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Expat Life

One nation under God (or Buddha)

This morning I had a long talk with my buddy Jesse who lives in Thailand.  As I’m sure you’ve caught in the news, there has been a team of 12 young soccer players and their coach trapped in a cave in northern Thailand for 11 days now.  Thankfully they have been located and, so far, seven of them have been rescued.  They are in weakened states, but alive and doing well.

He tells me that the tense situation has done something he has only seen once before in his 10 years in Thailand; it has brought the entire country together over a single issue.  He said that everyone has been focused on the trapped group and that everyone had prayed that they would be found.  And they continue to pray that they can be safely taken out of the cave.

He tells me that other than when Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej died almost two years ago, he has never seen this kind of national unity in the country.

Even more impressive he told me, was that the papers aren’t blaming anyone for this near disaster.  No one is attacking the coach saying he never should have taken the children in there, no one is blaming the parents for letting them go and no one is blaming the government (or other countries) for not getting to the boys sooner.

Everyone is just united in hoping for the best for the young men.  The situation has united an entire country, without anger or blame, to focus on the good of some children.

Their rescue is not complete, as they still have to be taken out of the cave.  The simplest solution in everyone’s mind is to let them come out with rescue divers.  But the reality of that is much more difficult; it takes healthy SEAL divers six hours to get out by themselves.  Taking children who have never scuba dov eout with them has enormous risks of its own.  And with more rain forecast for this week, the urgency of getting them out means there may be no “perfect” solution to their escape.

Nonetheless, the coming together of a country that my friend told me about reminds me of when little Jessica McClure was trapped in a well in her aunt’s backyard in Midland, Texas in 1986.  Do you remember?  She was 18 months old at the time and fell into what was thought to be a sealed, abandoned well shaft.  It took rescuers 56 hours to get her out.  They tried all sorts of things, but eventually were able to get to her by digging a parallel tunnel using a water-jet to cut the new shaft (new technology at the time).

The entire event was followed worldwide, with CNN giving round-the-clock coverage of it at the time.   The dramatic ordeal led then President Ronald Regan to say “everybody in America became godmothers and godfathers of Jessica while this was going on.”

Other than the physical reminders of her entrapment (she lost a toe to gangrene and had a scar on her forehead that required 15 surgeries over the years), she has no first-hand memory of the situation.

Because they are much older, these Thai boys will likely have some problems dealing with this in the years to come.  But hopefully, knowing that they brought their country together for even a short period of time, will give them something to be proud of and help them to deal with the issues they will face.

The extensive international attention to their situation has been as intense—maybe even more so—as it was with Jessica’s rescue.  Maybe because now, in a time where tragic news, political hostility and blame seem to be what constitutes all of the news, it’s comforting to see people pulling together for a common national goal.

For me, it made me remember a time when the most important thing for me as an American was an 18-month old little girl in a tiny town in the big state of Texas.  It was a simpler time in America for sure.  One that seems all too distant.  It’s too bad America isn’t able to stand together behind its tragedies anymore.

I’m just sayin.’
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Some notes to share: Sorry if you haven’t been able to find The Cuenca Dispatch.We publish 2,000 copies each week and distribute them to Supermaxi Las Americas, Don Bosco and El Vergel, and Sunrise Cafe and San Sebas Cafe on Saturdays. We also leave 60 copies at The Vegetable Bar and 25 at Hotel Oro Verde; Jerry Egge who wrote last week’s Guest Column welcomes you to email him at jerryeggeinecuador@yahoo.com with your comment; Just a reminder, Tutto Matto Pizzeria is open for business again after their 6-week closure for medical reasons.  Please support them with your business, they’re good people who make great food!