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« Wondering about Friends Post-Tsunami: Remembrances of Ko Jum | Main | Adjusting Post-Tsunami »

Jan 03, 2005

Comments

Herbert

Amos 5:8

"He who made the Pleiades and Orion,
and turns deep darkness into the morning
and darkens the day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out on the surface of the earth,
the Lord is his name;"

The message is clear:

"We Only have ONE TRUE GOD and the LORD is his name"

Lorena B.


Hello Evelyn, greetings from Chile:
As I began to read you latest post I felt ashamed because not an hour earlier I was telling my mother " isn´t there something else to watch on TV tonight? I´m geting tired of this tsunami thing". Luckily she insisted on keeping the channel tuned. I heard on the news that a chilean girl is still missing. Her name is Francisca Cooper and she was spending her honeymoon at the Princess Resort in Phi Phi Island. She is caucasian, blond wavy hair, 1.70 mts tall, athletic, 26 years old and her husband´s name is Aurelio Montes. I´m asking for help to find her, any information is welcome.
Please, help us find her. And thank you very much for the opportunity to lend a hand.

Michael Chong

Hi Evelyn,

I chanced upon your website while searching for tsunami blog websites on 28th Dec and I've since been keeping an eye on your daily update.

I've an uplifting and miraculous story to share. It was reported in our local newspaper (I'm from Malaysia). A survivor from the disaster was found 100 nautical miles from Banda Aceh... floating 5 days in the Indian Ocean!

More details here :
http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2005/1/4/nation/9809215&sec=nation

Hope you can help spread this good news. Thanks!

laurian clemence

Hi there Evelyn

Wow, am at a loss for words. Your stories on the tsunami are heartbreaking. I stayed in Phi Phi a year ago and cannot begin to imagine what it is like now, compared to the little island paradise it was. I stayed at Maprao and was wondering if you had any information on the two Thai guys that worked there: their names were Pun and Yao. They were so friendly and so much fun and I wondered whether they were ok? Perhaps the Belgian family would know. If you do have any information, please email me at: laurianc@damelin.co.za
Thank you.

Yvonne DiVita

Evelyn, you have a gift...each post is a gift...to all of us who, unlike the U.S. embassy, truly FEEL for the injured, the missing, and those left homeless. Your words resonate with power--the power of being human in an inhuman situation. Elsewhere on the web we are reading other stories, from other bloggers, but I am most touched by you and the way you express the reality of what has happened to you. There is a spiritual thread shining through your writing, a golden thread that almost seems like a stream of bright sunshine, revealing the only truth in the world, that we are all in this together, each one of us a minute part of the greater whole. The light shines on us all, with the realization taht "The individual parts are greater than the sum of the whole." You have been granted this privilege...to be our connection. We thank you.

shetterley

I think that your criticisms of the US Embassy are unduly harsh. America started helping right away--providing food, money, ships, helicopters, etc... America has pledged $350 million in aid--more than any other country except Japan.

You mention the kindness of the Sweden and Mexican governments. To date, the Mexican President has only offered condolences, along with wishes that "he hopes the affected areas of their respective countries will recovery quickly." To date, THEY HAVE NOT OFFERED ANY AID.

Regarding the Swedish government--according to the Swedish media, the Swedish people are furious that their Prime Minister was so slow in responding to the disaster. After hearing about the tsunami, the Foreign Minister went to the theater and did not show up for work until 31 hours later. Sweden's inaction contrasts unfavourably with the speed of other countries' actions to rescue their citizens. Additionally, Sweden has only pledged $750,000 for aid.

So you experienced some inconveniences in "finding your own transportation and your passport photos." You were able still able to fly home within a few days after the tsunami hit.

I know that you have gone through a traumatic time and you have every right to voice your opinion about your frustration with the US Embassy. I just don't agree with it. It sounds as if the discomforts you experienced (i.e. going to Bangkok to get a temporary passport, arranging transportation and passport photos) were very minor, especially in light of what so many millions of others have undergone.

PapaGus

"What if our facade of toughness and control crumbled? Who would we be then?"

Human. "Facade" is the operative word.

Evelyn Rodriguez

First, I want to restate this post is mainly about in any situation (tsunami is one instance) of letting poignant feelings to pierce our heart rather than run away from them.

Shetterley, the post is only very slightly about the US Embassy and consulate in Bangkok which I will separate out from the rest of the US government in general. I can only speak about that which I know which wouldn't include all the US govt. All major nations (and even many small ones) had sent embassy officials to Phuket by Monday morning and the Phuket provincial hall was now a makeshift marketplace of embassy tents. Canada was processing official letters of authorization for entry for its citizens within 10 hours of the tsunami. Most embassies processed letters and/or temp passports in Phuket and did not require a visit to their Embassy in Bangkok whatsoever. A temp passport wasn't even necessary when a letter of authorization would do. An Amercan Embassy employee stationed in Indonesia but on holiday in Thailand whom I met and I won't name was livid with the slow response from the Bangkok embassy. Said person was ready to "turn in their passport" and even commended the small Ukranian embassy's response as more humane.

My boyfriend contacts the Embassy on Sunday night and tries to convey the severity of the situation in general - not just our particular case - and that someone needs to come from Bangkok to Phuket to handle all the people that may be injured, now temporarily destitute and needing to get back to US pronto - they say that is very unlikely to happen. We must go through the regular formal procedure to get a lost passport handled at the US Embassy office in Bangkok.

