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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Checkin in

I was always well-prepared.
For all of you waiting with bated breath for my next words, all two or three of you, I suppose I must not disappoint. Even if you never write, you never call. But ah, yes, the flood.

As it was slow in coming, so will it be slow in going. My only personal experience of it was when I rode my bike around the edges of the city, now nearly two weeks ago, and got my feet wet going through Nuanjan Road near the townhouse. The water was about a foot or two deep, and rising, but very slowly. It rose a bit more, then just stopped. Now it's trickling out, but verrrry slowly.

"They" say it will be a month before things are more or less dry. Who knows? Haven't been able to trust much of anything they've said. But it seems to me things are inching back to normalcy. Schools are supposed to open Dec. 1. Other things besides the flood are reported on TV. Cars are leaving the high-rises and, I suppose, going back where they came from.

Fallout from the events: 1) environmental . . . polluted fresh water pours into the sea and destroys a lot of marine life. 2) political . . . as usual, when there's a crisis, the party in power gets hammered, no matter what. I have no love for the Pheua Thai party or the Chinawat family, but I do feel some sympathy for the PM, she was over her head with this, but I don't think she deserves quite all the grief she's getting. 3) planning for the future . . . at least a few are trying to figure out how to deal with flooding in the future. I'll give you some links to articles dealing with this.

For the environmental fallout, check out this article in The Nation. I wonder not only about the marine environment, but what after-effects there might be right here on the ground. So far haven't had any raging cholera epidemics, that's good.

The political problems: there's a decent article in the Wall Street Journal you might want to look at. A little more depth is provided in one written for the World Politics Review, but I had to sign up for a free trial in order to read it.

Most interesting was a plan put forward by the Science Faculty of Chulalongkorn University. It proposes construction of a HUGE flood bypass system starting at Chai Nat, well north of Ayutthaya. Map below:

 Also, parliament is now considering moving the capital! A study on the feasibility of moving out of Bangkok altogether is being proposed. This comes on the heels of all sorts of experts saying that Bangkok is sinking, and in 50 years will be underwater no matter what! Hah! Maybe I shouldn't have bought property here, after all. But . . . 50 years . . . at my age, I don't think there's a real problem here. 

I expect my next post will be on another topic. I sure hope so, this has been a long haul. Slow water torture, think I used that phrase. It works. But in general, I'm doing fine, life is good. Jes' chuggin' along, here, at least for now on all cylinders. Till soon, ta ta again!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Izzat da circumferentially-challenged gentlewomon?

Flood water has receded in 11 Bangkok districts;
Bangkok deputy gov says city's main roads will be dry in two weeks.

Well, I've been listening. I believe I hear a faint descant. I know I said it once before, but I do believe now that the flood has reached its peak, and I'm still dry. And (by sheer luck) my townhouse out on Nuanjan is still dry . . . tho it's still surrounded by increasingly rotting water.

The monitor lizards are out in force. Tee saw a bezillion of them from the army truck that waded her in to work today. You can see from this picture that while this may not be a great event for a lot of people, it's like old home week for the komodo dragon relations:

At the condo, the parking garage is just starting to open up. For weeks people have been parking here, because the floors of the garage are well above any possible flood level. When there's no space to park, so, well . . . 

The Thais have some very creative ways of dealing with modern problems. E.g., to park in a crowded parking garage. You get stuck behind someone waiting for a space, can’t get around him to look for one yourself, when you do you have to go up another floor, and another . . . . Anyhow over there if there aren’t spaces, you pull up behind a row of parked cars, lengthwise, so that you block a bunch of them from getting out. Then you set your wheels straight, put your car in neutral,  lock the doors, and go wherever you’re going. When someone finds your car in the way of their getting out, they just roll it out of the way, then back again when they’re done. I bet that seems bizarre. Wouldn’t work in the U.S., no way. But here, they don't even have to leave a note. Anyhow, my garage was like that, every floor, for several weeks. Now it's thinning out. Soon, je crois, it will be back to what it was, maybe 25% of capacity.

So I think we made it. But it's still gonna be a long time before things get back to normal. First of all, the water is stagnant and rotting, and leaving very slowly. Then, it's gonna take maybe a month to drain out. Then people start cleaning up. 

Wow. Well, that's all the news today from Lake WoeNotGoneYet. More soon.

