31 October 2011

Knee-Deep in the Shit

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Saturday 29 October: Last night the floodwater was ankle-deep in our first floor (i.e., ground floor) living quarters, but we still slept in our bed there anyway, too exhausted to move anything more. All of that brutal sandbag work was in vain, except that it stopped some of the more scary critters from coming in the house.
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We woke up to floodwater a bit higher and the promise of more on the weekend. All levees of ours failed – there is just too much water. It is incredible. We waded through the wreckage trying to take it all in. The first floor is up to the knee now in filthy water, and even higher out in the courtyard, and we cannot bathe properly. Considering the sometimes primitive sewage systems here, one doesn’t like to think too vividly about how filthy it is. This experience gives the old expression about “being knee-deep in the shit” a very personal meaning.
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Morning priorities:
1. Get cleaner tap water running to the upstairs toilet area which has a toilet and a bathing room (a 2nd floor open area that we will have to share with parents-in-law next door since both their downstairs toilet out back and ours in our quarters are swamped).
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2. Knock a hole in the floor of the 2nd floor room above us in order to connect us with two rooms directly above. The old stairway from 1st to 2nd had been sealed off for decades above a little loft that Tuk uses for storage. The parents live in a similar loft in their half of the building with a hallway running beneath to their back toilet area, but they have stairs leading directly to 2nd floor. To get to our two upstairs rooms, we have had to go to their side for the stairway. If a hole could be made, our three rooms would be linked. Not only could we then move stuff higher, but it would be a wonderful area to live: storage space plus direct access to my 3rd floor window leading out to my climb to the roof.
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3. Move things up when we can and however we can before water reaches them.
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Tuk’s cousin, a young Thai woman, came to help us, as did a friend of Tuk’s and her strong son. I don’t know what we would have done without them. We did some heavy work, especially connecting the 1st floor with the 2nd and 3rd by knocking out the floor separating the stairs. Once that was done, we hauled up huge loads up steep narrow stairs, e.g., the refrigerator, the bed, and the treadmill. We did all this work in bare feet – it is Thai custom to take off shoes before entering a house, and with some of the unspeakably dirty water in the tropics I can understand why.
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These days upon days of heavy sandbagging and moving big stuff have left me depleted and in pain at the end of each day. My knees and hips hurt, as well as my back. My feet are taking a beating from being in dirty water so much. The main reason people are needing medical care during this flood emergency is foot problems. At each rest period, and especially at night, I scrub my feet with an old tooth brush and antibiotic soap; then I dry them.
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Possible upsides for us from this flood:
(Caveat: We are luckier than most to have less than a meter of water and dry rooms upstairs; many Thais have lost everything.)
For us, this might be a great opportunity to lose weight and gain muscle, since there is not much to eat and we are working our tails off. The other thing is that it forced the opening of the stairway upstairs; I feel like it heralds a new life, since the 1st floor was shut in and always felt like a basement. As I type this, I have a window view of the Southwest and watch the waxing crescent moon make her passage. And my 3rd floor window to the outside and the roof is right there at hand.
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-Zenwind.
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