dinsdag 12 september 2017

Third world, first world

When you have been in this country for a while you are starting to see below the surface. Below the backpacker “luxury”. Because lets be honest, a backpacker life in Laos is something many locals here will never have such as having just four walls and a door with a fan. For us, it is going back to the basics. Essentials. But they will never know this. Sometimes I wonder how they see us. White people being able to eat, drink, travel. Not working. This must be alienating for them. 
Especially with going back and forward between Thailand and here, the difference is immense. Thailand is a mixture of extreme luxury and poor villages but overall the health care they have is pretty good. They have all the technology you need in the big city hospitals. And if you have ever been to the Bangkok super malls you know what I am talking about. The Bijenkorf is nothing compared to that. They have an Ikea just as part of a mall. That is how big they are. I could not believe my eyes the first time Jack took me there. Everything is so extremely pretty and grand. In Laos there are no shopping malls. We have one small Chinese supermarket in town and we are very thankful for that. But here, that is extreme luxury if you compare it to the villages. 

Last night I was talking to the manager of a non-profit organization here and she told me about the conditions in the hospital here. She was recently admitted because of Dengue fever. There are no blankets, no food, not even water. In the ICU there are no monitors and all the family of the patients are sleeping on the floor and bringing in food and leaving it there. Hygiene is really bad. They don't wash their hands, that is just not part of the culture here. No hand alcohol. No sterilizing of instruments. They diagnosed her not by blood test but by putting a rubber band on her arm and seeing if spots would appear. 

I can't imagine being able to do something for these people or help them as a doctor. When the basic things are just not there. In the Netherlands if a patient comes in the first heart help (EHH) before even seeing them they get an extensive lab test, ECG and thorax x-ray. Teaching the nurses in the villages CPR is even not helpful because there are no AED’s available, no medication, no help. The only AED in the region is in the children's hospital in the city. But for most people this is more then four hours away and they don’t have a car, besides they will not be able to pay for it anyway. 

Talking to this manager it is starting to hit me how far behind the people are here. Their doctor is a shaman and white people only bring the bad spirits to the village. I think the biggest benefit for the people in the villages right know is learning about hygiene. People are dying every day now from a simple cut that has become infected. A simple thing as washing hands could change a lot here.

vrijdag 1 september 2017

Reunited again….. with my laptop

So there was quite some radio silence. When we went for our visa run to Bangkok we only packed the necessary things and left laptops etc. behind in LP. As it was only to be a short trip we did not anticipate on needing them. 
We were enjoying our mini break in Thailand. Meeting up with some old friends in Chiang Mai when the news reached us that my Opa was taking a turn for the worst. This news even though expected had hit me hard as my Opa kept on asking when will I be there. I was on the phone with my dad every day to get updates and see if it was necessary to jump on a plane back home. 
After a week of “waiting” we decide to go back. Jack was finally allowed back in the EU so we did not have to go without each other again. 
In the Netherlands my Opa was doing a lot better. I think he just wanted to see us. After ten day's my Opa was well enough that we dared to go back to Asia. Flying in to Chiang Mai to pick up some of the stuff we bought in Thailand we decided on a little detour. 
I have always wanted to learn how to ride a manual motorbike and we are thinking of buying one in Laos but I wanted to know if I liked it and if I even could do it at all. We rented two awesome Honda MSX bikes (pictures below). This is a very light mini bike, only 125 cc and about 100kg heavy. Perfect for a lightweight as myself. Jack (being a bit taller than me) looked quiet amusing on the small bike and on top of that he had my pink teen backpack on. We did a 5 day loop called the Mao hong son loop. Bringing us from Chiang Man to Pai, then up to the boarder with Myanmar. Finally down and east again over the top of the highest mountain in Thailand. 
When I was reading on the internet about this trip it said it can only be done on big bikes with experienced drivers in the dry season. So in other words perfect for us (read: sarcasm). 
Amazingly enough we made it without any problems what so ever. As I got more comfortable with the bike and changing gears I really started to enjoy the windy roads and stunning views. The trip was amazing and would recommend it for anyone who has a little bit more time to burn in northern Thailand. You get to see the real Thailand, small villages and stunning views. We stayed as the only guests in guesthouses that have long lost there glory and ate some questionable foods. Yes there was rain, and some times a lot of rain. Weaponed with our 7-eleven ponchos we pushed on in pouring rain. But then finally making it to the guesthouse was ever so sweet. 

After our motorbike trip I had to go back to Bangkok for a dental appointment. After this we decide to take the slow boat tour from Chiang Mai to LP. This was the first trip we did together after meeting in Chiang Mai 9 months ago and the start of our relationship. So we thought it would be a nice way to relive that moment. 
Again the slow boat did not let us down on providing a great trip. With amazing views and amazing company we finally sailed back in to LP. Here our new apartment was waiting to welcome us. We moved in yesterday and I had great joy in making up our bed for the first time, unpacking everything and having a home cooked meal!

Other than that a lot of planning is going on and I am hoping I can start soon as a volunteer doctor but more about that later, first.... pictures!


zondag 16 juli 2017

Restless mind syndrome

I have a disorder, it is called restless mind syndrome. Which I think is a disorder every doctor or medical student can relate to. We have to be intellectual stimulated at all times or we lose our minds. We make long hours and work hard. During a long shift we all dream of a free day, with Netflix, a blanket and a glass of wine on the couch. We intend that the next free day we are going to do this all day long. The day comes and I nestle myself on the coach, thinking this is going to be awesome. One hour in, I am starting to resent myself. I feel useless and feelings of guilt start to slowly take over my brain. Thank god, this is mostly only one or two days and then we can emerge ourself again in overworking.

