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February 25, 2006

Near-translations

G. and I are preparing for a trip to Peru a couple of weeks after I get back from Thailand, and he thought it would be a good idea to lay in a supply of Cipro and Diamox for the trip. (Cipro for any myriad of known or unknown problems, Diamox for the Machu Picchu hike and time in Cusco.)

I told him I'd check out the pharmacies here to see what I could find, since the system is a lot more simplified. Basically, you walk into a pharmacy and say, for example, "I'd like some Cipro, kaa," and they hand it to you and say, "Two time a day. Five days. One hundred twenty baht."

It's just that easy.

So the Cipro was no problem. But in two pharmacies, no one had ever heard of Diamox—which isn't a surprise since Krabi is at sea level and this drug is good to prevent maladies at heights of 10,000 feet or more.

In the first pharmacy, the three people who worked there gave me quizzical looks. They held imaginary food up to their mouths and asked, "Tablet?? Cream?" No, I say. Tablet. I drew a little mountain with a snowy peak on their receipt pad, and said, It's for when you climb high, and you get a headache. "Ibuprofin?" I smile. I point to the words "mountain" (poo kow) and "climb" (been) in the phrasebook. I draw a stick figure on the mountain. It's so you don't get sick when you go very high, I say. Another pharmacist goes to the back, and pulls out a medicine, and presents it to me. It's for PMS.

Thank you very much, I say. Mai pen rai, nevermind.

Now it's turning into an all-pharmacy game show, sort of a $10,000 Pyramid or an Outburst—only you can say all the words you want since it's a 50/50 shot whether either side will understand each other.

I try at the second pharmacy (there are about three every block here). I draw another mountain, and another stick figure on it. One pharmacist asks, "Cream?" No, I say: Tablet. She looks more confused. This time I draw a whole mountain range. I say, "poo kow, been" and a light bulb goes off over the second pharmacist's head.

Oh! She says! And she points me to some perfectly good climbing tape hanging on the wall in the corner. She scored points in the supersecret bonus round—we're in the right neighborhood, at least. Apparently she's seen my type before, on their way to Railay for world-class rock climbing (not at high altitude).

So now I draw tick marks up the mountain: 1000m, 2000m, 3000m...and she understands: it's for when you go high.

So her final try, after scanning the "D" area on the shelf, was to present me with a box of Dramamine. Close—but not exactly.

She looks confused. "No have," she said apologetically.

Kap kun kaa, I say, that's okay. Mai pen rai.

And I giggled all the way down the block.

Posted by sedda at February 25, 2006 09:07 PM