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March 29, 2005

Long Night

Moira and I had stayed late at the Volunteer Center last night, working on various projects (I have a new one, but more on that another day). Scott, who runs the boatyard project, gave us a lift home since it's hard to find a hitch after 11pm. Moira crashes with us in our hotel room when she's in town.

I grabbed a quick shower to get all the bug juice off, and Moira got a late call on her cell. It sounded like bad news, she said Oh. Okay. very seriously as though someone had just died. Then she turned on the TV, explaining there had been an earthquake in Sumatra of 8.2 (which later was revised to 8.7).

We all knew what that meant. About a week and a half ago, an earthquake in Indonesia had sent all of the traumatized and superstitious Thai people into the hills, fearing another 33-foot wave. But that was in the afternoon. It was after midnight now, and we were staring at the CNN graphic lamely trying to figure out where we were on the map. The newscast was entirely in Thai, and Dee already knew that we didn't get any English stations.

"Dee," I said. "Run downstairs to your Thai friends and find out what they know and what they are doing."

To read more, please click continue below.

***Moira's friend called back, saying that a tsunami could be produced from the earthquake, and if it were, it would arrive here within 15 minutes. She said the Thai government had issued a Warning. We didn't even talk about staying put.

In my PJs, I pulled on a pair of pants, then shoes, and grabbed my daypack, which has everything in it for the day--water, a long-sleeved shirt (for sun or temples), sunblock for the day, bugjuice for evening, passport/cash/ID, headlamp (Moosedog rule). On my way out the door I grabbed the rest of my unexposed film (about 18 rolls) and a sarong (for sleep/shade).

Later I realized I left behind: exposed film from the entire trip, extra batteries for the headlamp, the tiny tent. There just wasn't time to pack, or to think. Essentials only: clothing, sun protection, shelter at the Vol Center.

Within about two minutes we were downstairs and out front of the Khao Lak Inn. The Thai hotel clerks and shop owners were gone. There's a TV out front, and word travels fast. Motorbikes were flying by, with entire families on them, the baby's fine hair blowing in the breeze. Cars heading into town were honking, motorbikes bleating. Some volunteers on motorbike saw us and yelled, Get the Hell out of here!

Cars weren't stopping. We started to just walk to get moving uphill. I thought, there's no way we can get to the high point of the hill in 15 minutes, can we? Dee was wearing flipflops, standard Thai attire. Downtown Khao Lak is a flat basin, nearly level with the water. Only two months ago, it was leveled by the water. There wasn't even much to slow down the wave between the sea and what had been rebuilt or miraculously remained standing.

A grey pickup truck had pulled over. The windows were dark (the sun is bright here, so everyone has extra tinting) and we just climbed in the back. The street was slight chaos, people yelling, looking around, wondering about the others they had just seen on the patio where they had just been drinking and playing cards. We didn't know who we were with, we only knew they had good hearts, because they stopped for us.

As we pulled away, Thai merchants were yelling at us. They pointed to the left, 90 degrees to the road. They were trying to tell us we were going the wrong way, that the high hills weren't along the coast, but behind the main highway. The driver continued on.

We rode the breeze, looking out over the moonlit wasteland that once was 6000 hotel rooms, 8000 jobs. The wave they didn't know about snatched it all away. This time, was there a chance to be safe? Would everything rebuilt again be washed away?

We began to climb the hill to the volunteer center. We wondered if we should be asked to be let off, or just continue on with what we assumed was a Thai person inside. We figured whoever it was likely wouldn't want to stop again, but would know how high to go.

The truck turned in at the volunteer center. Loads of people were arriving. It turned out our rescuer was Ashok, a BBC documentarian, working on a film of Bang Naam Kem families. He immediately began asking for petrol, as the truck was on fumes, and he was thinking ahead.

