FB Status, November 07, 2011
“Im speechless… I’m utterly speechless first by the turn out… 150 + people!! Second by what you guys have raised: 328,000 Baht!!! But that’s not all, the evening afterwards in the Cha’s bar, having such a diverse group of people, most having met first time and yet we celebrated, partied, laughed, hugged, and danced as if we had known each other for 20 years!!! This positive energy and pure connection between humans makes life so freaking exciting that I thank god to be on Earth, thank you everyone!!! Now, let’s take it easy for a day and then full steam ahead again!!!”
This was Sunday, November 06. On Monday, November 07, I scrambled and felt as if I just had a few sparring rounds with Mike Tyson!! Sundays are always the climax of intense weeks and their zenith are those Sunday-wipe-parties that are not from this planet… I felt fuzzy till the point when I saw what was going on on the internet in the wake of the wipe, when your Facebook is exploding and you don’t know where to click first, which photos and videos to look, which comments and status to read and respond to and how to describe your feelings in a compact status update. With all these responses, messages, likes, comments, emails, sms and calls coming in from all directions from Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, email, phone and smoke signals. Nat’s trailer views skyrocketed and our trailers kept going strong, it was the fuel that added to the fire.
We had to use this momentum and even outdo the success of Wipe 1 -3 but for that Monday it was about indulging the positive energy that was sweeping across many Facebook profiles. Throughout the week more updates fluttered in. From comments I learned that we were at Channel 11 and the next piece of news came from Thai PBS News Channel with video clips being shared by our volunteers. Die schriftliche Zusammenfassung auf Thai:
We were quite amazed to see that we made it into the Thai news but even this amazement was soon to be outstripped by the phonecalls I got from Central World Plaza Bangkok’s largest shopping and lifestyle mall vowing to fully support the campaign and playing our video trailers on their massive Panasonic screen which is one of the largest in Asia and sending out their media team to capture the event and put a live-stream on their screen. Baskin&Robbins called and asked to join the campaign with their own wipe in front of their Platinum Mall branch, staff from Mini- cooper Thailand supported us by donating equipment, interview requests trickled in and my favorite article on Wipe the Tide got a full page cover in the Bangkok Post Thailand’s leading English newspaper.
FB Status update, November 11, 2011
“I went outside to grab the actually paper edition of the Bangkok Post Newspaper and just read article and what a great summary of Wipe the Tide it is!! I’m overwhelmed. And the BURNER IS: Central World Plaza is going to promote our campaign by playing our videos on their massive TV screen, with all the infos on the next wipe action!!! Guys, what is happening here????”
With all this media exposure and our proclaimed aim of raising one million Baht the pressure of defining the relief projects grew and we tried as good as we can to gather as much information on projects. FB Status, November 07,2011
“The first three waves of our donations safe and secure on a Bangkok Bank Account and it’s not going to move until we find or create a great project to support. The money will not go into one single project and the fundraising won’t stop here. Our first aim is get the million but parallel we’re researching ways on how to use this money wisely and effectively especially in the long run!! Please submit your suggestions!!”
We were invited to Gareth Finch for a follow up interview on Wipe the Tide and there we wanted to bring the message across that we’re scoping out the possiblities for our funds.
FB Status Update November 10, 2011:
“If you’re reading the Bangkok Post newspaper tomorrow, turn to the Life section there will be an article on Wipe the Tide!! :o) Oh and here’s another interview on Wipe the Tide with Gareth Finch and his randomdream podcast, five guys on one sofa, it was packed but the interview is funny :o) check it out”
The scope of the Wipe the Tide project grew tremendously almost beyond control it seemed and we kept pushing and pushing with our sights set on raising one million Baht!! FB Status Update November 12, 2011.
“Hey friends, just to confirm, tomorrow we are out there on Bangkok’s streets to hit the 1 million Baht donation mark!! Need your help, please come out strong and support us, make calls, send mails, spam and bring your friends and grab everyone around you!! We need to conquer Bangkok tomorrow, that’s how we spend a Sunday these days ;o) Got questions? call me: 085-8339218”
We kept going, unswerving, focused and full of energy. I had no choice, there was and is no rest. Accountability and realibility are the law of the day, my uni and work started to take a toll but the impact we created and all these amazing people I have met along the way made up for it.
