Bangkok Flooding: Lost in limbo

It’s my second day after evacuation and I feel somewhat lost in limbo. I do not know what lies ahead. I miss my home and I miss normal daily life. Forced evacuations are no fun even if you get to go out of town. Your mind is always wondering about what next. What happens next? No answer. Now the dilemma is deciding when would be the appropriate time to go back? If I go back too early, I may have to end up evacuating again. If I wait, I do not know how long the wait will have to be. Will it be one week, two weeks or more?

I need to go back to go on with my life. Now nothing can be planned and there is no timeframe.

I realize now how important it is to have certain basic certainty in one’s life. A safe home, clean tap water, electricity and a safe environment in which to live. Most importantly though is to be surrounded by family and loved ones. What good is having all the world’s goods if your family is not with you?

I’m glad we are now all together and safe. We don’t have to worry about wading through water and
getting electrocuted, nor do we have to worry about getting ill with no one to help. I still do, however, worry about my country and all who are now suffering. What will the future be like? How long will this nightmare continue ? When and if, will we ever return to normalcy?

Pray for Thailand. Let’s hope we all get past this nightmare. Maybe bruised and battered, but
still alive.

Bangkok flooding: Reasons for evacuation

It’s strangely calm here away from the craziness and hydrophobia that plagues Bangkok. All I can hear are the sounds of the waves splashing upon the shore outside my window.

I’m glad we decided to bring everyone out. Some may wonder why leave now? Why not wait for the house to be actually flooded? Are you overreacting?

Here are my reasons why and ones I think we should all consider. It’s especially important to get elders out though they are often the hardest to convince.

1. If you wait until it floods you may be unable to get out because the water level rose higher and faster than expected. You end up trapped.
2. You will have to wait for others to help you evacuate and since there are people needing help than authorities can help out, you might be stuck in a flooded home for days on end.
3. Without electricity you cannot charge your phone. Once your phone is dead, it will be difficult to contact the outside world for help. You are isolated from the outside world.
4. Wading through water, you might get electrocuted or trip over something and drown in the meter high water. No one will see you.
5. You might cause other people to die trying to help you. Wading through water to help you get out, these good people might themselves get electrocuted or drown.
6. Water that has been stagnant for long will start to stink bringing with it disease. You might fall ill with no one to help you.
7. You run out of supplies but don’t want to leave because you worry about your belongings. You have others risk their lives to bring you food.
8. If you leave when it’s flooded, everyone else is leaving too. Traffic jams and accidents are more likely to happen. People in panic driving mode are not safe drivers.
9. You can only bring with you bare necessities. Leaving first allows you to pack more and bring more of your things out.
10. Why live life without electricity and water confined to an island home when you can be outside walking and with friends and loved ones?

These were the reasons we thought about when we decided to evacuate. What do you think? Do you have any more reasons?

Have you evacuated? If not, please seriously consider it for everyone’s safety and peace of mind.

Stay safe everyone!

Bangkok Flooding: One by one, we all fall down

An eerie silence has befallen Bangkok once again.  It’s as if the whole city is holding it’s breath.  Breathe too loudly and you just might trip over.  Last time this happened was last year during the political unrest.  Only this time,  the eerie silence is spread much further out.  Not only inner Bangkok but now the suburbs too are subject to this eerie silence.

Cars are not wanted now.  They are all parked on bridges, expressways, parking lots and anywhere that is above ground level.  It’s too expensive to just let them drown in water.  With car taxes over two hundred percent, most cannot afford to lose the only car they have.  I cannot.  I’m still paying the monthly installments.  Even the taxi companies are saving their cars and few now roam the streets.  It’s difficult to go anywhere.  Walking becomes the mode of transport.

While walking, I sometimes wonder if I am living in a deserted town like those abandoned frontier towns you see in movies.  The wind blows and the only sounds you hear are the leaves rustling and the sound of the dangling chimes at my neighbour’s balcony.  Birds fly past and a small three-wheeled vehicle rattles past.  That’s all.  Many of my neighbours have left town for who knows how long.

