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April 08, 2005

Painting Homes in Thap Tawan

It's been very satisfying painting houses for the Morgan people near the Thap Tawan camp. Freaking HOT, but satisfying.

The project was launched by Willi Kothny, a German Olympic bronze medalist in fencing. He used his celebrity status to collect a lot of donations from large companies, so that he could build 30 homes for fishermen's families whose small tin or rattan homes had been quickly washed away by the 11-meter waves.

Please read more about Willi for Morgans by clicking continue below.

The posting of this entry was delayed due to internet access issues.

***Willi is German, but Thai-born, with a strong connection to his heritage. This project, German-run, has been much more disciplined than others I've worked with. If they say the truck is leaving at 8:15, you better be on the truck at 8:15 if you want a ride. The project managers, Albert and Franz, worked like absolute dogs. We are all hard workers, but I could hardly keep up with their initiative, speed and determination.

The land has transformed abruptly from a barren, junk-filled desert to a neighborhood in about two months. This group of homes was made of cement bricks, another project chose woven palm walls. The cement requires painting, and someone chose pink as the color. None of us particularly liked it, but I reminded everyone that in Florida all the houses are pink and somehow it reflects the heat. We all agreed it didn't look that bad once it was finished.

We would arrive at the site around 9am, and start mixing paint (both indoor/outdoor required dilution with 20% water). We had informal teams: indoor, outdoor, and trim or cutting in (indoor/outdoor). I did a little of everything, but focused mostly on trim. The brushes were well-used, and had been cut down several times.

Time would fly and by 11:30 it would seem very hot, and you just hold on until noon, when lunch is served. During lunch we tried the various 'delicacies' of home-food the chef was trying: fries, tempura vegetables, hot dogs! And we would play with the two kittens that hung out at the table. We handfed one of them shrimptails until his belly was so full he keeled over into a deep sleep, tummy puffed out, unable to move otherwise.

Then back to work until 3ish, when we took another break. Franz even would bring us trays of icewater, in aluminum Thai cups during breaks. Heaven! By about 4 or 4:30, you're pretty cooked, but we plodded along until 5pm when the truck came to take us home.

During the three days, I think we painted 7 houses, inside and out, including priming 2 or 3 of them. On my team were Jackie, Cristal, Sarah, Martha, and Chelli. Franz was our leader, and painted with us as well. We also had help from some Thai volunteers, but I didn't learn their names. Or maybe I should say, they had help from us. We all worked together.

A funny thing, the houses all had strings hanging from the rafters, and along the sides of the houses. I thought they were leftover from some early point of the project, but apparently they are part of a blessing for newly-built structures. I'm not sure if monks are involved. When you drive along the highway here, underneath the electric lines you can see long white strings travelling the entire length of the road. It turns out these strings were tied when the telephone poles were re-installed and the lines re-done. Lucky.

Posted by sedda at April 8, 2005 08:10 PM