I started writing this blog entry last Sunday afternoon, with the intention of describing our first weekend in Ranong after a full working week – I figure a weekend only really counts when you’ve done something of substance during the week to deserve two days off. The weather had been stunning – not a single drop of rain, and a scorcher both days. So we made the most of the opportunity to do a bit of exploring up to the local hot springs, which are, ironically, a great place to spend a hot afternoon, as there is plenty of shade and a very welcome breeze. The pools themselves are indeed HOT though – hot enough to boil an egg, you might say, and sure enough, in one of the pools someone was cheekily doing just that… On Saturday evening we had tried in vain to find a bar showing coverage of the Crusaders semi – but even despite that setback, the weekend had been perfect. We were just on our way to meet a woman from church who had invited us for coffee and cake at her daughter’s new, hip cafe – I had my figures crossed for a real espresso machine.
As my finger hovered over the “publish to blog” button, my phone began to ring. Fr Kevin, from our community, was on the phone. There was a bit of an emergency at the local hospital, her explained. A young German woman had been brought in, with injuries, and was acting pretty traumatised. She didn’t speak Thai, and seemed confused when the Thai staff tried their limited English on her. The local police were wondering would I come and speak English with her, to try and figure out exactly what had happened? Even better, I said, I could speak to her in German.
So began a very busy and slightly stressful couple of days. Luckily the young woman’s physical injuries turned out to be not too serious, but she had been pretty traumatised by her whole experience – so I was glad that I was able to be there to speak with her in her mother tongue and try to reassure her that she was going to be ok. I had to do a fair bit of liaising with her family in Germany (who were understandably worried about their daughter/sister ending up in a provincial Thai hospital) and the German Embassy in Bangkok, about how best to proceed from here in getting her home to Germany- bearing in mind that Ranong is a tortourous nine hour bus ride from Bangkok. In the end, it was arranged that she should be transfered to another hospital in Surat Thani, a city three hours drive away, but one with a domestic airport with direct flights to Bangkok. So off to Surat Thani I went in attendance, in a hair-raising ambulance ride at high speeds with sirens blaring, often on the wrong side of the yellow centre line on blind corners. I think the only real need for such urgency was that Ranong hospital wanted their ambulance back and in service as soon as possible, but they don’t have that many so fair enough.
So all in all it was a hectic first half of the week – and with all the missed classes, in only my second week, it wasn’t exactly the most auspicious start to my teaching career! On the bright side, it has meant that we have developed a pretty good relationship with the local police over the past week – and that’s important here. Who you know can make a big difference to how smoothly the powers-that-be allow an organisation to run, particularly one that works with migrants. Now, apparently, I just have to step in and resolve some crisis for the local immigration officials and make a few friends there as well…