Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Volunteering in Thailand Day 2: Not so fun after the sun

After more time than I realized cutting bricks in the sun, I "enjoyed" the worst sunburn I can remember, and the second one since arriving here. It's probably in the worst place too — my waist. I was wearing no shirt and some shorts that ride a bit lower than my others, exposing an area that has seen waaaaay less sun than the rest of my back. Ice cream anyone? I’ve got some Neopolitan... :P Ouch.

Thai sunburn number two.

Sorry about that disturbing image... Here's something cute to make up for it. You can’t spend more than a minute in Tap Tawaan without seeing at least two of these little piggies running (or laying) around.

little piggies

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Thailand: Mystery Creature

Back in town later this evening at Ocean Bar where they have great free barbeques, Jess, a volunteer from Canada, noticed something crawling on the power lines across the street. I went over to investigate...

Can anyone identify this tailless creature?

Update: Meao at the TVC identified the mystery creature for me. And the name is... well... she knows the Thai name. So she wrote it down for me.

Can anyone translate?

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First day volunteering in Thailand

Today, in the village of Tap Tawaan, I sifted sand, mixed cement, cut bricks, made sure all the bricklayers had enough supplies, saved a cow in distress, and... watched on as a large room full of volunteers sat in a circle and watched a dog vomit five times. Read on for all the exciting and educational details.

In the mornings, many volunteers meet at the Nang Thong Supermarket to get a ride to their projects via sawngthaew (a pick-up truck with 2 benches in the back). Mine missed me somehow, but I was able to hitch a ride with another truck.

Sok works at another village called Nam Khem

Upon arrival, I found Andy, the project manager and he introduced me to Albert, a Dutch guy who leads the bricking team here at Tap Tawaan. He taught me the responsibilities of the “feeder”. He says the feeder is the most important job on the bricking team, since it keeps the brick layers productive by feeding them with cement, bricks, rebar, drills, drinking water, and so on. Some of the Canadian brick layers, however, prefer to use the crude term “brick bitch” for this job. All in good humour of course. :)

One of the perks of volunteering at Tap Tawaan is that the villagers make an amazing lunch each day (paid for by the Tsunami Volunteer Center) and there’s always plenty to go around. Today was gai (chicken), pak (vegetables), and khao (rice), with fresh fruit for dessert.

lunch at Tap Tawaan - that's Albert and Steve in the background.

A curious lunchtime visitor.

The homes in the current project at Tap Tawaan were originally built by a German organization called Malteser. However, for some reason they had no kitchen, so that’s what the Tsunami Volunteer Center is helping with now. Like all the TVC projects, it’s a cooperative effort between the villagers and the center, and I was impressed to see how productive we were. The bricking team finished bricking up two houses, and the rendering team started and finished the inside walls of one home.

At the end of the day, a cow across the road that had been yelling all afternoon was still quite distressed. As I had suspected, she had wound herself around a tree and was stuck. These cows were tethered by either a ring or a plug through their nostrils, so pulling to get away I can imagine wouldn’t feel so good. No one seemed to know who the actual owner was, so I decided to go help the poor girl and walked the heifer around the tree about six or seven times. I like the look of these cows. I think they must have been the inspiration for the look of Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars.


Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Every Monday night on the top floor of the Tsunami Volunteer Center, there’s a meeting where all the new volunteers are introduced, status updates are given by the project managers, and upcoming events for the week are announced. There’s also a “Thai vocabulary lesson” given by a few of the Thai volunteer staff.

Thai vocabulary lesson.

On this particular night, when Scott, the project manager for the Pakarang Boat Yard project was giving his update on the longtail boats being built, his cute but gimp-footed dog, “Lucky” decided to come upstairs to join the fun. Well, not only did he join the fun, but became the center of attention when he puked up a big ol’ load of something foul onto the floor near the stairs, and then just laid down casually in the middle of the room. As Scott continued with his update, Lucky began to wretch, and vomited again in the center of the crowd. Scott tried to go on, but was interrupted by laughter and groans from the volunteers as Lucky delivered his dinner once more. After Lucky graciously shared his culinary exploits 2 additional times, Scott let his associate take over the update and took poor Lucky home. Sorry kids, no photos of “lucky vomit”. Maybe next time. Ha.

Instead, here’s a view of the sunset from the top floor of the Tsunami Volunteer Center:

Khao Lak sunset

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Tsunami Volunteer Support

I am currently working as a volunteer helping build homes for tsunami survivors near Khao Lak, Thailand -- the area that took 78% of Thailand's damage from the tsunami on December 26th, 2004.

Although the media has placed its focus elsewhere, there is still much to be done. The non-governmental organisation through which many amazing projects are being completed by people from all over the world, and the one through which I am working, is called the Tsunami Volunteer Center.

I have my PowerBook with me so I can communicate and do my own design work while traveling, however, the volunteer commitment I made is all day, five days a week, and so there's not so much time left (or energy, for that matter) to do work that will cover my daily living expenses.

So... I could REALLY use your help! While Thailand is really quite inexpensive, Khao Lak is a little more pricey than other towns since it used to host some seriously big resorts that are now washed out to sea. Even still, it's pretty cheap. Here's basically what I need to live here while volunteering, maximum:

- Housing: $10/day
- Food/water: $5/day
- Laundry: $5/week
- Transport: $4/day
- Phone/Internet/Miscellaneous: $3/day

So as you can see, whatever small amount you can help with would be HUGE to me, and of course, the people whose houses I'll be helping build! I'll be making regular updates to my site, so you can see the direct result of whatever you give. You can use this secure PayPal link to make a donation with a Mastercard or Visa (you don't need to have a PayPal account) and get a receipt for your taxes:

Because it's important to me to stay here to help for a while, I've made sure to work on ways to cover my expenses on my own over the longer term. I have one online business already running -- NameCat.com, my domain name registration site with a fun theme, and another business on the way: EasyPostcardPrinting.com, a site for event promoters, artists, photographers, and businesses to print high-quality color mailers and hand flyers.

Although NameCat.com is up and running, it seriously needs more promotion -- so you could really help me out by spreading the word! One easy way is to add the following text (or something similar) to your e-mail signature:

P.S. Hey, check out my friend's site, NameCat.com --
You can get your own (yourname) .com domain name,
e-mail address and webmail for only $8.95 per year. :)

While the look of the EasyPostcardPrinting.com site is complete, it still needs a good amount of back-end programming work, and has some initial start-up costs. However, once this site gets going, it should bring in enough revenue to keep me going indefinitely, with a minimum of daily work. In other words, if things go well, it will allow me to be independent of any donations needed to keep me working as a volunteer. I'm really stoked about that! :)


P.S. Seriously, thank you so much for any help you can give, especially your prayers. Truly, anything you can do will make a huge difference!