On November 13, we were set to go for the fourth strike. This was to be the biggest we’ve landed so far. The diversity of people willing to lend a hand and to contribute in times where Thailand needed help was simply mind-blowing. From highschool kids, to managers to tourists, every age, every religion and nationality appeared to have sent their most awesome ambassadors. Why most awesome? Because not only the diversity of this crowd made them special but their energy and readiness to kick ass which gave them also reason to be impatient with us at times since managing so many people was quite a challenge.
This time we had a great amount of people and with that comes a great amount of people that want to talk to you, ask you questions, need this and need that while you actually want to talk to the volunteers, getting to know them, welcome them and make them feel at ease and welcome. But there was no way for me to do this and this is something I regret - not being able to thank people personally for coming and supporting our campaign. Instead my mind was all over the place, trying to think of a million little things at once, call backs, my belongings, matching names and faces, things I had been asked for, questions, concerns and again questions and in between we squeezed in the interviews.
It was an epic day when all volunteers got together in front of Bangkok’s major shopping mall on a bright, sunny day, with our breakdancers getting people fired up and ready to roll out. After little more than an hour the groups swarmed off to occupy major intersections in Central Bangkok once again.
This time we cut out Nana intersection (people are way ‘too friendly’ there) Victory Monument, and the area in front of Platinum Mall (too dangerous). Instead we added Ratchathevi and Silom and added more people to upper and lower Ratchadamri Road. I stayed behind with a small team of volunteers to assign late comers to various teams and to make sure that groups can be resupplied with additional squeegees, signs and donation boxes. People spontaniously joined to create more signs and donation boxes which I would send out on my bike.
My adrenalin was pumped at all times, knowing that we’re having so many awesome people at all these intersections out there doing fundraising for flood victims. I will never forget the moment I came out from the underground carpark Ratchadamri exit on my Gary Fisher bike, to deliver supplies to the groups.
As I plunged into this insanely congested 8-lane road in front of Central World our Wipe the Tide Chemical Brothers trailer suddenly started booming all over the Central World Square. Cutting light and fast through the traffic chaos of Bangkok while our video was playing in the background on Central World’s huge screen injected so much energy in me, it was indescribable, crazy, it was yet another climax of life in Bangkok and an example of what was possible in this awesome city.
I had 90 min. left to cycle a loop passing by various groups at Hendri Dunant, MBK, Ratchathevi, Witthayu and Ratchaprasong intersections. I only wish I had more bikers with me, if I imagine going out with a large group of cyclists to deliver water and other supplies to the volunteers that would make a great impact.
Unfortunately at 4.30pm we have to stop the operation since the bank closes earlier, just when traffic is getting denser everybody has to call it a day and be back by 5pm. The groups flocked back, settling down at the front square of Central World turning it into a public show of grassroot charity unprecendet at this scale.
Each group powered by the experience started counting their catch and each announcement seemed to outdo the previous. The energy and vibe created would have any beerpark pale in comparison. It was mind blowing and I wondered what my friend Michael Stroemer would have said if he had seen this, from 9 people at one stop light to an army of do gooders.
The bank was sort of used to our onslaughts by now but this time they had to surrender and we were able to announce only the final count in terms of bank notes with the counting of coins following the next day.
As with every wipe, volunteers were bind together by a full day of all-out fundraising with all the surprises, exhaustion and fun that comes along. If the energy-level was moderate in the morning it was exploding in the evening. As already mentioned the positive psychological impact that these events bring along are significant, the feeling of empowerment and achievement as a team working for a great cause is something that not only connects people but shows that simple ideas carried out by the average person can have profound impact for all sides.
over 40 minutes passed till we had a rough idea of how much money had been raised. Livethelife’s trailer announced that we wanted to go for the million and the question in the people’s face was whether we had achieve it with this wipe. And the answer was: YES!!! The awesomeness and charme of the volunteers brought people to donate 613,000 Baht in total in around 3 hours time!!
