As I wander the streets of Bangkok (again, I have to trek to get a temp passport and arrange flights back home), people stare at me. Even an able-bodied farung (Thai for foreigner and I found out at breakfast also the word for guava fruit) takes their lives into their own hands as a pedestrian. So to see someone in crutches (btw, my leg is badly cut up at the knee, not broken and was properly stitched at Phuket's international hospital "mass casualty zone") must be rare. Some people ask what happened? Others seem to intuitively guess.
One or two words usually suffice. "Ko Phi Phi" or "tsunami" usually does it.
I will be headed home Thursday, Dec 30th thanks to the great service of the American Express office for State Department workers at the U.S. Embassy - they even sent a courier to deliver the tickets to my hotel as it was obvious I'd not want to wait for two hours.
I continue to hear more personal accounts.
On the way to Phuket airport on the back of a pickup yesterday, an Aussie was relating his tale. He was staying at a high-rise in Patong Beach, Phuket when he felt the bed and walls shaking at approximately 8:15 a.m. His wife nudged him him to stop the clowning around. He says, "It's not me." He looked down at the hotel pool below and verified he just had experienced an earthquake.
But he didn't put two plus two together later that morning. He went out to get some postcards just as the tsunami was heading ashore. He grabbed onto a metal bench (he showed us the scratched up arms where he held on tight) and rode the wave - literally.
He was separated from his wife for two days. He calls up his sons again and they tell him, "Mum was on the tele." The Perth newstation had done a story on his wife looking for her missing husband. She had escaped to the hills in those last two days.
When we arrived at the airport I finally met his wife as she had been in the front seat of the pickup. She was a sweetheart in asking if there was anything we needed (they were able to go back a few days after the tidal wave to retrieve their luggage). And I finally had a new pair of underwear as the bathing suit was getting a little tired.
For every story of reunification there seems to be those with not so happy endings.
Unfortunately, the Bangkok Post has no photos on its website, but in the December 29 issue, there is a picture of a few people arriving in Bangkok on the C-130 I was on yesterday. It included the Swedish woman and Finnish boy I mentioned yesterday. Behind them was a British gentleman with his arm in a sling. He was seated in the plane next to the Swedish woman's four-year-old daughter. I remember he had been playing and entertaining her on the plane.
My boyfriend ran into him again today (I stayed in my hotel room much of today). He said he was on Khao Lak (one of the hardest hit areas) when the tsunami hit. He had climbed into a tall tree and held on for his life when the 25-foot wave hit Khao Lak. But he's never seen his wife since.
A lot of people had written and asked if there is anything you can do for me. Yes, this was a costly vacation, but nothing compared to the losses of so many others. If you'd like to do something, please contribute in any way you can to the tsunami disaster relief fund. And consider visiting Thailand or another affected area next year or perhaps place it high on your list-of-places-to-visit.
I have a lot more coming, and will be journaling all through my flight home. Thanks again for all the thoughtful emails and comments.