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Changes of Tsunami: A Journey to Thailand

This journal was written by a dear friend that I was fortunate to have met on a train in Switzerland. Her name is Christine Creel, a native of Austin, Texas now residing beneath the beautiful skies of Salt Lake City, Utah. This new journey begins here in the United States, but soon will place us into the world's most devastated regions; Khao Lak, Thailand. This tsunami-torn area of Southeast Asia had a compelling draw for us that started out with few rational reasons to embark on such a venture, but resulted in volumes of compassionate reason once the journey was over. Or, is it really over. We may have left footprints in the sands of the Phanga Nga Provincial beaches, the tombs of hundreds that have yet to be found, but the scars, memories and emotions filtered into our luggage through our hearts as we made our way back to what we felt would be a solid emotional foundation. But once this experience grasped our souls, we found that it has changed us in ways only time will begin to understand. Here I share Christine's journal. I hope you find it as much of a joy to read as it must have been to have had the experience for which caused it to be written in the first place. Thank you, Christine, for sharing. ~ John Moretti

SPECIAL GALLERY: Exclusive photos from Tsunami-torn Thailand

Christine Creel
Christine Creel
In Her Own Words. . . by Christine Creel

It is HOT, HOT, HOT here and amazingly humid. It reminds me of Texas in July. Whew! We have arrived in Phuket and spent the afternoon driving around a few of the affected areas. Incredible... We are told that most of the rubble here in Phuket is cleaned up and it appears the workers are well underway to rebuild the parts of the town we are in. In our eyes the place is still rubble.  It is hard to imagine what it was like the day of the tsunami.  The stench in this area is mostly of dead fish and raw sewage.  We can't get away from the sewage smell...
Tomorrow we will be traveling up to one of the hardest hit areas to pitch in. I think I told some of you about the American guy that lives here (the son of a friend of my mom's)? I spoke with him today and we are to meet with him tomorrow morning. He has been involved in the relief effort since the day the tsunami hit.  He has many friends that have lost homes, children and parents, business, etc.  He has organized a personal relief effort and has paired with Amnesty International for some relief funds for communities that were hardest hit, yet not receiving the supplies and aid that they need from relief groups.  They have set up about 300 families in tents and supplied them with the immediate needs (food, water, blankets, cook stoves, etc)  He was meeting with many others tonight to discuss the relief effort, where they stand and where they are going. Tomorrow we will meet him for breakfast to learn more of the local efforts and how the communities are really affected, aside from what the media is portraying.

Christine and John meeting with Reid and his girlfriend in Chalong Bay, southern east coast of Phuket, Thailand
Christine and John meeting with Reid and his girlfriend in Chalong Bay, southern east coast of Phuket, Thailand
We went to the hospital in Phuket and visited with them a bit. We learned
that the heaviest importance right now (at least from their point of view) is DNA testing and the transporting of dead bodies for the testing. Eeeeee..... We are going to see what Reid has to say before signing up for the body transport. :) The media reported about 6000 deaths in Thailand , but the numbers are probably closer to 12,000.  The government wasn't wanting to disclose the higher numbers.  Many, many tourist were lost from Thailand .

Desperation fills the eyes of the locals - but they are probably the friendliest people I have ever seen.  Smiling and waving to us. The are very courteous and accommodating, even when you have to play charades to find a bathroom.  We are buying items from local peddlers instead of the bigger supermarkets - we feel the store probably won't go under as a result of the tsunami, but the street peddlers will.  Some of them used to have successful businesses and now sell bottles of water on the street corners to feed their children.

I have never seen prostitution like I have here.  I understand it is a way of life here, but it is so difficult to see.  I pray for these young girls
and for the abusers who prey on them.

Driving - felt I was in a video game with race drivers coming at us from all angles and sneaking up from behind to pass. They drive on the opposite side of the road here, so that is something to get used to. They seem to be very defensive drivers, but I can't imagine them being any other way - just think about it... When you grow up hanging on to the shirt tails of the driver for dear life, just think how aware you would be by the ripe old age of 12? We video taped part of our drive today and there are several instances when you can hear me give out little screams of fear.... It seems to be a way of life. The after-5pm crowd was really crazy, buses/back of trucks filled with people, often children with back-packs.

The sides of the roads are lined with tiny, rubbles of dilapidated shacks that look as if they resemble card board boxes and would fall down if the wind blew too hard. Children play in the dirt patch of a front yard just feet from where the race of autos vs. motorcycles is going on. Dogs run rampant. They appear to have no homes. They wander in the streets and lay in the floors of restaurants.

The motor scooters remind me of little gnats that zip around your head - and they make that sound - vra-room, vra-vra-vra-ROOM, etc. This is a significant means of transportation. You see women riding "side saddle" as a passenger if not the driver while others just hike up their skirt and get on. Some have helmets, some don't.  Hardly any have face guards.  Many times an adult will have their child - the youngest I saw was maybe 2 1/2 years - riding in front of them with no helmet, or children a little older are riding on the back, clinging on. I have seen as many as 4 people, alternating adult -child-adult-child. There is generally a wire basket attached to the front of the bike for groceries and an occasional dog.  A motor scooter is the fastest, most efficient way to get around the communities.  To purchase a motor scooter cost 40,000 baht ($1000.00).  An average worker that doesn't speak English (and we haven't met many that do) earns about $75 a month. The poverty I have seen is indescribable.

That is it for now...  I will be in the trenches tomorrow with a more really deal than what I have already seen.  The conditions only get worse from here.  We have taken many, many pictures and hope to send some soon.

Take care,

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