That was a feat that could only be outdone if were to go for the million in one day and this idea was born after wipe 4 with one major question in our minds - when and how to stop Wipe the Tide.
Wipe the Tide was taking up major proportions of the time I had available in a day, basically the fundraising almost completely absorbed me especially in the run up to Wipe 4. However another dimension that goes hand in hand with fundraising became a prominent question in all the buzz and jumble surrounding Wipe the Tide and that was: “What are you guys going to do with all the money??”
This whole new dimension of allocating the money has been lingering beneath the surface since day one and it was gradually making its pressure felt as to deliver the audience some real impact. Countless eyes were looking at us, everybody was at awe about the effectiveness of our fundraising campaign and we wondered whether our focus should be on fundraising first or deliver the doubters and skeptics some action with the money?
For sure we didn’t have a detailed plan mapped out yet but my status updates show that I encouraged the community to contribute in providing intelligence and ideas on important short and longterm projects with a focus on the latter.
FB Update November 05, 2011
“Tomorrow after the campaign, we’ll get together and plan out what initiatives need support short and long term. Then we’ll start to research information, visit places, organizations, etc. and report back to you and also invite you to bring in any information you may have that could help us. We are NOT planning to simply hand cash to a random NGO and say do what you want. We are going to use it in a collaborative and transparent manner.”
Time hadn’t allowed us to upload any content that would give clarification and transperancy to our community apart from a few Facebook updates. This entire spectrum of investing in development work is still in the making as I write but I hope that these blogs will deliver the insights in the whole evolution of the Wipe the Tide project and its affiliated projects.
We’ve realized the scope and complexity of the whole flood event and research, networking, collaborating and creating projects from scratch became a whole new division within Wipe the Tide which had not yet fully developed in the run up to Wipe 4. Before the third wipe our aim was to gather ideas through our social media channels. In between Wipe 3 and Wipe 4 we wanted to do something that was within our capacity hence some fast but yet effective action hence immediate flood response in which we deliver essential goods for survival to affected areas where no help was reaching.
We needed to find those guys who venture out into flooded areas to help and the first tip off we got was Channel 3. You want to go out to the frontline with super star Khun Sorayud delivering supplies directly to affected people and get on TV? Channel 3 is the way to go and here we go.. a moment later Josh, Noor, Dani and I trooped into the Channel 3 building and learned that Mr. Sorayud takes donations only at nine in the morning and in return you’re rewarded with a wai/handshake and a picture with him that may get you on telly for 0.005 seconds.
FB Status update, November 09, 2011:
“Quick update on our Channel 3 visit.We haven’t donated anything to Channel 3 yet since we can only hand them cash or food and post for a picture to be on TV but that’s not our intention. Our intention is to go to the areas to distribute the goods that we buy from the money we all have raised in order to report back to you in our video or photo blogs or even make it possible for you to join us. Thus tomorrow we are joining the Duang Prateep foundation on a trip to flooded slum areas in the east of Bangkok to get first hand insights into the projects ahead. Stay tuned for our video report. Good night :o)”
After this awakening we needed an alternative and we needed it quick but if only brains were that quick. For the first time I sensed a sort of burn out among my three companeros. We plodded through the lobby hall like a bunch of grandmas who got lost in the park on their way to their Tai Chi session before the stroke of enlightenment hit our foggy brains. DPF!! The Duang Prateep Foundation. They were our friends, how we dared not to think of them immediately? They have a vast network and resources and they could possibly help us to get rid of a hundred thousand Baht.
At the DPF’s headquarter where we were fortunate enough to discuss a potential cooperation with the DPF with Khru Prateep herself. If that wasn’t awesome what then? DPF was running relief missions with a focus on the slums of Bangkok and there was certainly something to learn for us.
