Audrey Ardine, 129 TESS
This is the story of how Kru Audee fell into the flooded river.
For most, rainy season has been in full swing. But here in the deep south of Thailand, Satun Province, rainy season hasn’t felt like it’s fully hit yet. But this week, it’s been cloudy and there have been heavy rains. Heavy downpours, the type that can cause flooding. And it made me remember last rainy season, almost one year ago.
At first, I enjoyed rainy season. Rainy days and nights meant a reason to stay inside curled up with a book or watching a movie. It meant the weather wasn’t unbearably hot and sticky, but cool, and dare I say, chilly at times? But it was too good to last.
Rainy season meant riding my bike anywhere was like reliving SongKran festival over again, but not in a fun, playful way. It meant getting soaked to the bone. Laundry took days to dry. Mold started to grow on the ceiling in my kitchen. Black mold, the kind that makes people wonder if they should be concerned for their health. (I have since moved to a new house). My house didn’t flood (thankfully). But last year, my host family’s house, only a 3 minute bike ride away, flooded. They had to use a boat to get to and from their house. And many places in Satun were also experiencing the same level of flooding, if not more.
Knowing that, I was scared to ride my bike into town. I always take the short way to town through monkey mountain village (I still don’t know its true name). But before I go through monkey mountain village, I have to ride over a bridge that goes over the river. I had a feeling that the bridge and surrounding area might be flooded. So, I didn’t venture to town and basically subsisted off ramen and hard boiled eggs. That is until I had some friends visit. Chandler and Clarence decided to visit my school and site. Together they walked through the hip deep water of monkey village, over the bridge to the dry side of my community and made it to my school.
Things are easier with friends and that night we walked through monkey mountain village and I saw with my own eyes how flooded it was. We waded through hip deep water wondering if there were snakes or monitor lizards on the prowl. I wasn’t attacked by a monitor lizard or snake, but I didn’t come out unscathed. I lost one shoe and an umbrella to the rushing water.
The next morning, we had to head back into town. The journey started off dry and hopeful. The sun was out and shining bright. We were able to hitch a ride to the bridge. We stood on the bridge looking at the river, it was high and fast. We could see that the path of the foot of the bridge on the flooded side was covered in water. We couldn’t see where the path was and where the river began.
But I felt confident that I knew where the path was even though I couldn’t see it. I hoisted up my pants and put my backpack on the front of my body. I felt sure I knew where to step down, even though I couldn’t see, until I took one step off the bridge onto what I thought was the path and was instantly submerged in the river. My backpack came up in front of my face. I couldn’t see. And I felt the river start to pull me. I was in shock and I didn’t react. But I wasn’t alone. I heard, “Audrey, grab my umbrella!” I reached and felt it and held on tight. Chandler pulled me out of the river all the while Clarence snapped pictures of the whole thing (teamwork makes the dream work).
The whole incident lasted maybe all of ten seconds. But I felt stupid and embarrassed. How could I have so easily fallen into the river? But then I felt scared. What if I had been alone? What if I didn’t think to take my backpack off or scream as loudly as I could or grab onto the banks of river?
I was soaked. I felt shaky as I checked the things in my backpack to see what was dry and what was wet. A man from the dry side of the bridge headed toward us. There was a long tail boat tied up on the rocks of the mountain near the foot of the flooded side of the bridge. He got in and motioned for us to follow. We got in and passed through the flooded monkey mountain village.
Actual Images of me contemplating the near death experience I just had
I could see inside the houses and how high the water was. I heard the usual “Hello” and “Kru Audee.” And a student asked if I had been playing in the river. As the water became a little shallower, kids flocked towards the boat. They started pushing us towards town, away from the river. It was quite an experience being soaked from head to toe, sitting in a boat being pushed by the village kids, and witnessing just how badly monkey mountain village was flooded. We arrived at the flood water’s edge and continued on our journey.
For the next few days, I still felt shaken up. I thought about my students. What if one of them had fallen in? But my community was fortunate and my students were safe throughout the flooding. However, the sad reality is that many communities aren’t fortunate like mine during rainy season. I have more of an appreciation for my dry home and the ability to pack up and leave if my home were to ever flood. And now I take my safety during natural disasters much more seriously and you should too! So this rainy season, be careful, be safe and pass the message along to your students and community.
Read Audrey’s previous article 40 Days Without Social Media.