Nang Tala

Sometime last month (I’ve completely lost track of time) I went on a field trip with some of my co-workers from the SAO and several adults and children from Village #5 Naa Pong. (There are 8 villages in Tambon Huay Yung and I also happen to live in Naa Pong.) We went to visit two different towns in Krabi Province which had sufficiency economies. A sufficiency economy is a concept developed by the King of Thailand to allow people to become more self-sufficient. A sufficiency economy will be able to grow their own food, raise their own animals, and make their own soaps, vinegar, bricks for houses, etc. The idea is that you are able to live on your own and if you have anything left over than you can sell that to have money to put back into your project. I’m pretty sure I just way over simplified it but you get the idea. The pictures below are of Nang Tala. We also visited Din Udom which is where PCV Julia lives but I was so busy talking with her I forgot to take pictures. Most of the pictures of Nang Tala are actually of making batik which is a process of painting fabric that is special to Krabi Province.

The villager of Mu Naa Pong are working on starting their own sufficiency economy. I’m not sure what I will be able to contribute to this project but I know that I will get to learn a lot in the process.

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Vacation Time – Koh Phi Phi

Oh Koh Phi Phi, I don’t even know where to start. I heart you a whole whole bunch. So Koh Phi Phi (or P P Island in English) is really two islands in the Andaman Sea between Krabi and Phuket. With possibly the exception of the few days I vacationed in Bora Bora, Phi Phi is possibly the most beautiful place I have ever been. We had a random 5 day weekend last month because of a Buddhist holiday and a rice farming holiday falling on a Friday and a Tuesday, and then the government decided to make Monday a holiday to encourage family vacations (I love you Thai Government!). So the other two PCV’s who are serving in Krabi (Julia and Deborah) and Karen who flew down all the way from I-saan (well took an overnight bus right from Roi-et and then a plane ride from BKK to Phuket) met up in Phi Phi for our first real day off in 5 months. For me it is just a 45 minute song-teawo (aka a pick-up truck with two benches in the back and a roof) ride (well on two different song-teawos) and then the 1 ½ hour boat ride to Phi Phi. The first 2 nights all four of us stayed at the Holiday Inn. When they first told me this I thought the other women where crazy. Why would I come all the way to Thailand and stay in a Holiday Inn? Because it was fabulous and is now my happy place. The Holiday Inn is on the remote north side of Phi Phi Don (the bigger of the two Phi Phi islands and the one that has the hotels). It is the low season for tourism in Thailand which makes the island that much better. I have a feeling a might not like the place as much during the high season when it is over crowded with tourists. We stayed in private bungalows on the beach, swam in the sea, read books on the beach, drank wine, and ate farang-food (anything that is not Thai food).

After two days, Julia and I moved over to Ton Sai Bay to the P.P. Palmtree Hotel. Ton Sai is where the actual village is on Phi Phi and has all the restaurants, bars, and most of the excursions. The P.P. Palmtree is in the heart of the village. It was a very nice hotel but I wished that it had a view of the water. I got to go SCUBA diving which made my heart happy and we did a sunset cruise where we went snorkeling with sea turtles and visited the beach from the movie “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio. The beach is on Phi Phi Ley which is the smaller of the two islands and is all a national park. The down side to staying in the village is that there really isn’t a beach to lay on. You stay there for the night life and the shopping.

I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

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Weddings in Thailand

Earlier this month I went to a wedding of a host family friend. Weddings in Thailand happen in two parts. The first part starts around 8am and is the actual wedding. Monks come to bless the couple, the couple gives tea and presents to honor their family, and there is lots and lots of food. Then everyone goes about their business and then meets up for the reception around 5pm. This was a big expensive wedding reception which was held out at the Navy Yard on the Sea. I was told there were anywhere from 1,000-1,500 guest there. I know that there were 60 tables of 10 inside and probably about 50 tables of 10 outside so somewhere around 1,000 would be correct. There was an eight course Chinese style meal and they had ballroom dancers as entertainment. The bride wears a traditional Thai gown for the wedding and then changed into a western style wedding dress for the reception. They did all the western traditions of throwing the bouquet and cutting the cake.

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The one about harvesting rubber, a Kansas Saloon, & the Emerald Pool

So this is a completely random post with three unrelated random events.