Yes, the Swedish government ended up overwhelmed in the end - while traveling in Thailand it seems like every other tourist is from Scandinavia. I heard there were more than 20,000 Swedes in Thailand affected from a travelling Swede.

Perhaps all these other governments back home (but not their respective embassies in Thailand) faltered in aid later; but the fact remains they moved to deploy extremely quickly whereas we were told the US Embassy was still assessing the situation (this was a time to dispense of bureaucracy not compound it) before they acted. It was just evident in the way we were dealt (they were mystified how we could only have 1000 baht between us) that they didn't allow the gravity of the situation to really, really touch them. Perhaps that has changed over time, but in the first 72 hours the response was very aloof and cold. (The exception was Guy in the consulate's office - thank you.)

Yes, we got back to US with very little help from the US government but mainly because of the help of the Thai government, its people and our own dogged persistence. For instance, when we landed via Royal Thai Air Force planes to Bangkok, the agents at the terminal told us all the embassies would help us with our flight arrangements. That was not the case with the US Embassy. We were told we were on our own in dealing with the airlines. I asked each and every employee for more information on this matter (one of many) until Guy recommended American Express.

I was also disappointed with the US government in general beause there are critical needs in the first few days of a disaster - finding missing persons buried under debris but still holding onto life and the clearing of thousands of dead bodies before a disease outbreak occurs - emergencies don't wait on bureaucracy. Even if the US Embassy didn't have regard for its citizens, you'd think they'd want to get on the VERY next flight to Phuket to see the situation first-hand to offer help to their host country.

I totally agree this is very minor in light of EVERYTHING. I am accustomed to reading people and from the interactions I had it was clear that empathy was not present. I still maintain there is no excuse for this lack of IMMEDIATE compassionate action from the US Embassy in Thailand - which was only slightly longer than an hour and a half flight from Phuket.

kellieinjapan

First, Michael Chong, thank you for that amazing link. Can anyone even begin to imagine what it would be like to lie adrift at sea with the sun blazing down on you and fish nibbling at your feet? How many emotions did she feel? I may have gone mad. But I am not sure how I would have reacted.

Which leads me to.. Shetterley, I don't believe Evelyn was being ungrateful at all. Don't be so quick to judge someone when you haven't been through the apolcalyptic experience that they have been through. Evelyn needed a small amount of logistical assistance after such a traumatic experience, and the help of the embassy with small things like passports etc. is really asking for nothing. Furthermore, Evelyn was expressing how she felt the her embassy was not emotionally supportive, not really there for her when she needed somebody of perhaps, a similar culture, to just be there. And Shetterley, if I can be brutally honest, I don't give a damn the exact amount of dollars the United States government is pledging to give the tsunami victims. The world is in this together, and it is no competition. Evelyn has the right to constructively put across her view, and you, I feel, have completely missed the point with your biased patriotic views.

Janette

Evelyn,
Some people may not understand that your criticism of the U.S. Embassy is not a reflection on the U.S. financial and military response to the crisis.

I'm sure that with stories like yours and your critique of the way the situation was handled, changes will be made. The next time (God forbid) a tragedy like this happens Embassy officials and staff will be better prepared.

I'm also very glad that you were able to get something positive out of this experience and that you're willing to share that with others.

PapaGus

When an emergency arises, it is up to the people on site to act and react in order to begin stabilizing the situation. You cannot phone home and ask for permission to act or wait for emergency service personell to arrive and take control. One of the first duties rescuers have is to evacuate the injured and separate the walking wounded from those in need of major help. You cannot sit on your hands and do nothing.

The employees of the US Embassy failed to perform as needed IN THAT MOMENT or time frame. When bloated bureucratic procedures get in the way of humane treatment of the citizens it represents, then there is a major problem that needs to be addressed.

How much aid WILL be sent in the ensuing days does not help alleviate the IMMEDIATE needs of the people. How many ministers are not at their post in Sweden or America is irrelevant. It is those physically present and supposedly capable of performing their duties that bear the responsibilty for cutting red tape, and providing all the necessary aid and comfort for their people. Period.

There is never any excuse for inaction. Ms. Rodriques lucked out. With a severely injured leg, a wound that went to the bone, she did not contract any of a number of infections that may have ultimately cost her her leg. It was not the American Embassy that provided for her as it should, but the Thai people.

If it is true that we are only as good as our leaders, then the US Embassy failed miserably. Other countries were there, at ground zero, providing for their citizens, and, I presume, non-citizens. Our agents sat in Bankok doing nothing.

kelleinjapan

'It was not the American Embassy that provided for her as it should, but the Thai people.'

Thanks PapaGus for your thoughts - Adding to that - I have heard the thai people feel they were overlooked by their own people in favour of 'rich tourists.' Or perhaps it was just their hospitable nature. But Thai people are unhappy about the way they were treated post-tsunami too.

kellieinjapan

Edit - I have 'read', and 'some thai people.'

kellie

david hume

http://greattsunami2004.blogspot.com

This event will change world history. see my blog

Wendy

Thank you for helping us remember to 'try' to stay 'unmasked in the face of sorrow'. One by one we can learn to keep our hearts open and 'scream' in the arms of those who are 'stronger in the moment'. We hold one another until it is our turn.
Namaste
Wendy

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Witness From the Heart - Crossroads Dispatches

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