The next day I was on a supply truck heading for Sai Mai where survival packs donated by a Japanese company were delivered to a flooded community.
Being in those communities gives you the final kick of realization of the immense scope of the flood. We’d been living in our bubble in Downtown Bangkok protected by the government who had communities at the outskirts flood in order to protect the city. What that meant for the people could only be realized if one was to visit these places for real.
The water level in the area we visited was about one meter comparatively moderate compared to other flooded communities where the water level could reach up to 3 meters and more.
However, one meter still trapped most people in their houses since there was the potential of looting so nobody would leave their possessions behind. It would take hours to walk through this putrid water to reach the next dry place. The only dry place within this area was a bridge on which we unloaded the supplies which consisted of over 400 survival packs for families containing the most essential things such as rice, milk, medicine, etc., and EM balls (Effective Micro-organisms)
The goods were then loaded on makeshift boats and locals and people from the Foundation would bring those into the neighborhood and go from house to house to deliver these things to the families.
We talked to the DPF and were determined to help them with immediate flood relief while planning longterm projects with them afterwards. We discussed that after Wipe 4 we would put together a supply mission with the DPF and deliver it out to the communities since as already described, simply handing cash to an organization and walk away is not in our interest.
For us it’s about involvement, collaboration and documentation to cover the flood relief efforts from the beginning (fundraising) to the end (implementation of funds) and share what we learn with you guys and to deliver the opportunity to part of the entire process. We want to connect you to this story and take part from your computer by sharing the content, raising funds for us, by sharing your ideas with us on how to connect and support our operation.
These days we’re breaking down walls, the playing field turns level and everybody can get involved thanks to the power of the internet. We’re not a registered organization but with you we can become a strong network that connects the resources out there to the needs on the ground.
November 6, 2011
“Guys, I’m just blown away!! Despite the mass exodus out of Bangkok we gathered almost fifty people occupying three major intersections between Asoke and MBK and despite being aware that the city would be empty we wiped over 130,000 Baht (!) out of the remaining cars in 2.5 Hours!!! It was a grand day with even grander people, from the beginning to the end the energy carried on and with 10 minutes left, rushing on motorbike taxis to bring the money to the bank on time, we ended up having a great get together and an awesome exchange of ideas over cool drinks and a new yardstick is placed at 1 million Baht!! So the next wipe is coming… soon at your intersection!! And we’ll need you! ;o)”
The Monday after Wipe 2 I started out without a hangover (unlike all the following wipes) but there was just enough time to place an update or two on Facebook other than that we had to go back into action. The whole project gained a new dynamic since an awesome coregroup emerged from Wipe 2. Many new cool people determined to drive the campaign forward. My FB Update October 31.
“We’re going to move on and we won’t rest until we hit the 1 million Baht and only then we’ll take little, tiny rest from fund raising and focus on doing something great with the money and everyone is invited to be part of it!! Thanks to all our brothers and sisters from Kenia, Iran, Turkey, Germany, China, France, etc. for supporting Thailand!!”
We set the date for Wipe 3 for the following Sunday, November 6, it was unclear whether the flood would reach the inner city districts especially the commercial heart. The masses of water were getting closer to the inner city and the first of our friends became trapped in their houses and with more and more people being trapped the streets were still unusually empty. Being trapped in the floods in certain parts brought a terrifying aftertaste given the pictures of roaming crocodiles and giantic snakes.
The old strategy remained, sharing through social media but this time Wipe 2 also delivered us even better ammunition to pump out a trailer that would rock people of their chairs. Daniel and I discussed the theme for the trailer and my suggestion for a soundtrack fell on the chemical brothers which was always up my sleeve waiting for the right video to be used for. We worked in tandem, Daniel put the video footage together and while he was out on a TV shooting I did the refinements.
