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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Bann Nah 27 - Well Drilled 2

When you stop to think about it, civilization as we know it would be difficult to achieve if the planet was not endowed with aquifers throughout its subsurface. Certainly, the Earth’s population levels would be much lower if everyone had only drinkable surface water and rains to depend on.


I found the well drilling process interesting and was impressed with the simplicity of the machinery/tools involved and the dedication of the drillers. As with most things, there’s more to the process than you might imagine.

After greetings and verification that they were where they were supposed to be, an inspection was made on the proposed well site. I had not considered the overhead electrical lines, so it was suggested that the spot I had wanted be moved over a little further from the high voltage lines. Made sense to me!

Some of the drilling crew set about placing the drilling truck, leveling it, and then securing metal pads to the ground to take pressure off the wheels. The huge air compressor was likewise positioned close-by.

Meanwhile, the head guy made an offering to the spirits of the land, with candles, incense and a bottle of lao khao (rice whiskey). This bottle, incidentally, mysteriously disappeared about the time Thip’s brother Sawt and his cousin Peh joined us for the post-drilling party.



There are two main components to the drilling rig: the truck, itself, and the portable high-pressure air-injector. From the truck, a drill head with holes for air to be blown out from the injector is attached to an increasing number of drill rods until the aquifer is reached.


If a rock or hard spot is reached, at some point along the line, the drill head is brought back up and a special rock-cutting drill head inserted. This special head is then brought down to the level of the drilling and when successfully through, brought back up and the original head put back on. In order to do this, each section of drill rods need to be unscrewed and then re-screwed and again unscrewed and re-screwed. This takes time and patience.


Mud starts to come up before the aquifer is reached. We hit our aquifer at about 40 meters (approximately 131 feet down). Once the aquifer is reached, the drill goes down slightly lower to make a clean hole into it. It’s exciting when water starts to be blown out by the air compressor.




Once the hole into the aquifer is verified as a clean tap, the head and rods are brought back up to the surface, one-by-one. After they are up, PVC pipe is inserted down to a level of about 3 meters, from ground. Once in place, our own smaller circumfrance PVC pipe is lowered down, one section screwed onto another, with the head being grated to prevent large pieces of anything from being pumped up to the surface. The pipes go down to the same level as the drilling, with a tubular, internal electric pump not far from the end of the piping. This is the device that actually pumps water to the surface.


(Thip's looking pretty happy about all of this...)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Bann Nah 26 - Well Drilled 1

Well Drilled… no, I’m not referring to the time I tried to keep up with my wife’s brothers, drinking on New Year’s Eve 2013. And, no, I’m not going over the Rescue Party once again. I’m writing about tapping into the aquifer under 9 Rai.

Sometimes, you gotta grab your opportunities when they present themselves. How many times have I said that before and not? Well, there are times when you just can’t and it’s usually because you don’t have the money or feel that you can’t part with what you have.

Well, this time I followed through on our opportunity. I really didn’t have the funds, but “found” some, anyway.

The temple was going to have a well drilled on the land Lungtah Mai donated for the construction of the chedi, next to the land we had donated. In addition, also next to our 9 Rai rice farmland, our neighbor Lungtah Mai’s daughter was going to have a well drilled on her land. So, we got in the queue with them, as “family members.”

It was part of a Thai government program that cost a third of what it would have if we had used a private driller. That was a big plus, along with the fact we could get it done rather soon. Usually when you get in such queue’s it can take weeks before it actually happens.


Drilling a well on the Bann Nah pad was another one of those things that we had planned to do after the wood portion of our “cabin on stilts” was completed. But, here was the opportunity, now, so we took it. This turned out to be a very good move for many reasons. First, there was the baht savings and quickness of time to get it done. Second, this rainy season had started off as the driest in 10-to-30 years (depending on information source). Having a well would give us more security for the 9 Rai rice harvest should the rains not kick in. Third and lastly, with running water at Bann Nah, it just made being out there so much easier. I had been porting water between the village and Bann Nah several times a week. The distance was only about a mile, or 15 minutes by tuk-tuk, but having a drilled well alleviated me of work more effectively done by local pumping.



