It seems like a very long time ago – almost in a previous life – when we were preparing for what the Thai press dubbed “D-Day” January 1st 2020.
That was the day when our lives in Thailand were going to change forever. When we would no longer get plastic bags at the supermarket or 7-Eleven!
Rooster was all prepared to do his collective bit for the environment by remembering to take a cloth bag or a backpack to Big C and Lotus. I was determined to play my part and alter my irresponsible behavior. I was ready to learn! It all seemed very important.
Little did I and millions of others know that this meager effort would be almost as irrelevant as a single bag floating in the ocean compared to all the other things that 2020 would present to us.
People of my parents’ generation used to say they remembered where they were when JFK was shot. Doubtless younger ones and relative oldies like myself recall exactly what they were doing when some errant planes started crashing in New York.
But despite their extraordinary aftermaths, those were single days in history. Now we have a whole year to reflect on, a year when we will always tell tales to our children and grandchildren about where we were and what we did. A year that we will never forget (and one that could yet become two!).
The Year of Coronavirus – the Year of Covid-19.
Like JFK’s assassination and the terrible events of 9/11, 2020 will never be seen in splendid isolation. Its repercussions will be felt throughout our lives and will effectively mold who we are whether we live in Asia or anywhere else on earth.
This columnist quickly managed to use a cloth bag. I was rarely caught short having to buy one or drive home having forgotten. I felt a certain misplaced pride in doing my bit as January turned into February and news emerged of something that had transpired in Wuhan. John Hopkins quickly predicted Armageddon. This seemed too much and one of my first columns on the subject pooh-poohed the virus.
One of many things I was to learn this year was not to assume anything. I was soon dining on humble pie and backtracking. It was at least recognized by my detractors that my idiocy didn’t last too long (unlike some of the loony conspiracy theorists who have pervaded 2020 like a separate virus).
For me the year was characterized by many things that will be familiar to The Week That Was readers. The realization that this was a life changer. The interminably long lockdown spent with children off school incarcerated at home with a condo swimming pool off limits. Communicating long distance with family members who we couldn’t hug. Avoiding contact with those we hold dear for fear we might infect them. Stopping international travel and even being wary to do much moving locally.
I didn’t need to adjust to working from home. I’d been a translator for Thaivisa operating out of a bedroom for four years already. But the work became “samey”. Tourism destruction, desolate Pattaya, food lines with desperate people, emergency decrees, health protocols, curfews, graphs, testing, government successes and failures, unemployment, predictions, waves and second waves, do this don’t do that, STV, recovery, no recovery, quarantine, breaking quarantine …virus, virus, virus, Covid ad nauseam…pandemic overload.
And what’s worse, at least for those of us living in Thailand, just when we thought it was safe to “go back in the water” and perhaps enjoy the fruits of our collective efforts and those of a government that acted quite decisively backing up a clear plan of public health measures, along comes a double whammy. Any Schadenfreude we might have felt towards Europe or the USA is coming home to roost.
So what did we learn this year – I’d be interested to see your comments on this. I learned a lot of new Thai words and expressions (and the English for them!) I learned I was not so good as I thought at being isolated. I learned how to make Wendy houses from old cardboard boxes but that my patience for my own children was not as bounteous as I once imagined.
Like taking the cloth bag, I soon adjusted to having a mask in my pocket, a mask everywhere. Not shaking hands, giving people more space and washing hands again and again and again. All that gel! Getting used to watching much more TV, sporting events without spectators. Turning a blind eye to the children’s excessive screen time.
My cooking skills improved and I expanded my diet. I haven’t bought bread for almost six months. Exercise went out of the window – there was always the excuse that it would end soon and then things would get back to normal. Some hope!
Financially the year has been a disaster. So many have lost their jobs, had salaries cut or seen thriving businesses go down the pan. In this regard Rooster has been one of the lucky ones. People always seem to want news! In addition, I have found that my spending this year has been lower that almost any in the last two decades. What has there been to spend money on? When it is over, businesses who have managed to ride out the storm may find customers with plenty of money to make up for lost time.
All we can hope is that 2021 will be better. The promise of several vaccines are there. If we can just keep going a bit longer……
It was a week on Thaivisa where, inevitably, the virus was at the top of the news like never before. The events of Samut Sakhon saw to that with the fallout spreading to dozens of other provinces and causing a toppling of the dominoes effect on end of year celebrations and parties. The authorities – and the people themselves – called for a tightening of familiar restrictions.
How we have got used to being slaves to this demon!
Pattaya cancelled their countdown and a Carabao concert in Sri Racha was pulled. Visitors to a market complained that the “tessakit” (local officials) had deserted their post when they were most needed.
The scapegoating began in earnest with many pointing the finger of blame at migrant workers. A Myanmar lady told of abuse and racial prejudice in her seven years in Thailand. A Thai vegetable trader said his compatriots were behaving worse than ever. A factory owner was alleged to have abandoned his workers by the side of the road though this was later contested. (How the press love to speculate – how we have been bombarded with fake news this year!). Prayut stoke the fire by blaming the gangs who smuggle the migrants.
The buck should stop with him but it invariable seems to float on by. The protesters seemed to be hunkering down before renewed efforts in the New Year.
Health minister Anutin said that everything was under control. Always a worry. The face behind the mask – as we usually see him – held one up and declared that all will be fine if we trust the authorities, and follow the established protocols. The seafood industry looked set to lose a billion baht a day.
Tourism authorities said that we could forget any visitors in the first quarter of 2021. Tourism minister Pipat then announced he was working with the TAT and the tourist police on making sure there was no more corruption – this time in the stimulus scheme for the over 55s. They decided to check if the oldies’ groups had actually made it to their destinations – something they hadn’t bothered with for the “Rao Thiaw Duay Gan” project.
Assuming that Thais – or any human come to that – won’t connive and fiddle is usually a mistake.
In international news my home county of Kent found itself at the epicenter of a new strain of the virus that had much of the UK entering “Tier Four”. Everyone started banning the Brits from travelling to their countries though some sense prevailed later from the French, subject to tests! The lorries had been backing up….
At least a Brexit deal looked increasingly more likely at the 11th hour. This may temporarily give retirees a few extra baht in their wallets.
In the States the incumbent started vetoing everything and even Republicans prepared to vote him down. Though hardly amusing to most Americans, the political situation Stateside has provided some distraction in 2020.
In Spain the great Lionel Messi broke the single club scoring record set by the legendary Pele with his 644th goal for Barcelona.
In China a study of adults found that more than half of them were overweight.
Back in Thailand a move was made to make abortion up to 12 weeks legal. One Thai man who was unfortunately not aborted was Ocha from Nakhon Sri Thammarat.
He had conned Thitirat, a BMA employee, into believing he was a wealthy orchard owner. When the truth was revealed and they argued he shot her four times in a car then covered her in a jacket and put a mask on her to make like she was a sleeping passenger.
He then drove her south for SIX hours leaving her to be found in the car. He was soon arrested and at least will be highly unlikely to procreate. We could do without his genes.
As New Year approached the transport authorities said that 30% of people heading out of Bangkok had cancelled their tickets. One official had earlier come up with “New Lifestyle – Safe Driving – No Accidents” for the “pee mai” holidays.
Some things never change.
Finally as you doubtless tuck into your second load of turkey leftovers may I take this opportunity to wish all my readers a happy and safe New Year.
The Chinese say that 2021 will be the Year of the Ox.
Let’s hope, unlike 2020, it is neither a beast nor a burden.