marcel barang

Notes in a time of ebb and flow – 12

In English on 18/11/2011 at 10:46 pm

– What flood? It’s all water over the bilge, I say. But there’s still a nasty doubt in our minds: what if, by the 27th

– Yesterday Karoon and I went out in his van for lunch and sundry purchases at a superstore two miles away. Apart from about four hundred yards long of road still under drivable water, the whole area was dry, but what a sorry leprous sight of thick dirt, piles of garbage bags and those pathetic, useless rows of sandbags in front of almost every abode!
In the blinking red lights at crossings, the few vehicles around looked drunk, their drivers changing lanes and direction as they weighed up the chances of more water stretches ahead.
Somehow, this light traffic put me in mind of the first few ominously quiet days of those episodic military pastimes Thailand is known for: karnratthapraharn (seizures of state power) recurrent itching which the man in the street mistakenly calls karnpathiwat (revolutions). I’ve seen a few of those in my half-of-a-lifetime here. Now the soldiers are the heroes of the day, substituting themselves to police and a failed civilian administrative structure to bring succour and convenience to the ordinary folk. (For more gushing praise, see Army-owned Channel 5.)

– Today, a phalanx of BMA garbage ladies, suitably if garishly plastic garbed, carted the garbage bags at the bottom of our blind alley to its mouth, where a garbage lorry thrice came to take some away, still leaving two huge piles of them for the morrow. I hastened to add my own five bags of sorted out refuse to the common dung. Tomorrow, we are told, a high-pressure water lorry will whoosh the lane dirt away. Food and water are still being handed out free, round the corner in the Khong Tharn slum community. This neck of the woods is really well organised.

– With all this in mind, there is revolting news on TV tonight, of those Lam Luk Ka residents, a northern Bangkok suburb, still hip-to-chest-high in stagnant smelly water after one full month, basically ignored by the powers that be and their own minders. No wonder that yesterday they went after the sandbag barriers that were erected to protect the precious heart of Bangkok’s heart which are keeping them in a pickle. Expert Seree Supradit just now predicts them and those in a vast area around them another three weeks of torment, la-di-da: pumps don’t work to full capacity or are badly placed; garbage and buildings clog up the flow…

– Meanwhile, back in my ranch, it’s still scraping and scrubbing. What with all the genuflexion and pediflexion to reach unreachable places where my elbows are too long and too many, my shoulders too large and my head too prone to bumps, my left flat foot keeps reminding me one of its bones was broken not long ago. My legs, fingers and wrists bear a few blood-red badges of curetage but nothing that a few drops of alcohol and iodine can’t fix.
And nothing compared to what friend Karoon brought back from his Koh Kut (Trat province) beach retreat: plentiful telltale marks of bodily assault by what we, veterans of the 1960s Cambodian beaches, used to know as boumacs – blister-providing sand creatures that marred our weekends in Sihanoukville and beyond. It’s all right: the second time around, you’re immune.
Karoon waxes eloquent on that particular beach: its owner doesn’t want to sell but is pressed for money so is looking for investors, to the tune of thirty million baht (about 700 000 euros) for ten years; Karoon will find some for him. From Nepal, he says – where boumacs, I believe, are unknown. My friend regretfully has a knack for half-baked schemes.


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