1. One of the two big main crops in southern Thailand is rubber. The other is palm oil but we’ll get that one later. Rubber comes from trees. Did you know that? I technically did but I’m still kind of amazed by it. The host family I stayed with when I first moved to site has several rai (some measurement of land – I think about ½ an acre but I can’t look it up right now because the internet is off and I’m too lazy to come back and edit these things) of rubber trees. Rubber trees are tall and thin and then have very shallow roots. So when we had all the flooding down here you could watch the rubber trees fall over like tooth picks. Really big, heavy tooth picks. This is also what led to some of the problems of the mud slides. Rubber has been quite a cash crop lately and many people will cut down all the natural trees and plant rubber tree orchards. This doesn’t give the dirt much to hold on to and causes the mudslides when there is heavy raining. So to harvest the rubber (which is basically just the sap from the tree) you do so late at night…like the middle of the night. I’ve heard two reasons: 1. That’s when the sap will come out of the tree and 2. It’s really freaking hot during the day so they do it at night when it is cooler. My guess is that the real answer is closer to number 2. The harvester uses a tool to make a long gash in the bark of the tree. The sap runs down the gash and is collected in a cup that is attached to the tree. They then pour the sap into forms and let it dry. They also put it through some machine that looks like they are making pasta but I haven’t seen that part up close and personal yet so I’ll give you more details later. You are supposed to wait until the tree is 7 years old before you start to harvest the rubber. Both I’ve been told that because the price of rubber is so high some people are doing it when the tree is only 5 years old. I have no idea what that means for the quality of the rubber or for the tree but just thought I would share my extensive knowledge!

2. My host brother and sister-in-law wanted to take me out on the town. They said they were taking me to a country bar. My first thought was “ugh, I don’t like country music.” Not a problem at the Kansas Saloon Country Pub. I tried to explain how exciting it was to be at the Kansas Saloon because my family is from Kansas and there’s Boot Hill…and then the eye’s glazed over and I stopped trying to explain. So at the Kansas Saloon Country Pub the band and waitresses to wear western clothing but that is where the western theme stopped. The band played mostly reggae music, the tv’s where showing Celine Dion videos, and they served bangers (no mash). Oh, and there were Elvise, Madonna, and Beatles records on the wall. There was a mural in on the back wall that said “Kansas…legend of the South.” I decided that this meant that the Kansas Saloon Country Pub was a legend in Southern Thailand and not that the state of Kansas is a legend in the South of the US.

3. My host family took me to the Emerald Pool and to some local hot springs. The Emerald Pool was beautiful but it was a holiday and there were a lot of people using it to cool off so my host sister-in-law said that the color wasn’t has brilliant as it normally was. The hot springs were very beautiful but I tried to explain that in the US we go sit in the hot springs when it is really cold outside and that I didn’t understand why you wanted to sit in 100 degree water when it is 90 degrees outside. I don’t think anyone understood what I was saying and it actually was quite lovely to sit in the springs.

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Let’s do the time warp again…

Ok, so really I’m mean that I’m in a time machine, but I don’t know any fun songs that have the words time machine in them, so I’m sticking with time warp. So far my Peace Corps experience has been me revisiting every old job I’ve ever had. I got to play swim teacher back during PST (“pre-service training”) to the local kids in our village…at the local millionaire’s pool. Then once I moved to site, we had a couple of days where I helped give rabies vacations to cats and dogs around Huay Yung (that’s the town I live in, and for those of you who don’t know, I worked at a vets office for 3 months before I moved to Colorado). I also did a ride along with a local health volunteer where we visited some elderly patients and helped changed bed sores (I was a nurse aide back in high school and college and have way too many stories about bed sores). And early this month I helped out a local health fair at one of the two health stations in my town. At the health fair the checked older citizens for weight, height, BMI, blood pressure, eye sight, CBC, and women for pap smears and breast cancer. I mostly helped out with height and weight because that only requires being able to say numbers in Thai and I have those down. Oh, and a baby cow showed up. That has nothing to do with my time warp, I’m just still always a little shocked when a cow shows and wanted to share.

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Khao Phanom

About a month ago (yes, I’m that far behind in posting anything) I went with some of the local health volunteers (“aw-saw-maw”) to deliver food, supplies, and money to one of the towns that was destroyed by the flooding in southern Thailand. It is in the next Ampur (kinda like a county) over and was about a 30 minute drive away. Ampur Khao Phanom has several large mountains (ok large for my friends in Texas, foothills for my friends in Colorado). The massive rains caused major mudslides and these destroyed many towns and last I heard there were over 50 people killed. I think one of the reasons it has taken me so long to write this post is that I just don’t have the words to describe the destruction. I’ve never been that close to a disaster and it’s still hard to wrap my head around it all. I’ll let the picture do the describing…

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Flooding in the Southern Thailand – How to help…

The flooding in the south of Thailand has been devastating. I am grateful that where I live has only had minimum damage, but it is heartbreaking to see where many people have lost everything including loved ones. One of our language teachers from Pre-Service Training (PST) has a non-profit organization that is helping raise funds for victims of the flooding. Just a small donation can do so much good! Just to help put it in perspective; you can eat an amazing meal in rural Thailand for less than $1. So 1-5 US dollars can literally make a huge difference! (Legal Note: This site is not affiliated with Peace Corps. Just helping spread the word of amazing local people helping their communities!)

Below is a link to one of my fellow PCV’s blog who also lives in Krabi. The pictures she took can tell the reality of the flooding much better than I can write about it.

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