Friday, April 01, 2005

100 Days

Khao Lak -

Hi Folks,

Hope you're all well. Switched jobs, from 1st day carpenter, making tables for schools and refugee camps out of particle board coffin wood that was donated from the monasteries, then English teacher for a group of kids up north 40 k. at the village of Takuapa. Surrendering that job to younger volunteers, I joined a construction crew at the 'boat yard' on Pakarang Cape, building a Thai style cathedral that will accommodate six boats and serve to rebuild the local fleet.

Digger went from the boat yard crew to a youth summer camp that he is still involved with, talking about staying on for six months in one capactiy or another.

There are about 20 bungalows here at the center, and a view of the ocean from atop the hill here where the view is magnificent. It's been raining every evening at least once. Light rain, the jungle takes a big gulp, then everything returns to steamy hot.

Found out that instead of sneaking into the five star resort near here to swim, we can waltz through the lobby like we own the place, given permission to all volunteers by the manager for use of the gym and pools (6, with waterfalls and interconnecting canals).

Tomorrow begins the three-day '100 Days' celebration with dignitaries, a parade, a big prayer ceremony (for releasing of the spirits, ending grieving, and continuing on with life), and all kinds of events going on, with people from all over the country coming down. Tours through all the project sites and whatnot; arts and crafts; a big deal. So, we get to attend and not have to work. People all over treat us really good, sort of like they did the medics in Vietnam. A lot of care, love, and joy floating around.

You don't hear angry talk anywhere. People don't raise their voices, and everyone is formally polite in their greeting of one another. Some of the meanest, serious-looking dudes, when given a smile and a nod, will bust out in a big-ass smile, as do all the Thai in general.

Those volunteers who are headed home are all saying they hate to leave, with many planning to go just after the 100 Days celebration. Many have said they're going home to make some more money, then return. Some have said they'll make presentations and try to raise project funding.

Yesterday, a minister from somewhere appeared on our site and wrote out a check for 4,000 pounds, they said. That might explain the new power tools today, as we put on the first four courses of tile roofing on the boat house.

Our project crew, headed by an engineer in his 30s from S. Carolina, includes an injury-prone Pole, an absolutely mad but talented Aussie, a Brit, a lady from Alaska, a Finnish couple, another Aussie, and Voy, Kong, and Kon. And Nid ('Need'), a travel agent lady from Phuket who seems to facilitate all our needs and serve as translater. I'm not really sure what she does, popping in and out.

The heat is unbearable, and by midday we're all filthy and soaked with perspiration. You'd think with the sea right there, 20 yards away, that we'd swim every day, but we don't. I'm about the only one. Not really a swim so much as a dunk and cool down.

Somebody's got bucks and pops for lunch every day out on the main artery road at a traditional Thai restaurant. This area (Khao Lak) appeared to be upscale before the Wave, kind of like Sea Island, GA or Aspen, with really nice resorts for Germans and Swedes, and lower rent places for backpackers and Americans...not that Americans can't stay in the nice places...

Further up the way are the fishing villages and smaller remote places that are less touristy. There are refugee camps all up and down the coast with volunteer programs operating in them, and large encampments of Thai National Army here and there.

Many of the vols were already touring around Asia, but many others, such as the Finnish couple, had been coming here for years and had friends here, and came specifically for the relief effort.

I haven't been into any of the orphanages yet, but I've met a couple of little kids who lost their parents. There's a phrase used around here by the Thai, and they sort of use it jokingly. It sounds kind of strange and funny rolling off an Asian tongue.

"Oh, my God!"

Up at the wiped-out village of Nam Kem (It's 'Kem', and not 'Khaem'), one of the fishermen yelled out to Marilyn, who was there to paint 'Impalas', 'Poudre High School' (the funders) on one the long-tail fishing boats, "Oh, MY COD!"