(how the drill pipes are connected)



(drilling through a rocky section required a special drill head)


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Bann Nah 25 - Horizontal Base Support

I’ve written about how strong our farm house structure is. That storm that blew in when Naht and I were at the building site shook our confidence a little. Consequently, Lott and Naht shifted from nail-gunningthe interior walls and ceiling to buiding horizontal ground support for the structure’s cement posts – the posts the structure actually sits upon.


This had been planned all along to do. But, when we had started the project back in November 2013, we had no idea that we’d still be building it on through the Monsoon Season in 2015. Given the length of time the building of the building had already taken (about a year, so far), it no longer made sense to wait until all the wood work was finished before we put in the horizontal support.






Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Bann Nah 24 - Another Storm Blows In

It must have been a Sunday, because our workers were away and it wasn’t during one of their frequent and usually long work stoppages. I was just hanging out at the construction site, doing what I do. I clean-up and transport water in and trash out; water the plants; but mostly just lie around in one of the hammocks and day dream or write. Increasingly, I find myself at Bann Nah. Thip’s spending more time there, too.

As with most Isaan storms, you get an idea of what’s coming ahead of time. Air movement picks up and the skies go gray; bombs explode far off in the distance – kind of in that order. Later, you’ll see the lightning off toward the horizon and a bit later hear the thunder. Soon afterwards, the winds pick up even more and then the rain is upon you.

While the storm was coming in, Naht drove the temple tuk-tuk to the pad to retrieve some of the wat’s scaffolding that we had borrowed in order to screw-in the outside walls. I thought it was poor timing and was surprised he was even attempting it, actually, because it was clear that we were gonna get dumped on. He was down on the ground when the storm rolled in. I had already gone upstairs because I knew this would be my best shelter and that I would need it.

The hard wind drove the rain in at what I estimated was around a 40-degree angle. I huddled in the most sheltered corner of our new home’s interior while Naht first huddled next to the samlor and then, finding little protection there, moved to the lee side of one of our cement posts. I don’t know why he didn’t come upstairs, but given the strength of the wind and angle, I’m afraid he thought the house might come down.

To tell you the truth, it soon became a consideration of mine, too. I don’t know what the wind speed was, but it was the strongest wind I’d ever been in and the side angle is what made it doubly worse. The structure upstairs was definitely swaying; how critically, I don’t know, but I began to assess what wall support would hold me best, in the event the ship went down.

Then, the wind shifted directions and I had to find another corner to shield myself and a different wall support to hold on to if worse came to worst. The shift in the wind may have meant that the storm was overhead or passing by.

As with most storms in Northeastern Thailand during the East Asian Monsoon Season, this one didn’t last long; an hour or two, at most. There are some storms that come in and can last all night, but these are generally not strong, just prolonged.

At any rate, this second storm convinced us that we shouldn’t wait to put in the horizontal ground supports for the cement posts. These had originally been planned for after the wood portion of the construction was over. To be safe, we had to further support the cement posts as soon as possible.

So, Lott and Naht interrupted their work on the interior ceiling and walls to do some ground level work with cement, sand, gravel and rebar...




Saturday, August 1, 2015

Bann Nah 23 - Interior Walls & Ceiling

When I got back from my 11th trip to Lao, in early June 2015, I discovered that Thip was busy employing some of our family members in the making of an outdoor Thai kitchen at Bann Nah. They all joked about how they were doing this while I was away so I couldn’t shoot the idea down, ahead of time. Although it was a joke, like a smile, I could interpret what I heard in a number of ways. I think there was some truth to that joke.



Anyway, I thought it was a good idea, actually. Soon, the family will be spending large portions of the day at 9 Rai, at the beginning of the rice planting season, and will need to have a place to prepare food, protected from the rain and sun.

