Friday, March 31, 2006

Volunteering in Thailand: Tap Tawaan is looking good

The current Tap Tawaan project — the one I’ve been working on — consists of 31 homes started by Malteser International, and the Tsunami Volunteer Center is finishing the job by adding on the kitchen sections to each unit.

Tap Tawaan homes

We’re getting close to completion, and I’m feeling pretty excited about it. As Steve likes to say, I love it when a plan comes together! There are only a few homes left that need brick work. Almost all of those that still need work already have the window and door frames completed, which means that there's maybe a few day's worth of bricking left.

the naked boy oversees the bricking process

After that the walls just need to be rendered with fine cement to make them smooth and ready for paint. At that point, the villagers will take over and handle the finish work.

outer wall being rendered

Usually I find group photos to be... Well let’s say, “not so interesting”, so hopefully you won't feel the same about this one, because I think it's great. (Thanks Sheila!) Here’s the Tap Tawaan Crew, the fantastic people I work with daily. Nations represented are France, England, the USA, Mexico, Japan, Ireland, Sweden, South Africa, Scotland, Canada, Germany, and of course, Thailand. :)

The International Tap Tawan Crew

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Thai nicknames

Many Thai people have names that are either rather long, hard to pronounce, hard to remember, or all three. So as a workaround, virtually every Thai I’ve met has a nickname that consists of one syllable, sometimes two. Many foreigners also have names that are long, hard to pronounce, hard to remember, or all three. For most Thais I’ve met, mine falls under the “hard to pronounce” category.

Yesterday, I met a young student from Songkhla who was working for the week at Tap Tawaan, building a school there. She was having trouble with my name, and decided to Thai-ify it. So in Thailand I am now “Rak”, because she says it sounds close to my name, and it has a nice meaning (rak in Thai means “love”. Aawww!).

Since I revealed that her Thai nickname (Pan) in Spanish means “bread” she wanted a Spanish nickname, so I gave her the nickname “Amiga”. It kind of defeats the whole really short nickname idea, but oh well. She liked it.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

It's nice to know when you're appreciated

One of the greatest things you can do for a friend or family member is to let them know in a unique way that you really appreciate them. Today, I was humbled when I read a web page about... me. Pretty darn cool... thank you, Cath. :)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Cat’s new site design is finally live

Three months ago I threw together a little design for my good friend Catherine as a surprise belated birthday gift. She’s pretty picky when it comes to design, so I was quite stoked to read this unexpected reaction from her via e-mail:

To: Rafael Archuleta
From: Catherine Daigle
Date: Wed, 21 Dec 2005 21:33:46 +0800
X-Mailer: Apple Mail (2.746.2)
Subject: I'm squealing in delight

:) that is *it*. That is so *it*.
I can't believe you did that for me. I need it.
I love it. I love it I love it.

How cool is that? As you may know, I’ve been pretty busy with getting my postcard printing site going and volunteering in Thailand, so putting the final few tweaks into her site got put off for a good while (Sorry Cath!). Well, I finally got around to it, and the new look is now online. Catherine is a talented amateur photographer and always has something funny and interesting to say on her site, so make sure you bookmark and check it often!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Thailand: Khao Lumpee National Park

Today the folks from Weerapat's Kitchen closed the restaurant, and invited me to come with them to Khao Lumpee National Park to eat and swim at the nam tok (waterfall) for the day. Upon arrival, I realized that I was the only farang (foreigner) at the main swimming hole at Khao Lumpee, maybe at the whole park. Pretty cool. :)

E-San Thai foodEarlier, Tou prepared sun dried pork and sticky rice, which was was amazing as usual. We also ate some fried tofu, sliced green mango and cucumber with pha la a spicy chili sauce made with crab. Mmmm...

