While I was away on my 14th trip to Lao, my wife and I were in occasional communication whenever I had Internet access. She kept talking about a “new project” she had in motion, but wouldn’t get into specifics for fear of my displeasure.
“I promise I won’t get mad, sweetheart,” I kept telling her.
She still kept her secret.
I was pretty sure what it was about, but played along. After all, I’d find out soon enough when I got home.
Sure enough, when I returned I found a much larger outdoor kitchen in process of construction out at our 9 rai rice farm. Like she had done when I was away on my 11th trip to Lao -- this time last year -- Thip had hired her brothers to build an outdoor kitchen big enough to accommodate all immediate family members for when they worked on the farm as a group. It was also big enough to incorporate an outdoor bathroom.
I wasn’t mad or even disappointed. Sure, there goes a large part of the view to the south, from ground level, but Thip had made sure to keep the roof low enough as to not block out the view from Bann Nah’s porch. I appreciated that my wife had finally recognized that we now needed to wrap up phase 1 of building Bann Nah, take a break from new construction, and use whatever we had left over to fill our needs for the immediate future.
Most everything in the expanded kitchen was built with wood and roofing we already had from Lungtah Mai’s old shack. Paying family to do the work was cheaper than hiring out and it benefited them, too, not only the pay but the long-term usage during rice seasons: shelter from the sun and rain, and plenty of room to prepare food and eat.