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A Little 'Me Time'

Here I go … adding to the glut of non-essential Covid-19 information already filling your heads and inboxes!

I watch the news daily about what’s going on in the U.S. regarding this phenomenon, and I have to say, I think right now, I’m happy to be living in Thailand. Thailand is facing the same problems, but without so much of the hysteria. When the virus first started to appear, it was Lunar New Year, and the place was chock full of tourists from China, including many from Wuhan. Currently, we have 322 cases of the virus, and only one death. I’m sure there are many unreported cases. Thailand is about the size of California, so it’s not going to have the same numbers as a country as large as the U.S.

The only items difficult to find are medical masks and hand sanitizer. Everyone here wears a mask when they leave their houses. It also happens to be the burning season. Between February and April, farmers burn their fields to prepare for the next crop. In addition, people starting fires to advance the growth of certain types of mushrooms, which apparently are worth a considerable amount of money. All this burning leads to Northern Thailand’s distinct honor of having, during these tree months, literally, the worst air quality in the world.

I wear a mask when I go out, to protect myself from the dangerous fine particulate matter (PM 2.5), which are tiny air particles, less than 2.5 microns in width, and also to placate the Thais who think the masks are essential to prevent the spread of the virus. Even though I think the masks are largely unnecessary, unless you’re in a confined space with other people; it’s important to give the right impression.

This week, the government here has been closing businesses and encourage people to stay home. All the bars, massage parlors, and other entertainment venues are shut down. A vacation in Thailand these days would be pretty boring. As in the U.S., the people who work in the hospitality and tourist industry are suffering the most. I know many business owners and employees who have no income right now. My heart goes out to these people.

Grocery stores and restaurants are still open. There is plenty of toilet paper and food still on the shelves. I really don’t get the toilet paper thing. I’m a bit of home body, so it hasn’t had much of an effect on me. However, I believe that’s going to change.

My visa expires next month. Normally, I could walk or fly into any other country, stay a day, and then come back to Thailand. The immigration officer would stamp my passport, giving me a one-year extension on my retirement visa. The problem now is, most of the surrounding countries are closing their borders, and not accepting visa applications. Thailand is also making things more difficult by adding extra insurance requirements, requiring medical reports, and enforcing its own border restrictions. Now, it looks like I’ll have to fly into another country, then find a doctor there who will test me for the virus and provide a document for me to give to Thai immigration.

I’m trying to be optimistic, so I hope I can meet all the requirements, find a country I can visit, and then easily re-enter Thailand. If not, I’ll have to go somewhere to stay until this all blows over. It seems every year, when it’s time to renew my visa, some sort of complications present themselves. I’m just lucky I guess. Each country, and individual is facing their own personal challenges during this time of change and uncertainty.

I hope you all are staying safe, and doing whatever feels right to take care of yourselves and families. Do what you can to take care of those in need as well. Stay out of crowds, and of course, wash your hands!