(Part 2 of a 13 part series)
Five weeks after the Tsunami hit, Sishir Chang went to Thailand to see how the people there were recovering and to see how those concerned could help. The following is the second installment of his experiences in the aftermath of one of the world's most devastating natural disasters. Originally published in the Southasian, the article is being republished here, with previously unpublished photographs, with the author's permission.
Part 2: THE NEED TO DO SOMETHING
On the day after Christmas I got a cryptic phone call from my mother. My mother lives in Singapore and has a vacation home on an island near there on the sea. At about 7AM I heard the phone ring but was slow getting to it so I went back to sleep. I woke up about 2 hours later and listened to the message from my mother. She simply said she was in the center of the island at a hotel and was OK and that was it. I didn't understand what that meant until I flipped to the CNN website and suddenly realized that a major tsunami had struck the same region where my mother was. Like many Americans over the course of that day I was shocked by the images of destruction and the rising death toll. I realized right away that this was a disaster like no other and that as a human being I needed to do something.
Over the course of the next week I helped to organize a coalition of local Asian-American groups to work together on tsunami relief. The scope of this disaster brought together Asian communities that don't often work together and it was heartening to see such diverse groups as Tamils working alongside Japanese for one cause. All of us felt that this was a unique disaster and that our response not only would help thousands of our brethren in Asia but also could bring together the disparate Asian community here. For me at times bringing together the community seemed almost as important as the disaster because without immediate family or friends the tsunami and its victims were tragic but still remote and impersonal.
As the relief effort got going I had a long planned for trip pending to go see my family in Asia. Raising money for the tsunami I decided that since I was going to the region I should also go see first hand the affects of the tsunami and how people were recovering. I considered going to a few different locations and settled on Phuket, Thailand as the most practical. At the travel agency in Singapore I was told that my choices for lodging were limited because several resorts had been destroyed but that it was still safe to go. So I put aside any concern and went ahead to Phuket, not fully knowing what to expect but still excited.