It was already Friday, the days before I drove forth and back between work in Bangkok and Samut Songkhram to visit my mom who had come from Germany to visit. During the preparation of Wipe 3 we brainstormed more ideas to raise funds and one project Christin and I came up with was “Walky Hawky” whereby foreigners dressed like a traditional hawkers, carrying a pole on their shoulders with two baskets on either ends would give out small items such as flowers to those who donate. This kind of bamboo pole which is called “Haab Khai Khong” is hard to find these days thus we seized the opportunity of being with my family in Samut Songkhram to build the “Haab Khai Khong” ourselves, driving around buying baskets and wire and sawing bamboo sticks, this was country-life at its best.
FB Update, November 02, 2011
“Soon be back to Bangkok and getting ready for the next wipe and another cool campaign in the pipeline. Got things prepared in Samut Songkhram and test run will be tomorrow!! Will keep you posted ;o)”
Traveling back to Bangkok with my old-skool bamboo pole I secured the looks of many passerby. The second I reached home, I turned on my computer and went back to Wipe the Tide. I started late since didn’t want to promote the next wipe without our trailer and with only one and half days left and my high dose of excitement I eventually set out to spam the world. FB Status, November 04, 2011
“Okkkk guys, this is the trailer of our campaign!! Please share it! We need as many people as possible!! We’ll meet this Sunday 12.30pm outside Central World Plaza under the big Panasonic Screen!! Bring you dog, your grandma and everybody and make sure everyone carries bucket, squeegee and donation box and wears a white T-shirt!! Hope you like the video!! Now my friends… spreeaaaddddddd!!!!!! :oP”
The pressure was on and I was glued in front of the computer for two nights, sending out messages, recruiting and planning while the daytime had me almost doze off in the classroom during my private one on one classes. I continued to invite people on a one on one message basis, paying no attention to Facebook events, since I found them quite unreliable. The days following Wipe 2, people were trompeting our cause on their digital walls to mobilize and reinforce us. Our brand-new core team jumped in and were freaking out behind their computers when they saw how it all spread like hell-fire and how the wipes got supported by various groups from My Socialmotion, Lub D Hostels to Pink Sky Production and others. Eventually people asked to set up FB events for us and we gave it a try not knowing where this would lead to but with our nothing-to-loose attitude we nodded to every proposal, bring’m on was the order of the day!!!
The outside media attention started classically in the world of web 2.0 with a podcast interview and so I sat down on Gareth Finch’s awesomely funny randomdreams podcast for the first interview of my life at in which he tried to get me off track by drawing hairy balls and a little willie on a piece paper.
The complete interview:
While I was sitting on Gareth sofa the digital wildfire was raging and our video spread to the FB page of the Thai-American Association and on other blogs and websites, promising heavy promotion of the video. The number of likes on our FB page surged and newspapers, magazins and TV shows were knocking on the digital door. We met with volunteers of the Baan Arsa Jai Dee organization at Asoke intersection who asked to host their own wipe parallel to ours on that Sunday, which we agreed to.
Since we already joined forces with Baan Asar Jai Dee at Asoke we promptly tested out operation “Walky Hawky”. Wearing a traditional hat, a pole and handing out flowers proofed to be highly effective way to raise money too but probably because we became the amusement for those in the boredom of their cars. To avoid undermining the income of streetkids we did not sell those flower garlands but other types of flowers that couldn’t be used for car decoration. If this was to be a permanent fundraiser we’d buy all the garlands of the kids and give them a day off. However, this fundraiser has a quite a few challenges and balancing a pole with the baskets in between the cars is certainly one of them.
If I wasn’t out meeting people, working or ‘studying’ I kept typing personal invitation emails like a secretary on steroids while my core team kept my phone busy with exciting updates. After a little more than 24 hours our trailer reached over 2,500 views and stopped counting the encouraging comments. My impact of my excitement on my sleep was worth 20 cans of Thai Redbull.
FB Status, November 05, 2011
“I’ve got a feeling .. it’s going to be craaazy!!! Sunday’s going to be crazy!!! I can’t sleep … some crazy stuff is going on… but I love it!!!”
and the morning sun was rising, promising a beautiful Sunday whilst Daniel’s excitement had him occupy my toiled half the morning and the rest of us was absolutely clueless as to what would eventually happen.
