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Life during the floods

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Life passing by during Thailand's great flood in a prose poem reminiscent of Walt Whitman by journalist Kultida Samabuddhi. 

life during the floods

People walk in a street in the floodwaters, in Lat Phrao shopping and business district in Bangkok, on November 7, 2011 (AFP PHOTO: Nicolas ASFOURI)

Click button to listen to Life With The Flood and the Floods to download

COMMENTARY: Hardship makes us stronger (11/11/2011) by Kultida Samabuddhi


Sleepless nights, with dozens of cockroaches escaping the floodwaters from the sewers; days of worry about parents who refuse to flee their flooded homes; countless rides in military boats and trucks through road-turned-canals which take three times longer than usual.

Walking barefoot along the flooded roads, wading waist-deep in fetid water in the sois, buying an overpriced boat, hitchhiking, getting help from strangers and counting the days when this ordeal will end

My personal account of Thailand's worst flood disaster in several decades might be similar to the stories told by other millions of flood-hit people. 

However, what each of us has learned from this major deluge - or how we have changed after this natural disaster - will not be the same. 

There are many more people who are suffering greater losses and facing far more difficulties than myself. I saw a father and daughter living on small pieces of plankwood surrounded by floodwater over a metre deep. I saw an old, blind man try to hitch a ride on a military truck to Nawong Temple where he uses a crematorium as his temporary shelter. I saw a wife helping her seriously ill husband onto a 10-wheeled truck after she failed to get any help from an emergency hotline.

I've seen the strength of the people and the ability to adjust themselves to hardship. In the first few days of the flooding, most people were fighting against the incoming water. They tried to block it, pump it out and even prayed that the water level would stop there. Then, we lost the battle and accepted our defeat. We moved up to the second floor, trying to think that the situation would not become too bad. But we were wrong. Electrical shocks ,poisonous reptiles and hygienic problems have become major concerns. Toilets cannot be flushed and the piles of garbage have become bigger and bigger. Many of us decided to leave our homes, but our old folks wouldn't flee with us. They refused to live in an unfamiliar places and worry about the house, the dogs, burglars, etc.

We have no choice but to let them stay while we do everything we can to make their living condition as good as possible, while we still have to move on with our work. 

At one point, everything seemed to be under control, thanks to the help of all the soldiers, state officials, rescue workers and volunteers working on the ground. 

Public buses and military vehicles are my true heroes in this flood disaster. They make travelling to and from flooded areas possible. People go out to buy food and other supplies, children can go back to look after their parents and inspect their houses

The city bus agency has been criticised for the poor condition of its vehicles. But in this time of crisis, the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority's staff and its bus fleet have proved to be a big help. 

The BMTA modified its buses to be able to run on flooded roads. Where the roads along their normal route became impassable, they changed the route to serve the commuters. Most of the bus drivers and conductors I met were working very hard to help ease the hardship of people travelling in flooded areas

It is basic facilities like these that help people get through a crisis, not the complicated, multi-million-baht schemes which cabinet ministers dream up.

It has been three weeks now since the northern runoff hit the first parts of Bangkok in Don Mueang district, followed by Sai Mai, Bang Khen and Lak Si. It is good to see that many people managed to find the means to live with the water

I recently took a ride on a crowded 10-wheeler from Chaeng Wattana Road to my house on Ram Intra Road. It was a distance of 10km and was totally flooded; it took me about two hours. 

It was a pleasant trip (even if I did have to stand all the way, carrying three heavy bags of food and supplies). People from all walks of life - from construction workers to well-to-do people - got together on this truck. These strangers exchanged their flood experiences and consoled each other like friends and relatives. 

I listened to them, trying to forget the growing pain in my back and legs. A famous quote of Nietzche came to mind: "What does not kill (us) makes (us) stronger."

Kultida Samabuddhi is Deputy News Editor, Bangkok Post

(Source: Bangkok Post, COMMENTARY, Hardship makes us stronger, 11/11/2011, Kultida Samabuddhi, link)

Story of the Great Flood Vocabulary

journalist - "a journalist collects and distributes information about current events, people, trends, and issues... Reporters are one type of journalist. They create reports or articles ... Reporters cultivate sources for their work... and they are often expected to report in the most objective and unbiased way to serve the public good. A columnist is a journalist who writes pieces that appear regularly in newspapers or magazines" (See Wikipedia)
recount - tell a story
reminiscent of -  reminds a person of, is a lot like, is very similar

prose poem -  poetry written in prose instead of using verse but preserving poetic qualities such as heightened imagery and emotional effects (See Wikipedia)
prose - ordinary written language, not poetry (See Wikipedia)
verse -
the special language of poetry, that follows a strict pattern (number of syllables per line, same sound or rhyme at the end of a line, etc) (See Wikipedia)