The government suggested Bangkokians temporarily leave town for the weekend.  This is the crisis we are in.  A city of ten million inhabitants told they should leave town for the weekend if they can.  It’s crazy.  This shouldn’t be happening, yet it is.  I am not dreaming.

Highways are jammed pack and bus terminals full.  No one wants to be in Bangkok.

Our main airport is protected by a 3.5meter wall made of soil.  It is 23.5 km long.  It sounds strangely similar to the ones that protected the other industrial manufacturing parks that have since succumbed to the Water.  I just pray that the same fate does not befall our only remaining international airport.  That would be a national disaster. A tragedy.

Everyone is blaming each other instead of working together.  How will it ever end if leaders do not know how to lead and people don’t know how to work together as a team.  Everyone pushes aside responsibility to save themselves.  I wonder if they really think about what’s good for the country.  Be proactive rather than reactive.  Please. I beg of you.

Tonight is my last post from the comfort of my room for who knows how long.  Tomorrow, I am taking my family out of town, as recommended, until the situation improves.  I cannot risk having elders stuck in the house in a hard to reach area.  I have no personal boat nor truck.  I pray this trip will not be longer than a few days, but Bangkok City says they are having trouble draining water and there is a possibility the city will be without electricity and tap water.

Hospitals are moving patients to other provinces.  This is no small operation. Hospitals have moved to Plan B. I worry for my grandma.  Yes, the flooding is more severe than initially expected.

More than I initially expected too.  At first I believed that in no way would inner Bangkok be flooded.  I had full faith.  Now all that faith is gone.  Now the experts say we are living the worst case scenario.  My area is projected to flood up to a meter high.  This is the main road projection.  The road in front of my house is lower and in a hard to reach area.  It floods ankle deep on a normal stormy night.

Each day on the evening news, a few more districts are told to immediately evacuate. District by district.  Step by step.   One by one, we all fall down like a row of dominoes.

Stay safe my dear friends and fellow Bangkokians.  The worst will be over soon. Pray hard.

Bangkok Flooding: The Waiting Game

For over a week, Bangkok has been in a state of panic.  Everyone is packing up their houses, sealing doors and windows with silicone, buying sand from other provinces, finding ways to block their pipes and other points of weakness where water may enter.  Plastic bags large enough to seal entire cars are in hot demand and sold out in a matter of hours.  Plastic gallons for filling up both tap water and drinking water are snatched up like this season’s “must haves.”  In supermarkets, many shelves are empty.  Only imported mineral water remains and bread are out of stock.  Eggs vanish the minute they are restocked.  Now in order to ensure fairness, supplies have to be limited. Two packs per household.

We stock up on water and drinking water, yet I wonder if we will really stay once the water arrives. The biggest problem seems to be getting elders to evacuate.  We love our homes, but we must also cherish our lives.  Being isolated in an island in the midst of a sea of water is no fun and potentially dangerous to your health.  Along with the water comes disease, snakes, crocodiles and sea cucumbers that suck your blood.

Evacuate if you can is what everyone is saying.  Carry with you your valuables and leave.  Since the government announced the 27th -31st October as public holidays, many more people are going out of town.    Flights out of town are full.  Only one airport is left.  The smaller one which happens to be the headquarters of the Flood Relief Operations Center is closed due to flooding. They are still there behind a wall of water.

If you asked me what are the worst things regarding all this flooding? I would have to say the lack of accurate and reliable information coupled with the psychological affect of having to constantly  anticipate what happens next.  We do not know how long and how high the water will come.  It depends on what street you live on.   Some streets are higher and do not get flooded whilst others have chest high water.

The anticipation is like watching a bomb waiting to explode, watching the clock countdown before the explosion.  If it’s a good bomb, it’ll explode in full force, if it’s a dummy, the effect will be minimal.  Yet you do not know, until it really explodes, and so you start preparing for the worst.  Three meter high walls are being built.  As the situation worsens, everyone is putting in reinforcements.  At first just a row or two of sandbags, now more and more are needed. I spotted one shop house with its windows completely lined with sandbags. I hope the window can withstand the weight of the sandbags.

