ADRIFT ON THE WATERS OF LIFE
- A life lived with Tsunami’s and swimming with Sharks.
I love the sea, always have and will. I was born on many islands. The island of my birth that comprised, all of my Portuguese bloodline was a twin island wonder. My first passport stated Citizen of Trinidad and Tobago. I was often asked, “How can you be born on two islands?” I replied, “Actually there were three islands.” Children of immigrant parents and or grandparents inherit qualities and references to other lives and times. An imprinting which can create in the child a lasting impression of where you belong. An impression that morphs into a reality that supersedes actual events.
I merged it into, I considered myself Madeiran. Then there was the inevitable, “Come again, Madeiran? Where is that? Or what is that? I have heard of Rambutan?’ I laugh, as Madeira is considered a fruit. Except that the person thought Rambutan was Bhutan and had no idea, they were speaking fruit and I was speaking countries. Long gone are the days of Gary Sobers and the Almighty Sparrow. Instead, I refer to Christian Reinaldo of soccer fame.
It’s a mystery to me that in this world circa 2016, people just don’t know stuff anymore. Yet, we are so wired via technology that we know, well if not everything, then we know a lot of something. But as I have experienced, there is a lot of nothingness out there. There are gaps in modern people’s minds. A generational gap of stupendous zeitgeist of an intellectual and spiritual morass that constitutes a virtual Sargasso sea of ineptitude and a cerebral void. Very little is of importance. We are a tweet away from extinction. And no one will care.
I came of age where reading, writing, mathematics and study was everything. And we belonged to the world. I see now, we are isolated from the world and diaspora abounds.
When I arrived in Madeira at 18, I was literally struck down. A pulse of energy blasted through my body, I fell to my knees kissed the ground and said “Wow, I am home”. This was my home. I was not born here but I was reborn here.
Love at first footfall, a powerful feeling that had my heart dancing and I was obviously entranced by some Portuguese Madeira Affair de Coeur. My sister ten years later repeated to me her-my experience. Word for word, it happened to her.
My Madeiran blood lines are mysterious. Both sides of the family shared these genes vis a vis La Isla Trinidad y Tobago. My 10 year old Canadian daughter, Portuguese father, Russian mother phoned me from Toronto to Vancouver and told me she met a cousin from Madeira. Problem, I never told her about Madeira. But she “Knew” she said. Weird! When she was three, I divorced her mother, so my Madeira convo with her never occurred. Blood is a water of life.
All these disjointed memories floated by me as I was speeding on a Jet Ski in the Andaman Sea. I was adrift in the larger Bay of Bengal looking at the north end of the coast line and regaling in this vision that flooded me of Trinidad and Korea. I was flying on the water and totally enthralled in this great life I now had. Travelling at will, teaching in Korea and going to places that I had only read of until now.
I have visited and to put this Island thing in perspective, give me an island, I want to go. My kids have a similar affliction, they have to be close to or on the water. So let’s see, the list- Guam, Saipan, Japan, I love Fukuoka and Osaka. The Maldives, Sri Lanka, the aforementioned Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Grenada, Phi Phi Island, James Bond Island, Indonesia, Bora cay, Bali and Jeju- Do and the island of Failaka of Kuwait. I have island fever. I count Peninsulas, as almost islands. I can include Salalah Oman, Kuwait and Dubai, as I was in, near or on the water all the time. Photos from these exploits, are always nearest to water. There are shots of Salalah Oman, on the beach beside the historical Queen of Sheba temple and the views from my Kuwait balcony and shots from Dubai and Phuket, all are water vistas.
So this thrill of being in my beloved, thrice visited Phuket was about to turn weird. X-files weird. Suddenly, as I was watching the deep water thinking, I cannot Jet-Ski, Down D’Islands near the First Boca in Trinidad. The Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean make it probably impossible to Jet Ski, but knowing the Trini adventure streak or trinsanity, the diehards probably Jet Ski and look at the shark infested waters as another x-factor.
Me, not so much as I have body-surfed with sharks in the Indian Ocean of the shores of Sri Lanka. And I have seen some mother, you know, expletive, great whites off the trini north coast where the head was at one side and the tail was on another side of the 18 foot Glastron that I was stranded on.
On this Thai horizon, I see written in a Helvetica type face, in the sky, letters that are twelve feet high which read DANGER IN THE WATER, DANGER IN THE WATER. The words hung suspended, as they do on the TV series, X-Files, a required caption, so that you, the viewer know the location and date of that episode.
But this was no TV series, this was live and in your face, a disturbing reality. I paused, looked down at the water, my eyes scanning looking for fins and I think OMG, Sharks. I quickly turn around and head back to shore, about eight minutes away on this speedy Jet Ski. Coming towards me was another Jet Ski and as it neared, I saw it was my Korean roommate, who can’t drive anything. He was on a collision course to me. As he closed in, I gunned my jet ski out of the way.
I yelled, to him, “GINO GET OUT OF THIS WATER! NOW!”
