The House of Random Crap
A clearinghouse for my crazed, deviant, trivial, irreverant & occasionally reflective thoughts.

Saturday, February 26, 2005  

Sometimes I get so busy with work that I just can't find the time to give you the attention you deserve. I know that I don't always tell you what's going on in my life, or that I would rather watch TV or spend time with friends than spend some quiet time with you, catching up and swapping stories. I know that this is a long term commitment, and a relationship as deep as ours requires work and dedication and constant care & attention. When I get back next week from my business trip to Manila, I promise I'll be more attentive and try not to be neglectful.

Just know, my dear blog site, that I care about you, even if I don't always show it.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 11:20 PM |

Tuesday, February 08, 2005  

Let's talk about something else other than the tsunami, shall we?

For starters, I just bought a new cell phone. Nothing was actually wrong with my current one, the Sony Ericsson T610. Actually, let me qualify that statement: there was nothing mechanically wrong with it. The problem was that I had a tendency to forget to lock the keypad, so when it would jostle around in my pants pocket, I would frequently call people on my phone list accidentally. Aside from being extremely inconvenient (and no doubt annoying for my friends), it would get a bit pricey when those calls were to Hong Kong or Singapore.

I didn't have a problem with my clam-shell style Motorola V66, or my Nokia 8890 with the sliding cover for the keypad, but the candy bar style Sony with the exposed keys has proven to be a source of minor but continuous annoyance. So after a few days of browsing and Internet research, I settled on another clam-shell: the Samsung P510. Since I just got it a few hours ago, I have yet to really play around with it, but if it sucks, you'll no doubt be hearing from me in a future post.

This past weekend, Nicha and I went to see the film version of Phantom of the Opera. Why there has been little to no buzz about the film anbd decidedly mixed reviews, we both loved it. It was an almost word for word adaptation from the the stage version, but I think we both appreciated that. The sets were sumptious, the singing and acting were magnificent (Emmy Rossum as Christine really impressed, and Minnie Driver as Carlotta really entertained), and we were particularly wowed with the special effects at the beginning scene transitions. It's hard to put in the words, and it's better seen than heard. Since Nicha and I have practically memorized the entire London Cast Recording of Phantom, she caught herself mouthing the words to all the songs, and I was mouthing all the words to the dialogue. I was just as entertained watching the two of us as I was watching the movie.

Also, I caught the flu this weekend. That sucked.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 4:54 PM |

Monday, February 07, 2005  

Phuket Disaster Relief: Day 4 and Aftermath

It’s bad enough to be woken at 3:30 in the morning by an SMS message. It’s quite another when it’s a reprimand by the police. Though it was unsigned, I knew that the mass message was from the tourist police lieutenant we tangled with not more than 6 hours beforehand. I didn’t keep the message, but I can paraphrase it. In a nutshell, it said: “If you’re a volunteer, don’t bother showing up at the temple in the morning. You’re not welcome here. Bugger off.”

It wasn’t easy getting a good night’s sleep after that. Off the five team members that remained, I had been in Phuket for the least amount of time. But after three days of 2-hour commutes, working with innumerable corpses, and bearing witness to unspeakable devastation, I was on a razor’s edge, both physically and emotionally. Every night was an exercise in steeling my courage for the next day, and that SMS was like a pin prick in the balloon. My resolve had cratered.

I had spent the night trying to assess whether it would be worth it to head to Yanyao Temple the next morning. I could deal with the corpses if I needed to. I really could. But to spent another two hours in the car, mentally preparing myself for the ordeal, and then be turned away at the temple doorstep would be too much for my weathered psyche to handle. On the other hand, if I left early only to discover later that volunteers were allowed into the temple, I would certainly feel guilty at letting one more available day of work go to waste. By the time the team gathered in the morning, I and one of the others had decided to pack it in. That was that.

I was left with two indelible images as I made my way back to Bangkok. The first was the ride to Phuket’s airport. Friend & teammate Annie and I were in the back of the pick-up-turned-taxi when we saw a street-side vendor selling clothing at rock-bottom prices. While these kinds of vendors are typical of Bangkok’s tourist magnets, there was one disturbing difference with this particular vendor: the clothes being peddled were taken from the city hall relief stations by unscrupulous bastards and resold for personal gain. It only served to remind me that natural catastrophes not only bring out the best in people, but also the worst. If I wasn’t already leaving on a down note, seeing that profiteer definitely tipped the scales. The second image was that of the many Muslims at the airport waiting to embark on their Hajj, their once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca. Amidst all the devastation, it was inspiring to see people find strength in their faith, even if I was never a religious person myself.

It’s been just over a month now since my Phuket experience. It seems like a lifetime ago. To be honest, were it not for these blogs and for the radio interview, it would be nothing more than a faded memory on the fringes of my consciousness. I spent my first few days back in a depressive lull, compounded with the sense of guilt and inadequacy I felt after learning that not only were volunteers permitted to enter the temple grounds, but also that superstar forensics scientist Dr. Pornthip was desperate for every able-bodied volunteer willing to work with corpses. It was depressing to see her continue to fight the turf wars that plagued her work over the next few weeks, to see the Prime Minister’s ridiculous media posturing (e.g. turning away financial aid while villagers struggle to reassemble their lives, or Thailand jockeying for the prestige associated with being a regional tsunami warning center), to see a childishly indignant U.S. self-promote it’s “look at me” brand of charitable giving, to see has-been celebrities such as Ricky Martin make ridiculous headline-grabbing goodwill tours to disaster regions in an attempt to revive flagging careers. “We Are the World” was a god-awful song the first time around, and now the world will be subjected to it a second time around for tsunami relief by a group of pop stars half of whom probably couldn’t point out Asia on a globe. MTV’s Asia music awards shrouds itself in the noble sheen of disaster aid, performed in front of a throng of screaming teenybopper fans who could give a rat’s ass about a bunch (i.e. few hundred thousand) dead people they don’t know. Nowadays, you’d be lucky to find more than one tsunami-related story (if that many) from major news websites such as CNN and BBC. With the Thai general elections, the U.S. State of the Union Address, and the Superbowl, how can something like the largest natural catastrophe in modern history compete?

There are days when I’m not sure I want to remember the sights and smells of the new year, and others when I want to flog myself with them, leaving a permanent mental scar of the experience. I am contemplating joining my new friends on a series of visits down south to help villagers repair their fishing boats, an experience that will not only be more emotionally palatable than the body work, but also give me a better sense of closure than my guilt-ridden ride to the airport. Until that happens, I’ll pretty much be closing the book on what has been a life-altering experience for me, one that no doubt ushered in a year I’ll not soon forget.

posted by someone bearing a striking resemblance to Paul | 11:35 PM |
thai mafioso
nomads in siam
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