Thursday, December 30, 2004

SURVIVING THE TSUNAMI - Part 10 "And there are no dogs"

SURVIVING A TSUNAMI – Part 10 – “And there are no dogs”

Thursday, December 30, 2004

It is Thursday morning here in Asia.

As the sunrises all over Asia – mornings are unpleasant. In the days before the waves, eager earlybirds would rise to take their morning stroll along the beach. The sun would be rising and the air still cool. The souvineer sellers would not have made their ways to the beach to try to sell you things – and so you could stroll along and glaze sleepily out to see – wondering about the countries on the other side of the ocean. What were the waking to in India. Sri Lanka. Indonesia. Maldives.

But now – every place – every beach across that water is the same. And it is not good.

Each morning is a clean up process. In the night, what water washes up its collection. And instead of tangled seaweed or shells – it is bodies. And debris. Going for a stroll now brings anxiety – and images of bloated blue or green bodies that no one wants to see.

Each morning not only brings debris of the ocean – but also a debris of memory. A million people across Asia go to bed each night – not believing what has just happened to them. With the death toll nearing the 100,000 mark, everyone seems to know of someone who is missing or who has died.

Who feels it the worst? Is it even fair to ask? Is it the spouse who woke that morning and took it for granted that they would go to bed together again in the night? Is it the parents who trusted that their kids would be ok away from home – living far away on a beach resort? Or could it be the parents of all the children. So many parents grieve here in Asia – recounting the horrible thing that happened. “I tried to grab on to my children. I held them as tight as I could, but the water was just so strong. I had to use one arm to try to grab on to something – and then the water just took my baby away….it just took her way.”


These days – I ask myself, “Rick – why are you even writing about this? You didn’t really suffer. You saw the whole thing. You felt the emotion. You listened. And sure – you were scared – but for you – life goes on. Why do you have a write to act as this affected you?”

I don’t know if I have a right. But for me – writing is a way of telling what is flashing in my mind.

It is like the debris that is washed up on the beach. As I try to go about my days here in Singapore – a new thought will “wash up” in my mind. It will lay on my beach until I pick it up and do something with it. And so the writing helps me to record it – wrap it up – and lay it away with the rest.

And each morning – when I wake, there are so many little things that I am reminded of. Things that were small items in the moment – but like the bodies that wash up on the beach – they lie there, waiting to be taken away.


This was my fourth time to Phuket. Thailand is a favorite place to go – and so each year, during my last five years of living in Asia, I would either manage to get their for a business meeting or a long weekend holiday.

One of the memories I had of Phuket were all the dogs. In many of the beach resorts, there are a lot of stray dogs. They run around in packs. The Thai people have a friendliness to animals – and would never consider “erasing” the population. As long as the dogs are harmless – what would it matter if they ran around.

Each morning – you could see packs of dogs playing down on the beach. They would run around chasing each other – playing doggy versions of tag and king on the hill. In the morning, they would run along the beach road, looking for scraps of food or handouts from willing tourists. Many looked the same – a kind of mongrel breed that over times, looks like a mix between many medium size dogs.

But now – there are no more dogs. Each morning, with the bodies of people also come bodies of dogs. As they clean up the destruction, and bring out body bags of people – they also bring out dogs. They are placed in plastic bags, and thrown in to special vehicles. They can’t exactly haul them away with the garbage, as the rotting flesh will also cause disease. But they also don’t have a morgue the mongrels.

On the morning of the wave, most likely were able to keep their heads about the water when the first swell came in. Dogs have a way of being able to swim. But when the second, more churning wave came, they also would have been trashed about – and eventually all dragged back in to the ocean.

So many people talk about this “dragged back” feeling. Again, most of the two hundred people in Phuket (plus hundreds more who are missing) who have been found dead so far, have washed up on the beach. Most survived the first moments, when the water was coming in. But with 15 feet of water – and such a strong current, when the waves each time receeded, they retreated with such strong force that everything that was not tied down was sucked back with them. Many people talking of having their friend or lover or child pulled out of their hands and taken away for ever.

Despite the clean up efforts, no one want to “go” to the beech now. “Come back to Phuket” the tour agencies are starting to write. We are getting back to normal. But the beeches are not normal. You don’t want to lay in the sun there. You won’t know what will wash up. Or even worse, as many still feel, “when will the next wave come. Don’t close your eyes – because the water might once again disappear – you might fall asleep – and never know it.”