With more and more people trickling in it dawned on us that the space under the Panasonic screen was getting too crammed. By 11.30a.m we had gathered over 130 wipers at the event and we moved in front of Isetan Department Store.
Apart from NGO’s we had other groups joining us, Lub D Hostel sent over a lovely platoon consisting of their staff and tourists and even Outback Steakhouse had a group coming though without any spare-rips to share.
Lacking the experience of organizing large-scale operations we made up for it by keeping a Thai mentality of what ever happens happens. This time we had to deal with large groups of volunteers without any equipment and to group the crowd effectively. Pee Jeep from the Bangkok Post and his photographer as well as Michelle and Nat from Live the Life TV were there to not only see and report on Wipe the Tide but to actually join in, thanks again for your helping hands :)
Whilst teams were getting ready to roll out we layed out the map of Central Bangkok and planned the allocation of teams. Boom had the police at each intersection informed as to what’s going to happen so that they wouldn’t arrest us for taking us as red-shirts disguising ourselves in white. This time we expanded our field of operation from 4 intersections to 9 and added Soi Nana, Witthayu Road, Chidlom, Victory Monument and Pratunam.
From all locations so far I let you guess which area was the most discouraging? Not because of low traffic density but because the people in that area!! Is it:
a) Ratchathevi b) Nana c) Ploenchit ?
One clue: Even the traffic police officers warned us that people there aren’t the nicest. Anyways the police helped us raising more donations by extending the redlight phase on this particular traffic light.
After roughly 3 hours out in the traffic the white t-shirt platoons made their way back to Central World Plaza where we were given a large room to count the money from where the team leaders would head straight to the Bank. It was amazing seeing so many young people walking with all these donation boxes through the glittering corridors of Central World after a long day out in the tropical heat of Bangkok’s massive intersections. The bank struggled with the onslaught of donation boxes and only the team leaders were to enter this small Bangkok Bank branch.
It took the bank about an hour to count the incredible bulk of twenty-,fifty and hundred Baht notes, not to mention all the coins. Many of the volunteers despite being very hungry and tired stayed on to hear the final count by the bank and eventually I had the honor that on Wipe 3 this great crowd of highly spirited volunteers managed to raise a whopping 328,000 Baht in roughly 3 hours!!!
Celebrating this feat, I saw Michelle and Nat from live the Life TV who created a beautiful trailer out of this. Pee Jeep and his camera man Porsche from Bangkok Post too did not only come for a quick shot or interview in the morning but stayed on and wiped with us all day till the final count. Everybody had an awesome time, people shared pictures and comments and Jeep from Bangkok Post described it in his Facebook updates as one of the best reporting experience he has ever had.
I feel that there’s nothing greater than impacting people’s lives like that. Creating events or experiences that people will remember, that people will share and that impact them in a positive way is something we strive for even beyond the flood. Mr and Ms. Amazing aka Michelle and Nat produced this freakingly awesome trailer for Wipe the Tide.
Despite of being hungry and having spent the whole day out in the sun and smog of downtown Bangkok, everyone was pumped and excited and eager to not only wait for the final count of the bank but to return for another wipe.
It was a day where countless awesome pictures were taken, new friendships were forged and the success of our community was celebrated in our series of crazy night-outs - this was our foundation for Wipe 4 towards the million.
For more Wipe the Tide action check these albums:
30th October, 2011 The experience of the fund raising had a grip on me. We agreed that it was not enough to create a sequel of the wipe but to establish a permanent flood response group around it. If bangkokvanguards was a social business working in the service for this country and its people than Wipe the Tide should become an integral part that could be activated every time a disaster would hit Thailand, thus from the beginning it was not set up as a spontanious, effective fundraising event but something that has yet to fully emerge.
