Friday, December 31, 2004

Letter from a friend

I just got a letter from a friend, Alisa Tang. She is a reporter in Thailand. She used to live in the STL.

This whole thing has been unreal. I have been watching the news over and over. I tape the national news at 5:30 and then the News Hour and watch it when I get home. It has struck me again now that it has taken a more personal form. It doesn't seem right that I can live my life unaffected and in a way I don't feel anything. But it isn't that simple. I think that is why I read and watch so much about it. I feel it a lot more. And now that I am reading this letter it is cutting into me.

Here is her letter:
phuket, thailand
31 december 2004

my dearest family and friends,

i write you all in this brief down time while working in the south of thailand. let me start by saying i'm doing fine, and my friends and family are all safe and well. i apologize in advance for this long email, but many of you have wondered where/how i am. also, please save this to read after your festivities if you don't want to spoil your mood _ in which case i wish you a happy new year now.

on sunday, the day of the tsunami, i started work from home at 9 a.m., reporting on the quake an hour after my friend messaged me to let me know she had to evacuate her shaking apartment building in bangkok. i turned on the radio to listened for reports of quake deaths and that's when i heard about the water in the south. i packed my bags and went to the office, worked for a few more hours, then came south that evening.

i've seen hundreds upon hundreds of dead bodies _ in bikinis and swimsuits, naked, on the beach, under rubble. the stench of death is overwhelming at the hardest hit resorts and at temples where corpses are being kept, and my clothes reek at the end of the day.

each day, i begin work as early as 5 am, and continue until midnight many nights, another night until 2 am. i file stories all day and night by phone and computer (you can search my name, alisa tang, on often, i answer questions from editors in new york and other colleagues on the hour as i try to sleep. monday night i slept up on a mountain next to a police box, the only place with electricity on a strip of road that was once a row of resorts and shops, but now just a ghost town, no electricity, that smells like death.

i've heard incredible tales of survival from a colorado man who had to punch his way through the roof as the floor of his flooding bungalow rose beneath him and as his wife was blown out of the back of the bungalow with the cement wall as it exploded out under the pressure of the water; they both survived. i met one 7-year-old superboy, a Swede named Kalle, who survived though his parents and family disappeared. he told his guardian, whom i interviewed, "i was under the water, but i could breathe. i closed my eyes and went with the water, and when the water went down, i opened my eyes and was in another city."

since only a few days after the 2004 kicked off, i worked endless hours through violence in the south and bird flu, and the tsunami in the end. i have learned so much, especially here in phuket and phang nga, with all my veteran colleagues _ print, photos and television _ who have seen and done practically everything and are true professionals.

thankfully, i had breaks in between the endless hours of work in istanbul, alaska, london and the beaches and national parks of thailand. i could do with a bit more time off though. i had planned to go to singapore to visit my friend, gen, on jan. 1, but i've postponed that. i also would like to go to burma, angkor wat, japan and elsewhere.

i expect to stay in phuket and the south for several more days. i'm staying in a decent hotel, and i could be in worse places _ at least the disaster hit a resort area, renowned for its sea and sand.

i miss all of you, my dear friends, so much, and if it weren't for the fast life i lead, i fear i might spend my days crying with heartache for all of you.

i have lived through five lifetimes this year, i have seen and done so much. i've had a very challenging 2004.

for 2005, i wish you happiness in your bellies, peace in your hearts and a little kickin' dance in your souls.

love and kisses,
fireworks and all,



Blogger thefayth said...

wow, thanks for sharing that. ran across it during a search for good peace pics, and I found it really touching and inspiring.

6:48 PM  

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