August 2, 2008 by admin
There have been so very many tragic earthquakes, cyclones, volcanoes and tornadoes in the month of May, 2008, occurring in scattered locations all over the world. None have yet occurred in the areas where I have traveled, so I’m not visualizing a new friend and wondering if they have survived the recent tragedies. But, my potential friends are there and I just haven’t traveled yet to that part of the world to meet them. When I was in Central America, looking down into the cone of a smoldering volcano, or gazing up the slopes of another one, watching the lava show every night; I knew that it was simply an accepted reality that they will blow, someday. That seems to be the case in the Ring of Fire all over the Pacific. But, it will be a true horror and tragedy when that day comes for those who have built houses right up the mountainside. I sat beside the pool of my hotel in Costa Rica one night, chatting with the bartender as we watched the bright red lava run down from up above. Why the beautiful houses up there and why are the hotels around here expanding and building with such optimism? Wasn’t he worried about getting caught in a modern-day Pompei? “Oh, no! Not at all! Because of the direction of the earth’s rotation, any lava will pour down the other side and not onto us!”
On my round the world trip, in early 2006, I visited the island of Ko Payam, before traveling to the beaches of Phuket. The lovely Silver Sands resort had been built since the famous tsunami fourteen months earlier. It was a little north of the main devastation area and that rogue wave had only been chest high there. So, I could see no obvious signs of tsunami damage, until my lone barefoot walk along the deserted beach. I was playing a little game with myself, pretending to be shipwrecked, having just washed up on this strange island shore and getting my bearings for the first time. So, I was exploring, looking for a telltale path into the vegetation which would indicate some sort of human occupancy, as well as scoping for any kind of useful object for my own survival. Too many episodes of “Lost,” perhaps; but also a clue as to how this solo traveler keeps herself entertained.
I saw a single sandal, about my size, and poked around in driftwood for its mate. Still in character, I reckoned that shoes would come in handy if I were to be marooned here for very long. I saw another shoe; but it was a man’s and covered with barnacles. Here was a pink baby girl’s shoe, and then a polka-dotted zorie. Why so many shoes? And none of them matches? Boy’s shoes, toddler’s sandals, little girls’, men’s, women’s …..shoes, shoes, shoes! Now that my eye was suddenly trained, I spotted rubber shoes tangled in every piece of vegetation, all along the beach, looking old and dried out; looking as if they had been in the water for a very long time before finally being washed ashore during some storm or other, throughout the year. This was no few flip-flops fallen overboard. This was the work of that big tsunami and these were the people it affected! My play-acting was forgotten as I imagined each shoe’s owner. They could have survived, I reasoned, and simply lost their mere floating possessions. But then, an earlier memory haunted me, also of victim’s footwear. In Auschwitz, I had recently gazed upon a great pile of shoes which had long survived their owners. Here too was such!