Monday, October 24, 2016

Rainy Season Ending

The death of the King of Thailand and end of construction at Bann Nah coincided with the winding down of the rainy season.

A week or so after the party celebrating the end of Phase 1 of the Bann Nah project, Thip and I were over at the family farm, celebrating the birthday of her oldest brother Awt. Rolling thunder was going off in the far distance. It’s the sound of lightning that occurs between clouds and generally does not strike the earth. Thip’s brother Sawt, the lineman supervisor, commented that the Monsoon Season was saying goodbye, as it prepared to move to The South before ceasing altogether.

During my first half decade retired in the Isaan, I’ve tried to learn how to read the weather. I did not learn meteorology very well in school and feel not enough time was spent on the subject, both by me and the school system. Throughout my life, I’ve just taken it for granted and not thought much about it until now. I think I’ve learned a bit and am aided by my capabilities with technology, which is rarely used by farmers here -- if you discount radio. Weather plays such a huge role in the life of a farmer -- which I am, I guess, in the gentlemanly way.

One of the major things I’ve discovered about the East Asian Monsoon Season as it relates to Northeastern Thailand is that when it starts, rain storms come primarily from the west (Adaman Sea). Toward the end of the rainy season, rain storms come mostly the east (generated in the South China Sea).

The early part of the Thai/Lao Rainy Season is marked by dramatic thunder storms, sometimes just squalls, and sometimes whole days when it will do nothing but rain. The later part of the rainy season here is marked by sporadic rain storms that keep it wet enough to keep you from burning brush, but dry enough to think the season may have passed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The King is Dead

Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej, King Rama IX, recently passed away just short of his 90th birthday. Throughout the land, there is real grief over the loss to Thailand. King Bhumibol was widely loved and did many good things for his country in the 70 years of his reign.

After Bhumibol’s funeral, he will be succeeded by his son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, as King Rama X.

Black and white are worn throughout the country, as a sign of respect, and festivals are put on-hold for 30 days (with the exception of Buddhist holidays and religious ceremonies).

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bann Nah 43 - The Last Day

Suddenly, it was the last day of the Phase 1 construction at our 9 rai rice farm.

The whole Bann Nah project was just shy of three years in-process, but the Phase 1 portion had taken two years and three months to complete. It basically amounted to building Bann Nah -- our farm house out in the middle of the farm. I think of Phase 1 as the wood portion, although it also involved rebar, cement, aluminum and imitation wood.

Later phases will involve wiring Bann Nah, high pressurizing the plumbing, enclosing the downstairs and building an adjacent 3-room addition in back that will house upstairs and downstairs bathrooms, a guest room and a small porch.

There was no construction on the last day of Phase 1. Instead, it was a day of movement where tools, scaffolding and tables were returned to the wat and left over wood taken back to our village home where we have a roof to protect it. Afterward, we would party in celebration of the completion.

As he had all along, Sam Lott -- aka “Kubota Man!” -- provided the brawn, as well as his mechanical buffalo and cart for the transport. He and Sam Naht returned the things we had been using for over two years to the temple, then all three of us moved the wood. We were done with everything in about three hours.

Returning stuff for storage at our village house:

“Kubota Man” was a joke Naht and I shared about Lott. The premise is that while Gotham City man have its Batman, Northeastern Thailand has Kubota Man. Kubota is the brand name for the most popular mechanical buffalo, which itself is a kind of mini-tractor, and Lott was its best driver.

Thips’s brothers and their wives helped my wife organize and prepare the food -- mostly seafood, a delicacy here in the Isaan. I sprung for a box of Beer Chang (12 620 ml bottles) and Thip’s brothers Sawt and Pawt even contributed a half dozen more.

During the course fo the mid-to-late afternoon and then early evening, there arrived some other visitors, but not many and it was all pretty low-key.

I found myself in surprisingly good mood. I hadn’t thought about it ahead of time -- how would I feel when it was all done? But, when it was, I was ecstatic. I even danced around a couple of times, which is something that I very rarely do at 67 years-of-age.

All tolled, the house cost us 824,000 baht or about $23,222 USD. Labor was around 182,400 baht or about $5,140 USD. Miraculously, even though the site was often without a human presence, not one thing was stolen in the two years and three months of construction.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Bann Nah 42 - Staining & Unsung Heroes

The last things Sam Lott and Sam Naht did for Phase 1 of the Bann Nah project was to construct and put in the porch gate, and also completely spray stain all wood. This took a couple of days. Then, the house would sit for a week -- maybe two -- while the stain thoroughly hardened.

In writing about Bann Nah over the course of its construction, I have proudly pointed to all the natural hard wood we used -- much of it coming from our own properties. I’ve also mentioned about how there are more screws in the building than nails due to the hardness of the wood. By so doing, I have forgotten about one of the unsung “heroes” of Bann Nah: our air compressor. Using it, Lott and Naht were able to quickly and efficiently use a nail gun to button down many areas where only a thin, small nail is most effective. These areas included the teak walls and ceilings and our flooring. Also, the compressor made staining large areas a relatively quick job. It even came in handy when tire pressure of motorcycles, tuk-tuks or mechanical buffaloes got low.

Speaking of motorcycles -- motosai’s -- these also we took for granted but without which we couldn’t have done what we did.

Lott's and Naht's motosai

Utilities like water and power also deserve a mention, neither of which we couldn’t have done without.