Then I wonder if we will explode before the bomb actually explodes. All this waiting is indeed taxing on the psychological health of Bangkok citizens.  The only thing we talk about now is how to plan for the “flooding.”  We follow news updates as if it were some form of drug addiction.  Bangkok now awaits the flood, whilst Europe awaits to hear the summit results. Hearts all thumping, everyone awaits to see the outcome.  It’s not healthy.

We shouldn’t have to go through this. Not when it could have all been avoided.

People say we are going through a “dark phase” of our nation.  I have to say that even migrant workers no longer want to stay.  They say that in their country, floods only happen by the rivers.  No such thing as flooding entire capitals. Other workers say that this is the end of Bangkok. Such are the reactions from our domestic helps.

So once the land of smiles, and the land where people once came in search of work, will soon change to become a sea of tears.  I love my country, but sometimes I wonder if it loves us too. Perhaps we took it for granted and now we are feeling the effects.

Myth 4: Healthy bones require lots of dairy

Tonight, I temporarily stop listening to news regarding flooding. It’s too depressing and it’s making me stressed.  I know not when the water will come and at what level.  Whatever happens, happens.  Let it be.  Let’s instead talk about a lighter topic today and continue on with the fourth myth.  The myth that in order to get calcium and have strong bones, you have to consume a lot of dairy products.

This is a common myth.  When we think about having strong healthy bones, we immediately think of dairy.  We think of milk, cheese, and yogurt (high in calcium and vitamin D), but forget other sources of vitamins such as dark leafy greens.  Vitamin K and Magnesium are also important for healthy bones according to nuitritionist Andy Bellati.

Vitamin K can be found in dark leafy greens  such as collard greens, mustard greens, kale, and bok choy, while Magnesium can be found in almonds, cashews, oatmeal and potatoes.  It’s wonderful.  Now I have another reason to eat more potatoes.  (They are really quite healthy for you and not only full of starch as commonly believed.)

What does this myth tell you?  Have more green vegetables, eat a diversity of food for you need more than just calcium or Vitamin D to keep your bones healthy!  Yes, Popeye was right to eat so much spinach. Dark leafy greens.

Be Prepared: 7 Flood Tips

It’s official, Bangkok will flood.  Bangkok Post this morning tells us to “Brace” ourselves for it.   This evening some of my relatives have evacuated and others are looking after their houses.  Colleagues rush home to safeguard their homes against water while others wait in anticipation of the coming flood.  We get real time updatest through facebook and twitter.  I feel like I’m in a war where I know not about the enemy.  I feel blind.  The enemy is large and furious, yet we are like mice running around looking for a way to survive.

Experts say that the flood will last over a month.

Everyone is worried we will run out of clean water and food.  The supermarket by my house has run out of local water, eggs and bread.  It’s been like this for over a week now.  The only water on the shelves are imported Evians and Perrier that cost more than double our average drinking water. Even then, they are finally being snatched up.

It’s a gloomy picture.  This weekend water will come in and we will be here waiting.  I hope the water does not rise higher than one meter but I could be over optimistic.  Other areas have flooded as high as two meters.  It’s unthinkable.  How could we have let this happen?

Whatever happens, it’s better to be prepared and so tonight I give you a checklist of some things you can prepare for in advance. I’m not going to into detail about how to make sandbag walls and close up pipes, but rather simple things one can all prepare.  A lot of this comes from Alex who literally thinks about everything. Thank you.

1.  Pack a small emergency bag with precious documents, jewelries and things that are essential for
everyday life.  Those who take daily medicines, please pack and have your medicines ready. Include clothes and essentials enough for a few days.

You need this, because often during floods fires break out or the gush of water is so strong you need to evacuate.  Do not think that you can just stay upstairs and all will be fine.

2. Know where the electricity cut-outs are.  Make sure everyone knows so we can all help each other.

3. Have your phone batteries charged and ready.  Charge up old spare ones too.

4. Have a plan about what your family needs to do and meet up in case things happen faster than expected and you are stuck outside. Where will you meet up?  Think about a scenario where phone lines no longer work.
5. Look at those around you. Does everyone know how to swim? What happens if water rises up very high. Do you have lifevests to help those who do not know how to swim?