People were asking around to account for everyone. "Have you seen Eli?" "What about the Canadian woman and her daughter, from our hotel? Have you seen them?" "I'm sure they're fine, they were drinking with the Thai guys out front, they would have taken them in the hotel truck."

The monkeys were nowhere to be found.

Inside, the TV was blaring a Thai news program. A woman was translating through a bullhorn for non-Thai. The mood was anxious, but not panicked. The volunteer center is on high ground, and the back of the property overlooks the water meters and meters below. Trying to remind everyone that the center was not troubled by the last wave, she called into the bullhorn, "Remember, this place used to be safe!"

We all laughed nervously at her English.

I went downstairs and dashed off a quick email and blog entry so you all would know I was all right. It was 12:06 when we heard the news, maybe a little before, and we were up the hill within 12 minutes, probably less.

People stood around, or sat, and chatted, or listened to the translation. Some monitored the AP wire via Yahoo and BBC. There were Thai families who worked in the center, Monty the tailor, the German drinker who had told us two nights ago he was staying through "To-morrow, morrow, morrow." There were reports that the ocean had gone way out, like the last time, but not as far. The moon was full only a few days ago, so tides would be high anyway.

Here's a bit from the official USGS tsunami bulletin:



Some candles were rounded up, just in case, some radios, and a printout of every volunteer's name circulated for check-in. There was a report of a second quake, "more Richters" than the first. Then it turned out that only was a correction about the initial quake. By 2:30 an all clear was issued, and people started heading back. I didn't feel right about it, and Eli really didn't, since she was in a room by herself. I told her she could stay with us, we'd figure out a place for her.

As Ashok and his reporting partner rounded us up, I decided, and so did Eli, not to go back to town. I didn't think I could sleep well on low, level, ground, especially knowing that the 100% all-clear wasn't until 8am. We thought our hotel wasn't harmed the last time, and we were on the second floor, but it didn't feel good to me. Moira went back. Dee, we thought, would head back.

I sacked out on a very hard bench to doze a bit around 4am, using my bag as a pillow. One of the dogs had taken the only short couch earlier, and no one had the heart to wake him. The tile floor turned out to be more comfortable, and I dozed until the vampire mosquitoes woke up and made sleeping impossible.

Today will be long on little sleep, and interesting.

Click here for a related story from a local perspective, written from our area.

Click here for a summary of what happened and speculation on further quakes along the same fault.

Posted by sedda at 03:58 PM

sumatra quake

midnite, moira got a call from a friend abt sumatra quake. we got out of our hotel and hitched back to vol cen via bbc jrnalist within 4 mins. vol cen not affected by earlier wave.

people are running like crazy from khao lak, motorscooters full speed, cars honking honking. we are on high ground. mood here is anxious. people calling coastal friends to warn. abt 2 wks ago an indonesian quake gave people a good scare, but that was during daytime. keeping on alert here.

Posted by sedda at 12:23 AM

March 10, 2005

Beanie Update and Thanks

Another word of thanks to teacher and knitter Susan Barth, who found a bargain at Target, and has donated 26 more beanie babies! This brings her total donation to 100! And that's 166 beanie babies in my suitcase -- which barely zips, by the way. That's 50 lbs of beanie babies, folks. Serious. Outstanding help for the Kamala kids!

Susan also cashed in another Staples Rewards certificate she earned as a teacher and added five more packs of colored pencils to the stash going to the kids. And, she's contributed 8 rolls of film for documenting the project! Thanks Susan!

Thanks extended also to Laura Harris, who has collected $60 in scrubbie donations and even offered to send the checks straight to UNICEF!

I also appreciate the efforts of Tnah, a mom from Silverlake, who brought by seven pairs of new and gently used boys' shoes for the Kamala kids. Thanks to her four boys for sending their shoes on to help other children!

And many thanks to all of you and your thoughtful hearts for donating more than $1000 in cash and scrubbie fundraising. The money can go a long, long way -- just $5 can buy school supplies for a child, or food for a week. Your generosity is going to help these kids grow, in so many positive ways.

