General and Travels01 Nov 2006 06:45 pm

There is not much talk of the tsunami in these parts, even though it was one of the hardest hit areas of Thailand. There are bits and pieces everywhere you go, though. The signs for the tsunami memorial at Kamala Beach (to be opened on the 2nd anniversary this forthcoming Christmas), the smattering of spirit houses and banyan trees on a hill overlooking the private beach to Le Meridien hotel which lost entire families and most of their staff to the rogue wave, the small blue signs with a wave upon them, marking the ‘tsunami zones’ and escape routes, the book entitled “Tsunami Stories” that is on the bookshelf of the condo we are renting, the videos distastefully for sale in the streets of Patong beach, metres from the beach that was drowned under the wave a over a year ago. Leave to the street vendors to capitalize on that.

The most touching memorial I have seen was the small room at the Bangkok Phuket hospital I had to visit this week. It was a quiet glassed in room with a small description of who funded the memorial and what occurred that day in December 2004, and then dozens of 8×10 black and white photos of the days that followed.

The memorial was set up by the British Government, thanking the hospital for all their work during the days after the disaster. The hospital, which normally sees 200 patients a day eventually took in 400 inpatients and treated a further 1000 in the streets and homes as outpatients. The empty, sterile hallways I had walked to get to the memorial were shown in photographs full of tourists and locals alike, laying in the halls, being operated on, waiting to find someone at the contact centre. It looked similar to what I imagine a MASH unit during the Korean War might look like, minus the army green and dirt.

It was an extremely poignant display, and really showed the scope and horror of the disaster. In the book in our condo, I read a story about a tourist who had received a gaping wound from his ear to his chin, leaving his jaw and teeth exposed. He was brought to the Bangkok Phuket hospital by a good samaritan, only to be told his injury was not serious enough, he had to be driven a further eighty kilometers to the hospital at a nearby city.

Even as I write this, I over look the ocean that rebelled that day and wonder what it was like. How far out the water went, how quickly it came in, where it rose to on the buildings. I have been told the watermarks were evident on buildings immediately after the disaster, but have since been covered with paint and new bushes or trees. The Thai people are extremely resilient, but they are also extremely eager to move on. Another day brings a completely different outlook on life. No need to look to the past for answers, everything lies in the future. “Mai pen rai” means “don’t worry about it”, essentially. This, in a phrase, equates to the Thai attitude, even when it comes to something as horrific as a killer tsunami. Life goes on.

2 Responses to “Waves”

  1. on 03 Nov 2006 at 3:21 am Jhen

    Hey, got your comment over at my blog! I’m excited to see you in the City of Champions when you get back!

  2. on 06 Dec 2006 at 12:32 am Roz

    Kel, i like your thoughts – extremely well written! I wish I could write just as well as you could!