 Read all about it at wrapping up

Saturday, November 12, 2011

It can't be all bad

No, it can't be all bad when you get pictures like this coming out of the crisis.  Thaksinodile Dundee here, they took this picture on the Cambodian border as our esteemed felonious former PM was sneaking in to save lives.

 Then, how about this one?:
Ayutthaya is a city of ruins . . . this brings it out. I think the reclining Buddha has never looked so impressive.

The flood is  supposed to come to the Victory Monument today. That's getting pretty close to the commercial center of town. That's where the great jazz & blues club Saxophone resides, where I did my last gig this year in Chai's motown show band. There are also a bezillion great Thai "fast food" (read noodles & rice dishes) shops, and an evening flea market there, it's a great place for people-watching. Dunno if it will really be underwater there, but hope not.

You can't really trust what the "authorities" say. I think most of that is not deliberate misinformation, but just that nobody really can predict this stuff. But what they're saying now is that the last high tidal surge starts today,  and after that we should be just coasting out of this high water stuff . . . though it will take 4-6 weeks for it to go down to pre-flood levels. Actually, not trusting, just thinking, that sounds about right.

For me, life goes on as it has, physically untouched by the flood. Arbeit und Liebe. I saw that phrase on a gravestone in Switzerland many years ago.
Arbeit und Liebe war Sein Leben. Sweet testimony. While maybe my life has been a little light on the Arbeit side, that seems to be correcting itself, and love has been the most important force in my life as long as I can remember. I don't think that particular phrase should be my epitaph, but I do hope that if someone writes one for me, whoever writes it will put something about die Liebe in there. Of course, I also hope that doesn't have to happen for decades yet. But then, one never . . . ah, I already said that twice. But for right now, it's mostly work and love. A good path. 

Let's see what happens after da big surge.

If nothing is different tomorrow, I won't post . . . I want to keep on topic. I could start writing about something besides the floods, but that somehow seems like the wrong thing to do right now. Not that there aren't plenty of things that need writing about, it's just that . . . I wanna wait till this one is over. 

Next . . . after a 2-day gap . . . 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Townhouse an island

As expected for a week or so now, my townhouse in Beungkum (Nuanjan) has been isolated. Everyone I know has left, not because the water's there, but because they have to cross water to get out. Hopefully it will stay as dry as it is now, but, again, one never knows, do one?

Tee says there are lots of crocodile stories (she told me the one about the kid). I asked why they weren't on the news, and she has this conspiracy theory that there's a blackout on them. Well, some of you know what I think of conspiracy theories in general, but I also believe that just becuz yer paranoid don't mean they ain't out ta getcha. Question authority, but be skeptical of the answers.

I'm still in Bangna, near Sukhumvit, a few minutes from the Chao Phraya River by bicycle, no less. But I'm still dry. Must have been the softest hand of fortune that led me to purchase down here. 

Since I don't really have any substantive information to give, and my own life hasn't changed much, let me give you a puzzle. Here's what I'm dealing with every day. Understand first of all that Thai has no singular or plurals, no tenses, no gender, no cases (nominative, dative, ablative, etc) and a few other things. Ah, also no punctuation or capitalization. So, assuming you get the vocabulary right (which itself isn't always easy, as there are usually no spaces between words), the main problem in translating into English or another European language is to twist the original somehow so it fits into forms which do have those things, or at least some of them. So here is my puzzle, from something I was just working on. Can anyone make sense of this?

This time when spiritual guide praise host and invite come up and say something word  two word Pa get up there he hold microphone center hand in middle many people at fair voice of he resound go generally big room and spread out get outside far general district temple pass speaker amplify sound in feeling me like Pa not get be of us family one only but become be person of community go too he get obtain acceptance from every person already in day that and this become be temporary time most big high most which Pa shall have get in life one of he.

I already did most of the heavy lifting here by getting the words. But if you can make it sound nice, now! That's what really counts. I wonder if your version will be better than mine.

No prizes, but I would like to see if anyone else can have fun with this kind of stuff. Put in a comment, if you like.

Till tomorrow, still avant le déluge . . . 

Next notes: où est le déluge aujourd'hui?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pictures are worth . . .

. . . more than the words I can say, anyhow! My life is b-o-r-i-n-g to talk about these days, tho I'm reveling, you could almost say wallowing, in the boredom. Life is fairly cerebral, working on the Lap Lae, Kaeng Khoi translation and a couple of other things I can do at my desk, getting in a little swim here, gym there, occasional biking, and those great 2-hour Thai-style massages (price ranging from $7 to $14 for 2 hours, depending on what part of the city, mostly). You see, nothing to complain about.