Posted by sedda at 10:14 PM


Greg found my keys on the dining room table. About two layers down, under stuff that otherwise may not have been moved for weeks.

Posted by sedda at 07:56 PM

March 07, 2005

Beanie Update

Many thanks to high school teacher Susan Barth, who has donated 74 beanie babies and small toys for the kids of Kamala. This brings the grand total in my suitcase to 138 small stuffed animals! With the 50 that Shanti purchased and had sponsored, this is exactly enough for all of the students under age six at the school.

Susan also sponsored a school supply and sticker drive among her students at Fairfax High in LA. They collected a few hundred stickers, a bunch of pencils and pens, and one teacher donated 500 pens! (These are heavier than you might think.)

Thanks, too, to Whitney from the Knitzilla knitting circle, who also brought in a ton of stickers for the kids.

Susan additionally donated her hard-earned Staples teachers' rewards gift certificate for $20. With that coupon, and $11 from the donated fund, I'll be able to bring 13 packs of colored pencils and six sharpeners for kids.

Posted by sedda at 11:14 PM

March 05, 2005

Playground Balls + School supplies for Kamala Kids

Students and teachers at Fairfax High School are collecting school supplies -- like 500 pens -- to donate to the Kamala School, teacher-to-teacher and kid-to-kid. I love this community spirit! Thanks to science teacher (and pro knitter) Susan Barth for organizing the effort!

Baden Sports is donating 20 playground balls for the Kamala School! The catch is, there is a shipping cost of about $20 incurred to get them from Seattle to LA, then I will carry them on the plane (shipping to Thailand was $350!!) But perhaps someone will want to donate that cost?

I am so excited to be able to take sturdy kickballs to the kids so they can blow off some steam. Baden even will send a few pumps and needles to inflate the flattened balls. Thank you Baden Sports! (And thanks to Mary at 9th Street Elementary in Los Angeles, who helped me find the company that makes the best balls.)

Posted by sedda at 09:28 AM

March 04, 2005

Thailand Tidbits

The time difference to Thailand from LA is +15 hours. This means when it is 9pm tonight here in LA, it is noon tomorrow in Thailand. That is, until US daylight savings time kicks in on April 3rd. Then it will be +14 hours. Here is a clock converter to play with. Click here for the current time in Thailand.

A few common Thai customs:
•Squat toilets are common but western style is increasing. Toilet paper is rare - cleaning by left hand is normal. Flush with hand bucket.
•Do not touch others with your left hand as it is considered dirty - see above.
•It is quite insulting to touch a persons head, especially a child's. Don't do it.
•It is acceptable for a male to touch a monk, or hand things to a monk, but a woman should not does this.
•It is the sole of the foot that is offensive to Thai people. You should never sit in such a manner that the sole of the foot is exposed for all to see. Do not 'point' with your foot.

For more customs and tidbits, click continue below:

More customs:
•Ensure that your hands are visible at all times and not in your pockets
•In a theater or auditorium, the front row is reserved for monks and high-ranking officials.
•Touching a Buddha is perceived only as a sign of disrespect
•You should not walk in front of Thais praying in a temple.
•Tipping Not customary. Except porters, and at high class hotels & restaurants.

Some common Thai foods:
•Pat Thai (fried noodle), •Tom Yam (hot, spicy, lemon soup),
•Yam neua (hot beef salad) •Kluay buat chii (banana in coconut milk)
•Khaaw niaw mamuang (sticky rice & mango) •Kluay tort (fried bananas)
•Drink - recommended fruit juices.
•Fruit - recommended Durian, Rambutan, Mango, Papaya, Water melon, Mangosteen, Custard apple, Pineapple, Star apple, Lychee, Jackfruit

