Thursday, April 07, 2005

The People Are Afraid

Our bungalow sits north of the small village of Lam Kaen on the edge of the jungle with a small pond on one side, and on the other, a small pond. There, the frogs and insects party intermittantly throughout the night, offering little rest.

A lizard about the size of a volkswagon hammers away with his song, or whatever you'd call it...'Bam Bam...Bam Bam Bam...Bam Bam Bam,' and I imagine his bulging throat making that sound, as I sit sleepless on the edge of the bed, chain-smoking cigarettes, eyes on the doorknob, awaiting his crashing through the door to devour us in a real-life scenario of a horrific Japanese Godzilla nightmare.

He must be huge. Kirrin, from Scotland, said he saw him while on his motorbike...about the size of your bed, not counting the tail, he said.

One of his relatives lay flattened as road kill, taking up most of one lane, and I wondered what must have happened to the car.

Flip-flop sandals, and no helmet at 90 kph on a motorbike. They say Thailand has the most traffic fatalities of any country in the world, and it's no wonder. The people will shoot out from behind whomever they're following in the oncoming lane, flashing their lights to let you know if you don't take to the shoulder, you'll end up in their grille.

It's maddening and terrifying the first few times, then you become accustomed to seeing someone whip out around slower traffic, right at you. Once, I saw a sign that said 'Keep Left'. No shit. That's not just for cyclists. That's for everybody on wheels.

Swinging out around a slow-moving log truck on a bridge, I passed him just as a pickup truck swung out around a cyclist. Four of us sharing two lanes. I thought our mirrors might hit, but we both stayed 'on a line', and I must say the experience was exhilarating, although it left a residual tension in my neck and shoulders that yoga nor Thai massage couldn't dissolve. The people are so polite to flash their lights in warning. How kind.

Homeless people still telling horror stories of how they became refugees after losing their homes and businesses.

At the work site of his new home, where he is setting 36 four by four ft. holes full of concrete for the foundation in anticipation of 'the next tsunami', Mr. 'K', who lived on the beach at Cape Pakarang and lost his son, father-in-law, sister-in-law, tailor shop, and home, said to me what I'd heard others say; 'The people are afraid. The people are afraid of the sea."

It would be stupid, even after this passed time, to ask why, wouldn't it?

Today, as we put away the tools at the end of the day, I ask Kong, 'Why you no swim?

"I am afraid," he said. "I am afraid of the wa-tah."