marcel barang

Notes in a time of ebb and flow – 5

In English on 07/11/2011 at 10:03 pm


– It wasn’t to be. Karoon’s hose once unreeled stops at least two metres short of my gate. I come back with three big plastic bottles I fill up with his water – at least, I can wash my entire self with more than five or six coffee mugs of clean water each time, and wash the dishes more than cursorily. Dirty t-shirts and briefs pile up and can wait. Peering into Karoon’s living room I notice it’s full of water at low tide. I call him up to come over and uncap the kitchen and bathroom evacuation holes he has blocked. I had to do the same this morning.
He must have come and left. I wonder if he fed the neighbours’ cat that for days has elected to meditate on top of a pile of stuff that almost reaches the roof of his truncated garage area. I have no sympathy for cats but tomorrow I’ll bring the creature some milk. Will it accept UHT?

– The water it sneaks in, the water it sneaks out, a little less assertive each day. It’s bona fide Chao Phraya runoff, enriched with neighbours’ muck and mine. But the telly keeps showing masses of alien water from the north the size of Norway slowly but surely taking over the rest of the town and its precious heart. What I see in that hopeless little screen is a repeat, day after day, district after district, of what we experienced around here two weeks ago. And for ‘old timers’ like us the flavour of the week is the reek of accumulating garbage. And the growing risk of falls with the growth of plankton. Today, after several near misses, I slipped and fell (harmlessly) into three inches of water in my backyard.

– Around 5pm, a man makes it to my living room door. From the mezzanine floor, I shout: ‘Is that you, Karoon?’ I hear him mutter ‘Yoo khangbon’ (He’s upstairs) and then louder, ‘Sorry, wrong house!’ When I go down to investigate, it turns out to be Mr Hot Walls’ slave bringing him his dinner, the man who for at least two thousand days has come to my neighbour’s home once if not twice a day… What am I to infer? That he wanted to have a look at this farang’s stronghold?

– To the party that brings us the ritual bag of cooked rice and 60cc bottle of water, I mention that for two days there’s been no lunch distribution. Of course, they claim this wasn’t so. I do this deliberately, as I know Thai neighbours are too krengjai (considerate) to mention that a bag of cooked rice with, as last night, the lower half of a fried chicken leg or, tonight, three spoonfuls of minced chicken breast, isn’t quite enough for a whole day. True, townhouse residents are generally better off than the slum dwellers that surround us, but some of the latter too were ignored. Perhaps they made it to the food distribution point over there near the river, if that’s still going on.

– In all these years, I never noticed how brutally the rainy season stops. Not a drop of rain since that last middling downpour of eleven days ago. Mind you, free shampoo or not, I’m not complaining: we’ve got enough water to cope with right now and for the rest of the month. My joke of almost two weeks ago of floating a krathong in my living room on Loy Krathong Day, three days hence, is definitely on me.

– Close to midnight, as I take a ciggie break in the bedroom at the back, the night froths with happy drunken conversation a hundred fifty yards away at the motosai’ taxi stand – this is a low low tide offering the respite of a mere footbath – and with the unhappy insistent yelps of a dog in an empty, echoing room. The heat is thick. From time to time, a tree frog adds its giggles, as if tickled silly. Mercifully, the cocks are in deep slumber. So is the resident gecko, back in the last three days. When it croaks, consciously or unconsciously everyone counts: three times, five, seven bring luck; even numbers are sooei. The next tide will introduce a different partition.

  1. Hi Marcel,

    Thanks for sharing your daily observations of how a big flood impacts life in a very small space; the truth is vivid in the minutiae. It’s too much to take in but it is humbling to realize there must be a million more such stories, or even more, given the staggering size, scope and duration of the inundation.

    Keep well and keep writing.


    ps probably better to say you are not a cat person than to say you have no sympathy for cats since your gift of milk is a show of sympathy

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