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March 24, 2005

Power Tools!

Yesterday was a busy day, so this post was delayed. I got up early (5:45) so I could check email before the day began, then two minutes after I logged on, the network crashed and the guy with the keys to the server closet was sleeping in until 10am.

If I recall correctly, Mercury Retrograde has recently begun.

Anyway, I decided to take a break from beach cleaning and try something more team-oriented. I'd heard good things about the Pakarang Boatyard team, and some of the guys encouraged me to come out. I don't know much about construction, but everyone assured me that there would be small jobs to do.

The Pakarang Boat Shed is funded by private donors, and will provide a workspace for fishermen and longtail boatbuilders to rebuild and build boats that were destroyed by the tsunami. This support has a direct impact on the local community, since for many families, longtail boats are a source of income, food, and the future. The Pakarang Shed is designed to be a public workspace, with access assigned by lottery, for two years. After two years, the lease on the land is complete, and it's up to the land owners to either continue the project as a gift to the community, rent the space out, or turn the space over for an alternate use.

The shed is near the water in the middle of a coconut palm farm, just acres and acres of tall trees neatly lined up. The farmowner's house, nearby, was ravaged by the water. There are about 2.5 walls standing in a few parts of the house, the rest is leveled to the floor. They have offered free use of the land for the public shed for two years.

The trees provided a bit of shade, and a nice, whispering rustle as the breeze blew through. We were nearly at the water's edge, a shallow pale turquoise flat as the eye could see. With the exception of 1-4 pm when the sun was directly overhead and completely searing, it was a beautiful day.

To read more about Thursday and the Pakarang Boat Shed, please click continue below.

***It was a great day overall, a lot of hard work. Scott, the project manager, is really well-liked as a manager by volunteers, especially the ones with building experience. He also will be involved in boat building when the shed is complete, which should be within a few weeks.

I teamed up with Eli (say Elly), a Norwegian teacher and photographic manager (who, incidentally, assisted National Geographic photographer Jim Brandenburg for several years in Minnesota. We had a lot to talk about. Btw, Brandenburg's Chased by the Light is a must-read for anyone interested in nature, photography, or thinking about the world around us.)

Eli and I measured and cut wood to make triangle-shaped trusses for the roof in the center of the boathouse. The boards were heavy, hardwood, but the work was refreshing. We banged them together with Dan, a builder, and other volunteers got them from the ground up top, and bolted into place.

At about 11am and again at 2:30 or so, we heard a familiar jingle of bells. "It's Ice Cream Billy!" A motorcycle ice cream vendor visits the site every day for treats. The other real treat is that every morning on the way into town, Scott stops at the grocery for some drinks (he provides gatorade powder and water, if you want more than that you can buy some), then stops at the ice place to fill up the cooler and the gatorade container. Ice cold water and drinks make a huge difference in dealing with the heat and humidity.

The work was tiring but rewarding, and it was nice to see a tangible project grow, and work on a team. There were something like 8-12 of us all together, listening to a very bad mix tape of Scorpion tunes and bad Beatles covers, which apparently has been the only music available on site for three weeks or so. The tape came with the truck that the Volunteer Center is renting, and is the only cassette anyone has been able to find.

We topped the day off with a thank-you dinner at Pong's Bakery, which is near the Police Boat and the Tsunami Craft Center. Pong has donated a large retail space to sell crafts made by people still in the camps, as fundraisers. He wanted to give the space for free, but the Volunteer Center worked a deal with him because his family was hard-hit by the tsunami as well. He offered us an all-you-can eat dinner of home-cooked food with fruit and dessert for 120bht (plus drinks). It was a wonderful evening, hot and sticky with heat lightning flashing overhead.

Then it suddenly poured rain, which delayed the hitchhiking home. Luckily a lot of the volunteers who had motorbikes generously ran shuttles, since it turned out to be a 45-minute walk home.

Posted by sedda at March 24, 2005 02:38 PM