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26 December

Page history last edited by PBworks 18 years ago

26 December 2005 - Boxing Day


A year on from the Tsunami


This is our "day off" (though there is still of course office and diary stuff to be done as well as more workshop materials to collate) and I get up early, do some gentle sunbathing and at last get to swim in our lovely pool.


Relaxing - and remembering


It was on Boxing Day last year that the Tsunami struck - here in Phuket, we believe the first wave struck at about 10.10 a.m. and the second wave at about 10.20 a.m. Originally we had been asked to provide entertainment for children just after the big memorial services, which are being held today at Phuket and Khao Lak - we always felt a bit uneasy about this, and are very relieved that this decision has now been reversed - the last thing we want to do is be jolly or inappropriate when people are remembering their loved ones and trying to come to terms with their loss.


So many different countries suffered - in Sri Lanka where we were working earlier this month almost 40,000 died and many tens of thousands are still living in temporary shelters in camps, and in Indonesia, especially in the Aceh region, the figures were far higher.


Thailand's losses and recovery


Here in Thailand the figures were fortunately lower - 5,395 were killed, but 2,817 are still "missing" - many of them foreign tourists. Forensic scientists and dentists have been working for months to try and identify bodies, to return them to their loved ones - but it is a very hard job, especially when people have been in the water a long time.


More than 50,000 people in the six southern provinces of Thailand were affected, with homes destroyed or businesses decimated. Much work has been done in the past year - the number of people still living in shelters is down from 7,000 in June to only 2,990 and 1,907 new homes have been built. 24,486 fishermen have been given aid to replace or repair their boats.


They estimate the loss to the tourist industry (which is enormously important in Thailand, as in Sri Lanka) at 38.84 billion baht . There are many tourists returning - Kata seemed pretty busy, and Koh Phi Phi seemed to be reasonably full, but up here in the North West of Phuket Island, hotel occupancy numbers are far lower than last year, and up in Khao Lak, where we are heading next month, apparently there are only volunteers and mourners for the memorial services - hardly any tourists at all.


Come back, tourists!


So many Thais make their living from the tourist industry in one way or another - working in the hotels, cooking or serving in the beach restaurants, working in the shops or just selling their wares on the beaches - and any lack of tourists affects many, many families very badly financially. There is real financial hardship where there was little before. The Thais have made a huge effort to have things reconstructed before the "high season" when tourists appear. They have done really well, and in many areas you really would not know there had been such a huge, natural disaster only a year ago.


It is really important that tourists return here, and to all the tourist areas in South East Asia that were affected - I think many Europeans feel a bit strange about going to holiday in an area that has suffered (we in Children's World International are very blessed in being able to enjoy this beautiful area with no sense of guilt as we know we are bringing something valuable for the children) - but please know that (and I know this from personal experience in both Sri Lanka and Thailand) these people are LONGING for tourists to return. Thailand and Sri Lanka are both largely Buddhist. and the people have a far more sensible and pragmatic attitude to death than we in the West do - they have suffered, they miss their loved ones tremendously, but they know that life has to go on. They NEED tourists to stop being squeamish and to come back, bringing back some prosperity to their families - so do please, please, anyone reading this, pass this message on to anyone you know.


Mixed feelings


There are mixed feelings about today's memorial services which are being held on Patong Beach, in Khao Lak and also in Koh Phi Phi. Many Thais have already come to terms with their loss and have "closure", and are not at all keen on being reminded of it all again - they see the big memorial services as nothing to do with them and feel that the government is using them mainly to "promote business". Many Thais are just going privately to temples and saying prayers to gain merit for their dead loved ones, as they see this as more appropriate. Many foreigners have been invited to attend the memorial services and we hope and pray that they (especially those the bodies of whose loved ones have not been recovered or identified) can now find "closure" and press ahead with their lives.


I go to a roadside shrine near our hotel that is meant to protect the area from attacks and natural disasters, and meditate and leave flowers, and later we wade into the sea and throw flowers into it, thinking of those who died, and praying that for their loved ones 2006 will be a happier and more positive year than 2005 was.


Strange, sad day


A quiet day watching some of the tsunami memorial programmes on the television, catching the sun (a bit too much of it on my face, which turned scarlet for a while) and swimming. In the afternoon I take Jess for a beach massage and we all eat dinner on the beach before repairing to the villa to make another 200 bean bags and 40 ribbon twirlers. Linda rings me after she has attended the memorial service up at Khao Lak (which was apparently very moving) and tells me that tomorrow's school is busy with something else till 10.30. San will come and collect us at 9.30 and we will run the day to the "normal" "plan" (I'm not sure there is going to be such a thing as a normal plan ever - lucky that we are all good at thinking on our feet!) except that we will have to skip the morning workshop. This school apparently only has 400 students, so we will do the "full show" cut into two portions - a good opportunity to try out the new material we have not used in front of an audience yet.


Early to bed after a strange and sad day - it is good to remember the Buddhist teaching that death can come at any time, and that we should live each day really well, as though it might be our last!


27 December

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