Yet still the water comes. I watch the news, too. And my friends in the States see pictures and wonder how it must be. Well, here, and a huge part of Bangkok, is no different than before. But maybe in the next week or two (this is one of the problems, nobody seems to be able to predict) black crocodile-infested water will be swirling around my knees as I walk to the store. 

The crocodile stories are definitely going around. There is one that a little kid got eaten near my townhouse, tho I can't find confirmation in the news.  But what scares me more is the possibility of disease. This soldier in the picture here (click on it, you can see the caption) seems to me to be taking quite a risk. They're talking about leptospirosis, and I wonder why I haven't heard the word "cholera" much at all. Tee walks to and from work, after getting off the army truck (a free service in flooded districts), in knee-deep water, and washes carefully when she gets home.

Tonight was "Loi Khrathong," the Thai festival where banana-leaf (or other types) boats with candles are set afloat. Needless to say, festivities were somewhat more subdued than in other years, what with sewage and crocs floating around with no candles at all. However, the temple across the street put on a fair, and fireworks were bursting till late at night.

Through it all, you still see smiles. And laughter, and good humor. Especially interesting are the inventive ways people come up with coping. Here are a few--next time you're thinking about throwing out a plastic bottle, or even putting it in a recycle bin, maybe think about starting a boat-building project? That table looks a little too nice to be subjected to this, but in a pinch, what the heck. And for the bike trip up north, maybe we could hire this guy to carry our luggage. I was gonna travel ultralite, but this makes me think.

Okay, these are not the scenes I see every day. But, in this big city, they're getting closer and closer to my little domicile . . . suspense is the spice of life, I guess . . . but you know, I'd really rather keep my life just b-o-r-i-n-g for the time being, OK? More tamorra.

And tamorra it is, begorra.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Strange isolation

Will it, or will it not? I feel detached and isolated from the city I live in. The road to the South is now underwater, but trains are still running. I went out today and things were practically normal . . . just fewer people on the street, and some shelves (paper towels, water) empty in most markets, and some shops closed. Can't get that good Ba mii pet (duck noodles), I think those folks have gone back to the provinces for awhile.

I just stay at home, swim, sometimes go out on the bike, work on my work, practice music a bit, lead a sane life, as sane as I can, and wait. The bike trip up north has been put off, may change completely, as Rick and Diane moved their trip two weeks later.

It's all a lesson, a lesson in patience and flexibility. Opening to it, it's interesting as anything could be. I'm having fun.

But it's still dry here! The area around the townhouse, though, has been ordered to evacuate. I don't think the water will get in the house, but Tee is over here with me for the duration. She's been a good companion.

It's the best of times, it's the worst of times. Like all times. More tomorrow.

Tomorrow never comes? Ha. It just came. Checkitout here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Just to stay in touch

This whole thing is putting many lives on hold, incidentally including my own at least 9 lives. I'm in a better position than most, as I'm in a still-dry area, and 12 storeys up. My other property doesn't look as though it will get water damage, although the water is now quite close. But my California friends have postponed their vacation for a couple of weeks at least, so the biking up around Sukhothai has to be put off, too.

But who knows what's really gonna happen? We keep getting different opinions. Most of the news on the Thai TV channels is about current conditions, or tells "human interest" stories about victims or survivors. Again, I'm just a-watchin and a-waitin, meanwhile keeping active, haven't stopped living, but it could well be that in a week this street here will be under water. Till then I won't be posting many pictures, but until the water starts going down I'll make at least a brief post every day. Just to stay in touch.

Here's an article which says, essentially, than nobody gets out of jail free here: Professor Khomsan's Prediction. But again, who knows? In any case, I remain your eyes on the ground here and your humble servant. Till soon . . . 

For soon, go here!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Not much to tell

 . . . that you can't find elsewere. I just stayed indoors and read and worked today. Here's a picture of water creeping up to the MRT subway entrance at Rachada, one of the more northern stations:
 All I can say is that nobody really seems to have a good idea of what will happen or how long it will last. This entry will just refer you to a couple of other places, if you're interested in reading more.

Try Somtow's World. Somtow is a great writer and a compassionate person. I'm not sure whether he's in LA or here right now, but, as usual, he has some good insights. 

Then there's a pretty good Huffpost article. Surprisingly more clear and objective than a lot of stuff I see here.

