Saturday, May 21, 2005

Run To Ranong / Made It To Here

Run To Ranong

Unless you've got special star status, an appointment with the princess, or a six month work visa, you've got to make the 'visa run' every thirty days if you want to remain in the country. Minimally, you can cross over a border into any adjacent country, then return immediately. Good to go. Another month.

One could go anywhere in the world, even the International Space Station, but here the closest choices are Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, or Myanmar. From the Isthmus of Kra, our closest choice is Myanmar, a trip made twice so far, whereupon entry our party was immediately descended upon by a crowd of begging children and viagra and valium peddling young men with opium eyes, kicking the asses of the urchins competing for our attention. A carton of cigs for 200 baht in Burma, same same five bucks.

The two-hour one way trip is a leisurely day away from the work site, but 'at the end of the day,' as the Aussies are keen to say, the trip ends up requiring a full day's patience, as any traveling can be for an Oversized, Supersized American double XL ass in a Thai bus or motor chariot, whereas one often will see a 'Thai Family Of Five On a Honda', and just yesterday at Cape Pakarang camp, there must've been 40 Thai off-loading out of the back of a tinyass Isuzu truck.

That's just the way it is, same same the impracticality of lace-up shoes in a culture of flip flops, where footgear is left on the doorstep of all homes and most businesses, and where constantly wet feet and sand are a fact of life, like gumbo on the rez.

Down at one of the reconstruction sites where Thai workmen were shoveling up another batch of concrete, the sea waves breaking behind them, just for chuckles I asked them, "Where you guys getting your sand?"

For a buried crab, the whole universe is sand, inna?


After five solid days of rain without a speck of sun, this week the god of intermittant torrential downpour let off in preparation for Buddha's birthday and our ceremonial launching of the first boat out of the boat house. After a prayer offering, flowers, incense and brightly colored silk scarves tied to the bow, and hefted onto the launch ramp by two dozen Thai, Burmese, and a few volunteers, the blue boat 'Hope' slid down into the small canal to the delight of two or three hundred there for the photo op and the following beach party that ran late into the night with multinational karaoke blaring away, big feed, and beer under an almost full moon.

"Forty-one to go," said project manager Scott in a celebratory high-five, grinning with tears in his eyes, wanting a cold beer, still dripping wet from planting the the forward end of the ramp in the canal, up to his chin in tidal water while seven others set the ramp just finished a minute ago, at 6:05, for the six o'clock launching, so they said, that happened closer to seven.

Whathisname gets the boat. The guy that 'Yeshua Nate', the guy with the three-foot long dreadlocks, rides around with in his side car, along with the four kids who survived the tsunami. Sorry I can't give you his name. He lost his wife, a son, and a leg. And his fishing boat. Comes around the boathouse on one leg and a crutch, bringing his kids and Nate, who, spreading his peace and love and open use of ganja, manages to repeatedly demonstrate how to take one step forward, three steps back, helping drive that nail in just a little bit further with a two-pound sledgehammer until the board splits.

I had to smile and say politely, "Thank you, Nate. Thank you for doing that," instead of saying like I did last week, "Why the fuck did you do that? Why did you keep pounding on that son of a bitch until it broke? Come down off the ladder, Nate. Put the hammer down."

I caught myself talking to him as one would a small child. The tone of a dad to a five year-old son in a machine shop. How arrogant of me to presume any knowledge of carpentry. What lacking of humilty to stop a saint from undoing three days work with his new skill saw toy.

The strong language required an apology, to which he replied,"No problem. It's forgotten," just like a puppy.

After witnessing the hurt in his face, his eyes reddening and plunging him into a momentary sinkhole of sadness, it appeared the Burmese boatbuilders had a better approach. They stopped him by using sign language, waving their hands and shaking their heads and taking their power tools out of his hands.

All without saying a word. Amazing. The non-verbal body language said, 'No. Don't. Don't tighten that bar clamp for us. Don't hit that. Don't do that. Don't use the planer on our boat. Stop.' They never asked him to get out of their way, or to stop climbing around in the boat they were trying to build.


How do those elephants manage to stay off the road? Most of the time they're grazing freely when I pass them each day, sometimes with their looks to be Burmese trainers aboard, lumbering down the side of the road in single file, clomping along with their heavy, steady gait, suprisingly fast. When the wave hit, people say the elephants took a bunch of children to higher ground, and took off to the mountains with tourists aboard, ignoring their trainers.

All the animals made it, people say. No cats found. No dogs among the dead. Just people. 'Tsunami Dog', adopted by the family that runs the restaurant where we lunch, lost his former family and lays around in the road, looking to get hit, it looks like. The chicken-on-a-stick lady who drives the charcoal vendor on wheels with a sidecar, gives him gizzards every day. Apart from laying in the road, disinterested in the swerving trucks and motorcycles, he seems happy for the gizzards and to be alive.


During a break in the boathouse construction when the power 'went down', as it does nearly each afternoon, Mr. 'K' said, "C'mon. I show you my farm."

We went for a ride to the southern end of the cape with Eeb and another Muslim guy who always wears a face mask around the boathouse. We passed another devastated resort just in the process of being rebuilt, onto his land, a grove of coconuts littered with sea and building debris.

You have to listen to him closely. He's speaking English.

"My rest-a-rant, here," he points at a foundation remains. Hard to imagine what it looked like. Something like a postcard setting, I suppose. Setting sun, tropical paradise, restaurant, dive shop, coconut palms, tailor shop, tour guide...

He lost all his businesses, his son, father-in-law, sister-in-law, and several employees. Already told you. What does it matter, the numbers? On the job, you'd never know. Just like the guy with one leg to whom the first boat was given. You'd never know until they tell you. Or someone else tells you.

He told me twice, making certain that I understood, although I wondered how he could know. "Right here," he said with a detached nonchalance, as if identifying a nighttime constellation, pointing to a spot of ground fifty yards from the beach where the waves crashed on the beach. "My son. He made it to here."

- end