While three or four family members helped Thip put the kitchen together, our workers Lott and Naht had finished the interior wall and ceiling supports and were ready to nail-gun in the tongue and groove teak slats I had stained twice, glossy.

I showed Sam Lott and Sam Naht how I basically wanted the pieces to go. There is a technique to laying in teak slats which I do not profess to know, but which probably builds on the fact that there is both light and dark areas to teak. In my mind, the goal is ideally to have transitions from light to dark go more or less seamlessly. That is, for instance, a slat with a dark center and light edges matched next to another slat that is more or less light or also has light edges. When nailing one slat next to another on the non-grooved edge, you want to ideally match the design of the board you’re up against. Another important consideration is: you don’t want too much repetition of the same kind of board in one spot. You want to spread the light and dark wood out more or less evenly.


(see the gap gay [tokay] that has already moved in?)

 Work like this requires a good eye for design which, in my experience, most people do not have. So, I worked with the guys when they first started working on the ceiling, to make sure they had understood what I wanted. They caught on quickly and did a pretty good job.



Monday, July 27, 2015

Thai/Lao Smile

When I first decided to look for a wife in Thailand, back in the late 1990s, I learned that Thai women do not particularly care for facial hair. So, I cut my mustache off, one that I had been wearing in two or three different styles since the beginning of the ‘70s. It was a bit of a shock to see myself clean shaven, because it was then that I discovered my lips had developed a downward frown to them, at the edges; making me look unhappy or slightly mean.

Having somewhat of a grumpy look to me wasn’t a problem in the United States, but in Thailand, it is a liability. Thai and Lao people put great importance on smiling. So, as I’ve moved about in both countries, I have tried to adopt a Thai/Lao Smile. It is somewhat of a cross between a grin and a grimace, but it’s the best I can do without over-doing it. Everyday, I remind myself to smile so that people do not misinterpret my actions or demeanor. I do this whether I’m in my village or in another Southeast Asian country.

Again, while I was looking for my wife, I read a very insightful explanation of the “Thai Smile.” It is part of the Introduction to Niels Mulder’s Inside Thai Society (©2000):

Thailand is often called The Land of Smiles, a sobriquet which sounds at once pleasant and mysterious. At the same time that a smile may suggest good humour, it is one of the most enigmatic of expressions as well. A smile may be a sign of kindness, of forgiveness, or friendly inclinations; a smile may also be merely polite, a way to smooth interaction or a sign that one is willing to listen. A smile may indicate agreement, or self-confidence, but may also be a means to gently express one’s opposition or doubt. A person on the defensive may smile and one may smile when sad, or hurt, or even insulted. It has been said that the Thais have a smile for every emotion, and with so many nuances of smiling, the smile often hides more than it reveals.”


So, I guess you could say I’m just trying to fit in; with my grin/grimace and all.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lao Trip 11.4 - Heuan Phair

While hanging out in PL2, I did my usual of visiting the market in Pak Lai, buying food off the street, and visiting the places I usually stop in and have a beer, like the Rimkhong restaurant and Heuan Phair. I even checked out that new karaoke place in Pak Lai, again.

My initial impressions about this new karaoke spot held true on second inspection. I guess it’s great for teenagers, but for anyone wanting to talk with each other and hang, this is just not the place. One thing it has over the other spots in Pak Lai and PL2 is that there is dancing at night. That can be exciting, of course, but if things are so dark and loud that you can’t meet anyone new, then you’re limited to who you came in with and who you might know upon arrival.


Seeing as Khoun Ten was currently under a rebuild, I hung at Heuan Phair more than usual. I’m actually best received here; not sure why, but I’ve always appreciated the music selection and over the past few years there were many an afternoon and early evening when I was the only customer, here. I guess that explains it, really.


(Mr. Tit being transported home)


Popular in Savannakhet when I visited, last March. Didn’t see it play much at PL2, possibly due to the subject: