habitat thailand: day zero

It’s a cloudy Sunday afternoon here, relatively cool. I woke up very early this morning, tossed and turned in the pitch darkness for a while, then watched the interior of my room gradually take shape as the sun rose. The air conditioner hummed along and cooled the room nicely, but filled it with a faint mildewy smell.

I have a roomate. Tom. He’s from L.A., a nice guy but the kind of nice you want to hate. He sold his company a few months ago, and he’s been traveling ever since. He’s got some money. He’s smart, good looking, in good shape.

At 7am, Tom’s alarm went off. He got up and showered, and I stepped outside to feel the air of the new day. Not a leaf was stirring, and there wasn’t so much as a ripple on the pool. Warm and humid, but not hot. I just stood there and enjoyed the silence for a while.

Today was not a work day.

We toured a few tsunami-impacted sites, taking pictures. It’s an amazing thing to see the exploded remnants of steel-reinforced concrete walls once belonging to a five-star resort. Even more amazing to see a 100 foot military police boat sitting in a farmer’s field, two kilometers from the sea’s edge (and to know it was two kilometers offshore when the waves hit). So, it was carried four kilometers from where it had been steadfastly guarding the king’s grandson, who was jetskiiing at the time and died that day.

On the much brighter side, we also saw some of the houses Habitat built in June. Met the happy homeowners and their grinning children, who proudly took us inside and toured us around.

We had a delicious family style lunch of cashew chicken, grilled salted fish, deep fried prawns and shrimp, tom yum soup, stir-fried greens with garlic and of course lots of steamed rice. After lunch, the group split. Some went back to the hotel, while the rest of us took a short 1km hike to a nice beach with a view.

We sat and chatted for a while, and then from there, we went to an elephant orphanage, where we were treated to a steep muddy ride. I kept thinking I was going to take a header over the front of the thing, but it was a lot of fun, and the elephants definitely deserved the bananas and pineapple we fed them at the end of the trail.