Here, Pickle can be seen resting on the track for our front gate. She routinely sits in dangerous places, like in front of cars, and then moves only at the last second, no matter how many times she’s warned.
I’m too lazy too look it up, but Pickle must be around 5-6 years old now. She keeps the surrounding rodent population in check, so she is invaluable, but she is the most needy and meowy cat we’ve ever had… Pickle! Shut up!
Its been nearly 20 years since I set up a moblog sidebar and posted tiny pictures from my Hitachi clamshell over iMode to my MovableType blog… But today I just got the itch to see where we are in terms of easy accessibility to WordPress moblogging.
It’s kind of in between rainy periods right now, which is hard on my lawn, since I assume it’s gonna rain and don’t water every day as I’m accustomed to doing the rest of the year. So yesterday, I performed my rain ritual and watered the yard thoroughly, and also washed the dust off my truck. It worked.
On October 5th, at around 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon, I wrote about how the whole country was flooding from heavy rains of the past week and how our neighborhood usually floods, but that this time the drainage systems in our area were working really well.
Later that evening, Nam and I gathered shovels and twine and started helping people from the neighborhood fill sandbags just down our street in an effort to block off rising waters from the rear of our estate, where there’s marshland on an open property. Our entire housing estate (which has expanded greatly since we built our house 13 years ago), was originally all rice fields and open land. Nam’s mom warned us that it was a low area that was prone to flooding, but the worst it ever flooded was just enough to wet our driveway and barely reach the house. </foreshadowing>
After an hour of filling sandbags and lifting them onto trucks, we were beat, and it was getting obvious that this flooding might get bad. Still, it didn’t seem too bad, but we decided to take Nam’s car to her mom’s dormitory on higher ground, about ten minutes away. On the way there, Nam asked if I wanted to turn around and get my car out of there as well, but it didn’t seem like it would flood so badly, so I said no, wondering if I was making the right decision. When we got to my mother in law’s place, Nam’s younger sister gave us a ride back home. The street in front of our house was slightly flooded, but no big deal. A couple hours later, it looked like this, which is the highest it had ever been.
Throughout the course of flooding, which was extremely bad but shorter than anticipated – in our neighborhood (they predicted our hood would be flooded for a month or two, but it was pretty much dry in less than a week – we never lost power, so I have chat logs all through out our time spent inside the house, even though we were completely surrounded by water. In fact the last message I sent out to the family on the night of the 5th was, “there’s no rain or wind, we have internet and aircon, but the water is silently rising. Weird.”
In the photo above, the water is only a couple inches high in our driveway, which is sloped towards the street. However, that means that the water is more than a foot deep in the street, which is high enough to bog down my car. It was too late to drive out of there without risking the Crown’s engine and blocking the road for trucks and lifted vehicles, so I pulled the battery cables, chocked the wheels, and pulled everything I could out of it… I didn’t have time to pull the amps or any of the audio system.
After I took that photo around 11:20 PM, the water started rising very fast. Unbeknownst to us, officials in Khon Kaen had decided to open flood gates to relieve pressure on the over capacity Ubolrat Dam, which in turn caused earthen holding walls to break at the nearby reservoir at Gang Lern Jaan. This caused a rush of water from streams and creeks that had never caused flooding in the recent past. The resulting flood was, in fact, the worst in 45 years. When the flood rose about another foot higher than shown in the photo, we decided it was time to bug out. We hurriedly gathered the most important stuff together, put Mina’s cat, Pickle, in a pet carrier, turned off the main house breaker, and ventured out into the dark waters in the driveway, where we waited for a truck to pass by (normal cars and motorcycles had completely stopped coming down the street hours before).
A black Vigo came by a couple minutes later, and the guy was happy to give us a ride out of there. We jumped in the open bed and stopped again just down the street when a couple of uni kids waded out in the street asking for a ride. As we drove down the street just down from our house, a couple yelled at us to slow down from the open window of their brightly-lit house, but it was too late. The wake created by our truck passing by in the flooded street crashed through their open front door (which was only a couple inches above the water line) and rushed into the living room, bouncing off the far wall and rippling back again. The woman sat on the couch and got splashed a bit and the guy went to close the door, much too late to accomplish anything. They both cursed as we passed by, a surreal memory burned in my mind, as adrenaline coursed through my veins. That pattern of adrenaline rush and subsequent dump would stay with me though the next few weeks.
