Published: January 20th 2006January 20th 2006
In light of all that has been going on here with playgrounds, tsunami relief, orphanages, and traveling to villages spread out along the main roadway, I do find some time to enjoy myself. But even that becomes part of the overall picture here in Thailand. I have found that even my new friends are connected to my personal pilgrimage here.
The first photo of the large group of people are the wonderful people of the tsunami refugee camp that was set up here just a week after the tsunami. Funded by the Duang Prateep Foundation in Bangkok, it has dwindled from 6,000 inhabitants to a mere one hundred. Among these left at the camp are thirty children. About three to four times a week I visit the camp either while on my way to a project or just to stop in and say 'hello'. During the day the children are in school and on weekends they gather at the camp to do a multitude of activities. The day this photo was taken it was simply a lazy afternoon. The older members of the group are part of the staff and also victims of the tsunami. Kneeling in front with the
Tap Tawan Treat
Children of Tap Tawan get an ice cream treat
Sprite bottle on the ground is Rotjana. She is the director of the camp and has been here since Day One. She and I have become close friends and I value her friendship. It has been a bittersweet opportunity to be a part of this family of refugees. I’m often called by Rotjana to join the camp when there is a function, dance or other activity. Last night I was invited to a local wedding. A 17-year-old girl was to marry her boyfriend after it became known that she had become pregnant. Unlike most situations, the family accepted her pregnancy, but also required her to marry immediately. In Thailand they don't have, as I recently found out, the traditional Western engagement. You either marry or you don’t. Now, not tomorrow. Oh...and no wedding cake, silly garter belts, drunk uncles or speeches. Just a celebration with Sprite, Coca Cola and delicious Thai cuisine.
In the photo of the children with ice cream…well, this is the really fun part. I ventured back into the small community of Tap Tawan. This was a community literally wiped out by the tsunami. My trip here in January 2005 with Christine found me helping rebuild
Dinner in Khao Lak
Travis and I eat dinner with the locals
the stilted and thatched homes here. I left before the first was completed. Now the community is riddled with homes. As before in Ban Nam Khem some weeks ago, I spotted the ice cream cart rolling along and flagged down the woman at the handlebars. Then a simple wave to join me to the nearby children peeking from the doorways of nearby homes sparked the commontional rush for chocolate bars, rainbow swirls, almond fudgecicles and ice cream sandwiches. The ice cream vendor had to collect all the wrappings so she could add up the prices for me. A whopping $4.00 bought me a dozen happy smiles. My smile wasn’t included in the price.
Everyday I drive out of my hotel and down to the main roadway. Khao Lak has returned to being a tourist town but the tourist have yet to arrive. Trickles of people walk slowly along the newly constructed sidewalks sometimes duck into small t-shirt or souvenir shops to get the daily bargains. The young women that tend these shops are mostly transplants from Nepal. But its Tookta, a 29-year-old Thai woman, that has become my closest friend. She is pictured here with Travis (my friend from Boulder, CO that overheard a converstion at a café in Chico, CA when I spoke of the tsunami and asked if could come out to help me build a playground…here he is!) on the left side of me. She says she remembers me from one year ago and that we spoke, but I really don’t remember as I had come into contact with so many new faces then. Tookta was selling souvenirs at her shop when the tsunami hit. She lost her 23-year-old brother who was unable to escape when it hit his shop across the roadway. The other girls are from Nepal and they all work 12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week selling their postcards, t-shirts, picture frames and anything else that spells “Thailand” or “Tsunami”. And behind us are the visitors and tourists. Off in their own little Thai world talking of their exploits, volunteering projects and perhaps trying to hook up with someone while on vacation. I’d rather sit with the local shopkeepers any day! If I wanted to drink beer with a Westerner, then I could have saved a lot of time and money by staying in Chico, California. So…when in Rome…
Tonight I fly back to Bangkok to meet with Hartanto at the Temple of Dawn. The temple, or 'wat' as its called in Thailand, is one of the largest and most respected temples in Thailand. Airline Ambassadors International has asked me to be their representative and speak with Hartanto about building a trade school on the temple grounds. This school is no small project and AAI will employ me for about 4-6 months to be the Project Manager. I welcome the opportunity and the gesture intrusted in me by those of AAI. I'll write more about the project once I return to Khao Lak.
Cheers to all of you that I miss terribly...and to those I don't. But I can't think of anyone I don't miss.