Surrealtor Survives Tsunami: emails from after


December 26, 2004 4:48 AM

Dear Darlings,

Just writing this to some folks who know i am in thailand and may hear that there was an earthquake off the coast of indonesia and tidal waves in southeast asia. i am fine. if you know of other people who know i am here, please let them know i am fine. a little adrenalized, but fine.

i am at ao nang beach, in krabi province, in a smallish beach town on the andaman sea in southwest thailand. i was at the beach this morning, reading, and suddenly the thai women at the beach start yelling and pointing at the water. telling people to get out of the water and RUN!!!!!!!!! i didn't understand what was happening. at first i thought there was a shark or something. i couldn't get it. then they started yelling "BIG WATER!!!" and i saw a line of white water in the distance. now i know how i'll do in an emergency. at first i thought, well that doesn't look so bad. then again, i was 10 yards from the water. so i got afraid, but more a shot of adrenaline. but i wasn't sure what to do. all around me people were yelling RUN. there i am in my bathing suit, no shoes. yeesh. what do i bring? how much time will i spend putting my clothes in my knapsack? i put my tevas on, pull a sarong around me and started walking fast. i took my knapsack, but left my beach mat and water. the thais were pointing to a dirt road, so I went. i couldn't run, my legs were too trembly. a group of us walked 20 yards, but it was actually lower ground. so then i start thinking again. there was pandemonium around me. there was a guy driving toward the beach in a pickup truck and the thai women told him to turn around. so i asked if we could jump in the truck. he said yeah and a bunch of people jumped in and he took off and drove us a bit away and up a hill. then he went back to get more people. i heard that everything happened in minutes. i called kathy right after and she went on line and gave me the picture, initially. there were tons of rumors about what had caused it.

so, personally, i experienced my first tsunami and it went as well as it could go. the electricity came on a while ago, and the bbc said there was a very large undersea earthquake, 8.9, that triggered tidal waves throughout southeast asia. where i am, aside from the larger stuff on the bbc, good information is hard to come by. here, i have heard that a number of people couldn't get off the beach in time. plus, there are a lot of young men who run putt-putt long boats to various islands nearby, and lots of people were swimming and local fisherpeople. basically, it is the absolute height of the tourist season in asia and everyone and everything that could be near the beach is. i heard that a number of people died or are missing here - thais and tourists. big, the guy who owns the guest house where i am staying, gave his truck to bring people to the hospital. and there are a lot of people looking for people or in shock. i saw a family sitting on the ground up a hill. they hadn't been able to get off the beach. they ran up a set of stairs on a different part of the beach from where i was, but the wave came up at least 20 feet to reach them and knock them over and they were all scraped up and in shock. luckily i had all the possible medical supplies because of my up the down escalator foot wound in florida right before i came. and my friend margot patched me up, (thank you, margot) so i had the nursing thing down.

i heard that all over asia, india, sri lanka, other areas in thailand were hit much harder. and it is very fortunate, i think, that the earthquake didn't hit land or the casualties would have been much worse. but i'm afraid that many people have died or been injured. i am very sorry for them and their families. and i feel extremely fortunate for my own personal well-being.

i have been to the beach and there is some damage. at various times they evacuate areas if they are expecting an aftershock, but nothing much has happened for several hours. i am staying a half a block up the hill from the beach and i'm safe.

thanks for taking the time to read this. i didn't want you to worry. and thanks for letting me express some of this. i am still in a rush of energy, on alert. i'm not sure what i will do over the next days. i am due to leave here on jan 1, then go to fast for 10 days, then to a retreat in a monastery. they are on the other side of the long tail in thailand from where i am.

i send my best to you. hope your holidays have been peaceful and safe.




December 31, 2004 6:47 AM

hey darlings,

sorry to send another group email, but i've heard from several people and through several people that they are concerned about me. i just want to let you know that i am fine. don't worry. there is good infrastructure here. there is plenty of food. plenty of water. plenty of everything. where i am was hit with a glancing blow, relative to other areas, even a few miles away. and i am at a beach attached to the mainland, not on an island. the beach here in ao nang is more protected and with much less development right on the beach in comparison to say phuket or phi phi islands or khao lak in phang nga here in thailand. there has been loss of life and damage to property, but not on the scale of the massive devastation elsewhere. the army was here the next day and for days long boats and government boats brought people and bodies back from islands and beaches, water and even rocks. i've been moved hearing and reading of heart-breaking stories of loss and tales of miraculous survival. i am in an internetish cafe and the tv news in thai is on in the background and it is filled with western people appealing for help in finding people.

i went to the hospital 30 mins away in krabi with two thai friends. we brought a bunch of food because there was an issue with a lot of westerners who could not eat the food that the thai's eat. we also offered help and blood, but it was not coordinated enough. then they brought me to a buddhist temple to make offerings and donations, where they are collecting the bodies and making coffins and trying to identify people. i won't go into it here.

the day after the waves, i went back to the place where i had been sitting before the wave. the water went way beyond where i had been. i found the women who started yelling for people to get out of the water. i asked them how they knew what it was, because i just would not have recognized it or understood until it was much closer. one woman said that her cousin was in phuket and called her on her cell phone and told her that a wave just came and everything was gone. so she just started yelling. and i think she may have saved a number of lives. there are millions of stories of close calls and heroic efforts and generosity. especially by the thai people.

i am still planning, for now, to stick with my original itinerary. i'm supposed to leave here tomorrow, jan 1st and go to the east coast to fast and retreat. and i think i will, if it is not a problem to get there. i will be back in the states on feb 1.

i think i'm fine, emotionally. it is hard to take in the enormity of it. i think i was adrenalized for 3 days after. yesterday or the day before, i had my first good cry. so many people. so many people. my heart goes out especially to the people of aceh and sri lanka where the aftereffects of this are compounded and dangerous.

i appreciate very much all the care and concern for my safety and well-being. emails, words passed through friends. feel free to send more good vibes. but don't worry for me. i am okay. i really am. send money to a good relief organization.

i send my love. and wishing you a safe and peaceful new year.