Finally, a few pictures, in case you haven't had enough of those. And from me, a sign-off until tomorrow, next installment of "the creeping BLOB." If I haven't seen more signs of creep, maybe I'll write about something else, what a concept!

Blogging every day during the crisis, even if just a few words. Here's the next:
Staying in touch

Sunday, November 6, 2011

From home to home

Today I tried something completely different. I went out to the townhouse I bought in 2001 and got my wonderful Jamis road bike  and rode along the perimeter of the dry area for a bit, checking out the latest wet, then came all the way in to my condo, in a much more mainstream area of Bangkok, about 25km/15mi.

I just recently had the bike overhauled and  fine-tuned, and am planning to, if the fates allow, do a loop around some ancient cities in the North in a few weeks. A couple I met on the John Muir Trail in 2010 are coming here with their bikes, should be very cool (double entendre, we're entering what passes for a cool season, esp. up North). And dry (we hope). Should make some good blog entries when it happens.

The bike rides like a dream. Compared to the clunky mountain bike I've been using for errands, wow! A good bike makes a huge difference. 25km felt like not much more than just around the block.

A week ago I thought we were practically done with all this, the water had done its worst. I even stopped blogging for a few days. But if you've been following of late you'll know that this is unlike any of the disasters you usually hear about. Like The Blob, it just keeps increasing the space it takes up, meters at a time, and no one knows how long it's gonna keep spreading, or how long till it starts going away . . .

It's been nearly a month since I got my first concerned e-mail from a friend, wondering whether I was OK or not. At that time I wondered why anyone was worried . . . Ayutthaya was underwater, yah, but Bkk was untouched at that point! And even today, the house is dry, the condo is dry. But then . . . THE BLOB!

So a couple pictures. The first ones are of places within a km of my house that were dry until yesterday.

The little "village" that the townhouse is in is now in a peninsula of dry land, threatening to become an island. Tee was living there, and I in the condo, but she's moved in over here for the time being, the other place is getting iffy. My feet got wet pedaling through the above section, on my way back downtown.
It struck me that everybody seemed to be in a good mood. Grinning. Waving. I asked one person about this, and she said hey, it's nature, what can you do? Why take it any more seriously than you have to?


There were all sorts of makeshift thingies set up to make the water go in one direction or another.  In one of these pictures you can see sandbags directing the water off the street and into a khlong (canal). The next picture shows folks boating in that same canal, which looks about to brim over into the rest of Bangkok.

All this is, of course, very distracting. I'm moving along steadily with my novel translation, and it will be done as soon as it needs to be, but I'm not moving faster. I've also got an article to write about the NGO I worked with down South last month. But, hey, how many times are you in a world-class crisis?

After I left the Nuanjan area, where the townhouse is and where I took all these water pics, the ride was pleasant, dry, and uneventful. But one feature of Bangkok which should be mentioned here is the great bike path which stretches nearly 15 km from the freeway frontage road there at Nuanjan. This is something I wish San Francisco had! Designed specifically for bicycles. Shaded most of the way. The world should think this way.


And so we go on, enduring this strange form of water torture as we wait, wait, wait for the circumferentially-challenged dame to descant.

If you haven't had enough pictures of Bangkok in its new watery state, I suggest you check out the folowing:  "Venice of the East".  In any case, till next time (soon), Ta ta!

Next: waiting for assimilation
. . . resistance is futile.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Jes A-waitin and A-wonderin

You still don't see any water from here, but the reports are coming in, and some of the MRT subway stations are closed, notably at the famous weekend market, Chatuchak. Floods are getting quite close to my townhouse now, but haven't reached there yet . . . I'm not there to watch it. But areas which were dry a few days ago now look like this:

and I'm just hoping things will have settled down by the time my friends Rick and Diane get here . . . now less than 2 weeks away . . . cuz they're hoping to do some serious bicycling. And I hope I'll be doing some with them.

Anyhow, there are ways of doing that--here's a creative solution offered by a local bike club:

 The word is also out that all Bangkok districts now have refugee centers. That means this one, where I reside.

Governor keeps a brave face as more zones, roads swamped in capital

Flood water is now closing in on Bangkok's inner zone, the mostprotected area, since about 16,000 million cubic metres of water started ravaging the Chao Phraya basin a few months ago.

More tomorrow. Joe Bob says checkitout, at How Slow Can You Go?