Here we have fried chicken (left) and dried pla-muk (squid, lower left). The squid pretty much tastes like 100% recycled paper grocery bag at first -- but after about 8 to 10 chews, it's bursting with juicy cuttlefish flavour. If you don't like seafood, this is definitely not for you. On the other hand, I know one cat that's probably salivating as she reads this. Insert Phil Ken Sebben "Ha HA!" laugh here. ;)

The change of scenery was refreshing, and after a siesta in the shade, I jumped in the water for a swim before taking off back to town. Tou cooks every day, so tonight I am giving him a break and cooking instead. I'm making my special chicken recipe using the especies tipicas de Granada that I brought from Spain.

I didn't get a chance to check out the trails or hike up to the top of the waterfall, but it's not far from Khao Lak so it's quite possible I'll be able to visit later, and get more photos from this beautiful little park.

Nam tok at Khao Lumpee

P.Sao (owner of Weerapat's Kitchen) and Wan
P.Sao (owner of Weerapat's Kitchen) and Wan

Tou and Sant
Tou and Sant

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Happy St. Patrick's Day

Tonight I went to Pia Foot Massage's big St. Patrick’s Day party with P.Su, Ake, and P.Nid, a friend of P.Su’s visiting from out of town. The party featured fire dancers, face painting, potatoes, Guinness, free BBQ, and a hyped-up moustache contest. I heard Mark, a guy from Seattle, was the winner in the overall best moustache category. If I see him tomorrow and he still has it, I’ll try and get a shot and update this post. Update: Mark shaved it off. Sorry.

I normally hate using the flash. Lately, my camera's flash has been acting up too -- it either doesn't fire or fires so hard that it blasts the color almost completely out of the scene. (It probably doesn't help that I do construction with it in my pocket.) Sometimes, however, with the right settings and finesse, the flash can make for some trippy effects. The woman in this shot is P.Nid.

P.Nid outside Pia Foot Massage

Next we went over to Weerapat's Kitchen to say hi for a bit and some refreshment before heading to Happy Snapper for some live music. I got my almost-daily staple: chilled, fresh young mak prao (coconut). Mmmm...

Arthur and son Weerapat (a.k.a. Eric) outside Weerapat's Kitchen
Arthur and son Weerapat (a.k.a. Eric) outside Weerapat's Kitchen

P.Su (left) and P.Nid enjoying the tunes at Happy Snapper
P.Su (left) and P.Nid enjoying the tunes at Happy Snapper

So what did you do on St. Patty's Day?

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

I have a new niece

Well... not technically. But I am just as stoked as if it were fact: one of my best friends, Brady Wilson, just witnessed the birth of his first child, Ireland Skye Wilson. She was born at 9:18AM on Tuesday March 14th, 2006 in Portland, Oregon, USA.

Pretty dang adorable, no?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Thailand: Public display of affection = bad form

In general, Thais are pretty conservative when it comes to PDA (public display of affection), and when folks don't keep the hanky panky behind closed doors, it's rather frowned upon. These two, however, sure generated a lot of attention -- and laughter -- this afternoon when they got a little kii harum (too in-the-mood) and decided to completely disregard cultural norms, right in a front yard at Tap Tawaan, in broad daylight. I think they were sober too. For shame!

[view photo]

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Volunteering in Thailand: It helps to pay attention to the pros

I bricked up my first wall today. Up until now, I worked the "feeder" role, providing brick layers with all they need to stay productive. Some of them have many years of bricking experience, so I made sure to watch how they did it. I suppose it payed off, because I got a few compliments on my first wall. And I'm pretty happy with it myself. :)

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

Visa run tomorrow

My allowed stay in Thailand expires today, March 4th, so I have to go on a visa run to Myanmar (formerly Burma) tomorrow and get a new stamp in my passport. It should make for an interesting trip since both my ATM cards are not working! Tune in later for the details.

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How to treat a smashed finger

As virtually all things eventually must come to an end, I had to do something about that fingernail and it’s pretty colours. The blood underneath the nail was causing a lot of pressure, resulting in a rather swollen finger. Not to mention, the skin was feeling uncomfortably (read: painfully) tight. So what does one do in this situation? Well, you have to relieve the pressure. Yes, you can treat this yourself, and yes, it will feel much better afterwards.

