back to last Saturday evening when the mayhem began…
We had all of our colleagues who are living in Phuket over for a belated Thanksgiving feast. I had been looking at the local supermarkets for a turkey to cook, but the prices were outrageous ($150 for a 10 lb. bird, which was weirdly already cooked but also frozen? No thanks). So Gav and I decided to get a few chickens and cook those instead. Everyone else brought sides that they wanted and we had a pleasant and very delicious (if way sweatier than normal) Thanksgiving dinner.
After everyone had left, Gav and I finished doing the dishes and jumped in the pool. I mentioned that I felt a little snotty. Gav had been kind of allergy-y earlier in the day and had taken a pill that fixed it right up so I chalked it up to that and we went to bed. The next morning I woke up and still felt not great, stuffy and crabby, although I chalked the crabbiness up to the fact that we were trying to figure out what we were going to do for our December break. At some point after breakfast, Gav suggested that I take one of the lateral flow tests the NHS had sent us when we were in England just to rule out the sniffles being Covid. Since, you know, we had just had all of our friends over the night before.
I did the little science experiment with the lateral flow test and it took not even 30 seconds to turn positive. And then I started well and truly freaking out. Not because I was worried about being really sick (I am fully vaccinated) but because I knew that you can test positive on a PCR test for up to 90 days and I would need a PCR test to return to Yangon in January. The only way that you can get around this is if you have documentation proving that you have recovered from Covid, but to get that I would need to be under a doctor’s care. The problem with that? If you test positive in Phuket you are required by law to be admitted into the hospital for 10 days. Cue the sweating and quite a lot of crying and wondering what I should do. Also of course I had to call everyone who I had been with the night before AND ALSO the friends we had been with on the Friday night, who took us out to dinner with their 90 year old father who was visiting (from South Africa! And on the night these friends has asked us if we were comfortable still going out with them due to the news breaking from SA, hahahaaaaaa). During this time of my major meltdown, Gav also took a test and he was negative.
In consultation with our nurse from school, I decided the only thing I could do was go and get a PCR test from the hospital. Even thought I knew that could mean not actually coming home from the hospital. So I packed a bag, double masked and made Gav drive to the hospital with all the windows in the car open. It seems like the hospital is pretty used to this as there was a whole procedure that happened when you think you are Covid positive and it ran pretty smoothly. I was kind of expecting the hospital employees to be keeping me at a large distance but everyone was pretty nonchalant (lending me their pens and stuff to fill out paperwork and even driving me around on a golf cart!) and it didn’t take too long to get into the testing area. First they apparently had to weigh me though and that was kind of the most traumatic thing that happened, who wants to be weighed the morning after their Thanksgiving meal?? I asked the doctor “what happens if I test positive” and she said “oh there are three choices, you can go into the hospital, you can stay at home, or urbfieyegrierbgvywg” I never could understand the last part through the mask, plastic shield, and language barrier. I just clung on to “stay at home” and was so relieved. They told me I would get an email the next day with results and sent me home! I spent the rest of Sunday masked and away from Gav. Also, spoiler alert, the friends with the elderly father actually had given him a few random at home tests and then a mandated PCR test for travellers from the region and he was negative. Giant relief.
Monday morning rolls around and I was obsessively checking my email. Around 9:30 my phone rang and it was the hospital. A nice man on the other end said the results were back and he was sorry to say I was positive. And when would I be reporting to the hospital to check in, by the way ma’am that will cost you 200,000 Thai Bhat ($6,000)? Cue major freak out. I said, oh no no no no I do not want to come to the hospital I am fine, I will isolate at home. And the nice man said ” I am sorry, home isolation is not possible.” And I argued for a while and eventually he said the only other option was for him to turn my name over to the “Government Agency” and they will contact me about hotel quarantine. Ok, this is not ideal but to be honest anything sounds better than being in a Thai hospital. So now I wait for the mysterious “agency” to get in touch with me.
For a while I actually though I was getting away with it and no one would ever call, but at 8pm on Monday night a lady calls and she says she will send me the options for completing my quarantine in a hotel. I get the list and there are basically 2 choices, regular room or private pool room. Well, I am already paying an arm and a leg for this (but not $6000!) so I’m not paying extra for a pool, please sign me up for the regular room. After a lot of back and forth, it was decided I would not be picked up until the next day (so much for the argument that this is to contain community transmission as I could have been doing whatever in those 48 hours since my test).
