Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bann Nah 18 - Eaves and Fancy Trim

By early February 2015, the old red wood floor was completed. I regret not shooting some video of the work, as it once again surprised me how simple but effective Lott and Naht’s approach to the task was.

Thip and I were pretty busy and had been for a while, helping her daughter Kulthida test for, interview for, and finally getting her and her husband relocated to Sa Kaeo province upon her passing of the government tests for accountants. It was not only a big deal for Kulthida and her husband, but also for our Thai-Lao family. Although many Thais want to enter the civil service and see it as a way to financial security, relatively few successfully test their way in. Our village is pretty typical and it is riddled with failed test takers. So, my wife and all of the rest of the family are justly proud.

After the re-sanded old red wood floor boards were put in, Lott and Naht worked on the eaves, the roof trim and applying chemical to all termite-prone wood in the attic. The chemical work is pretty nasty and I wonder why they hadn’t done it when the wood was on the ground; when it would have been much easier and coverage of the wood more thorough.

The fancy trim transpired the overall look of the structure, as it continues to take on a character of its own.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bann Nah 17 - Wood Ironing

The first thing Lott and Naht set about doing, in the New Year, was to “iron” the redwood floor boards. This meant that each piece was machine sanded and made to be the same thickness. We had bought 50-year-old floor boards from a torn down Isaan family house and it was amazing to see how beautiful the wood was, once sanded.

(the machine used for sharpening the sander blades)

The redwood floor boards were later cut to be a standard width – straight and true – which is important for tongue and groove assembly.

Because the mai daeng (red wood – not related to the redwood of California, Oregon or China) cost about $830 USD (27k THB) and we had other valuable wood on the ground, Thip and I decided to camp out at the construction site to act as night watchmen.

People told us not to worry, that our karma would protect us from theft, but I wasn’t so sure. Besides, it was a break from the routine of our village life to camp out at the farm. It was cold, though!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Bann Nah 16 - Structural Strength

Slowly, after the calendar New Year had begun, our workers Lott and Naht returned to the Bann Nah worksite after a three month work stoppage.

They had their reasons, most of which were legit. These included: 1) being called back to the wat (temple) in preparations for the end of “Buddhist Lent” (Khaopensa) and Boon Katin; 2) the rice harvest season (Giao Khao); 3) miscellaneous family projects and; 4) end of year/beginning of new year celebrations.

Even so, they could have come back for short bursts of time – especially in December. But, I feel Thip and I were partly to blame. By the time of the work stoppage – and, at that time we had no idea it would go on for three months – we had already paid our workers in the range of 75% of the labor cost agreed upon (to that point) and the project was only 40% completed – at best. So the incentive really wasn’t there. It was probably Lunpaw’s instruction and encouragement – more than anything – that actually got them back working for us again.

While Lott and Naht were away, I had taken note of how simple but effective the structural strength of the building is.

As you may recall, we started out with the construction and sinking into the building pad nine column footers of cement, gravel and rebar to a depth of about five feet.

This was followed up by fusing the column footers to the nine above-ground cement posts that the structure sits upon.

After that, the bolting in of the main floor beams not only laid the base for the floor, but also provided a way to bolt the building support posts to the base.

Lastly, bolting the roof supports onto the building support beams, screwing the aluminium roof onto the support beams, and X-bracing in the attic made for one solid Bann Nah.

We call it “Bann Nah” (farm house), but is will really end up being more like a cabin on stilts.

Monday, April 13, 2015

2014 - Rescue Party

The other story I promised to tell you about, which took place soon after the new year of 2014 had begun, was a tale I call “Rescue Party.”

It started out innocently enough. My wife Thiphawan (Thip) was away visiting another temple and I had been tasked with taking our empty cooking gas bottle (LPG) to the gas station that has the facilities to recharge it. Let me add that this gas station was operating their service on the sly, so you could only go there after 7pm, in the dark.

I had made this run in my tuk-tuk (samlor; aka “skylab”) a half dozen times, so baw penh yong (no problem). Except this time, upon arrival, I was notified that the gas station no longer sells LPG. My guess is they got shutdown by the authorities. OK, so I headed out to other gas stations in the area that I thought had LPG. None that I stopped at had the facilities or were selling and at one point, near the Falang bar in Nong Bua, I decided to drop in for a beer before returning home.

This was risky for two reasons. For one thing, the Germans who operated the bar rented from my wife’s most influential aunt (Hatsadi). Not only Thip, but the rest of our family knew of the many stories surrounding this bar; how the Falangs get in fights with each other, drink all the time, have girls around and…

… well, that was the second thing. There were bar girls here and Thip was deathly afraid that I would fall into one of their clutches.

So, I was taking my life in my hands visiting this “den of iniquity,” but I didn’t care too much. I’d only been in the place one or two times previously and was curious to see how other Westerners lived. Besides, I needed a beer from all that running around looking for cooking gas.