While this treatment may sound like it came from a torture scene in a horror movie, it can feel like torture — if not done properly! Follow the instructions, however, and it should actually be a painless — and pain-relieving — procedure.

Do not follow these instructions if:
  • you don’t feel a lot of pressure or see swelling of the finger around the nail
  • your finger is deformed from the smashing (in this case, definitely see a doctor)
  • the damage is not just limited to the end of your finger or involves a significant cut (also, see a doctor)
  • your finger has not been smashed
  • you’re a wimp, or you’re not sure if you’re a wimp.

Note: If you’re a minor, it’s smart to have parental supervision before following these instructions. Also, I take no responsibility if you do something stupid in the course of relieving your finger(s) of pressure from blood
under the nail. In other words, proceed at your own risk.

You’ll need a few important tools to succeed at this. Here’s the list:
  • medium-sized metal paper clip
  • pliers (for holding the paper clip)
  • pen (I prefer Sharpie)
  • gas burner
  • matches or a lighter (if the burner is not self-lighting), and
  • something (preferably clean) to wipe up the blood.

Optionally, I recommend that you have a few assistants, especially if this is your first time doing this procedure:
  • One steady-handed and strong-stomached person. This is particularly helpful if you’re not feeling up to doing it yourself, as you may be a little queasy or weak from the idea, or just not feeling so hot in general.
  • If necessary, one or two more people to hold you down.

It’s probably a good idea for everyone involved to wash their hands with soap and water, if available, beforehand. Next, identify the area of the fingernail that appears to have the most blood trapped underneath, and mark the center of the area with a dot, using the pen.

Step 1: Straighten the paper clip
Un-bend the paper clip so you have about a 2 or 3 inch straight section, leaving one end still bent. Any longer than that makes accuracy more difficult.

Step 2: Heat up the paper clip
Use the pliers to hold the paper clip on the section that is still bent, for the best grip. Over the gas flame, heat the tip of the straightened end until it is red-hot. This is important! Unless you’re a masochist, it must be red-hot.

Step 3: Insert red hot paper clip into fingernail
Using the dot you made with the pen as your target, gently push the red-hot tip of the paper clip through the nail. It will quickly melt right through - don’t go deeper than a millimeter or so. Again, if it’s not red-hot, you will have to force it, and trust me, that doesn’t feel so great.  Warning: due to the pressure, you may experience some brief squirting action. I had a single thread-thin string of liquid red shoot about 2 meters. Sorry, no camera
footage --  you’ll just have to believe me on that one.

Step 4: Press out extra blood
Optional but recommended: After you create the hole, squeeze the sides of the finger next to the affected area to remove any excess trapped fluid. This should extend the time it takes before it’s necessary to repeat the procedure up to maybe a day or two.

Here’s the video, so you can see it all in action. Well, steps 3 and 4 anyway. It’s even formatted for your video-enabled iPod so you can gross out your friends and family!

You must have QuickTime installed to watch.

Step 5: Clean up.

Resources and more info
Vandenberg Air Force Base 30th Medical Group Self Care Guide

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Out of pain comes beauty

When setting down a big stack of cinderblock bricks yesterday, I managed to get my left index finger smashed between them, resulting in a subtle rainbow of hues under my finger nail. Isn’t it lovely?

You’d think with a title like that, I’d come up with something a little more deep and meaningful. Probably next time. :)

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Thailand: Moken people at Tap Tawan

mixing mortar rebar

Today was pretty much a normal day at Tap Tawaan, mixing mortar for the brickers, and cutting rebar to help tie the bricks to the cement pillars that support the roofs of the kitchens we're working on. The exception was that today we met "super cute Moken baby".

The Moken villagers are who inhabit Tap Tawaan. Also known as sea gypsies, they are supposed to be more "in tune" with nature than other people. However, I get the impression that this tendency seems to be fading with the new generation as technology, western products and values wedge their way in.

Unfortunately, there appears to be a number of inaccuracies at about Moken people, and as soon as I get more, verifiable information, I will update the Wikipedia articles and post about it here.

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