I finally posted my pictures from the Khao Lak trip. Enjoy.
My last post from Thailand was somewhat cynical, and I owe this blog a more balanced account, now that the trip is over. While my cynicism didn’t really go away, I ended the experience with an overall good feeling about it. It helped that in the middle of week two, I finally got to see the destroyed homes we were replacing.
In the end, it didn’t really matter to me whether the net benefit of the experience was to me or the people I was ostensibly helping. The fact is, I had a good travel experience, and I helped build a couple of houses for people who needed them.
I enjoyed making simple jokes with the villagers I worked closely with – simple enough to be communicated via sign language. I enjoyed eating delicious thai food with cold Singha beer for a fraction of what it costs me to park for a day at my office. I enjoyed hard physical work in the hot thai sun, away from my desk and computer screen.
Toward the end of week one, I was moved from my job site to two other sites to help a group of guys transport 18 tall concrete columns a hundred meters or so and position them in 1.4 meter deep footings. The columns were heavy – the tallest of them probably close to 1000 pounds. We moved them by hand, using bicycle tires, wooden poles and muscle power. Either two or three wooden poles, four people per wooden pole – two on each side of the column. I was taller than the others, and they put me on the heavy end of the column, on the inside – shoulder to shoulder with a guy named Mai.
Since I was taller than Mai, he didn’t end up carrying any weight when we moved the columns. This cracked him up to no end. The sun was beating down on us, there was no shade to be found, and none of us really wanted to work. To him, I was a crazy farang who traveled halfway around the world to schlep heavy objects in the hot sun, and he was certainly going to let me go ahead and do that.
After we moved the eighth column, we had a bit of a break. I went to our cooler (we foreigners had a cooler), grabbed a handful of ice cubes and walked back to the guys I was working with. I handed out the ice cubes til I had none. They said “kap kun krab”, held the ice to the backs of their necks and we idled for a while. Mai offered me a smoke. I declined, and we both laughed.
When we got around to moving the next few columns, he stood on his toes in order to give me as much help as he could.