Wednesday, April 06, 2005

One Shoe Everywhere

One Shoe Everywhere

Correctons: That's 'Nam Kaem'. The village. I think I've finally gotten it right. And, 'resilience'.

This place, the Volunteer Center, is like a ghost town following the 100 Days celebration. Many people have returned home, but the projects continue, with new people arriving each day. But our numbers are down.

At this point, Digger and I have become long-timers, almost, some people now speaking who'd ignored me in the weeks before.

The 100 Days Memorial Celebration took place, with the governor of Phang Gna province, singers, dancers, a couple hundred monks, and thousands of people gathering under and around the large tent covered area in front of the beached police boat that serves both as a landmark and a memorial to the Tsunami and the hundreds of people it killed when it was swept through the village of Bang Niang to the edge of the jungle, about one kilometer inland.

Thousands of balloons were released, the people were all fed for free, the monks chanted, the Christians read a prayer, and the Muslims also offered prayers in a blistering 100 degree tropical

Booths and vendors were all around, from the road to the beach, with arts and crafts from the villagers for sale. Music at night on a big stage on the beach, lit by hundreds of torches planted in the sand.

Managed to meet Surin Seangsoung, the artist from Pruteow refugee camp whose pictures I had purchased earlier, and who lost his wife in the wave. As I was digging through my pockets to offer him a donation, he produced two more paintings that he gave to me, insisting I sit down and have a drink of beer there with him on his mat where he was working in pen, magic marker, and water colors.

Unable to speak English, he told me the story of the wave, pointing at his pictures, showing me where he and his wife first began running, where he grabbed her around the waist, and where they were separated.

On his picture, he has the inscription, "I love my wife and miss her forever."

He looked at me and with an index finger, traced a tear from his eye, down his cheek. Among all the Thai who seem unaffected on the surface, Surin is noticably saddened by his loss.


I'd gone down to the beach for the 'Sea Gypsy' releasing of the spirits ceremony as part of the 100 Day memorial. Roi Loy, or something like that. Hundreds of Thai and foreigners 'Falang', took coconuts with flowers down to the water's edge, where the tide swept them out to sea.

Much to my surprise, I got enlisted as one of a dozen swimmers to take three small boats, 'Spirit', 'Hope', and 'Renewal', brightly decorated with tinsel and such, mounted on bamboo rafts and filled with prayers and money offerings, a half-mile out to sea.

Three old grandmas sang a ceremonial song through about 164 verses under a blazing sun while we all stood there, a magnificent photo op for the many cameras and Thai news. Did you see me? I was on 'Renewal's' crew.


Went up to Cape Pakarang, up near where we're building the boat house, to check it out. Seems like nothing is happening up there, with only the bodies removed. No projects, no clean up, no volunteer help.

Total devastation at the 'Blue Village' resort. The first two rows of bungalow swept off their foundations. Bombshell skeletons of all else standing. Everything inside is strewn across the ground and into the surrounding jungle. The pall of death hangs over the area, and what the Thai say about the ghosts of the dead seems to come alive in the quiet broken only by the pounding of the surf.

Everywhere, one shoe. A sandal, a flip-flop, a child's shoe. More damage everywhere. Astounding force just here at the cape, sticking out prominently on the maps. A fisherman's village where they go for squid. A leather German or Swiss sandal on the beach, a pink high heel of a Thai waitress alongside the road, a tennis shoe, the kind worn by a German tourist, in the rubble of the bungalows. An Italian sandal.

Up the road, a complete altar blown off its concrete foundation, but right beside it, a Bhudda still remarkably standing atop a fragile pillar, apparently untouched, blissfully unresistant to the water.

In one of the main buildings, a relief of an untouched Bhudda on a wall smiles on the surrounding complete ruin.

A quiet walk down the beach. There is no film left for the camera, and I am happy to stop shooting photographs. Another one sandal, another one flip-flop, another one hiker's boot. Who would want this story, these photos? A quiet walk down the beach, looking for what?...maybe a piece of coral in the perfect shape of a heart.

- end