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March 19, 2005

Nang Thong Beach cleanup+Tsunami Survivor store

Today I signed up for beach cleanup. Then immediately was put in charge of it, as the project leader's birthday is today and he wants to see his girlfriend and go diving this weekend. So he took off.

The job is to sweep the beach clean of anything the sea is unable to digest: plastic, plastic bags, broken glass. Larger items get piled up beyond high tide point. Smaller items go into garbage bags.

A group from USC and some Christian volunteers, all students, turned up as promised shortly before lunch. I took my leadership role seriously, and lead by example: I gave them detailed instruction, offered them sunblock and gloves, told them to be careful. Then I took off. Fern and I got some cold drinks, in a lovely rebuilt hotel nearby. (But we came back about 15 mins later.)

It was soothing to be next to the water, hearing the waves lap up. And bizarre to imagine that awful day, with perfect weather just like this, when the sea came alive and buried everyone.

Walking along the waterline first, mostly what you find is broken glass and small bits of plastic and electronics, like the plug end of Christmas lights, or a lightswitch cover, or a broken bottleneck. A little further from the water are heavier plastic and metal things like broken beer cans, parts of cars and surf toys. Further from the water are larger and heavier items like plastic bags filled with sand, ripped up clothing, shoes. Lots of shoes. Towards the dry part of the sand are all kinds of things, mattresses, soaked foam, shoes, clothing, wads of plastic string. I wore gloves, because by noontime glass was too hot to touch.

If you find a passport, you turn it in to the guy who runs my hotel. He has a shoebox full of them that he will return to the embassies. Lost lives from Finland, Germany, Russia, here. Three of them in the box had the same family name, and credit cards too.

The suitcases usually have been slashed open and looted already. But I always check just in case, for anything personal. The guy at the hotel has a luggage tag with a Finland address on it. For all you know, that might be the only thing her family gets back from this tragedy. Just a luggage tag, to a missing suitcase for a stolen life.

To read on about the Tsunami Survivor Craft Store this afternoon, please click continue below.

***I also was able to hitch to the Survivor Craft Store today, which opened last week. Artists and children in the camps are making batik wall hangings depicting the tsunami and ocean life (200bht), cool woven purses (400bht+), woven plastic beachy purses (150bht, these are cute), and some children's wood burnings (they call them wood soldering). They also have the tsunami dolls with the sand, as I described yesterday, and some drinks and snacks. And people doing some crafts in the store to show you how they made them. I guess on Weds there will be an all-you-can eat grand opening buffet there.

It was a great hitch, as it was a German tourist who picked me up on his motorbike (his 2 friends blew me off), and he spoke great English. They had ridden all the way from Karon, which is near Tik+Niel's way down south. Something like 160km he said, on motorbikes. They had come all this way just to see the police boat that was beached 1 km from the water. This is the landmark for the craft store. "It's by the police boat." The waves were taller than the trees here, forceful enough to drag a huge boat to where it doesn't belong, then dump it there.

Then the Germans checked out the beach and picked me up again on the way back. Which was brilliant, I caught a ride all the way back to the volunteer center, which was a good few miles. The guy who gave me a ride looked overheated, so I gave him a cold water in exchange for the ride. I must have looked the same, because he had gotten me a cold Coke!

Tomorrow is a day off. I plan to check out an elephant safari with Fern, Arnie + Dana (age 16), a family who helped with beach cleanup today. They are hiring a car to get there, so it sounds like a good deal. I want to see the setup to write a children's story about elephants and their jobs. We also hope to see the Buddha who is halfway buried, but need to consult the maps first to see whether it's feasable.

Posted by sedda at March 19, 2005 04:33 PM