marcel barang

Running on empty

In English on 24/11/2011 at 2:24 pm


Saturday 19: the best news of all is that that obnoxious loutish family is gone: the new townhouse owner allowed them to stay in it only for the duration of the flood.
My daughter comes over in her car, bringing in more food, cigarettes, pastis, and the big bottle of detergent I had asked for. No bottles of water on sale at Macro.
Lung Pratheep talks to me normally. He’s even instrumental in helping me out with the camping gas problem: when a man comes to deliver a similar gas tank to his house, I go over and tell the man about my problem with the defective head. ‘Show it to him,’ Pratheep tells me. The man lights it and it works normally. I’m baffled. The fellow unscrews the top: the neck is half blocked by dry gunk, which was obstructing the tiny gas exit hole. He cleans it and the camping gas works fine. Why couldn’t I have figured this out by myself?

Sunday 20: a powerful (and leaky) water hose run the length of it wipes the lane clean, but for those leprous houses whose owners are still absent. Most of us pitch in with brooms and then there’s lunch for all round the corner. Garbage keeps piling up at the mouth to the lane – not just the usual refuse but all those things (doors, wooden furniture, garments, cardboard boxes, etc.) damaged by the foul waters.
I reconnect the phones, bring down the components of television, computer and printer and sound system, put them on the table, try to sort out the cables, fail, then manage to restart the TV set all by myself: I get the Laotian channel, the Cambodian channel, all of the Thai educational channels – and nothing else.

Monday 21: the door of the metallic front gate is broken, its lower hinge bitten to death by rust. In the house, three water-swollen doors refuse to close shut; at least one of them will have to be replaced. All kitchen cupboard doors are off their hinges too. There are a few white stains on the parquet as if some chemical had leaked there. The living room air-con is as dead as the water pump outdoors. Sofa and armchair will have to go: their foam keeps retaining water, which surfaces as soon as you sit down…
Wafts of acrid smoke in late morning from the Khong Tharn community at the back of our townhouses: they are fumigating their slum area against mosquitoes – and maggots. Excellent handling of the flood crisis all along by these people.
Karoon comes by in the evening: he unplugs and re-plugs a TV cable, presses a few buttons and all the channels are back! It takes him less than five minutes to put the PC back together. How humbling! He’s amazed at how good the parquet looks: his is in a dreadful state.

Tuesday 22: the Bangkok Post resumes delivery after a one-month interruption. Things must be back to normal, then – well, almost. I empty the underground water tank of its foul content and clean it best I can with a long-handled broom I keep to catch cobwebs on ceilings with. A dose of detergent in the almost clear water at the bottom Karoon’s portable pump won’t suck out, and that should deter mosquitoes from breeding there.
My daughter comes by in the evening, to borrow my laptop: hers has expired in her arms. We watch some movie on TV for a while.

Wednesday 23: I venture out to the office for a communal lunch of noodles (‘What’s with the beard, sia?’ says Sondhi; I gesture noncommittally) then proceed to two supermarkets where I usually shop; neither has bottled water. I start boiling some to drink: the municipal water Karun says is safe to drink carries too much dubious debris. I bought an electric plug and can now put the fridge back in place. I find those stains on the parquet can be scraped out and waxed away.
The main roads are dry and clean, but girdled with mountains of festering garbage which teams of municipal workers are trying to lift and truck away – a Sisyphean task.
Meanwhile, elsewhere north of town, whole suburban communities under stagnant water for weeks and weeks are getting increasingly frustrated and taking the problem into their own hands. There are still masses of water to flow through. And today the sea tide has begun rising again and will gain another metre by the end of the week.

Thursday 24: Karoon is home and sort of beginning to clear his front porch of stuff before hosing it down. Although I feel abnormally tired and out of sorts, I offer repeatedly to give him a hand, but he keeps saying he can manage on his own.
He says he’ll help me with the purchase across town and installation of a new pump and water tank, but it’ll have to wait until his van is repaired. Meanwhile, tomorrow he’ll go and spend the weekend with the boumacs of Koh Kut.


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