The initially idea for this flood response group was by creating a network of international students from all the major universities in Bangkok, which could be mobilized for the wipes. The problem here was that many students had fled the city down south to escape the flood chaos and Michael Stroemer had to continue his studies in Germany. With Stroemer and other students gone a new plan was needed. It was out of the question to let the fundraising idea slip out of our hands, and thus we initiated to mobilize more volunteers through our social media channels. Watching our group in action from afar during the first wipe and noticing the characteristics of a flashmob style military operation a military-like yet funny codeword “Wipe the Tide” was born.
October 11, 2011
I was pretty tired of reading of all the stuff that was going on during these chaotic flooded days in Thailand and I started to wonder what was wrong with Thailand’s Karma after the city was set ablazed a year before, now it was be to be drowned in the masses of flood water approaching from the north. The media was likewise flooded in articles and commentaries about incompetence, finger pointing, corruption and political games. Only small islands of witty and sadly comical conclusions such this one by my favorite Bangkok Post columnist Voranai wrapped up the seriousness with at least some humor which was to be immediately shared via my Facebook update on Oct. 16, 2011
“Annual flooding is even more a part of life than skin-whitening cream, but less so than corruption”
Artists became highly productive in sharing their sentiments of the situation and newspapers became the perfect outlet.
Throughout the whole time news remained unclear and contradictory leading from simple frowns to people being evacuated for now reasons. However satelite images spoke more than a million words and people got nervous, the flood was to come, but where? When? To what extend? Nobody knew but people knew that it was to be the biggest flood ever in the history of Thailand. It was a new type of Tsunami, the slowmotion version and it was there to stay for months. It threatened to turn Bangkok into an island, black putrid masses had already started to devour the outskirts of the megacity and threatened to cut it off from its neighbors.
The mass exodus started, leaving us with the question to stay or leave? Leaving and coming back after a week would mean you’re back at square one since it was said the flood was to stay for months. Newspaper articles from Germany to Thailand like these ones ”we do not what we are doing”, ‘why we loose’ “Kampf um Bangkok” (Fight/struggle for Bangkok) did everything but to reassure us that the situation was under control. With Doomsday as the proclaimed destiny for Bangkok were we to lean back and watch it happen or buzz off to a tropical beach and watch from afar?? Reliable information was as hard to find as mineral water at Seven Eleven and we decided that the answer whether to leave was NO! The first step for us was to get our own picture of the situation.
After seeing what people were up against and witnessing the commitment of countless volunteers we were ready to join in. http://edition.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2011/10/23/hancocks-thailand-flooding.cnn?hpt=hp_c1 After reading articles like “why we loose” it promts you even more to stay and help. None of us wanted to loose and watching things drifting into chaos was about loosing. My FB status update: October 23, 2011, 11:24a.m.
”Intellectuals fill the sandbags, while buffaloes make the plans.”
We wanted to set a different example, we wanted to make a difference in our own way, a small one of course, helping a few, somehow, somewhere, we didn’t know much except for the fact that we can help filling sandbags, donate to the relief centers or go out to the front lines and build sandbag walls. Phonecalls were made, information gathered, the usual suspects offered relief work opportunities: City Hall, Don Muang Airport, Red Cross, Thammasat Rangsit, Dusit Thani Hotel, BAAC, and others. We saw countless people giving and volunteers working their butts off but we wanted to help by doing something different thus we shifted our focus to fundraising. Donation boxes were all over the place and already lots of young peopel were on the streets asking for donations but for us sidelining the streets and preaching wasn’t enough anymore, we needed to be more creative and proactive in our approach. We didn’t have the means for a charity concert and we neither had the popular profile of a celebrity so we need something else. We discussed the possibility to take on jobs of Thai people working in public. If those jobs are done by foreigners like us it may draw more attention which could affect our fundraising in a good way. Then one morning, the phone rang and sometimes there are these phonecalls that alter the course of your life.
My life was already in a sort of high-speed level with teaching, university but first and foremost with bangkokvanguards which is Daniel’s, Christin’s and my passion. With bangkokvanguards, we were intensively working on supporting projects through community based walking tours which involved a friend’s social business and projects in Chinatown that aim to show visitors a different side of Bangkok whilst helping to preserve old traditional communities but all this was literally washed aside by events that would follow.
