Change is constant in my life so through experience, I have learned to recognize when it is my time to wander away.
I tend to fall in lust with my new environments, but nothing new in my life ever seems to last. There is a theory at the Rom Payaban Chang (Elephant Hospital) that the broken bond between Lamae and Bobo is caused by jealousy of attention to me. This is probably true, but Bobo is definitely crazy, as you would be too if your family was killed so you could be kidnapped from the jungle as a youngin and trained to be a human slave. Bobo is an exceptional sensitive member of FAE right now, as Soraida recently nearly emptied the hospital bank account to outbid him from a monk sanctuary, where she believes he would be dehydrated alive, and eventually killed for his newly wrinkly skin that will be sold for traditional medicinal purposes. Bobo ended up at the hospital because when he was sold, again, he ran from the humans and slipped and fell down a slope, injuring his leg. When he arrived at FAE, Soraida had to track down the one mahout Bobo trusted and bring him to live at FAE, Lamae. With that said, and the death of Pa Hae Po,
XO PAE HA POE
I decided to take the bike to the village, buy a couple live Roosters for one more feast with my brothers, say my sewadeekrabs ( good byes) and move on.
I will probably never return despite my promises, as I’m not one to retrace my steps. I am so blessed that FAE and the life within it now lives inside my heart forever, but my infatuation for the unknown is too strong to stay. So Ready, Fire, Aim.
Disregarding my warnings, Ill take one, one- way ticket to Bangkok please
The 2011 Thailand flood has hurt this country deeply, and I want to feel the hurt. The media, your only insight away from your own environment, will tell you the flooding is caused by a heavy monsoon season to protect the reputation of those in power, but I know different.
Thirteen hours later, now 7 am, I arrive at one of Bangkok’s bus stations. Rudely awaken by the driver, I grabbed all six of my inconvenient travel bags, stepped off the bus, and started a new life. Groggy, half asleep, hungry, thirsty, and delusional; I sat down amongst the chaos completely blank, ignoring the hustling in my face. I looked around and suddenly realized, I was already in the hurt. This is the only running bus station in Bangkok as the others are under water, and these people are Bangkok refugees. When I lived at FAE hospital I had a home, a room, friends, and a sense of accountability. Now after being kicked off the bus like all the others, I couldn’t help but to feel displaced, just like a refugee. I had woken up into a confused world and I couldn’t turn back today, even if I wanted to.
I had read at a bus stop on my way down south that Bangkok had diverted the water to save the financial district and the money making hoods, predictably drowning the poor. With that in mind I took a deep breathe, chugged my coffee, intertwined all my bags through out my limbs and set off looking for guidance from God, but instead I got tough love. I heard him say, “Well Michael, this is what you wanted. So what are you going to do now?” I told him, “ I got this, just don’t leave me ok.”
Slash after slash through Bangkok, I eventually ended up at a guesthouse, 160 Baht ($5) a night or 30 Baht (1$) an hour, hmmm. Whatever it’s dry, the lady at the front is nice, and I can drop my bags onto a horizontal bed that I could look forward to later, and ignore what had happened on it the hour prior to my check in.
I snagged a gypsy shower using the sink while my camera battery charged, changed my underwear and made my way to the nam (water). I came across a Thai girl sitting outside a typical Bangkok spa, as she used her soothing voice and pretty face to get my attention, I figured, well I am going down to the beaches after this and I do want my back waxed. We chatted during my session and she showed me on her body how high the water was at her home. It didn’t make me sad because she wasn’t, and soon I decided to just enjoy the moment of lying down. It felt good to be touched, even though it was followed by yank/ rip/ burn. I gave her some cash and she drew me a map, directions to the floods. The big bridge was my focal point, which helped as I can see it in the distance. As I approached the mouth I noticed the efforts made to help the city. I like to believe that the decision made to save the heart of Bangkok was not easy on the prime minister, as it plotted out which areas to flood. But I do believe it was necessary. The water had to go through Bangkok to spill into the Gulf of Thailand, and if it had flooded certain areas, the whole country would crumble.
On the dry side of the river millions of sandbags were stacked, building a wall that to my surprise did hold the water out. I began my hike up the bridge as the sun was starting to set. At its peak I stopped to compare the banks but could not make out the flooding, only to figure out soon as I hiked down that the river had blended into that side of the city.
I approached the water’s surf on the highway, made my way through the crowd of people who had stepped out to dry off on the bridge, and entered the river of water like a swamp man, never hesitating as the water rose up to my waist.
Lurking around the streets, I slowed it down as I suddenly became aware of what was beneath my belly button. I stopped and laughed at myself thinking really Michael, these waters have been draining through Thailand for weeks and now sulk inside one of the world’s most polluted cities. I had at least hoped my crotch would be spared but no.
But soothingly, this motherly woman almost half my height carrying groceries cruised on past, glancing over to smile and leaving me behind in her wake.
Where is she going? I follow, leaving behind my worries other than for my camera. We turned a street corner I remind you, and there it was, a whole community that had simply just adapted to the water. Plastic beach rafts were used to transport the divas of the slums, floating buckets of kids, and the rest just soaking and floating in the giant cesspool. I could see the stress in their eyes as they attempted to smile at me, but never tears. These people are strong. I would like to compare this scene to Katrina’s floods in New Orleans.
Both floods were caused by mans destruction to the environment. If humans hadn’t destroyed much of the wetlands surrounding New Orleans then the storm would have hit a buffer before the city, minimizing the impact. Here in Bangkok, if the jungles to the north still existed, the water would have been soaked up and recycled by the trees, instead of water -sliding straight to the gulf, where soon it will now disrupt the salt water/ fresh water ratio in the gulf killing and poisoning many shellfish, a stable food source for man and marine life. Geologically the cities are very similar, both coastal cities built on top of wetlands, but inhabited by two different cultures.
I was not there for the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I actually remember watching the satellite image of the impact as it buried the city from a bar at LAX during a layover to Australia. I don’t truly know, but my sister Candace did work relief efforts and through her, and others insights, my vision is a sad one, possibly sadder than it should be as they are provided with much more relief than many in this world. It’s hard for humans not to wonder during such a crisis, Where is our God? Has he abandoned us? But here in Bangkok, I see God everywhere inside the victims. With such little to give now, people continue to sacrifice blessings for the exuberant temples that sparkle the city with gold. I thought, does God even want that? I know when I love someone I don’t want them to have to sacrifice for me, but I want to fulfill them, not take. But during such ”disasters,” sacrifice can give you hope, which is what they seek from God now more than anything.
My walkabout through the flooded streets began as a humble scene, but as the sun disappeared and the silhouettes of power lines blended into the night, I realized the water stays, and Bangkok turned cold and dark. It’s one thing to go see and witness, but another to live it. I was able to leave that night, while others do not have such luxury.