He turned white and followed me back to the shore. Where he was screaming, “Shark, Shark you saw a shark, How big?” I said, NO. Much, Much worse!
In his mind, the question loomed, it was written all over his face and he says “What is worse than a thirty foot great white shark? “ I said, “Dude this is not Australia and it’s not a shark, it’s a huge wall of water!” He looked puzzled and then asked, “Water, What wall of water?” He looked at the beautiful tranquil scene that is Phuket and then back at me. “Huh, let’s go eat.” If it’s one thing that a Korean can do well, better than any Trini, is eat. Phuket has great food. The visionary meaning? It was what it was, displaced by time.
So we ate and later prepared to leave the island. It was July 26, 2004. Back in Seoul, we returned to our mundane lives and I regaled my Vancouver girl-friend with pictures of Phuket and Phi-Phi Island and she declared. “Okay, we are going for Christmas and New Year’s!” She was so happy and I felt nothing but dread, fear paralyzed me. There was no way I am going back to Phuket that Christmas. I would die.
That night I replayed my Phuket vision and said “I have to tell her, it’s a No from me.” I called her back, “Look it’s not going to work. Phuket has very bad weather at Christmas.” So, Roz, emailed me and showed me ten years of Phuket weather at Christmas. All, the pictures were stunningly beautiful and the weather was perfection. I said “We can’t go”. I repeated, “There is going to be bad weather this Christmas. We can’t go.”
I shattered her dreams but saved her life. On Boxing Day, December twenty-sixth, I was in Seoul, South Korea. I tried to get out of bed, we had a Boxing Day luncheon to get to. I wanted turkey so badly. But something came over me. I got up and hit the floor, I was dizzy. I had no idea what was happening. I crawled on the floor, towards the television and asked the roommate to turn it on. We watched in horror as a thirty-three foot wall of water descended on Phuket. A tsunami hit Phuket and other places in the Indian Ocean and the death toll was mounting. The hotel we stayed at was demolished immediately as it was situated across the road from Kana beach. People we knew were dead.
The hotel, that Roz and I would have stayed, was featured in a documentary showing the carnage of that fated day. I know the hotel well, I hung out there. But watching the documentary made on the Indian Ocean Tsunami, was spine tingling, goose bump crawling, scary as a mother trucker. I watched the fragment of my earlier vision come to life. Time and space were not in sync on July twenty-six, 2004 but I somehow had received visual information of an impending Tsunami, exactly six months later.
I called Roz, in Vancouver, Canada- “Her voice said it all, slow and breathy “I’m watching it. Omg, you saved my life? Would we have lived?” I thought… I knew of her penchant for early morning walks to investigate the merchants and find exotic food and archive her memories to share later with me over morning coffee. So she would have been in the jaws of this Tsunami. So no, she would have perished. Did I tell her that? She knew the answer before I answered it. “That is why, you refused to go” I would not listen and hated you for disappointing me”. I would have died”. She cried then.
I on the other hand, would still be in bed, drifting and dreaming, completely satisfied with our Christmas marathon of sex. If it was one thing that Roz and I had was the ability for strong loving, so while she would be up and pumped at eight am, I would be post-coital and slumbering. Would I be safe? Relatively as I saw first-hand through this documentary the destruction of the lobby and the second floor was flooded. Knowing our budget would be tight, our room would be further away from the beach and perhaps overlooking the pool, two thousand meters from the beach. But that’s not far enough away to survive a Tsunami, is it? And yes people were dragged out to sea from many rooms. If I had seen it coming or felt before it hit, could I have saved myself? I don’t know but I would have tried. And maybe succeeded as I was surrounded by so much that would float and protect me…maybe? Bodies and hotel debris littered the bay.
The point is moot. As I watched the tsunami horror, my Korean roommate, got angry and screamed at me, “You almost had me killed!” Puzzled, I said. “Not sure, how a six month lapse in time from when we were in Phuket, to this event again six months later, would be considered, I almost had killed, you?” Gino, looked at me. “Exactly, he said! “You almost killed me.”
Gino may have had a claim to this, you all most killed me rant of his. I am an adventurer of the let’s go, have a passport, let’s travel and Korea was a place that taking a plane every six
months was affordable and I could go anywhere. He and I went to Bora Cay, in 2003 and Gino did the unbelievable… but it was all my fault, he insisted. Bora Cay this beautiful island in the Philippines is a famous resort getaway. I had no idea that Gino was such an open water virgin or as we say in Trinidad, “He damn dotish” (he doesn’t have common sense) and he is “bobotei” beyond stupid.
What he did was mind boggling. We were on a catamaran, crossing through the Philippine version of the Boca’s. When you leave the leeward side of an island that is sheltered in a bay and meet the cross currents as you head over the point of land that is open sea, the water becomes turbulent.
The chop in the water increased and the catamaran tilted and the waves careened over the pontoons and were slamming us. I dug into the catamaran rope floor stretched over the pontoons and held my breath as the waves poured over my body. I could not see what was happening and suddenly heard “Man Overboard.” We stopped, as if one can stop a catamaran in a wild current and I turned afraid as to what I would see.
