Thursday, March 31, 2005

Khao Lak Update

Hi Folks,

Settling into life here in Khao Lak. Show up for work every day, breakfast gathering with the volunteers, then off to the work sites in the backs of trucks and motorcycles. Digger and I have a three-mile commute to the center from our bungalow, where those lizards have kept me awake every night until about 3 a.m. when they suddenly just stop.

Then they start up again.

Unfamiliar with the sounds of the jungle just outside our window, Digger sat up straight out of a dead sleep our first night here, asking, "What the fuck was THAT?"

We joked about the white 2 ft. rat he saw on the rafters, making a deal with that loud lizard, telling him, "You cover my movements with your sound, and I'll score us the barbequed potato chips."

Mr. E., our bungalow mgr., drinks himself to sleep each night, telling me of his nightmares of the tsunami and his mother in his dreams. 'Soona-meee', they all say, as did Mr. E., over and over the other night, as we sat up late, watching Thai TV.

My worksite friend and English student/Thai teacher, Voy, lost his girlfriend, two family members, and the husband and two sons of a family of four from Sweden that has been coming here for years and had become his friends. He had a dive shop, a restaurant, and a tour guide service, all lost to the wave.

Today I finally asked him, 'How can you be happy?' as he pointed out a poster on the wall of the still missing father and two sons.

'I try to stay busy working each day,' he said. 'I try to keep happy.'

You would never know his personal story by his general gaeity on the job site. Others seem more laden with their grief. One man, who told another volunteer his story and asked not to be named, is pleasant and smiles and jokes with us, but sometimes you can catch him, isolated and lost in his thoughts.

The artwork that is being produced is incredible, from both children and adult artists. Maybe it's just by being closely associated with the tragedy and knowing the context of the artwork is why it's so moving, but I've never witnessed work so laden with emotion as this.

There's rubble and reconstruction going on everywhere. After awhile, one can become accustomed to the scenes of devastation, but even up north, twenty or thirty miles up the coast where the wave didn't hit, the village was destroyed by twelve foot seas that swept through.

You guys still sweating? We start sweat here at about 9 a.m. and continue sweating until about three or four in the afternoon.

Lots of Aussies, Germans, Swedes, Brits and Kiwis in camp. Some dreadlocks, some backpackers on Asia tour. Thai and Japanese representation in camp. Canadians, and a suprising number of Americans from all over the place. No republicans. Nobody from Texas. Several from Seattle.

Lots of NGOs putting up new homes all over the place. Digger got an offer today to work with a new program starting up in Nam Khaem, I think is the right spelling, whereby he gives a three-month pledge and they take care of his lodging, meals and visa extension.

Big Scare Panic the other night with the earthquake. At this point, the people believe anything can happen. Given the loss of life and the impact of the wave on their lives, you can understand why they and the Royal Thai Army rousted everyone out of their homes to head for the hills.

Convinced that the entire peninsula would have to go underwater in a major earth change for the water to reach the high ground upon which we're staying, we went back to bed. Next day, everyone around here was dragging ass on three hours' sleep.

Leonard, a fellow worker from Poland living in Nepal, just sat down at the next station, one of six here in the ctr., the Khao Lak Nature Preserve, where two gibbons swing around the bamboo porch trusses in the mornings, making entertainment for everyone.

A nasty tour bus/van accident up the road five k. yesterday. A double decker tour bus sandwiched a van of local guys, killing two and putting the others in intesive care. When there's somebody oncoming in your lane, you yield and take to the shoulder, keep a straight line. Everybody reads everyone else's intention.

Please forgive the first-draft typos. Giving up the screen to others waiting.