Walt Whitman -
(1819-1892) the greatest American poet, who wrote poems observing the many details of everyday life pass by around him (especially the American Civil War) that achieve a sort of mystical greatness (See Wikipedia and Leaves of Grass his masterpiece, best if read aloud)

hardship - when life is difficult and unpleasant (usually due to a lack of money or here floods)
hardship makes us stronger

sleepless nights - cannot sleep at night
cockroach - the dirtiest of insects แมลงสาบ
sewer - the pipes to remove wastewater from homes and businesses ท่อน้ำเสีย, ท่อระบายน้ำ

sleepless nights
, with dozens of cockroaches escaping the floodwaters from the sewers

refuse - when people say they will not do something that you ask them to do
flee - to leave a place or person quickly because you are afraid of possible danger หนี อพยพ
refuse to flee - say they will leave a dangerous place

days of worry about parents who
refuse to flee their flooded homes

countless - very many; too many to be counted มากเหลือคณานับ
road-turned-canals - a road that has turned into a canal or waterway (a road that has filled with water) 

countless
rides in military boats and trucks through road-turned-canals which take three times longer than usual.

barefoot - without shoes on เท้าเปล่า
walking barefoot along the flooded roads 

wade -  เดินลุยในน้ำหรือโคลน

waist
- the middle part of the body that is narrower than the parts above and below เอว
waist-deep - water up to your waist

fetid - stinking, has a bad smell
fetid water - water that has a very strong bad smell

wading
waist-deep in fetid water in the sois

buying an overpriced boat

hitchhiking
- getting a ride in a car driven by a person that you don't know (a stranger), by standing on the side of the road and sticking out your finger or waving to cars passing, so they will stop and pick you up ขออาศัยโดยสารรถคนอื่นฟรี (See Wikipedia)

stranger - a person that you don't know คนแปลกหน้า
counting the days - waiting impatiently, wishing bad times will end soon
ordeal - an extremely unpleasant experience, especially one that lasts for a long time ประสบการณ์ที่แสนสาหัส

getting help from
strangers and counting the days when this ordeal will end  

account - a story; a written or spoken report about something that has happened บันทึกถ้อยคำ การอธิบาย
personal account - a story told by you from your own experiences 

worst
- most + bad
disaster - something very bad that happens and causes a lot of damage or kills a lot of people ความหายนะ ภัยพิบัติ
decades - periods of ten years เป็นสิบๆปี

My
personal account of Thailand's worst flood disaster in several decades might be similar to the stories told by other millions of flood-hit people. 

natural - found in nature (not made in a factory by humans) ตามธรรมชาติ
natural disaster - some event from nature such as a storm, floods, an earthquake, etc that causes a lot of damage (See Wikipedia)

However, what each of us has learned from this major deluge - or how we have changed after this natural disaster - will not be the same. 

suffering - physical or mental pain or problems ความทุกข์ทรมาน
There are many more people who are suffering greater losses and facing far more difficulties than myself.

plankwood -
a plank, a long piece of cut wood used to build the walls of houses 
I saw a father and daughter living on small pieces of plankwood surrounded by floodwater over a metre deep

blind - unable to see ตาบอด
hitch a ride - see "hitchhiking" above

crematorium - the place where a cremation takes place เมรุ

temporary
- for a limited time; not permanent ชั่วคราว
shelter - a place where people are protected form danger or bad weather ที่หลบภัย ที่พักชั่วคราว

I saw an old,
blind man try to hitch a ride on a military truck to Nawong Temple where he uses a crematorium as his temporary shelter.

emergency - an unexpected situation involving danger in which immediate action is necessary เหตุฉุกเฉิน
hotline - a telephone number that people can call for information โทรศัพท์สายตรงที่จัดไว้สำหรับเหตุเร่งด่วนหรือเฉพาะเรื่อง

I saw a wife helping her seriously ill husband onto a 10-wheeled truck after she failed to get any help from an
emergency hotline.

adjust - to change something slightly, especially to make it more correct, effective, or suitable ปรับ
I've seen the strength of the people and the ability to adjust themselves to hardship.

In the first few days of the flooding, most people were fighting against the incoming water.

block - to stop someone or something from moving through or along something else ปิดกั้น  กีดขวาง
They tried to
block it, pump it out and even prayed that the water level would stop there.

defeat - the loss of some competition or struggle, fight or war ความพ่ายแ้พ้
Then, we lost the battle and accepted our defeat.

