So, after I wrote that little post about the places I have been in Asia I felt like it probably seemed trivializing and rather flippant about disaster. I didn’t mean to sound that way at all. Actually when I heard what happened and as the days have passed I have been partly in shock at the destruction that has been wrecked by the earth’s whims and the weather. I painted my bathroom yesterday and listened to NPR the whole time, fascinated by the news and in sickened awe at what is happening on the other side of the world.
A few thoughts come to mind. It’s very surreal to have memories of a place that no longer exists. One of my favorite times was hanging out on an island called Ko Phi Phi in south Thailand (off the city of Phuket’s shores) in 2000 when I was on vacation from my year in China. About 8 of us hung out, laid on the beach, ate endless fruit smooties of the freshest pineapples and mangos imaginable and just enjoyed time together on a little island totally focused on tourism. The people were sweet and helpful and the tourists were mostly European. We stayed in quaint little huts with mattresses on the floor and hoards of mosquitos at certain hours of the day. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I snorkeled there for the first time, seeing amazing fish and getting stung by lots of little jellyfish. I remember a woman who had a little laundry service down the road from our cottage. I remember chatting with another woman who with a few computers and an erratic internet connection ran a business. I remember banana pancakes and coffee for breakfast watching BBC news before hitting the beach. I heard the name of that exact island today on the news – they said it was completely destroyed. I’m not sure how many hundreds of Thai people lived on that island, running little internet cafes, coffee shops, snorkeling trips, beachwear stalls and restaurants. They may be mostly dead now. How surreal, how terrible, how?
I haven’t been able to find out if there was any damage in the little town of Sivikasi, India that I spent some time in last fall. I’m not sure exactly how far we were from the coast, but I think they are probably safe. The idea of that school and those kids being washed away in a flood is totally unimaginable, but I know it happened in countless other towns in numerous coasts around the world.
I think right now if I had the resources and less committments I would fly to India or Thailand or Indonesia and volunteer. I’m sure there are countless other Americans like me, who having been to these places, cannot imagine the thought of them wiped out. I always imagined going back to Ko Phi Phi sometime on a dream vacation. But there never seems to be a limit on the suffering and constant change that the world tosses at us. I just hope and pray that the world will come together to make some good out of this tragedy.