Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Developed World Really meets Developing World

So dear friends, it’s been awhile. As you may or may not have gathered, a third of the country I am an expatriate in is underwater of varying degrees. Over one hundred industrial plants, many of them Japanese, are underwater, several of them will be completely unrecoverable. Not only is that a major blow to industry, it’s put a lot of Thais out of work and is going to hit the Thai economy really, really hard when all the damage is tallied up, especially as companies relocate to drier pastures.

The flooding began in July. Monsoon rains occur every year. Yes, we’ve had more rain this year, but there is so, so much more to it than that. So much more that I could write a doctoral thesis about it, but I’m really not that committed to the subject and I do enjoy this country enough that I want to be able to return. Instead of speculating or delving too deep into politics, allow me to tell you about my day, because it was ridiculous, and those make the best stories.

This morning my dear friend Liz, visiting from California, and I got up with the mission of finding bottled water and other staples. I have photos of the empty shelves at my 7/11. Updating photos has gotten pushed so far back, well, it’s just going to have to wait. So, mission for breakfast and water. We enjoyed western food at Ricky’s, a restaurant that wants to be Mexican, has Chinese décor and serves up Western breakfast. The owner was running out of supplies, and it going back home tomorrow because her mother is worried. With food supplies running low for the kitchen, why run a restaurant business in a semi flooded area any way?

After breakfast we noticed a truck unloading at 7/11. “Dude! Seven’s got a delivery, and they’ve got water bottles!” Liz and I make a beeline along with the rest of the mad dash. We score quite well. Eighteen 1-liters, and a smaller pack of ½ liter bottles. We schlep our booty home.

Now here’s where things get interesting. We discussed buying books to take to the flood victims’ makeshift classroom my colleague set up; but we didn’t get to that yet. Instead we head for Siam Paragon, because Liz had yet to see that, and after our slightly shaky ferry boat experiences going to and from Koh Samet, we needed some retail therapy. So we hailed a cab (the streets by us were dry at this point, unlike last night, by the way) and went to the mall. I showed off Gourmet Mart. I showed off Kinokuniya. And here’s where our real departure from the reality of the flood crisis all around us comes in.

We went upstairs, and I began the first session of having my underarm hair laser treated, while Liz got a manicure with Chanel nail polish. Yes, go ahead and read that line again. I could sit here and justify myself for a long time, and I will in fact mention the pain and the tech telling me she’d never had to turn the laser up that high before, “for Thai people lower number ok.” I did appreciate she just called to make sure the redness has faded. But really, I decided of all the things I’d throw money at, avoiding the pain of ingrown armpit hair is a noble goal. And it’s been a problem since age 14. OK, I did a little justifying there.

We then proceeded back downstairs, ate sushi bento sets, and stocked up on provisions in Gourmet Mart. The Pocari Sweat we’d double checked was available prior to our beauty pampering had magically disappeared and been restocked with the generic stuff. Those bastards! Right, flood crisis, it’s my own fault my underarms are throbbing, and I’m a spoiled white girl.

Rubber shoes were such a good investment. At this point, we’ve got to go back to spot where my second cell phone was stolen and see if we can persuade anyone to take us back to flood zone, as we’ve discovered my area turns into at night, like a werewolf or something. I agree to the exorbitant 200 baht tuk-tuk fee, because I’ve stood waiting for anyone to take me at that junction for over an hour and a half in normal weather. He balks at the barricades and doesn’t understand my directions to go around, which, granted I really should learn in Thai…so then we catch a bus, as police direct traffic through the barricade any way, and hoofed it in ankle to mid calf deep water until we hit a dry portion of Soi 4, and then back through more water by my apartment. The tailors always hawking suits and dresses offered to make us waterproof dresses. It was some much needed levity for all of us.

And then we came home, where I took a beer out of the fridge to make room for water, Liz started playing Civ on her iPhone, and I began composing this blog post while drinking said beer.

Welcome to my day of privilege and deprivation clash.

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