Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Rest Is Jungle

The Rest Is Jungle

Despite our everyday use of of the footpath to our bungalow on the edge of the jungle, the vines continue to advance on the walkway and the bungalow itself, threatening to consume it if not assiduously maintained.

On the way up here from Phuket, we identified the trees we knew. 'There's rubber, and coconut, and pineapple, and magnolia. Bamboo.'

"What's that?" I asked our driver, pointing out at the mass of green and vines.

"Jungle," he said. "The rest is jungle."

Hot, steamy jungle, sucking up the water after a rain and immediately returning to oppresive heat. It seems to have settled down at night, cooling off to allow us sleep, and the creatures out there seemingly more quiet. Only the ghosts are roaming.

The Thai won't swim because they believe all those ghosts out there, in their confused desire for company, will pull them out to sea. They won't eat the shellfish, either, believing that they've been feeding upon the flesh of the dead.

So many posters still up of the missing. So many matter-of-fact stories of lost family members and uncounted Burmese. At times it seems as if we're all PTSD counselors. There's nothing to say, no advice to offer, not even a tear. Just to sit with them in their space. They say they can't sleep.

Two of seven, Voy said, astride his motorcycle, on his way to Phuket to identify the bodies, he said. Two of seven family members had been recovered. Michael, too. A Swiss man who lived here running a restaurant for fifteen years. His Thai wife wasn't the person they found, it turned out, he said, after a day trip to Phuket to examine photos, clothing, and dental records.

Housing projects going on up and down the road. The Germans are impressive, going at their 40 home project, with villagers now living in the completed homes in Thap Tuan. Under a tin roof boat shed in Bang Niang, a production line of six long tail fishing boats are being turned out by Thai carpenters.

Our boathouse project at Cape Pakarang continues with Muslim Burmese boat builders working alongside us, laughing and telling man jokes and what that bitter green leaf they chew will do for you. They tease Aeer, who has two wives who don't let him get any sleep at night, and were as concerned as Scott about the overnight theft of some of our tools from the wooden tool shed, sprung open at the lock with a pry bar, and replaced now with a large metal cabinet that a Thai welder modified on site, today causing a burn on Kon's foot after he stepped barefoot on a red hot scrap of reinforcement iron. Flip flops are bad enough on a construction site, but barefoot is really asking for it.

Four nights a week I continue with individualized tag team English lessons for a bright and enthusiastic nephew Op, along with the translator help of his uncle Pon and the encouragement of his parents, whose restaurant he helps run, sitting around an outdoor table with a coke and his relatives and other interested parties who come and sit, mostly quietly, but sometimes offering an explanation or clarification in Thai.

It's fun to hear him hesitantly work out useful, everyday phrases like, "" to which Digger suggested adding when I told him, "hab you got a probrem?"

"Tell him he'll always get a reaction from people," laughed Digger, who has a 14 student English class of his own up in Nam Kaem through the Mercy foundation that he co-teaches with Melanie from England.

Special emphasis on 'h', 'l', 'r', 's', and 'x' for nephew Op.

They can't say 'David' or 'Vic'. Digger is 'Davis', and I'm 'Wick'. We'll repeat our names, and they'll say it the same way. Davis. Wick.

Emphasis is always on the last syllable when speaking English. That's 'Mon-KEE', 'Lay-DEE,' 'Ti-GER', and 'soona-MEE'.

The word is the same in Engish, Japanese, or Thai. Same same meaning. Big Wave.

They're selling the Tsunami CD in the shops here now, taken from an amatuer's vantage point atop a scenic overlook of Khao Lak, and where his girlfriend screamed in vain at the unfortunate tourists walking in wonder out among the uncovered seabed as the wave rolled in, "RUN! RUN! NOW! QUICK!"

Some of the people said it was sick, but I bought a copy.

The sun is finally headed toward the horizon, casting reddish rays through the sliding glass doors of the low speed internet cafe. Going to head over to the beach to watch it drop into the sea.

- end