So on Tuesday afternoon, I was picked up from our house by a man in a space suit and was taken to my home for the next 10 days. A home I now like to call Rona Resort.
Once we arrived at the hotel, it was like entering a modern day leper colony. Everyone is free to do whatever they want, as long as they don’t associate with “the outside.” You want to go to the hotel gym? Fine! Go for a jog on the paths? Fine! Swim in the pool and drink beer all day? Go right ahead! Mingle with absolutely anybody who is here? Go for it! And my fellow inmates? They are all taking advantage of every single one of these freedoms.
As you can see, my room is very nice! It had a small patio, and right off of that patio is the pool. Like….you can swim up to your room. This seems nice, but in actuality it means that all the random people who are staying here and who are bored and missing their friends……just swim up to your patio and try to make new friends. No thank you. I am lucky that my room is all the way on the end so people really have to try to come over.
I am assuming that most of the people here got unlucky positive results on one of their mandatory tests when you come to Thailand under the Sandbox program or whatever it is called now. Therefor, these are all people who are on vacation and want to have some fun. For a few days there was a big group of Israeli guys who obviously were just carrying on the party from the beach to here. There are two German guys next to me who really wanted to be friends (one of them crawled in the bushes separating our rooms on the first night, poked out, scared the crap out of me and yelled “you’re NEW!”). I get it, but I am still having to work and also the idea that we are all actually ill and contagious does kind of gross me out so I don’t really want to fraternize. People are getting a little desperate for fun.
Yes, that IS a man getting in a kayak to paddle around the pool. Yes that IS a lady in a thong that does nothing all day but swim out to that “island” and then parade around and talk to everyone. Now, obviously this set up is just about as good as you can imagine if you have to quarantine for 10 days. I do not have a whole lot of complaints, except the food situation is extremely bizzare. Rather than choosing anything off of a menu or anything like that, food just shows up outside your door at set times. What are those times? I am so glad you asked. Breakfast is at 9:45, lunch at noon and dinner anywhere from 4:45-5:30. It is like some sort of forced intermittent fasting regime (now that I think about it, maybe this is tied to the weighing they did when they tested me?). And once you DO get the food, it is spectacularly random. Behold some of what I have received:
Please try to guess which of these delicacies is which meal. You cannot. With the exception of that pea, corn, carrot, apple and mayo salad up there, each of these was my breakfast! Hot wings? Check! Full slab of salmon? Check! Chicken nuggets? Baked beans? Hot dog? Check, check, check. There is a lot of food, but none of it makes sense. One of my friends has a theory that it is some catering company that just brings whatever is left over from the day, which actually might be the truth. Good thing Gav brought me some snacks. And booze, thank god we are allowed booze in here, cheers me right up!
It is a bit unclear what will happen upon my release. The hotel staff here are just hotel staff, they don’t have anything to do with us medically. Three times a day I have to put on a pulse oximeter than records my pulse and oxygen levels onto a smart watch. The day after I arrived, they shuffled me back onto the Shame Wagon with a bunch of my fellow inmates and took us to a weird field hospital for what they said was a “chest X-ray,” but the X-ray was done in basically a porta-potty and looked like no X-ray machine I have ever seen. Also no one was wearing any protective gear. I think it was all a hoax.
Come on-does that look real to you? Looks like we just pushed our boobs up to a tv screen and someone yelled “beep” from the back and that was that. Anyway, here’s hoping that I get discharged on Wednesday with all the right paperwork and this can just be a “funny” little interlude in the absolute insanity that is 2020-2021. The good news is that I feel fine, and Gav and everyone else I was in contact with remain negative. I was worried about where I was going to get my booster shot as the major brands (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca) are not available here or in Myanmar, but I guess I got the booster the old fashioned way.
I need to go now as I can hear people splashing around in the pool so I need to sit on my patio and give the hairy eyeball to anyone who gets too close so that I can defend my little piece of solitude. Get off my lawn!