A Beautiful Disaster

Grey Hulks against the sky

It’s been a long and hard week in Thai town as we lurch closer to shut down.

Policy here is often preceded by rumor. There is rumor of a curfew, people shut down and prepare and then a curfew is implemented.  There is rumor of a 24 hour lock down, and today, there are bags of rice and cans of sardines and cooking oil, piled up outside of the markets. What’s coming next? 

Like the rest of the world, everyone is trying to solve the riddles that this beautiful disaster of a virus has presented us. How do we slow the curve?  Just 3 months ago, terrorists were our concern, now we fight another enemy we can’t see. 

The collective here has set up a sort of strong suggestion of a shut down. Walking down the street, everything is closed except groceries. Restaurants can serve carry out only.  All other stores are shut and shuttered. Signs on the doors all say come back next month. One wonders where the superheroes are? 

It has been remarkable to see how fast and efficiently things can button up.  In a city that has up until now been always on, many offices and hotels have closed completely.  It is estimated that 95 percent of hotels here in bangkok will have zero revenue for the month of April. The only ones making money are those seconded to be isolation rooms for COVID victims.  Hosp-otels!

Thus, the formerly shimmering skyline outside my window is now dark grey hulks shadowed against the moon.  The aircraft lights, the only demarcation against the dark sky. 

Urban and rural, the parks are closed.  There is no enjoyment of nature, no enjoyment of wildlife. No hiking into caves or wetting toes into cool mountain pools. 

It makes it hard to exercise. We climb up and down steps. Earlier in the week, we started slow, but with time our pace gets faster. Up and down umpteen floors makes for a healthy heart and builds stamina

Cat as temple icon

Traffic is a breeze. Even at rush hour, I think you could march a brass band and a herd of giraffes down the main strip in a celebration and everyone could still get home by dinner time.

The main vehicles on the streets are delivery drivers. They are making a killing. Grocery story, restaurants. Anything that can be moved on the back of a bike is fair game.  From single toothbrush to donuts to a load of cucumbers. Since the malls are closed, they’ve set up a personal shopping service. You can pick a store, pick an item online and have it delivered to you for a pretty steep discount. 

Beggars are out in greater numbers. Their ripped jeans and dirty t-shirts, the jingling of cups reminds one of San Francisco. It has been a site unfamiliar here. Not absent, but unfamiliar.

The World Famous Soi Cowboy, is closed up as well. As are many streets, it underwent a total scrub and fumigation. Taking advantage of the down time with a combination antiviral and anti rickettsial product. 

That closure and a recently added 10 PM curfew has forced out the ladies earlier into the day. The 3 PM sun does not favor the makeup needed to maintain such a lifestyle, but they try to make up with smiles and personality.  

I’m reminded of that misogynistic riddle.  How does it go, again? “I start with the letter ‘V’. Every woman has one and uses it to get what they want.  What am I?”

“Hey, mister, maybe I can walk with you awhile.”

“You wanna walk with me? I don’t know even where I’m going.” I reply.

“It’s okay, I don’t want to know where I’m going, too.”

“Ahh. Not today. I’m wholesome. I just want to enjoy my walk.”

A pained smile. “Mister, maybe you could just help me?”

It’s tough to see, but it’s a common smile. The pained one. The hungry one. The one they put on because they’ve got mouths to feed at home and it’s a strain to think about how to make that happen. The choices that must be made.  Doing things we don’t really want to do to survive.

Waiting stools at a safe difference

And  really, the virus, while scary, is not the scariest thing for most.  It’s the impending hunger and the lack of resources and the uncertain future. That is the hardest thing to riddle about. 

And, there’s a reported shortage of condoms, so one wonders if this virus will actually create more life than it takes. In this Buddhist world, there may be a lot of new place for those lost souls to return to.

And so, the riddles keep coming. How will we eat? When can we see those we love again? And where? How long before the wild weeds take over and we are eating snakes and bugs in the jungle?

How are we gonna get back to normal when this beautiful disaster has changed us so much and so quickly?

Categories: Thailand

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