The Circus Has Left Town
As I was driving to work the other day, listening to the sounds of 'It's just another day' by The Beatles, I was struck by just how normal everything around me was. It was D-Day in Phuket for the Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting and as I was breezing through scantily manned check points to my office at the entrance of the host venue Laguna Phuket, there was little sign of the military 'lock down' that was supposed to grip Phuket.
On the back of a suspected terrorist-inspired bombing of the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta a few days ago, there was little evidence of an increased security presence here in Phuket. Even though I have my little red sticker from the Cherng Talay Municipality which grants me 'immunity', I've yet to be slowed down, checked or even noticed during this the past week at the roadside stations that have been erected.
The anticipated shakedowns were to make US Homeland Security look like a Romanian-made version of Dancing with the Stars. As I'm an early riser, most of the stops have rarely been manned. The most popular, however, seem to the be the ones where a few enterprising personnel have set up large TVs with dog eared antennas, standing fans and one or two naugahyde couches.
Perhaps the most compelling question for the moment though is where is Hillary? I spotted her last night on the international TV news on a planned five-day trip to India, so its hard to know if she has come and gone, or if she will even be coming. No answers here it seems and the networks are focusing on the Michael Jackson custody hearing, The Ashes or Lance at the Tour de France.
Tropical islands tend to create their own unique pace which defies clocks or logic. Perhaps here in Phuket, an island that marches to its own pace, the 'sabai-sabai' lifestyle has somehow claimed those foreign interlopers here for Asean and the event has taken on a life of its own, fitting in rather then going against the tide. Sabai' and politics make strange bedfellows, especially at a planned meeting somewhere just south of nirvana.
By the end of the week, after the big top has gone and the circus has left town, we will all still be shipmates in this crazy little part of paradise. I'm not sure if, how or when ASEAN will go down, or if it even matters for that part. It's like that promising minor league baseball slugger who hit the big leagues after knocking fast balls out of the ball park. A few days later he writes to his mom to say that he's coming home soon because they started throwing curve balls.
Once all the fuss dies down, domestic issues such as the tourism downturn, an ailing property market, the ever-colorful spectrum of Thai political flip-flopping and growing concern over crime and the environment will return to our thoughts. Ironically, living locally is indeed a mantra is this global age. I'm personally looking forward to hear the sounds of 'weed whackers' return instead of those butterfly thumps of the helicopters currently providing an airborne taxi service to the visiting VIPs.
I recall watching a Channel V documentary about the head banging, music video-making, big hair bands of the late '80s and early '90s.One of the socio-commentators described the forgotten era as "something so vague and fleeting, it's like it didn't happen at all". Perhaps we will remember the Asean meet like that.
An island of Rip van Winkles crawling out of a coma-like sleep in a few weeks, all uttering the word "huh?." When I was growing up, the circus coming to town as an annual event filled me with excitement, wonder and amazement. It was a naive tribute to a bygone era, and looking back, the memories of it are fading faster then my favorite silk-screened t-shirt.
Hopefully I can get all the tape from my little red pass once the time comes to consign it to the waste bin, but it always takes time to get those blurry marks out. For now, island life remains on the cusp of returning to normal and I, for one, couldn't be happier.