Currently, being in Laos I have symptoms of this syndrome. Life in Laos is relaxing, people work at a slower pace. They are not so concerned with the first world rat race. Which is also a bliss and part of why we moved here. I am just experiencing some withdrawal symptoms. 

The starting of a hostel is a slow process and I am getting restless. So today, even though I said I wouldn't work for a few months, updated my resume and sent out an application for a job at the local children's hospital. Besides that I am starting one on one Laos language lessons and we found a beautiful apartment for the time being. Next week we have to go to Bangkok on a visa run, seeing that we are still here on a tourist visa. In the mean time we are having a lot of fun, a friend of Jack is here to visit us and we went (again) to the famous waterfall. Also I am getting more and more skilled at bowling, since this is the only activity open after 11pm we spent a lot of our evenings perfecting our skills. When we return from Bangkok we are moving in to our new apartment which has shelves! I can put my stuff somewhere, OMG this is amazing to me. 


Left is the waterfall 10 days ago. Right is the waterfall yesterday. Welcome to the rainy season!

vrijdag 14 juli 2017

Arrived at last

Okay, so I have decided to write this blog in English. It seems every Dutchie is quiet capable of reading and understanding english so hopefully this will not form a great problem (Dad, I trust that you will translate for Opa and Oma).  Jack will help me with correcting my english writing. Because correcting me is his favorite way to spend his time anyway. 

I'll give you a short introduction. 

I met Jack 7 months ago while backpacking trough SE Asia. I just finished med school and wanted a break after 6 years of (sometimes) intense studying. I did what no girl should do, I fell in love with an Australian guy. We travelled together for two months and became inseparable. When it was time for me to go home he decided to follow me there. As I started working as a doctor in The Netherlands we were happily living together in Maastricht for three months. Then his visa ran out and it turned out to be harder then we thought to get a permanent visa for Jack. He had to leave the EU for 6 months. As it was so difficult for us to be together in the Netherlands we have decided to find our luck elsewhere. And where is better than the place where we fell in love with each other. Jack had this plan for years to start a hostel and I would love to do volunteering work as a doctor and work abroad. Jack had to leave in April and I had to work until June. So 27th of June I finally flew in to Bangkok to be reunited with Jack again. 

In Bangkok I finally met Jack again after 9 weeks, 1 day and 18 hours. (but hey, who was counting?) So some of you know we are also busy for filming for something that I am not allowed to mention in public yet. So the first few days being in Laos were quiet hectic and exhausting. It was a real emotional rollercoaster. As Jack and I were trying to connect again it was difficult as we were also being filmed all the time. Also on our first night we already had to deal with a major set back.  The hotel that we had our eyes on for our hostel already did not work out as planned. So the next day (+ camera crew) we contacted a local real-estate agent. They area a really nice couple, she is a local Lao lady with an English husband. They gave us a lot of information and showed us two more hotels in Luang Prabang that are up for rent. So now we are opening our eyes to other opportunities as well. We are currently also looking in to long term rental of land and building something ourselves outside of the city. Very long term, very scary project. To get as much help on our hands as possible and do everything in the right order we have decided to meet up with a lawyer firm in the Capital of Laos, Vientiane. This is actually an Australian firm that specializes in foreign investors. But before we went there we decided we needed a little holiday. Yes we needed it. From all our hard work! So we went to Vang vieng to have a few days of relaxation and fun. Of course tubing and way too much cheap alcohol (and chicken bacon cheese) but it was amazing to finally really be back together again, even in the same guesthouse as before! We had a wonderful little break (pictures will follow). After that we headed to Vientiane. We had been there before… read: we were at the bus station to catch a bus to Thakek. Vientiane is not really a city for us to stay for pleasure. Maybe other people think of this differently. In our opinion it is a big city with a distributed city center where nothing can be found. We looked for a phone shop for over 2 hours. And when we asked a taxi driver to drop us off in Vientiane center, we got dropped at the shopping mall outside of the city called conveniently Vientiane center. At least the food was remarkably better than in Vang vieng. So after meeting with the lawyers we got back to Luang Prabang as quickly as possible with the always enjoyable sleeper bus. 

So far I have been here for nearly two weeks. Slowly the immensity of what we are trying to do here is sinking in. The way we feel about it now is to rent a smaller guesthouse first, just to get a sense of business here and see what kind of problems we encounter. After that we can try for the BIG plan. But for now, in my eyes, this already looks like a lot. I am hoping we can get our normal life starting soon. I want to start Lao lessons soon and be able to find my way around the city. Every day we are still discovering marvelous new spots in town. There are a so many nice cafes and restaurants in this city. And the food…. mmmmm don’t get me started on that haha. You should just come and try. 

Groetjes Claudie & Jack

At Utopia again after so long

First day together again

It's even more beautiful than I remember (the scenery... not Jack(hihi PRANK))

Scenery from Phousi (say: pussy) mountain

My favorite dish at the moment!!! Spicy papaya salad 

From my favorite stand at the night market 

Looking for houses to rent around the town

Scootering in Vang Vieng on our holiday

Busted tubing again!

Disco sleeper bus. Jack had the worst night ever.... me, slept like a baby :)

Rainy night market from the rooftop bar. Yes it rains every single day. And yes I am losing my tan :'( 

The motorbike I want to buy :D