October 10, 2011
Fog, Low Visibility
I am OK.
I live on the ninth floor of a modern apartment building. So far, the streets in my neighborhood are passable. From my balcony I can see the canal. Despite the rain, the flood waters descending from the north, and the high tides in the Gulf of Siam, the canal is at a normal level and the commuter boats are operating.
I have my usual supply of fresh fruit, juice, dried fruit and nuts. And as long as the electric power is on, I have coffee and three different kinds of tea. Food is available from the shops on the street and at the food court at Bumrungrad Hospital just up the street. If things really get bad, there is a McDonalds, au bon pain, KFC, Burger King, Starbucks and Pizza Hut in my neighborhood. But I am not yet that desperate.
The big story here is Floods. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Thais are affected. Farmland and towns are under water. Even large cities like nearby Ayutthaya and Nakhon Sawan are under water. Here in Bangkok, the areas across town from me, near the main river, are also flooded. The pictures on TV are shocking and heartbreaking.
Yet, here's the thing: the Thai attitudes; the Thai behavior. Regardless of the loss and suffering, there is no sense of "woe is me" or "how could this happen to me?" There seems to be no anger or even frustration.
The Thai TV newscasters are serious yet cool. The on-the-scene reporters stand in knee deep water on a main street. They interview the old and the young, rescue workers and hospital workers. There is no sense of panic or chaos. No one raises his voice. There is an air of calm acceptance, and let's do what we can to cope with the situation, and see if we can help others in need.
A few years ago, at about 6pm one evening, I was caught in a huge downpour that flooded all the main streets and side streets in my neighborhood. I rolled up my pants and slogged my way home through water that was half way up my calf. On the way, I passed many Thai office workers also trying to get home through the flood. They were chatting and joking with each other as if nothing was amiss.
As I finish this letter, the rain here in Bangkok has stopped and the sun is trying to break through the clouds.
Let's hope and pray that this tragic rainy season will soon come to an end and that my ever-smiling Thai friends and neighbors can resume their normal and productive lives.
PS Those flood waters up north are headed for Bangkok. So stay tuned. I may have more to report very soon. Anyway, I hope not.
PPS I know what a few of you are thinking, “Jan, why are you still there?” Well, perhaps, after living here for the past five years, I have absorbed the Thai attitude of “acceptance.”
Regardless, can you tell me, on this lonely planet of ours, is there any spot at all that is now immune from unexpected, erratic or abnormal weather or natural disaster?
December 11. 2011
Cool, Bright Sunshine
Dear Family and Friends,
Below is yesterday's Sabbath message from our Rabbi Kantor.
He has included photos of our food distribution to a remote village. (I didn't ride the truck but I did take the photos when we prepared the packages.)
As the Rabbi mentions, we still need some help.
I also urge you to view the video of the speech delivered by Rabbi Sacks in England. Both the content of the speech and the Rabbi's oratorical skills are simply brilliant.
All the best,