Peter Kowalke

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My Turn in Hell

By on May 12, 2021

How things have changed.

The story for the past year and half has been that I didn’t have to worry about covid because Thailand created a bubble early. While most people around the world have been hunkering down and isolating for the past year and a half, we haven’t done that in Thailand because we didn’t need to hide. There was effectively no covid here due to our locked borders.

All that changed in early April, though. The fast-spreading UK variant got into Thailand just before the biggest holiday of the year, Songkran, then the people movement from the holiday spread the virus wide and far in Thailand.

Much of the country has recovered, but not Bangkok; the capital city has the look and feel of any other city the past year. In a word: dangerous.

Making it more concerning is that we don’t have vaccines yet.

Last year, honestly, we laughed at the US for its covid politics and avoidable public health disaster. But now it is the exact opposite: Most of my friends in the U.S. have been vaccinated for months, and they are starting to get on with normal. But here in Bangkok we’ve been normal for a year and a half, and now we’re doing what the US did last May. And just like the US last year, we don’t have a vaccine yet to save us.

How I’m Handling the Outbreak

Right now I’m safe.

I haven’t been out of the house for a month, I see only a handful of people who have similarly proven isolation strategies, and my full-time assistant moved into the building so we could create our own little internal safety bubble.

But also I’m concerned. It feels like only a matter of time before I get infected, and I don’t think I’ll be able to wait it out until the vaccine arrives. Policy is still sketchy, but it appears that I’ll be at the back of the line and have to wait until locals get the vaccine before I am allowed my shots. Thais think the US embassy has me covered, and of course the US embassy says I’m on my own (this is typical of the US approach; they implicitly hate citizens who leave the country).

I’ve thought about returning to the US now to get a vaccine. I’ve thought seriously about it, actually. But the trick is that I need to be able to get back to Thailand soon, and quick country-hopping isn’t possible yet in the post-covid world. I can’t just go and come back easily.

So a part of me is amused, because it feels like the US is becoming like Thailand now, and Thailand is becoming like the US. The shoe is on the other foot suddenly.

But the other part of me is a bit concerned and more than a bit isolated at the moment. I’m good, but for how long? Bangkok is having its covid moment.

Peter is a relationship coach, writer/producer, and R&D monastic. He splits his time between San Francisco and Asia. Read more about Peter.