marcel barang

Notes in a time of ebb and flow – 2

In English, Reading matters on 04/11/2011 at 4:43 pm

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– Slowly but surely, the waters are receding, at the overall rate of just a few centimetres per day. [6pm: Cancel that: same level as yesterday, 21cm above the living room floor.]
The living room floor has only residual water and soil deposits at low tide. If this keeps on, in three or four days [or…], I may be able to keep the living room clean and let it dry. A few inveterate housewives already fuss over getting rid of that black dirt on their parquet by pushing it with a broom into the backyard; most of it comes back with the tide.

– Trying to teach the long planks floating higgledy-piggledy in the garage area to behave and relieving them of soggy cardboard boxes, I disturb a toad. A few cockroaches have survived. The water, cold, black, is beginning to stink. I’m told there’ll be a distribution of EMs, whatever these are, to make it breathe. [There wasn’t.] Karoon at Siriraj is making buying some. He’ll come over tonight, to put them in place and clean whatever can be cleaned before leaving for Chumphon in the south.

– Paradox: I spend increasing time wading through the muck, yet my feet have never been so clean. Worry: using so much after-shave between my toes, will they grow a beard?

– Seksan Prasertkul returns my call. Living on the dry side of Khlong Prapa in Pak Kret, he’s one of the lucky ones: he only has to fight diabetes and high blood pressure. He says he watches the trees when he goes out: Pak Kret is the area where fifteen green mamba snakes imported by some idiot from South Africa escaped a couple of days ago. Death in twenty minutes. No vaccine before Nov 23. Kindly postpone your bites.

–  The Thais have it upside down. Ask any Bangkokian and they’ll tell you the Chao Phraya is at its highest on Loy Krathong Day, Nov 10. A look at the sea tides tells a different story: on Nov 10, the high tide is forecast at 3.43m, rather low compared to the 4m plus we’ve just survived. And guess what? Rather low too compared to the high tide of Nov 27: 4.08m.
Nammo tasa pakawato…  

– Attendance to this blog has the profile of the ebb and flow of the Chao Phraya river. Here is a picture of it, taken this morning at 9:

-Even the government TV channel can improve in times of crisis. Instead of a FROC stuffed shirt with glasses behind a desk, kraphom, tonight we were treated to a very detailed interview with a FROC top shot with both his feet in the water.
The gist of it was that the flood will last two weeks east of the river (Bangkok, where the megamoney is) and one month to the west (Thon Buri, where I and so many other underdogs live) – ‘if we can come to an understanding’, that is, with those pesky fools who keep wanting to knock off the clever dykes that drown them.
I must say, if I were a Thai, I’d join those right-thinking fools – everywhere except at Khlong Prapa, the only canal that must be kept pristine because it’s out of it that tap water for the entire megalopolis is produced (and also because my friend Seksan – erstwhile top activist, and a world-class writer – has enough health worries without getting his swollen feet wet, ha!).

– One month is as long as the 1995 flood lasted and I remember well that it affected the whole of Bangkok east and west of the river without any foolhardy attempt to ‘save the heart of the capital’, after trying to save ‘our vital industrial parks’ and before that trying to save the whole of the City of Angels at the expense of the hicks up north, who initially, right?, needed water for their crops. I’m not convinced there was then much less water than this time. But by preventing it to run off in a timely fashion, by stocking it, as it were, for altogether three months and then releasing it massively to coincide with the highest tides of the year: that was a sure recipe for major damage. The proof of this is just down my stairs: during that full month sixteen years ago, sure, the water never left the lane (though it did, twice a day, with the tide, the following year), but it intruded in my living room for only one day and for half an inch. This time, 44.5cm and it has yet to leave after nine days.

– On the other hand, because the disturbance now is massive when it wasn’t then, I don’t remember witnessing at the time such a mobilisation of means and good will to help those stranded around here as there is now.

– Far from me the idea of biting the hand that feeds us, but a scandalous result of all this food help is that it all comes in plastic – plastic bags, plastic bottles, foam punnets (brought to your doorstep in mainly brand new plastic boats). The plastic industry must be working overtime and laughing its way to the bank on both sides of the river. But think of the outcome: in only two days, I’ve been presented with six one-litre plastic bottles of water in plastic wrapping, three half-liter plastic bottles of water along with altogether five foam punnets with each a plastic spoon inside and food wrapped in plastic to keep it separate from the cooked rice. Those punnets are the size of a pocket book – well, all right, when squeezed real hard, the size of a poetry precis by the likes of Siriworn or Zakariya. This will produce more trash in a month than the rest of my garbage. Multiply this by one to two million disaster victims. Plastic is so wonderful: waterproof, rotproof, it floats, and weighs little. It’s also indestructible, non-biodegradable. What? What’s that about stopping deliveries? Don’t you dare. I need food, I need water. Thank you, BMA, thank you for the plastic.

  1. For your readers’ attendance graph did you take time lag into account?
    I shouldn’t be asking silly questions did you say?

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