Tag Archives: scars

“Souvenir” Means “To Remember” in French, by Carole Howard

After ten straight days of work in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we finally had a leisurely day in the walled Old City: Buddhist temples, lunch dishes whose names we’d never know, and heavenly $3 foot massages from women whose oils and sticks were in boxes like shoe-shine kits.

We were on our scooter, almost “home,” when I saw a brown mid-sized dog chase the scooter in front of us. But he gave up the chase after about ten yards, so I figured he wasn’t fierce.  We passed him.

Without warning, my left calf felt like it exploded, and I heard an unfamiliar sound – me, screaming. Geoffrey got off the bike with an expression worthy of war or heart attack. As people on the sidewalk gathered, we both stared in horror at the blood and yellow substance oozing from my ragged puncture wounds.

I stopped screaming and called Grib, our volunteer agency’s on-site liaison, who told us she’d meet us at Chiang Mai Ram Hospital. “It is the preference hospital for Westerners. Most people speak English a little.”

Photo by Dan Taylor, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Dan Taylor, via Wikimedia Commons

During a tuk-tuk (pronounced “took-took”) ride to the hospital, I fearfully asked questions I knew Geoffrey couldn’t answer. “Do they have rabies in Thailand? Are dogs vaccinated? What if I need those horrible rabies shots in the stomach?  Do they keep the serum on hand? What if they don’t?” He held me tight, which I needed more than answers.  In my panic, I was trembling.

* * *

The doctor gently cleaned and bandaged my messy wounds.  Then he asked the question I’d been dreading.

“The dog that bites you was vaccinated against rabies?”

“I don’t know. It was a street dog.”

“You must receive treatment.  I will get the serum.”  When he left the room, I grabbed my stomach, then Geoffrey,  and tensed every muscle in my body.

But I was in for a glorious surprise, better than being asked to the prom, getting into the college you want, getting a tax refund.  The rabies series consisted of a series of five shots in the arm, not ten in the stomach.  They were no more painful than flu shots. My relief left me weak and very happy.

* * *

We took our hospital paperwork to a large waiting room with cashier windows like a bank’s.  There were adolescents in oversized T-shirts and backwards-facing baseball caps, Buddhist monks in orange robes, families with young children, but, surprisingly, no other farangs (Westerners). The woman next to me had an infant in her arms and two squirming children next to her. She looked weary and her children looked at us with curiosity. I had no idea which of the four was the sick one.  She pointed to the machine from which we were to take a number, just like the ones in a deli.

Announcements were in Thai and, after each one, someone went up to the window with the flashing light.  Would we recognize our number or accented name when it was our turn?  Whatever.  Breathe.

And then we heard in unaccented English, loud and clear, “Mrs. Carole Howard, number 45.”  The medical team had indicated we were English speakers, and the cashier acted accordingly!  We went to the window and paid about $60 for the wound-cleaning, the first rabies shot, and the medicine we’d pick up at the hospital pharmacy.

Good care, low price, efficient systems – a winning threesome that continued when I showed up for my next four shots.  No wonder Thailand is known for Medical Tourism: go for a face lift or dental implants and, after paying for the procedure, the plane tickets, hotel and living expenses, you save a bunch.  Nearby hotels cater to the trade.

* * *

My ugly wounds healed into ugly scars.  Two dark-purple irregular circles, about ½ inch in diameter. They were a visible reminder – a true souvenir – of the incident.  A memento, better than my silk scarves, earrings, and salad servers.

Back in the U.S, I considered a tattoo incorporating the scars, maybe a butterfly with one purplish circle in each colorful wing. I wish I’d done it because the scars are now hardly visible.  You need to know exactly where to look.  As crazy as it sounds, I sort of miss them.

What’s your most unusual souvenir?


Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, recently published by Second Wind Publishing.  She is working on a travel memoir (I Didn’t Know Squat: Volunteering in the Developing World After Retirement), from which this is an excerpt.


Filed under musings, Travel

Robbed!! — by S.M. Senden

My neighbor called the other day to say he had been robbed.  Just the thought sent a shudder through me.  He told me they had broken into his garage, breaking the door, and into the car, prying open the door and doing so much damage the old car was considered totaled by the insurance company, forcing him to get a new used car.  It seems our neighborhood has been the target for thieves as another neighbor said they took the copper from their AC, causing more damage than the copper ws worth.

One of the worst feelings we can experience is being robbed.  Someone violates our sacred space, our home, and takes away things that do not belong to them.  I have been robbed a number of times of late, and it is a feeling that leaves me looking over my shoulder, and has prompted me to keep a hammer close at hand, in the case I have to confront someone who has broken in.  I do not own a gun, and do not want one.

Though I write about murder, I do not want to kill anyone, not even a robber.  I may want to rearrange their knee caps and have them think twice about coming back here again, but I don’t want to kill them.  However, I do want them to hurt for the violation of my space and safety that they breached.  I do believe in Karma, even if I don’t get to see their payback, I believe it will come their way sooner or later.  Karmic payback can he the worst experience!

A sad note to the first robbery I suffered was that my grumpy, drug abusing neighbor sat and watched making no move to call the cops as they hauled off things from the porches.  Mostly they got old tools and ladders.  The thieves came back a number of times to see if I was stupid enough to replace the items and leave them out in the same places for the burglars to come back and take them again.

When I discovered what had happened, I called the police.  I have become good friends with the police recently.  The police say they can do little about this sort of crime unless they catch someone in the act.  We have a good police presence in the area, and my house is three blocks from the police station, yet, they can not be everywhere at once.

I look for the lesson, and for what I can do with this negative experience to turn it into any sort of positive at all.  It is an experience that I do not want repeated; however it can be put to use as I create characters and situations.  My sense of loss, violation and a lingering fear that I may not be safe in my own home are frustrating feelings that can help me write a better character, add depth to a scene and dialogue.

These robberies have left more than the invisible, psychological scars.  Sadly the damage the thieves leave behind in their wake is a problem that leaves the homeowner having to shell out money to replace and repair what they ruined.  As I cry in my beer about my dilemma, I thought some good comfort food would help get through the conflicting emotions firing inside of me as I write this blog.  Below is a great recipe for a pizza that will do less damage than the thieves.


1 (8 oz) package of full fat cream cheese, room temperature
2 eggs
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup pizza sauce
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
toppings – pepperoni, ham, sausage, mushrooms, peppers
Garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350.

Lightly spay a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. With a handheld mixer, mix cream cheese, eggs, pepper, garlic powder and parmesan cheese until combined. Spread into baking dish. Bake for 12-15 minutes, our until golden brown. Allow crust to cool for 10 minutes.

Spread pizza sauce on crust. Top with cheese and toppings. Sprinkle pizza with garlic powder. Bake 8-10 minutes, until cheese is melted.


Filed under writing