Well, I went to give platelets at the Red Cross yesterday, and I answered “yes” to the question about whether I’d been out of the country in the past three years, and that led to a long discussion about just where I had been.
Turns out, it wasn’t a problem that I was in Thailand per se. The Red Cross breaks it down much more locally than that, and the problem was that one of the many places we visited in Thailand was listed as posing a risk of malaria.
That was Kanchanaburi. Those of you who were following me on social media may have already seen the above picture of me taken in that town. I’m standing in front of “the” Bridge On the River Kwai, which while it’s not the one from the movie (the movie was fictional, based on a novel inspired by the real-life Death Railway), actually is where the still-active rail line first laid by slave labor (Allied POWs and civilians) under the Japanese crosses the Kwai.
As you can see, I’m looking pretty grubby. If the Red Cross knew everything I’d done that day, they really would have worried. I had spent most of the day with elephants — feeding them by hand, bathing them in the river, and riding them. Taking a midday break from elephant care, we had floated down the Kwai, way out in the country, for 40 minutes, without a boat. Just life vests. Very refreshing.
(We were at this really neat place a few miles out of town that rescues elephants from the logging industry and from begging in the streets, and enlists tourists to help in their daily care. This was the thing my daughter had most wanted to do while we were with her in Thailand, and it did not disappoint.)
Then, on the way back to the resort in Kanchanaburi, I realized we were passing close to the Bridge, which I had only seen in the dark, the night before. So I asked someone to rap on the back of the cab of the songthaew we were riding in, and hopped off alone to go check out the bridge.
I ran into three American veterans from Bangkok who were painting the base of a memorial to the Americans who had died building the railway. The wife of one of them took the above picture.
But I digress. The point is, I can’t give for a year. So some of y’all will have to take up the slack…
The Red Cross is REALLY careful about this stuff. While I was there, they even got on the horn to the CDC to check some of the specific places we visited in Thailand. But Kanchanaburi was the only one blacklisted.
I mean, if you’re going to get malaria, I suppose it was as good a place as any. There was a Dutch girl working as a volunteer at the elephant rescue place who had bandages all over her legs and feet. She said it was infected mosquito bites…
This is a much more reasonable ban than the one I’m under. I lived in England for one year, 35 years ago. If I had lived there 36 years ago, I could give blood. I gave blood as much as I was able in the interim between my return and the ban. So far, no one has Mad Cow Disease.