Fifteen Weeks, Episode 19
EPISODE NINETEEN – WHY IS EVERYONE WHISTLING?
“To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.” (Voltaire 1694-1778)
The weather is really wonderful and Kata beach was idyllic this morning. As I ploughed through the soft sand onto the firmer part of the shore the gently frothing surf trickled in, barely disturbing the sand as it quickly disappeared; the placid woolly breeze did little to take the edge off the tropical morning air even though it was still only seven am. Few people are around at this time of day so it was very peaceful but don’t be deceived by the apparent calm of the sea. At this time of year there is a strong undertow of current that can whip your legs from under you and drag you out to sea very quickly. Many people get caught and some drown before the lifeguards can get to them. The red flags will be flying by ten and it’s wise not to enter the water in between them. Swimming is safer at each end of the bay. I want to swim and there are a few already in so I joined them, but not too far away from the rocks.
The Tsunami of 2004 hit this area badly and apparently before the third and largest wave struck, the bay at Kata Beach was like an empty bowl which is difficult to imagine. Wikipedia says:
The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was an undersea mega thrust earthquake that occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on Sunday, 26 December 2004, with an epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The quake itself is known by the scientific community as the Sumatra–Andaman earthquake. The resulting tsunami was given various names, including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, South Asian tsunami, Indonesian tsunami, and the Boxing Day tsunami.
The earthquake was caused by subduction and triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing over 230,000 people in fourteen countries, and inundating coastal communities with waves up to 30 meters (98 ft.) high. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history. Indonesia was the hardest-hit country, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.
With a magnitude of Mw 9.1–9.3, it is the third largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph. The earthquake had the longest duration of faulting ever observed, between 8.3 and 10 minutes. It caused the entire planet to vibrate as much as 1 centimetre (0.4 inches) and triggered other earthquakes as far away as Alaska. Its epicentre was between Simeulue and mainland Indonesia. The plight of the affected people and countries prompted a worldwide humanitarian response. In all, the worldwide community donated more than $14 billion (2004 US$) in humanitarian aid.
I was told by a restaurateur on the beach that the first wave was not big but should have been a warning. Instead people on the beach took little notice. The second wave was bigger but still didn’t cause too much concern and when the bay emptied of water some people said ‘wow, look at that’. He said by then he was halfway up the hill and looked back as his restaurant disappeared. I think I would have been a few metres ahead of him. When I first visited the area eighteen months later there was discernible, visible evidence of a major disruption but it was heart-warming to see how quickly the community had pulled together to restore normality.
Dave – The King and I – lost his wife in the Tsunami. They lived on one of the small islands, many of which were virtually wiped out. Unlike most other people, Dave does not use the air-conditioning in his car. I was quite surprised when he told me this until I was a passenger in his antique Mazda. I say antique because it is not a model I recognised. If there are any spare parts for this model left in the world I’m sure they are a rare commodity and come at premium prices. Anyway, back to the point. I didn’t consider that the air-con may not function but before we set off Dave said ‘I don’t like air conditioning. Even though it is very hot I prefer to have the windows open. I love the fresh air’. I said, ‘That’s fine so do I’ as he proceeded to light up his first cigarette. ‘Is there any way I can open this window, Dave?’ ‘Yes, I’ll turn off the locking device’. I managed to force it about two thirds open as he dragged the life out of his fag and proceeded to light another. ‘I quite like fresh air too Dave’. I spluttered, imagining how Guy Fawkes and Joan of Arc must of felt. ‘That’s why I stay on the island. Bangkok is far too polluted’. ‘Oh. I agree!’ said Dave. I just had to do a retake when he said that, to check if his tongue was in his cheek or not, particularly as he was in the process of lighting up again.
Why on earth wasn’t I a tobacco farmer? They must be incredibly wealthy profiting from supplying slow death to the world. There must be easier and quicker ways to kill yourself. By the way Dave doesn’t eat Thai food. He eats, what he calls, ‘old English’ style and some ex-pat mate of his brings provisions from the UK, like roast beef. Seems a bit of a palaver to me but everyone to his own, as they say. I think a sprig of millet would keep him going for days! Not only is Dave a great source of amusement but I must say that he is a really great guy who will always help you out if he can.
TO BE CONTINUED