6. If flooded, you might run out of clean water.  If you have bathtubs, fill those up with clean water.  They can at least be a small reservoir for you.

7. Most importantly, DO NOT PANIC. Yes, do not lose your head during the flood no matter what happens. A panicky person will do no good.  Think sensibly about what needs to be done and how your family and you can be safe.   Do not forget those around you.  They too are important and deserve to be taken care of.

Stay dry my dear friends this weekend.  Take care.

Flood we will, Rebuild we must

For once I do not want to hear the sound of raindrops on my window pane.  Rather than relax and remind me of childhood days, it now makes me restless, fearing the flood situation will worsen.  The flood situation in Thailand is not getting any better and in fact seems to be worsening day by day.  Over three hundred lives have been lost, industrial parks inundated, and hundreds of thousands of people misplaced.  Homes are rendered inhabitable and roads unusable.  The outskirts of Bangkok are flooding and each morning, Bangkokians awaken to hear more news of ever closer floods.

Nature is strong and powerful.  It will be hard to withstand her.  I personally believe Bangkok will
inundated.  It’s just a matter of time.  We have a massive body of water towards the north of Bangkok heading out to sea and only a miracle can part the water into two to save Bangkok.  We need Moses to do that. Sandbags and man made barriers are not going to do the trick.

Worst of all is that the sentiment in Bangkok is now one of panic and anxiety.  There are no formal guidelines on how one should prepare for the flood, and Bangkokians are now reverting to their own ingenuity and creativity to save themselves.  We learn how to build walls of sandbags and how to save our cars from facebook posts and other articles.  Yes, it’s an online information sharing network.  We learn about our friends’ flooded factories and houses and how their lives have been affected.  Twitter fills our hunger for updates of news and information.

It’s one of constant concern and worry.  Now when Bangkokians greet each other, the first phrase is always to ask if their house is flooded or not.  It’s not “How are you?” or “Have you eaten?” Everyone sits on edge wondering what will happen with their houses and their livelihoods.  Few have the heart to do anything else other than follow news and listen to more news.  Some houses on the edge of the water barriers have night shifts to make sure water does not creep in in the dead of the night.

To live each day in anticipation of the upcoming flood is somewhat like having cancer.  You know you are going to get ill and die, you just don’t know when.   It’s a silent killer.

Each morning, I grab my iPhone and check the FB and Twitter updates to see what needs to be done.  This is not the life one should have to live, but then I remind myself that I am lucky now to be living dry and sleeping well. For the moment.  Millions now are sleeping in shelters without food nor water.

It’s a stressful situation now in Bangkok, but what really brightens up my day is seeing everyone helping each other.  Volunteers donate food, clothing, medicine and other essentials.  Others cook and take care of those in shelters.  Hospitals training people to help with medicine. It’s a wonderful thing to
see.   Pain has united us.

When all is over, I just pray that we continue to help each other rebuild and put in place a proper water management plan.  It is essential that one be put in place and implemented.  Without a proper water management system, Thailand’s investors will lose faith and so will its people.  Let’s not go that way. A flood this devastating to factories and industries must not happen again.

Let us move forward and let Thailand grow.  It belongs to all of us.  Let us forget ourselves, our own selfish needs and help our country. Peace.

Myth 3: Always Eat Low Fat

Yes, the flood waters are moving closer to Bangkok.  Everyone is getting a little nervous, me included.  When it rains, I can’t help but wonder if that will mean one more line of defense has broken and that soon the waters will rush into the inner city area.  Let’s pray that there be no more casualties.  When stressed I tend to eat more than I should.  It’s like my brain decides that eating helps relieve stress.  However, it only helps short term for it ends up making me feel worried about having eaten too much.   I end up looking for healthy foods to eat, which brings me to the third myth.  The myth that low fat foods are always good for you.

I’m sorry to have to be the one to break the news to you, but low fat foods are NOT always good for you.

