As the reality settles in
Dec 28, 2004
It's 7:00 am local time on the 28th here in Krabi, and after checking my email I figured I'd write an update from on of the epicenteres of this BIG event. For starters, thanks to all of you who have written - it's been great to get your emails. As I wrote to someone yesterday, I'm feeling shakey and teary and a bit frayed at the edges from all of this, and wishing I has someone here with me that I knew. I have found myself being envious of the others I see with family or friends to be with - so your emails are good for the soul. Thanks!
Wow, it just keeps getting bigger - not so much the devastation (as that has been done, assuming no after-shocks), but just the experience as I learn more and hear more stories. Yesterday was a day of many tough sights and stories, as Krabi was the place people - both alive and dead - from Ko Phi Phi (just southeast of here) were brought back to the mainland. For me, it all started with breakfast. I decided to eat breakfast at the place I got dropped off at after my bus ride from Khoa Lak - familiar ground. Also happened to be located across the street from the Krabi Pier. As I was eating my banaba pancake, I saw a stretcher covered in Thai weaving and flowers get taken from a recently returned rescue boat to a waiting ambulance. Wished I had chosen some other place to eat.
As a glutton for punishment, I found myself drawn back to the Pier throughout the day - me and a couple hundred other folks, mostly Thai, trying to get a sense of what had just happened. And get a sense we did. Seeing the people who were getting off the rescue boats from Phi Phi Island made this all the more real - very real. Dazed looks; tears; cuts and bruises; dirty, sandy clothes; most with no luggage; and a general interest in getting the hell out of Dodge.
I talked with a fella from SF who just got off the boat from Phi Phi. He and his wife and two kids (girls, 9-12ish) just spent the night in the hills of the island, having had to run for their lives to escape the wave. Wow. He said that had any of them made one bad decision about which way to run, they might well have gotten swept away - he saw that happen to others and saw lots of bodies while coming to the beach and rescue boat yesterday morning. He took a break from talking with me to deal with his family and their next move, and offered the idea of sticking around for a few days to see if there may be plane seats available (weren't any yesterday, as he was on a later boat and all the seats were already taken by others with the same "get out of Dodge" sentiment). His two kids wanted the 13 hour overnight bus ride to Bangkok now - rather than stick around this place for a couple of days! Can't blame them, time for them to get out and move on.
Later in the day, I went to the hospital to give blood, which I heard was needed. Apparently the turn out was very good, as when I got there the hospital didn't need any more blood. As I left the hospital, I saw a sign that listed people who had died - 18 on that list alone. There were names and associated countries staring me in the face - including one for the US. Very real, indeed!!! I later learned that what the hospital needed was formaldahyde (or whatever it is they use on human bodies).
Then last night, while at dinner down the road a couple hundred meters from where I ate breakfast, my meal was serenaded by the sirens of at least 10 ambulances and rescue trucks going by - all with bodies wrapped in white cloth in the back. Wished I had gone inland a block for dinner.
So, at times I too am wishing I was getting the hell out of Dodge. But for a variety of reasons, my plan is to stick around. For starters, my ticket to South Africa is from Phuket (on the 6th), so I need to be back here in the not too distant future. I could head north and see other parts of Thailand or go to the beaches in the Thai Gulf. But I really don't want to go too far, as I am tired of moving too much right now (been keeping a very busy pace since arriving in SE Asia - even before that in New Zealand), and the idea of more buses just doesn't thrill me. Also, it does feel too wierd to have been here now and to head out and leave the Thai to deal for themselves. I don't blame those who were on islands and now want to leave, but I don't have that level of psychic trama - not yet, at least.
So, although I find myself continuing to give thought to other options, right now my plan is to hang out. Part glutton for trouble, part personal intrigue to see such an event unfold, and part humanitarian that sees this as some cosmic opportunity to work for people instead of critters for a bit. I have already started to look into how I can help with clean-up and the like. It's my good fortune to be alive and healthy and able to help, so I might as well make the most of it.
Talking about good fortune - or luck - for me, when I think of all the possible ways that I had considered tweaking my schedule down here, any one of the other plans could have gotten me a lot closer to all of this - which really means directly in harm's way. For instance, I left Khoa Lak on the western coast at 8:00AM the day of the wave and arrived in Krabi at show time. Had I stayed later in Khoa Lak, which I thought about, I could have well decided to go to the beach in the morning - Khoa Lak got creamed. Or had I decided to come to Krabi the night before (right after I got off the dive boat, which I also thought about), I probably would have already been on an island here abouts at show time.
Or, instead of taking the dive trip from 23-25, I would have taken the one from 26-28, and been in the middle of the Andaman Sea at show time. This actually would have been a safe place to be, as those far out at sea didn't get affected much (some I've spoken with didn't even know a wave had come by), as the waves built as they approach shore. But sobering none-the-less.
Had I decided to go to the Krabi area before the diving, I certainly would have been on one of the islands that got hit hard.
So, in all, I am feeling very fortunate for the decisions I made about my itinerary.
So, that's the news from Tsunami Tommy (thanks Scott for your second good travel nick-name). And I will work at keeping safe, for as Scott wrote to me, "They say that the planet's rotation was disturbed by this global hiccup, so bear that in mind in case your personal spin was perturbed a bit (we are all less than ants in the cosmic sandbox, so beware the 'kid' with the hose and firecrackers)."