Thursday, January 13, 2011

An email from Brisbane to a nephew in Pattaya and shit from Ottawa

Hey J

You're the first to be told by me that we've
just got our power back on at our units.

I am overcome with sadness thinking about what
Queensland is going through and watching
Anna Bligh, our premier, break down as she
held yet another press conference tipped me
over too. I cannot wait to go out and help.

I didn't have to evacuate. I don't think there
was ever any danger of the water reaching
us but just a few meters down from where
the park is, water had collected in a sizable
mass flooding houses on either side.

I was told by one of the travel agents in whose office I
was recharging my mobile and laptop this morning
that her friends had not long ago built a new property
there worth over $1 million and they're currently overseas
being informed by friends and family about their
flooded home.

The inconvenience of not having power pales
infinitesimally into insignificance when there
are so many who've been made homeless and who will
have images of their houses going under water
forever imprinted in their minds.

This is all beyond words. To think that it wasn't all
that long ago when Thailand was hit by a tsunami that
also brought it to its knees!

I hope you continue to enjoy your time there and that
it helps clear your mind and refresh your spirits.

Love you.

That's my brief response to my nephew who's currently in Thailand volunteering his services with underprivileged children and mothers, many of whom are involved in the sex trade.

I haven't told you the half of it. This phenomenon that goes by many names - Flood crisis, Queensland's Disaster, Brisbane's floods... I don''t think I can I don't think anyone can.

To see houses pummeled to the ground by the unstoppable force of water, become completely unrecognizable, looking like concrete corpses with their wooden limbs strewn disrespectfully across the ground. It's beyond words.

To hear of the death of a man sucked into a storm water drain as he tries to get back into his home. It's beyond words.

The army helicopters hover ceaselessly over us, their engines roaring, the propellers whirring, assuring us that the worst is far from over. What will they find? Who will they rescue?
Army personnel are knocking on doors to check that people are okay.

Police are patrolling streets to deter looters. Yes, such is our nature, that even in a catastrophe, some feel a need to seize the opportunity to take what is not theirs. But then, is anything really ours?

Cars have been pushed and shoved on the raging waters, like toys in a bathtub as one witness described it,

Furniture and other belongings rudely dumped in heaps here and there with mud literally on their faces. But there will be a cleanup. There must.

Animals stranded helplessly, beyond the reach of those who love and care for them and whom they have loved and cared for in their own charming way. What will become of them?

It's all beyond words. I find myself crying. Especially when I see the faces of people, no, not torn by anguish but stoic with a clear mission - we shall not be moved. Not in spirit, at any rate. We have a job to do and we're getting on with it.

That's what their expressions tell me.

And why wouldn't it, when in the midst of all this, someone has found the wit to fit out a large statue of Australian sporting legend, Wally Lewis, standing prominently in the Suncorp Stadium, with a snorkel, goggles and life bands around his arms. You'll never be able to accuse Australians of not having a sense of humor. No matter what.

I don't think we could have asked for more from all levels of government and from all our social and civil services. Our premier, Anna Bligh, has been a glowing calm in a very dark storm.

A student from Ottawa , beetroot red from the heat and drink, came over to me as I kept vigil over the mass of water down my street. Like a snake flicking its tongue in and out, the water kept rising and descending along the side of the curb inching closer and closer toward us.

The student told me that his housemates had all gone to friends', having moved their furniture to the top floor of the house they were renting as their backyard got submerged. He, however, had nowhere to go, having arrived here only two months ago.

He was exhausted from moving not only the furniture in their shared house but also that of their neighbor's. It was minus 22 degrees in Ottawa when he'd left and here it had rained the last couple of months. And today, he winced, it was both frying and flooding.

''Everywhere I go, I bring shit' he told me ruefully in his French accented English.

I tried ti reassure him that he was not personally responsible for any of the events and that he would always be welcome at our units should he want company or help. I think he was consoled by that as he cheered up a bit. Soon he was talking to some of the other people who had also arrived to watch the water and find some solidarity.

I had this thought, perhaps not entirely unrelated to what he had to say,

Where is home, when all is said and done, if not in our hearts?

To my brave, invincible, fun-loving Australian brothers and sisters, I say, YOU'RE AMAZING!

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