January 26, 2005

FITNESS? (via Robert Schwartz):

Survivors of Tsunami Live on Close Terms With Sea (ABBY GOODNOUGH, January 23, 2005, NY Times)

They call it "wave that eats people," but the Moken sea gypsies, who have lived in isolation here for decades, emerged from the tsunami almost unscathed.

A community of about 200 Moken was living on South Surin Island, 40 miles from the Thai mainland, when the wave hit on Dec. 26 as it was barreling toward the coast. The Moken's village of thatched huts on stilts was on the beach, but when the water crashed over it, the Moken - including wizened old women and parents with babies on their backs - had already run to the hills.

The Moken know the mysteries of the ocean better than most Thais, having roamed it for centuries as fishermen and divers. They used to live half the year in houseboats on the Andaman Sea, wandering between Thailand and Myanmar, formerly Burma, and while less itinerant now, they remain closely attuned to the water. They are animists who believe that the sea, their island and all objects have spirits, and the Moken use totem poles to communicate with them.

Salama Klathalay, chief of the Moken here, said his elders taught him to expect a people-eating wave whenever the tide receded far and fast. So when he witnessed such a sight on the morning of Dec. 26, he started running and shouting.

"I had never seen such a low tide," said Mr. Salama, a lively white-haired man who said he was at least 60 but unsure of his exact age. "I started telling people that a wave was coming."

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 26, 2005 12:58 AM
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