POSTCARD#398: Phuket [say: pooket]: Shades of grey give way to shafts of light. The long dark night is relieved by daylight of day. A black crow flies through the remaining darkness: craw… craw, announcing its presence, a being, yet not a being, a location in time and space. It flies between the buildings with louder and louder calls echoing from the walls, until it passes over the top of the block where we are situated, CRAW… CRAW! The sound gets fainter as it disappears behind the next building, then into the distance … craw … craw. I’m listening to that sound until nothing can be heard at all and there’s only me, deaf with listening.
A sleepless night… isolate the headache, I’m exhausted with the perception, the interpretation, ideas. Remove anything that encourages the tendency to fall into the dream, the concept, the delusion. It simply is-as-it-is. Now it’s morning and time for everything to move on; what’s left over falls back into last night. Looking forward, I feel the headache could be less up-front in awareness quite soon and it’s time for breakfast – see where that gets me. Leave Jiab sleeping, and along the marble-tiled corridor, the sweeping staircase, note the Sino-Portuguese mansion architecture. Now into the breakfast room and looking around, out the window, round the corner… nobody here.
Take the table by the window… me and my headache. Silence, it feels like that Sunday morning, sleep-late feeling – but it’s 7 am Thursday, and maybe I’m the only one awake… is there anybody else here? Awareness poised, wait and see… the world seen as an empty hotel/ Sino-Portuguese mansion/ breakfast room, coastal winds blow through, continuous streams of sensory data from the ‘outside world’ pass into this body/mind, processed at eye, ear, nose, skin, tongue, and the cognitive mind constructs thought patterns, preliminary drafts, concepts that evolve in clarifications, all the reasons why – the ‘how’ of things rather than the ‘what’.
A pigeon flutters in, comes to rest on my window ledge, folds away it’s wings, and there’s this small bird-sized sigh, filling its lungs with air, releasing it and a little ‘bob’ of the fat round body. It sees my image through the glass, looks at me curiously, extended neck turns, then gets involved with preening its feathers in strangely revealing postures.
I hear a toilet cistern being flushed – soon after there’s the sound of someone moving plates and things around. I go and see; only one person to lay out these tables and serve food? Sawadi-khrap, I give her my order for an omelette and toast, get a cup of coffee, the newspaper and back to my table. Swallow headache medicine in advance of the food arriving. Read the headlines – aha! It’s a holiday [Constitution Day, 10 December, 2020] that’s why there’s no staff. No tourists either (aha! again), of course, because of the Covid 19 restrictions.
We took a taxi yesterday to Pa tong beach, very little traffic on the way, closed down shops everywhere and very few foreigners on the beach. Sympathy for the Phuket people, who managed to survive the tsunami in 2004, the loss of life and economic ruin. Followed by the coronavirus in 2019, another kind of tsunami in a place that is dependent on tourism.
Newspaper articles: The only way for foreign tourists to enter Thailand is with the Special Tourist Visa (STV), and a 14-day quarantine. The STV is allowing 40 tourists a day to enter; in 2019 daily arrivals averaged nearly 110,000. Only a quarantine-free welcome can deliver the numbers needed to resuscitate the tourist industry.
According to the president of the Phuket Tourist Association, tourism businesses in Phuket suffered a loss of 180 billion baht (€4.84 billion/$5.72 billion) in the first half of 2020.
How to open the country safely? Thailand cannot wait for vaccines. They stand no chance of eliminating the disease globally. A more realistic solution comes from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) European Director: “The end of the pandemic is the moment that we as a community are going to learn how to live with this pandemic.”
Historical note: Phuket island was on one of the major trading routes between India and China, frequently mentioned in 16th Century foreign ships’ logs of Portuguese, French, Dutch, and English traders. Phuket was never colonised by a European power.
You are on vacation during the pandemic? We do not dare go anywhere. Not even to the store. Yes, the resilience of the Phuket people and the utter stupidity of many Americans who value what they call Freedom over health guidelines. In a failing democracy, a poetic snapshot from you is most welcome.
Sorry it’s taken so long to get back to you. We are back in BKK again and all kinds of things to attend to here which I’ll go into at some later date. We were in Phuket because there’s a Test Center in Phuket for M’s SAT exam (Scholastic Assessment Test) which M has to take to get into college. The test took a number of hours, after which we all had a short vacation.
Fortunately there’s no lock-down here so people are free to go about their business as before (with some degree of responsibility). I can’t really explain in a short answer about the pandemic restrictions in Thailand. This is a small country – it would fit inside the state of Texas – different cultural behaviour and attitudes. If the government makes it mandatory to observe social distancing and wear masks, and that sounds reasonable as the way to overcome the disease in the long term, then the Thai population comply with the ruling.
I was encouraged this morning to hear about the Electoral College decision and the hope for democracy remains strong.
Your posts are a shining light in the darkness of this time.
You heard the positive news. However, there has been pro-Trump, openly racist rioting and a hundred and 20 or so Republican House representatives still supporting Trump’s victory and bringing a case to the Supreme Court which, fortunately, turned it down. And the amount of daily deaths here is the equivalent of our World Trade Towers massacre every day.
On a brighter note, good for M!! Your relationship with her is so special! It reminds me of my relationship with my Sicilian grandfather which saved me because, like M, I had a mother with a mood disorder and an alcoholic father. Like you with M, Grandpa stressed the importance of education and encouraged it. You are doing good in her life that may not show until later but that pulls more weight , to me at least, than finishing any painting (although as an artist I understand the desire for completion). I have my Grandpa’s paintings. They are lovely but it is my memory of closeness to Grandpa that I cherish now more than his works of art. Kudos to you and Jiab!
A poetic shapshot is ALWAYS welcome! and you convey this sense we all have of being on some kind of brink or edge and yet nothing is Seen perfectly. Thank you!
Thanks Kelley, grateful for your observation about the sense of: “being on some kind of brink or edge and yet nothing is Seen perfectly.” There’s something here that rings a bell for me – to do with selecting events and descriptions in initial drafts that convey an immediacy…