So, It’s been a  REALLY long time since I posted here…but I have been reading everyone else’s blog posts. For the most part, when I come back from work I’m just so bone tired that I can’t even gather the energy to lift a finger, much less update on my work here.  But here goes.

The women and children that I work with are still great. It’s starting to be that time where all the other interns are starting to leave even though I’m still here (my alliance internship started about 3 weeks later than most), so it’s getting kind of sappy and sad. Also, some of the women that I’ve started to get close to have started to get their lives together and leave the shelter, which is kind of bittersweet — I’m happy to see them go forward with their lives, but sad to see them go, knowing that I will probably never see them again. But the women that are still here are still privy to my full attention and support, and new women are coming in every day.

One thing that I’ve noticed here in Thailand  (and, from what I can tell, within the majority of Southeast Asia) is the panic over the swine flu virus. Simply referred to here as H1N1, worries over the spread of swine flu have escalated, even though reports have come out that it is easily treated if caught early enough. If you walk around the city, everyone is wearing disposable surgical masks (which, if you ask them, they will claim they are wearing for “dust and allergies”), and the Thai government has become especially wary of incoming foreigners who may or may not be carrying the virus. Now upon entry to the airport, you must fill out a full survey ensuring that you have none of the symptoms of swine flu, which include, but are not limited to: headache, sore throat, fever, runny nose, coughing, nausea,  fatigue, and lack of appetite. Most of these symptoms can be attributed to almost any illness, but if you report that you are suffering any of these upon entry to the country, you will immediately be detained and quarantined.  Entire schools have been closed down for weeks if they suspect that a child has the swine flu.  At the airports now, you have to go through a thermal scanner to make sure that you don’t have elevated body temperature. The sad part is, all of these protective measures aren’t just pursued by paranoid hypochondriacs; the government actively works to ensure that everyone is aware of the potential threat of swine flu and how it can apparently devastate entire villages.

I’m not a medical expert, but I really do think an initiative is needed to increase awareness on the actual nature of swine flu and its potential implications for society. People need to know that swine flu is not as dangerous as it seems if treated early enough, and that this panic is eerily reminiscent of previous scares over bird flu and SARS. Taking weeks off of work and shutting down institutions over a perceived threat, in my opinion will not help the country as a whole, go further in its path to development. Luckily enough, at the Wildflower Home, steps have been taken to make it clear to the women that the likelihood of swine flu killing us all is slim to none.