We moved up to the second floor, trying to think that the situation would not become too bad. But we were wrong.

hygienic - clean and not likely to cause illness or disease ถูกสุขอนามัย
electrical shocks

poison
(noun) ซึ่งเป็นพิษ
poisonous
(adjective)  
reptile - 
สัตว์เลื้อยคลาน
poisonous reptiles  

concerns
- worries ความกังวล
major concerns - big worries, things that we worry about very much

Electrical shocks
, poisonous reptiles and hygienic problems have become major concerns.

flush a toilet - pull the little lever on the toilet to make the water and waste go down the drain and leave กดชักโครก
Toilets cannot be flushed
and the piles of garbage have become bigger and bigger.

old folks - older people (such as your parents or grandparents)
flee - quickly leave a dangerous place

Many of us decided to
leave our homes, but our old folks wouldn't flee with us.

unfamiliar - not have any knowledge or experience of something ซึ่งไม่คุ้นเคย
burglar - a person who enters a house or building by force and steals things 

They refused to live in an
unfamiliar places and worry about the house, the dogs, burglars, etc.

we have no choice but to - we must do this
living condition - the situation that you live in

We have no
choice but to let them stay while we do everything we can to make their living condition as good as possible, while we still have to move on with our work. 

state - government รัฐ
state officials - people representing the government in their work

rescue
- to save someone from a dangerous situation ช่วยชีวิต
rescue workers -
workers helping to save people from dangerous situations

volunteers
- people working without (for a good cause, helping people)

At one point, everything seemed to be under control, thanks to the help of all the soldiers,
state officials, rescue workers and volunteers working on the ground. 

vehicles - machines with an engine used to carry people or goods from place to place ยานพาหนะ

Public buses and military
vehicles are my true heroes in this flood disaster. They make travelling to and from flooded areas possible.

inspect - to look at something carefully ตรวจสอบ

People go out to buy food and other supplies, children can go back to look after their parents and
inspect their houses. 

criticised for
- someone found fault with, found something wrong
crisis - an urgent, difficult or dangerous situation วิกฤตการณ์ วิกฤต

staff
- workers, employees พนักงาน
fleet - a group of ships, or all of the ships in a country's navy ขบวนเรือ
 
The city bus agency has been criticised for the poor condition of its vehicles. But in this time of crisis, the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority's staff and its bus fleet have proved to be a big help.

modified - changed
route - the way that planes, buses, trains, or ships travel regularly เส้นทางของรถ เรือ เครื่องบิน,etc.

impassable -
cannot pass by a place
commuters - people who regularly travel between work and home คนเดินทางระหว่างบ้านและที่ทำงาน

The BMTA
modified its buses to be able to run on flooded roads. Where the roads along their normal route became impassable, they changed the route to serve the commuters.

conductors - the people who sell tickets to people on buses or trains
ease - to make or become less severe, difficult, unpleasant, painful, etc ทำให้ง่าย บรรเทา

Most of the bus drivers and
conductors I met were working very hard to help ease the hardship of people travelling in flooded areas. 

facilities - the buildings and equipment for an activity (for example, athletics facilities) สถานที่และสิ่งอำนวยความสะดวก สิ่งอำนวยความสะดวก
complicated - has so many parts connected in different ways that it is difficult to understand (for example, a complicated machine or a city with a complicated system of streets) ที่ซับซ้อน

schemes
- big government project
dream up - create using their imagination จินตนาการ, การวาดภาพในใจ

It is basic
facilities like these that help people get through a crisis, not the complicated, multi-million-baht schemes which cabinet ministers dream up.

runoff - rain water that has "run" off distant mountains, into a river (and arrived in Bangkok, after a delay of a few days

It has been three weeks now since the northern
runoff hit the first parts of Bangkok in Don Mueang district, followed by Sai Mai, Bang Khen and Lak Si.

means - methods; ways วิธี, วิธีการ
find the means to - find a way to do something
managed to
find the means to -
found a way to do something (even though this was difficult to do)

It is good to see that many people managed to
find the means to live with the water

crowded - many people in a small space (difficult to find a place to stand or sit)
crowded 10-wheeler - a big truck with 10 wheels on it (with many people riding on it and no place to sit or stand)

I recently took a ride on a crowded 10-wheeler from Chaeng Wattana Road to my house on Ram Intra Road.


distance
of 10km
It was a distance of 10km and was totally flooded; it took me about two hours. 

pleasant trip

It was a pleasant trip (even if I did have to stand all the way, carrying three heavy bags of food and supplies).

construction - the work of building or making something, especially buildings, bridges, etc. การก่อสร้าง
construction workers - the low-paid workers who do the hard work of building buildings
People from
all walks of life - from construction workers to well-to-do people - got together on this truck.

strangers exchanged their flood experiences

console -
make a person feel better (when they are sad and not feeling well)
relatives - family members such as cousins, aunts, grandparents (not the closest family members, your mother and father, brothers and sisters) 

consoled each other like friends and relatives

These strangers exchanged their flood experiences and
consoled each other like friends and relatives. 

Nietzche -
(1844-1900)  a German philsopher who wrote in a literary way, "a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist. He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and aphorism" (See Wikipedia)

I listened to them, trying to forget the growing pain in my back and legs. A famous quote of Nietzche came to mind: "What does not kill (us) makes (us) stronger."

refuse - unwanted waste material, especially material that is regularly thrown away from a house, factory, etc.; rubbish ขยะ, ของเสีย

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