Six hours and a world away from the current struggles of Bangkok, I allow the beach life to consume me. Just hours before, I was amongst the water, the people, the loss—the reality that has engulfed so many Thai lives—so many Bangkokians. I felt connected in those moments—connected to the severity of the loss and destruction, and connected to the depth of the Thai spirit. That unwavering “mai pen rai” that guides them to smile, to laugh, to remain calm in the face of danger, sadness, and destruction. Just hours before, I was going to it. going to the flood, to the sandhills, to the shelters—and, as I boarded the Laem Ngop bound bus, I couldn’t fight the feeling that I was now running from it. Running from the city that I call home, running from Gat, my neighbor who, only days before, had assured me “mai dong glooa—don’t be scared, I’ll make you food and paddle it over in a boat if the floods come.” Running from the people that have become a part of my everyday life. But, as the uncertainties in Bangkok grew with each long day, I knew that, for my own sanity, I had to get away. Partly because my one week holiday had unexpectantly been extended by two weeks after a Ministry of Education emergency meeting, partly because I knew my family wouldn’t have peace of mind with me living amongst the chaos that Bangkok has, once again, become, and, partly because my own selfishness didn’t want to have another sleepless night of waiting. Waiting for whatever it was that was going to happen. Waiting to see if my small flood supply of food and water would prove me over prepared or under prepared. Waiting to see if the sandbag walls would hold. Just…Waiting.
Far from Bangkok, far from the empty grocery shelves, the lagging water supply, far from the fear of having even another drop of rain and far from the news that most people in Bangkok have allowed to run their lives, the serenity has finally started to calm my worried mind and heavy heart. I’ve allowed myself to tune out a little, knowing that there isn’t much I can do from here and knowing that a bit of serenity can go a long way. I’ve already fallen into a great beach life routine and, the (very) basic hut that I was hesitant to go into on the first night, has become a bit of a haven for me. It’s the simple life that always takes a little getting used to but, once in place, fuels something in me that I can’t quite explain. I love waking with the sun, sweeping my hut and hand washing my pillowcase (this makes the very basic hut smell a little less so when I lay my head down at night!) before taking off on an early morning swim. Like clockwork, Arisa, the little Cambodian baby that I have come to love already (shocking!), greets me right after my swim and just before her morning feeding. I get lots of smiles and cuddles while mom finishes some chores around the huts. The morning passes peacefully with lots of reading, reflecting, meditating, and writing---all with the sound of the waves in my ear. By the time midday arrives, I join my friends, who are staying less than 20 paces up the beach, and I get lost in their company for the rest of the day and night. It’s all a bit perfect, really—and offers a sharp contradiction to the way things are in Bangkok. Things are far from perfect there, and, although I have allowed myself a bit of peace and serenity here, a big part of my heart is still there. Fighting with them, hoping with them, urging them to hold on. This too shall pass and when it does, I know this country will pull together to pick up the broken pieces that remain after the waters have swept away too much.