Gino was gone. He had vanished into the sea. Finally we saw his head bopping like a proverbial coconut, five hundred yards away. I was told he stood up to take pictures and the wave took him and the camera into the Philippine drink. And Why?
I was shocked, who does that? Gino, he had anglicized his Korean name, Jin ho (Gino) Kim and he had no fear of water or fear of anything. Gino had such “a disconnect” from the world and lived in his own. He may well have been in the autistic spectrum. Or maybe he was just Korean. But he was an experience. It took us one hour of naval strategy to get him back on board. I had wanted to jump into the tossing sea and help save him, but the captain said, “No, we can’t save you and him. You would drift apart in this severe chop and he could as well, easily drown you.”
I can never forget Gino’s face as his eyes bored into mine, a visual lifeline, until he was safely aboard and then we acted ridiculously nonplussed, as if nothing had happened, continued on our journey. One minute we were in a life and death struggle and the next having lunch. The ordeal, became part of the holiday narrative. We picnicked at our rendezvous point, on the other side of the island where we met other catamarans and shared our experiences. I got invited to sing at the beach bar, a Pink Floyd song. “We don’t need no Education”. Indeed, after today, song and dance was needed.
My epilogue to this Philippine water escapade was I warned Gino, that three days after a near death drowning experience, you will have a post traumatic nightmare. You wake up screaming. I did, after I almost drowned at Las Cuevas, near Maracas, Trinidad, years before and I understood this was a normal PTSD occurrence. You relive the near death drowning. Sure enough on the third night into the fourth day. He awoke screaming. I bolted up from my bed and ran to his room. His words were, “you almost killed me”
And so “Huh”, I said. And now it was repeated again after the almost tsunami, 18 months later, in the comfort of his home in Seoul Korea. Far from any madding crowd and the devastation that was Phuket.
Eventfully, hours later on December twenty-seventh, I recovered from this strange event and the next day, there were many articles about the sea-quake and the tsunami. One report explained the strange weakness and paralysis. The article spoke of the thirty-three feet of displaced water created by an equivalent cliff that rose on the Indian Ocean floor. The force of that shift and massive displacement of water shook the earth. That shaking was felt by many sensitive souls and some had unexplained weakness at the time. I guess I was one of them, souls, as certainly I had the vision, a warning of some impending doom and then the collapse as such on the day of the actually Tsunami, December twenty-sixth, 2004.
If you watched the horror of the Tsunami, you would know that this was as close to that event that anyone would want to be. Many paranormal visions have flooded my life. Most occurred due to the very real occult nature of Trinidad. I am forever, haunted by a gift of second sight. It gave my travels a deeper meaning as I crisscrossed the globe in pursuit of adventure.
Trinidad has a vividly wonderful and eclectic spiritual life and though I am Catholic by birth and I suppose genetically wired from the cradle to the grave to that philosophy. I am also predisposed to chant and pray in Sanskrit, be it Buddhism or via the Vedas and to explore the Koran and say prayers that honor Allah. I did have strangers walk up to me in Korea and Oman and in their native tongue, tell my guides of my paranormal gifts.
I found the world to be a spiritual place and via my travels gained insights into the world of Buddha, of Christ and of Allah. People want to share their lives with you and their lives revolved around the unseen worlds which can be only deemed as spiritual. Phuket was changed after the Tsunami. There were stories from the Tuktuk drivers of disembodied voices in their vehicles requesting a ride. Or of balls of lights walking on the beach and on the street. It became a haunted resort.
Two years after the Tsunami I returned and Phuket looked more like Miami with well-ordered beach chairs and beach umbrellas, lined up in sheer precision. The haphazard shops gave way to long interconnected granite plazas and patios, wide sweeping urban planned American or European vistas lined the major beach road.
The tsunami changed the face of Phuket forever. My early life in Trinidad gave me an appreciation for these other worldly experiences. We all loved to listen to tall tales of the weird and wonderful and Trinidad certainly had its share of Soucouyant, Douens, and Jumbies. It seems that wherever I am in the world these waters of life-stories are favoured by many.
Cristoph De Caermichael
PS. I was in Krabi Thailand from the 18th – 22nd of November 2016. I was on the 21/11/16 havinga conversation about the Tsunami and how I felt it n 2004.
I was at the beach later on that date, swimming n the Jade waters of Krabi and looking at the 4 islands. And I thought – THERE IS A TSUNAMI COMING SOON – would it affect those islands and the Beach and I casually thought of where I was staying at Cha Won and what were the chances. I had to leave on the 22nd – and went to bed and woke up early tossing and turning – around 5.30am I went to look at Facebook and any news.
The news was about a TSUNAMI that hit Japan on the 22/11/16. I once again called it, and realized that just by being in the water – of Krabi – there was a vibration that I somehow felt. I then thought oh Crap – this is way too much sensitivity.