Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bangkok Flooding - an alternate view

The flooding in Thailand and Bangkok is apparently not big news in the states but here though it is the only thing worth reporting and the TV news is now exclusively flood related. The crisis is definitely not over and the situation will probably get much, much worse before it gets better. Even after the water recedes, in a few weeks or months, there will be a multitude of problems to deal with. There are abandoned cars and motos everywhere, there is also uncollected garbage everywhere. The potential for waterborne disease is extremely high. Consider this: the greater Bangkok area contains approximately 15 million people and since the water rose many of those people have toilets that no longer flush. Many areas have had chest high water levels for upwards of 3 weeks. Some Thais, trying always to be cheerful, are playing in this water and allowing their kids to play in it. This article is about the irrepressible Thai optimism that many, including me, find so special and intriguing. Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles by travelers and residents alike. That appellation is not without justification as you'll see.

A couple of weeks ago I emailed to many of you a collection of photos that illustrated the flooding situation in a very dramatic way. Today I present a few more photos to demonstrate that Thai optimism. The photos are screen shots I took last night of TV interviews done by Thai commercial TV reporters of flood victims (November 07, 2011). They present a picture of Thai culture that other news sources probably do not. Remember, these are people who are being interviewed outside of their flooded homes, their flooded markets and places of work -- flood victims. I was struck by how many times the interviewees smiled during the conversations. We have watched a ton of flood coverage and these portraits are quite typical.

And just a few more smiling victims ...

Market scene - notice the vendor at right - he's smiling

Her car is stuck in the water and she's smiling

I find this tendency to put the best face on everything amazing and admirable. It has drawbacks though. Thais sometimes do not face a problem head on but deflect it with a smile or a little white lie. In the current situation some say the government officials are doing this instead of facing and solving the problem at hand. But hell, our government tells us little white lies too. All the time. If you stop and think about it some of those lies weren't so little nor were they very "white". Just sayin'

Nut and I are currently in Chiang Mai motorcycling and enjoying the balmy, dry weather. I don't know when we'll be able to go back to Bangkok. Our place is still dry and has so far miraculously escaped flooding. But there are still mega-cubic meters of water trapped north of the city that have yet to reach the ocean.

At least the rain has stopped. That's something.