The phone buzzed, my friend Michael Stroemer was calling and the first words coming out from the phone were: Dude, how about going into the traffic and wiping windshields of cars to raise money? I’ve got 2-3 friends but is it actually legal? How about permissions?” The moment my brain connected -wiping windshields + fundraising- I immediately knew that was the idea and said: “Give a monkey about permissions, did the flood ask for permission?”
It felt as if I hung up and pressed the dial button at the same time, ringing up my team, Daniel, Josh and Aimi who were immediately sold.
A day later, 10.30 a.m. Asoke intersection, one of Bangkok’s main traffic arteries cutting through the Sukhumvit corridor north-south. Its 6-lane width (one way) and 180 seconds red-light phase, made this intersection perfect for our first wipe. Our first wipe platoon: Claudia, Hendrik and Marco (coming with stroemer bringing shirts, buckets and squeegees), my crew Aimi, Vincent, Joshua and Daniel (donation boxes and cameras to film)
At first we were unsure on how to start the action so we simply nosedived into Bangkok’s notorious traffic and started dispersing into teams of wipers, donation boxes and people with cameras and we were stunned by how quickly people pulled down their windows to donate. The whole operation which was a bit shakey for the first few seconds turned into a flow of positive energy, smiles, thumb ups and “wais” (Thai greeting and thank you gestures).
The positive feedback, the genuine smiles, the encouragement, the good spirit that was delivered across and in between all these cars and their owners would often make us run from one car to the next to catch up with our donation boxes.
After an hour or so, we didn’t dare to think of how much money we raised. People of all colors, cultures and religions were in tune in their response to good action. It was the family, the kids, the grandma, the taxi-,tuktuk and truck driver, the plumber, office clerk, young and old, the students and the seniors we posed, chatted and laughed with. They shook hands, took pictures with their phones and i-pads or even tweeted us right away. It was in this festive microcosm between car-doors on a hot, sunny day in front of a stop-light in downtown Bangkok where cross-cultural obstacles and linguistic barriers were blasted away in support for a common cause.
The only group that appeared in not mood to celebrate this human connection were those who remained quiet behind the tinted windows of their BMW’s and Benz limousines with a few exceptions of course but it reaffirmed my suspicion that way too many of the rich remain outsiders to the real world. I wonder why that is?
Standing by the streetside, briefly reflecting and watching my team storming into the traffic jam reminded me of a flashmob style military operation thus the codename “Wipe the Tide” came into being and it ignited something that from that day onwards it would roll on and carry everyone along. The final count of that day was 27,748 Baht with 9 people in less than 2 hours.
Even for me, grown up between Germany and Thailand it was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. For those new to Thailand it is the best welcome to Thai culture, a one and only experience, an insight to the awesomeness of Thai people.
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The first wipe was the igniter, igniting something that to this day of writing steamrolls ahead carrying along everyone who gets in touch with it.
So what is Schwenk??
Watch the video and song to get the feeling for Schwenk the world
To tell our Thai brothers and sister about the schwenktheworld foodie movement we’ve translated this video with our friend and supporter Nitchi and having a Saarland regional news report subtitled in Thai is one of the miracle of today’s globalization. Watch it, doesn’t it look odd?
The original Schwenkok song
Since, we’re the new official schwenk ambassardors for Thailand, we’re bringing together laidback German BBQ culture and Thai locals, an exchange of ideas, togetherness and good food in unusual locations. Here a few pictures on our scouting for the location on the first Schwenk in Thailand
Kathy and I have explored the Thonburi site to find suitable locations for the schwenk party. Unfortunately we were pressed for time and could only explore the secluded and peaceful area between Wat Rakhangthong to the Chee Chin Khor temple. It got really interesting from the Memorial bridge southwards and we weaved through narrow alleyways of forgotten communities. We talked to locals and told them about the schwenk but we’re afraid that the Thonburi side close by the river is not suitable due to the current flood crisis and lack of open and public space.