The beach is quiet each morning. Few people walking along. Only those with bandanas around their mouths – as they are searching for bodies.

And there are no dogs.


At 4:03 AM, Blogger Jille said...

How amazing that none of the wildlife apparently died, but the dogs did.
Perhaps, they've become so domesticated, so much a human companion that they've lost the sixth sense that enables the wildlife to escape

At 6:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just reading your blog from a link from Wikipedia~
Concerning feeling guilty~how can life go on?
You were in the immediate path of a huge natural disaster. It reached out and touched you. You saw devestation and carnage: a war really. Life doesn't go on. It stops and it's never quite the same.
Keep writing: these accounts are what we need to hear for those of us who may be too complacent like some of the tourists you wrote about.
And writing is dealing....

At 11:59 AM, Blogger Lorianne said...

Thank you so much Rick for all of your thoughts and informative posts regarding this catastrophe. As I sit here in America, pouring over news-sites, trying to find more information on the damage, and recovery of the afflicted areas, it's nice to see someone actually reporting it without an editor looking over their shoulder. Thanks again.

At 1:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Survivor traumatic stress...who knows? Your life has changed forever. You gave an excellent account of what you saw in a very timely manner. You are an excellent writer. I think these things involve so many senses that it is hghly unlikely that you are going to be unaffected. I know that I really appreciate your honesty.

God Bless your work. Thank you for writing. Sande Bruggeman, Rochester, MN

At 4:33 PM, Blogger M.J.S. said...

You have been doing what your spirit was meant to do.
By not just telling the facts but making the reader see,smell,
hear and feel the reality.
Someday there maybe one that has read your recollections snd finds
they are in the same path you faced. They survive because something you said
clicked and made the difference.
You have no idea the impact you are making by FEELIN COMPASSION openly.
A rarity these days.
Please continue being a willing spirit. You have made a difference to the world.

At 3:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your survival is a gift and the feelings you are experiencing are a natural reaction to the traumatic experience you have survived. In writing and talking you will be able to help yourself and others.
Don't give up, especially after so many others never had the chance.

At 4:20 AM, Blogger Corinna Hasofferett said...

Many thanks. Your writing is most important, and touching.
From Tel-Aviv, here are some of my thoughts:
with warm regards,

At 4:21 AM, Blogger Corinna Hasofferett said...

Many thanks. Your writing is most important, and touching.
From Tel-Aviv, here are some of my thoughts:
with warm regards,

At 4:21 AM, Blogger Corinna Hasofferett said...

Many thanks. Your writing is most important, and touching.
From Tel-Aviv, here are some of my thoughts:
with warm regards,

At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Lana:

My gosh, of course you have the "right" to write about your experiences, and thank goodness you can and do. I'm sure that there are other people out there who have gone through something similar -- a tragedy of sorts -- and can relate to what you are writing about. I've never been through a natural disaster that was this bad, but I can still empathize with what you are writing. I can still say, "yes -- this is so overwhelming to the mind, body and spirit."

Perhaps your writing will serve as the best catharsis for you -- you have witnessed one of the most devastating disasters in history. If would be unusual to me if you weren't experiencing many of the feelings and reactions that you are having. Like someone already said -- survivor guilt. . . . that's normal. Personally, I'm glad that you survived and are here to tell us about it. Although you write about an event that caused so much death, you write with life in your words and that is a gift to us all....

Thanks for writing.

At 5:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

finally a debunking of that ridiculous myth that no animals died in the tsunami. Cute furry animals died just like people, 6th sense and all.

At 3:41 AM, Blogger Cal the Wonderdog said...

Thanks Rick for posting your insight and views of this disaster. I've been searching for information on what became of dogs and cats and other animals during and after the events. Though humans come first in any accounting for search, rescue, and basic infrastructure concerns, it is also of great interest to me to hear about the other animals and how they are faring in the weeks after the disaster.

Thanks again,
Cal the Wonderdog

At 12:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well nice try.....

The dogs survived the Tsunami 2004 because they took off uphill many moments before the people on the beach even thought of leaving it. All the usual stray dogs have returned now.

I know because I live in Patong Beach

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