It is important to always read the food labels when you buy food.  Sometimes, the food is indeed low in fat, but extremely high in sodium (salt) and sugars which are  not good for you. What you think are healthy, may be hiding sugars that slow your metabolism and the main reason why your weight just isn’t going down despite all the “low fat” foods.  I have been prey to those “Low fat” high protein energy bars which end up being high in sugars and calories!

In addition, according to Alannah DiBona, who is a nutritionist and wellness counselor, the human body also needs fat in order to absorb a large percentage of nutrients.   We need fats to help our bodies manage cholesterol and aid in weightloss.

This is great news. Yes, some fats you need to eat if you want to lose weight. It’s actually healthier I think to eat everything, just be careful of how much you eat.

Fats that are good are the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which comes from avocadoes, pecans, almonds and other kinds of nuts.  Omega-3 fatty acids which can be found in salmon and other kinds of fatty fish such as mackerel are also good for you.

Avoid transfat which lowers your “good” cholesterol and raises your “bad” cholesterol.  The opposite of what you need for a healthy life.  Transfat can be found in foods which are fried, fast food, or even commercially made baked goods.  Basically, most foods massed produced are not very healthy.

Therefore do not always fall for the “Low Fat” label when shopping.  Read the labels and eat natural,
healthy foods.  The less processed the better!

Myth 2: Food cooks faster in boiling water with salt added.

The last few days have been absolutely hectic as I’ve just started teaching, but now that all is settled today I get to relax and enjoy a few moments of peaceful writing.  It is indeed good for the mind and soul.  Today I write about a myth that is so common that I am sure many of you who cook have heard it before: adding salt to water changes the boiling point and lets you cook food faster.  I’ve heard this on cooking shows, read it in cooking books and yes I have to admit this is something I have believed in pretty much of my life until I read about it on Lifehacker.

Suddenly, I am forced to question my belief regarding boiling water and cooking.  Are there other things I am mistakenly believing in?

Apparently, the article says that to really affect the boiling point of water you would have to add an extremely large quantity of salt, so much that it would most likely render your food inedible.  Even then,
it would only affect the boiling point by a few tents of a degree Celsius at most.  That’s nothing. My pasta isn’t going to cook faster.

Wow. Hm..and then I thought my adding salt to boiling water before cooking pasta made my pasta tastier and was a key part in having it “Al dente.”  I guess I was wrong.   The only thing the salt did was to add flavor to the pasta! I guess that was the secret ingredient.

Are you knowledeable in Chemistry or Thermodynamics? What do you think?

Myth 1: Wooden cutting boards have more bacteria

In our lives, sometimes we hear things, we read things and we live by it thinking it’s right.  Sometimes it turns out it is just a myth.  So tonight, I’m going to start a little series about some common food myths. The first myth being that one should never use wooden cutting board for meat because they are full of bacteria.

It is commonly believed that the sharp knife cutting into the board causes little scratches, through which later juices from meat settle into.  They become a breeding grown for bacteria that cannot be easily washed away.  As a result, wooden cutting boards become a ‘no no.’  Plastic cutting boards are better.  Now some even say they are made with anti-microbial technology that ensures it remains bacteria free.

Sadly, it’s all just a myth.  It doesn’t matter what kind of cutting board you use, wooden or plastic, it does not reduce the number of bacteria, according to University of California: Davis, Dean O. Cliver, Ph.D of the UC-Davis Food Safety Laboratory.

Although bacteria does go through the cuts in the wooden cutting board, the bacteria are said to settle deep inside where it is very difficult for it to resurface.  You would have to splot the board open first.  Once they are inside, they also do not multiply and often die.

Plastic cutting boards too result in bacteria even after cleaning.  I suppose this means, that whether you use wooden or plastic cutting boards, there will be bacteria.

The most important lesson though, is to ensure that you keep your cutting board clean.  Clean well after each use.  Which one is better? I cannot tell, but I can tell you I love the feel of cutting down into a wooden cutting board.  Others may like plastic because its light and convenient and feels ‘clean.’  It’s really up to you.   Myth be gone!  Wood is as good as plastic!