UPDATE Dec. 1: It’s now been a couple weeks since I started writing this post. My words are all jammed up and I’m just… busy. Or maybe tired, as I never really spun down from the mad times that resulted from the flood. I have decided to write about it in installments, for fear of never publishing anything on this blog again… I’m hoping that publishing one post clears the logjam in my mind, so here goes…
VIDEO UPDATE: I’m adding this short video just to show the level of the water on the first night on our front stairs, which were the standard for gauging the severity of flooding throughout the following week.
The biggest COVID wave so far spread through Maha Sarakham from a couple months ago, so my university postponed the new term until this week. I’m teaching four Public Speaking classes per week online. This is what a typical class looks like, with about 2/3 the students:
I tell them they only have to turn on the camera when they speak because some of them are on weak connections or are connecting through mobile data plans, and it might save them money as well as improving performance. Thailand has good connectivity, though, and a lot of businesses share free wifi, so I use the first week to pinpoint who has internet problems and suggest they find a better hotspot or solution.
There are a lot of problems teaching online at a Thai university. The biggest problem is net connectivity and speed. The second biggest problem is that the university staff and teachers are horrible at teaching and doing their jobs. Doing it online just compounds the issues.
One of my current side hustles is teaching teachers how to teach online and helping them get set up at home. Some of these teachers are still doing grades by hand (even when teaching online with every grading management tool available), so you can imagine that the transition is rough. The IT staff are so bad at their jobs, they can’t keep our website up for everyone to register for classes or make class changes, haven’t figured out how to install a security certificate in the ~20 years they’ve had the domain, and can’t even issue student ID numbers or email for freshmen before the term starts (which are necessary to register for classes and to attend online classes). There are also problems on the student side, but now, well into the second year of online classes and lockdowns, most have figured out how to at least attend their teachers’ pathetic online lectures, and that online classes are actually a good way to try and get their parents to pay for an iPad (definitely not required).
Nam and I love teaching online, though. Before we started, I had already set up a Twitch streaming system for Mina with condenser mic and various cameras, so we adapted that and added to it over time. This is what my setup looks like now.
On the vaccine front, I went in to get a Astra Zeneca jab at the vaccination center set up at my university a few weeks ago, and was told at the last stage (there were 3 stages to navigate), “no foreigners!” So, fuck them and their jelly vaccine shots, I guess (a bad batch of vaccines in Thailand was recently found to have turned into gel). Nam and I have paid a private hospital the full price for 2 Moderna jabs each – 3,400 baht/person. No telling when the government will get off its ass and actually get these vaccines delivered, but we are told, “as early as October.” Looks like all of my classes this term will be online!
Cats come and go at this house, but Nam Kaeng was special because she was so sassy and a patchwork quilt kind of mean girl. The first time she ran up to me, I thought she was rabid because she was so familiar and insistent on getting scratched on the head. It turns out she was just claiming her new servant.
It turns out she came from a neighbor’s house and just decided to live here with our other cats, much to the consternation of her owners. I took her back to their house several times, and they kept her in a cage, but she managed to escape and come back every time. One time, she came back with a lion cut.
So as it turns out, this murderous heat wave was probably just too much for her. She died in our driveway on the first day of Songkran, and we didn’t find her until two days later… So sad!
Well, it looks like I’m going to have to buy this boy a ping pong table (table tennis table?). Luckily, it looks like used ones go for 1/3 the price of a new one here…. but they’re mostly down in Bangkok. Wonder how much shipping will cost.
Fact: There is no space at our house for all of our stuff.
Also: Mina and Max will eventually need their own rooms, which we did not plan for when designing this house (when we didn’t yet have kids). In retrospect: Duh!