No bar girls came over to my table and I enjoyed my Beer Chang. I think all the half dozen girls had other guys on the line. After a while, though, the bar owner (Kraus) came over and I reintroduced myself to him. Before too long, learning of my problem, Kraus led me to a vendor at the night market in Nong Bua – just up the road – who had LPG gas stuck under a bamboo bed. I exchanged my tank for a recharged one and I was back in business. Dropping Kraus off at the “Sanook Bar,” I decided to stay, thank him, and have another beer.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, Thip had returned home and found me missing. She knew I had gone to get cooking gas but should have returned long ago. So, she put out an “all-points bulletin” for my apprehension. At the heighth of the operation, there were probably half a dozen family members out looking for me.

My tuk-tuk was spotted outside the Sanook Bar by a female member of the family. Because it would have been improper for her to go into the outdoor bar, a male member of the family was instructed to retrieve me.

Pawt is my favorite of Thip’s brothers. He’s a friendly guy and everyone gets along with him. Well, all of a sudden, he was sitting beside me at the Falang bar. I ordered a beer for him and a refill for me, then we left.

(Pawt and his daughter Gay; Imbune lower left)

(Gay's daughter sleeping, thanks to an "Isaan Air-Conditioner" - styrofoam ice chest with a holdecut in the lid for an external fan to blow in and PVC pipe cut into the sides for air vents coming out; inside is filled with ice)

But, we didn’t go home. Pawt lead me to a Thai bar a short distance away. You could hardly spot it as a bar, but, yes, there were bar girls here, too; not sure if they were “full service,” like at the Falang bar. But, it was nice to have one sitting by my side, pouring my beer. Pawt was well known here and when we finally left, my last words to my new friends there was “Mu un” (tomorrow). Well, I haven’t seen them since; not that I didn’t want to, but mostly because word gets around…

It was rough going, getting back. By this time, I was in no shape to be driving anything, including a samlor, followed by Pawt in his motosai. Thip was relieved to have me home and stories were told, all except any mention of the second bar…

Thursday, April 9, 2015

New Year 2014 & 2015

Last year (beginning 2014), I had promised you that I’d tell you two interesting, somewhat embarrassing stories from the time of New Year’s.

Thais have a similar tradition of New Year’s celebrations as most of the rest of the world. That is, the big thing is to wait until the clock turns from the old year to the new. Leading up to this, they all gather together and party – usually out at the family farm and if they don’t have one, they party at home.

(both images: 8 Rai - "Suphannaphoowong City")

Our family has their New Year’s party out at 8 Rai, the land Khun Paw (my wife’s father) has kept for many years and just recently divided among most of his children and a grand daughter (Thip’s daughter Kulthida, aka “Ray”). It is adjacent to Thip’s and my 8.5 rai where sometimes the party is also held. No matter the locations, loud speakers, amp and computer are brought in by other members of the extended family, food is prepared – almost constantly – and beer and blended whiskey is drunk; sometimes also rice whiskey.

(our house at 8.5 rai, where Sawt and Nui stay)

Well, there’s no keeping up with my wife’s brothers when it comes to drinking and last year I thought I could.

It ended with me missing “The Countdown”, passing out and peeing in my pants.

So, this year I promised everyone not to pee in my pants again. More than that, though, I limited my participation in the family party to the daytime. By the time of this year’s “Countdown” I was fast asleep -- naturally, this time -- at our village home. Thip opted for ceremonies at the temple as the rest of the family partied on into the morning.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

THE ISAAN: 2012-2013

Closing out my writings on my daily life and travels in 2014 (Buddhist year 2557), I've put together an eBook on my first year in our Thai-Lao village, 2012-2013. It is a free download. Just click the icon below:

This Portable Document Format (PDF) eBook is notable in several respects:
  • This “ebook” is completely portable on electronic devices, in a format compatible for reading on any ebook reader. Unlike the content on the website, the content in the ebook is not dependent on a connection to the Internet. You can even take it anywhere, any time on your mobile device.
  • The 71 pages (1.13 MB) contain text, images, and internal and external hyperlinks. The internal links function on their own and are particularly helpful when selecting posts in the Contents or following Footnotes to source references. To use the ebook’s external links, yes, you’ll need to be connected to the Internet.
  • Because the ebook is basically an electronic file, it can be easily shared with friends and family. I have not set any restrictions on its replication as long as normal copyright rules are respected.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Favorite Songs 2014

Here are my most favorite tunes from 2014. Some are not strictly from this past year, but came up on the radar this year:

Images of times at Khoun Ten and Heun Phair… Pee Sederd:

March: When I went for my visa at Savannakhet and finding another great hangout: Savan Khaim Kong… Pongsit:

July: Nuey and my “song”… Take Me To Your Heart:

A song that I heard over the Internet that has just stuck with me this whole year through:
Darryl Hall and Band, with Joe Walsh: Wrong Side of History:

End of year: The man who inspired me to get into radio, back in the 1960s, took his life. Lee “Baby” Simms had become a good friend by the new millennium. In our last correspondence together, Lee turned me on to this tune that he really, REALLY liked:

Nesian N.I.N.E. – Honey Do:

My passport for most of 2014: