Travelling Light

Ton Kloi, Ranong, Thailand: Together Again – Finally! (Oct 11-15, 2014)

The phone Tom was carrying decided not to send or receive any messages or calls after 9.15 am on the day he was travelling from Chaiya to Ton Kloi. This caused frustration and worry at both ends, because he didn’t arrive at Suk Samran 7-11 until 8.30pm, and Jenny had been waiting there for many hours by then.

Habsoh and Saandi waited with Jenny for a couple of hours, but she eventually convinced them to go home to eat and rest. They found a friend of theirs who was hanging around at the 7-11 (as you do, apparently) to take care of Jenny for them until Tom arrived.

Tom was amused by Pet’s love affair with Jenny’s backpack, and took more photos.

The day after Tom arrived, Habsoh went to the head man’s house to help cook food. Jenny’s Thai was good enough to understand that much, but we never did find out exactly why such a vast quantity of food was required, and we didn’t get to eat any of it, either.

Tom asked if he could help with the food preparation, which produced peals of embarassed laughter from the assembled (100% female) workforce. Men don’t cook, apparently. There was some discussion, after which it was agreed that shredding coconut was a sufficiently manly task that Tom could give it a go.

Walking to the head man’s house gave us a chance to have a look around Ton Kloi at the changes that have happened since we were last here. This is the base that they made for a new bungalow when Taz and L.A. (the volunteers we met on Koh Phangan as they left to go to Ton Kloi) were in town. Construction of the bungalow halted completely when Mass left town – not just because the translator was gone, but also because he convinced several of the young men to leave town at the same time, so there was no labour force.

We will need to come up with a use for this space before we go.

The price of rubber has dropped 75% since this time last year, so one of the neighbours is cutting down all their rubber trees. It’s a long and noisy process rendering the trees down to logs that will fit on the truck.

The bungalow where we stayed has had a rough time – the outdoor toilet building has completely collapsed sideways. We need a couple of volunteer labourers to help rebuild it – hopefully, this time, with a solid roof all the way to the bungalow wall, so you don’t get wet if it’s raining when you go to the toilet. Given that it rains every day for eight months of the year, that is kind of essential.

After walking around in the humidity, we were rather hot, so we borrowed a sidecar tuk tuk and headed down to Ton Kloi to take milk to the kitten and have a swim. Na said the kitten had been quite weak the day before, and it still wasn’t eating.

When we arrived, the girls belonging to the stall next door told us that the kitten had died overnight. It’s so difficult here – much like Australia and New Zealand in the 40s and 50s, probably – there are so many more kittens than there are homes to take them in, so you can’t save all of them.

Still, Tom enjoyed the “theme park” affect of the cascade, whirlpool and waterslides. Like a good, tolerant pi, he also sat still while Na painted him with red-brown chalk. She’s still young enough to get away with such activities – in a few years, it will be scandalous and unthinkable for her to have any physical contact with a strange man’s torso.

We got an email from a Belgian couple wanting to come and volunteer, and the man was a gardener, so that prompted an acceleration of the plan to build Habsoh a proper vege garden. Tom and Jenny went out and measured the distances between the trees, to determine how much garden bed could be fitted in the space.

We had to dust off our high school trigonometry to turn the random diagonals into meaningful horizontals and verticals. It was arduous and time-consuming, but we got there in the end.

We marked out the edges of the garden with string, and the garden beds with palm fronds, ably assisted by Na, the ten-year-old orphan, who is on school holidays at the moment.

When it was all done, we invited Habsoh and Saandi out to evaluate the proposed garden placement.

It turns out that Habsoh wanted the garden somewhere else on the property, in the place where a metal triangular prism was sitting. Saandi showed us how to dismantle the triangular prism (which looked exactly like the top of the climbing frames we used to have a primary school, those which would now be banned because using them inevitably resulted in going upside down, and you are not allowed to go upside down in a NSW public school these days – unless you are under the supervision of a qualified sports teacher, of course. Snerk).

So we threw away our plans and started over. At least this space had no inconvenient trees in the middle of it! And the Belgian couple weren’t coming after all, because we got back to them too slowly (curse that having to go to the 7-11 to use the internet arrangement).

Saandi has a heart condition, so he can’t do much hard physical work any more, but he is still a man in high demand. He does some form of healing massage, helps out taking phone calls at the district office every so often, and he is the go-to man when your young bull is old enough to have a rope put through its nose. We went with him that night to watch how it’s done.

The next day, we took down our string, took apart the triangular prism, and went out with Habsoh to mark out the garden in its new location. Once we had three parallel garden beds marked, it was time to pick up hoes and excavate the space around the garden beds, so that we had enough soil to make the beds well raised. The Belgian gardener would have been quite handy at that point!

We were helped by Saandi’s older brother, who had come to stay for a few days so Saandi could work on his sore and swollen leg. Habsoh tired quite quickly, and Tom got several blisters on his hands in the first few minutes, so there was a lot of swapping around of the the three hoes between the five people. Despite his heart condition, Saandi worked like a machine until the job was done.

It only took two or three hours of hoeing, and then we knocked off for a swim. Work-life balance is quite good here!

Despite the screaming current, the fish seem to be holding firm in the swimming hole – they must be wiggling their little tails off sometimes. There is a place in the deep pool where the current flows backwards, so the fish can place themselves carefully and hover … until someone throws fish food into the water, and then a feeding frenzy explodes.

The next mission is to get the garden fenced, so the neighbour’s pet rabbit doesn’t come and eat the baby plants. We need to get to the internet and get the Thai word for “fence”, so we can ask when and how this will be achieved. Tomorrow …