On Saturday, I wandered around the town and explored a little more. Went to the area to northern part of the town and saw the devastation done to the coral reefs. Large and small chunks of the reef were shrewn all over the beach. I walked into the town and met a number of people in the shops, who were again willing to share their experience of the tsunami. Some were heartbreaking stories, such as the elderly neighbors who couldn’t outrun the waves and were lost. People spoke of loosing everything they had, except their lives. Many had lost family members and friends. Even one of the king’s grandsons who was visiting the area was killed in the tsunami. The waves neither know nor respect levels of wealth, age or class.
In my wanderings, I found the Tsunami Volunteer Center. It was too bad that I arrived so late to the area to work with the Peace Corps group due to New York’s school schedule. Not much happening there on a Saturday, but I did manage to spend some time with some volunteers who were teaching English in area schools. Quite a few of them had never taught before, or hadn’t taught EFL (English as a Foreign Language). So I was only too happy to spend some time with them working up lesson plans on the concepts of time and directions. Also worked on the limited Internet service to show them some Web sites that might be of some help in planning their lessons. As I was walking back to the hotel that evening, I was caught in a strong downpour! Good thing I always travel with a spare umbrella as the one I had with me was destroyed in the strong wind and rain. I was totally soaked by the time I got back to the hotel, but it actually felt very refreshing!
I spent Sunday visiting the reconstruction sites at Ban Bang Sak and Ban Bang Khem, located north of Khao Lak. I met a German couple working with a German foundation that was providing the fishermen in the area wood and the assistance to rebuilt their fishing boats. A great couple who really seemed to know their stuff! At Ban Bang Sak, I toured the new complex of the school that is being built there complete with dormitories. It really is a large undertaking. It was pictures of this school that I downloaded to make the posters for the fundraiser at Covert Avenue School in Elmont that raised over $4,000. The students were sent to Pangnga and other areas till the construction is completed, possibly by December. A teacher at the school, Khun Lakda, told me that a lot of the orphans from the area were placed with local families.
Next up, was Ban Bang Khem which was well on its way to reconstruction. The same story is told here by the locals—- of death and destruction. Whole villages wiped away. Six killed here, nine in another. One woman told me the wave was as high at the coconut tree— about thirty to forty feet. I asked them if they were afraid to live there now. Nearly all answered in the affirmative, but didn’t know what they would do and where they would go. You understand just how tied to the land they are in that they refer to the place they live as the house they were in when the tsunami hit. While the house itself was pulverized, they still interchangably refer to “house” and “property” as “baan.” Their families had lived off the sea and in that area for generations. Where else would they go? What else would they do?
I visited one area where they were rebuilding their boats. It was so interesting seeing the process of contructing these vessels all by hand by these master craftsmen.
I spent my last evening in Pangnga sitting on the verandah of hotel just looking out to sea watching that one last sunset.