Some pricing...things may have changed a bit, this was compiled in 2001. Today the rate is 38.45 bht/$. As everywhere, they make their money off the beer!
•Room from: single80+B, double100+B, a/c d300B
•Noodles: 20B (about 50cents)
•Meal: 40B, Big Mac 59B(set 104B) •breakfast(Cont.)50B, breakfast(Ame.)50B
•coffee(instant) 15B, coffee(real) 35B, Starbucks grande 80B (less than $1 for coffee, but $2 for Starbucks)
•Mineral Water(1 liter) 5-20B
•beer 45-65B, Coke 7-20 B
•toilet paper 6B (see customs, above) (!)
•Ice cream 5+B, T-shirt: 90B+, postcard 3-5B

The country code is 66. Calling back to the States seems really complicated. I've found calling cards from here with convoluted rate scales...basically you can buy a 100 min card (or whatever) then for Thailand the conversion is 8/1, meaning 8 mins on that card=1 US min. So say you get the 100 min card for $10, you are getting 12.5 mins to talk to home from Thailand, which is 80 cents/min. But you have to do all that math to figure out if the card is a good deal -- and every card has a different conversion rate. Oh yeah -- and if you call a cell phone the rates are times three, and if you call from a payphone, there is a two-minute surcharge. So now you're up to $1/min on a 10min card. And yes, that *is* AT&T. Oy. There are prepaid cards in BKK (Bangkok) that are more in the neighborhood of 50 cents/min, I'll probably try that....Internet cafes are supposed to be pretty common, you can get access for about $1.60/hour. I'm hoping that will allow me to update this site!

Posted by sedda at 08:36 AM

March 03, 2005

Beanie update

We've collected 64 beanie babies for the Kamala Kids from Los Angeles area donors Karyn, Judy C. and Taylor B.! A bit shy of the 347 for the entire upper school, but there are still a couple of days left! If you have some you'd like to send in or bring over, please contact us (snail mail address in a previous recent post) at scrubbie[at] rain circle (dot)com. We're also collecting stickers for the kids. We leave in a week!

Posted by sedda at 09:07 PM

Maps of Thailand

Feeling geographically challenged? Here are some maps to help out. Thailand is long and thin, with a long peninsula between the Andaman Sea to the West and the Gulf of Thailand to the East.

Phuket Provence, including Phuket and Kata Beach/Kata Centre, Kamala. More Phuket maps here. Tik and Neal are in Kata Centre. The kids and monks we are helping are in Kamala. Here is Tik+Neil's website.
Phang-Nga Provence, north of Phuket Provence, including Khao Lak.
Krabi Provence, including Ao Nang, the islands of Ko Phi Phi (say it "pi pi"), Ko Lanta in the Andaman Sea. Shanti's diver friends Saffron+Darryl are in Ko Lanta. Pon is in a remote corner of Ko Phi Phi.
Bangkok, including Sukhumvit neighborhood. More nice Bangkok maps here.
Thailand, South Thailand

I think using www.athailand.com you may be able to search on the map for popular hotels and destinations as well.

Posted by sedda at 08:46 AM

March 01, 2005

Find the open road

Jane Smiley, a Pulitzer-winning novelist, has an interview posted deep in the archives of RoadTripNation.com (requires Flash 6+ for the megacool intro page). My friend David found it and passed it along today.

RTN:Do you have any final words of wisdom for people like us who are trying to find their roads in life?

Jane: The people I know, who didn't follow their own desires, ended up sort of lost and confused. Even if they were successful, they ended up lost and confused in their late 40s and early 50s. They were left wondering who they were - not just wondering whether they enjoyed their lives, but also wondering who they were. That is a very difficult way to spend your life, especially your later life - not knowing who you are and wondering if you wasted your time and energy. So I would say, even if people say, "No, you don't have any talent" or "No, you should not do that because you won't earn any money", I say go ahead and do it. Do it with your whole commitment. Do it knowing that you're the one that wants to do it - it's your choice and your responsibility.

Posted by sedda at 11:34 AM