Sunday, February 8, 2009

December 26, 2004

A more sombre note: December 26,th 2004--the fourth anniversary of the tsunami that devastated so many Bay of Bengal communities. There was an candlelight ceremony and Buddhist prayer shrines set up in the centre of Patong Beach, in the evening. Hundreds of people milled about, looking at sand-sculptures adorned with candles, incense, and photos of missing victims.

The actual atmosphere at the site wasn’t as depressing as I thought it would be. Perhaps I was somewhat prepared before we got there because so many local people wanted to relate their stories to us throughout the day. Here are a few: I asked the lady that we rented beach chairs from where she was when the wave(s) came in. She pointed to the left a little and said “Right there.” The first wave picked her up and pushed her into a concrete retaining wall. She broke her wrist, but didn’t lose any family members. All of her chairs, umbrellas and her cantina went out to sea when the water retreated.

Another guy showed me where his friend had a massage station set up at the beach. He said that she always stashed her day’s revenue in a tin box under the sand. When they found her body tangled in electric lines in the basement of the hotel across the street, she had her tin box with her. He speculated, visibly grieved, that had she not spent time retrieving her money, she might have had time to climb at least one flight of stairs.

A Swedish family that stayed in the hotel with us said they met a guy who went to Bangkok to visit his dad the day of the tsunami. He reportedly lost a lot of friends and he told them that when he goes to the beach, four years later, he can’t take his eyes off of the horizon for fear of what may come in. But this last photo provides the sort of optimism that can be overlooked at these events: the flags of all of the countries that helped the Thai people during this time. Kyla thought it was cool that the Canadian flag was so near the top of the monument, right beside the Thai Flag.

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