070622 Raising a ruckus!

Raising a Ruckus


boy, did i start a ruckus around here. a few weeks ago, the truck came to deliver the concrete poles that will hold up our new room.  the truck had a hydraulic crane on the back to pick up the poles and deliver them to the ground.  i saw an opportunity there.  out near the front of the house is a pile of old concrete poles that belong to one of toks relatives who lives a few houses away.  these poles were cut out from an old house, where there is normally a square base to the poles, the concrete is broken away and the steel re-bar is poking out.  i always  thought that these poles were in an inconvenient place.  we moved one of them last year using rollers and ropes.  it was a difficult job - these things are heavy.  one day toks relative, who owns the poles was over, and i asked her to ask him if we could use them to line the property line alongside the newly built access road to gams house.  he was okay with that.  but, the prospect of moving the things was daunting, and easily put at the bottom of the to-do list. but the truck and crane presented an opportunity i couldn't pass up.

i asked tok if they would move the old poles into place along the drive if we paid them to.  they were fine with that.  so they moved all the poles, lining them up end-to end along thee driveway.  then the  fun began.  gams mother and father came out,  and a big discussion about the location of the poles ensued.  there was lots of pointing and exclaiming and drawing lines in the dirt.  the boundaries of the properties are marked by small concrete posts placed in the ground with code numbers on them.  one of the key posts that marked the back corner between gams family land and toks land and the corner of the access road was under the new dirt.  so out came the  picks and pikes and hoes and more chattering about where the post was exactly.  we dug a hole, and made it bigger - more to the left, NO, more to the  right. NO! more that way! Deeper!  they finally found the post, and put in a stake to mark the exact spot.  then more discussion, more pointing and lining.  they got out string and stretched it between the known markers, up and down the  length of the access road.  we moved the old concrete poles to align with the string, but there  was still considerable racket to be made over the whole issue.  it got even more interesting when gams family said that  sai and tai, whose land is  on the  other side of the access road, could not  use the road because they didn't help pay for it.  this got sai all riled up of course, and there was more discussion of all that aspect.

things settled down somewhat over the next few days.  then gams mother came out day before yesterday and said something to boon, our contractor, along the  lines that our new roof was over hanging the access road by 50 centimeters.  this really annoyed tok, since the roof didn't overhang by such a large amount,  or perhaps not at all,  since the exact property lines were still in question.  she decided that we should  find another marking post that was buried a few meters from the one we found before.  i didn't know there was another  post.  so first job after breakfast yesterday was for me to go out and start digging.  now, mama was sure that the post was over HERE somewhere, by where the old tree was.  then of course gams mother and father came out  and they insisted that it was over THERE.  out came the tape measures, lots of pointing  and discussing.  meanwhile i kept digging.  found nothing.  so i started digging at the second "for sure it's here" point, still nothing.  then we dug until the two holes were now one hole, about 6 feet long and two and a half feet deep.  i would dig some, gams father would get fired up  and start digging in another place, tok was digging, gams mom, tai and sai came home and put in their 2 baht.  meanwhile, the workers are up above us, cutting the beams for the roof over the  balcony, watching all this commotion with amusement.  this went on for hours, then everyone wandered off for lunch, then resumed again, then, stopped when everyone got tired.  i decided to get out of the middle of the whole thing, as i had very  little idea what was going on and what all the discussion was about.  i went over and mixed up some cement and worked on cementing rocks to the rockery waterfall.

after a while, the kids all came home from school, so sai and tai's kids, gams brother and assorted neighbors all got involved in more digging, more chattering.  every now and then i'd look over and one of the bigger kids would be digging, or everyone was standing  over the  hole pointing this way  and that.  my attention was on my cement and rocks.  one of the times i looked up, they were filling in the hole, and i noticed they put up a wooden stake.  seems that Mack, gams brother had did a little digging with the pike somewhere near the center of the hole but in a southern  direction and found the marker peg.  our trench ran east/west, but, as it turns out, mostly north of the actual marker.  so we were close, but it took mack's digging in the "wrong" direction to reveal the peg.

this whole thing took literally all day. i started digging around 8:30am, and the hole wasn't filled and staked until around 6pm.  and once the true property line was found, one of the workers dropped a plumb bob from the edge of our  new roof, and it was determined that the west corner of our roof overhangs the  access road by about 10 centimeters.  so gams family was complaining that when it rains, the run-off from our roof will fall in the road.  but tok told them she  is waiting for the the drive-by gutter installers to come around, and we'll put  a gutter up there to take away the rain water.  this is grand by me, as i want to have a rainwater collection system that feeds some big 100 gallon jars for taking my showers and for washing cloths.  cloths washed in the hard water from the well feel stiff when they are dry, as the minerals get in the fabric.

"drive-by gutter installers"??? what is that you ask?  around here, like the ice cream trucks in the states, people drive by along the road selling things.  they will play music, or beep a horn, or have a loudspeaker on the roof that plays a tape of the sales pitch.  but you can buy more than ice cream.  apparently one  of these speaker trucks are people who install gutters.  others are selling rice, food, repair jobs - a man comes to the house with a meter and checks out any appliances that aren't working, like fans or toasters.  if it meters out, he will take to his truck  and fix it for you. some of the speaker trucks are political announcements, and most of them i have no  idea what they are on about.

throughout all this no one seemed to really get angry.  there were places where the tone of voice got a little strong, but the next minute they would be laughing about something.  no one walked off in disgust.  interesting.

amazing thailand, love it.

tomorrow tok and i are going to Loei to go to a ghost/spirit festival something.  i'll know when i get there.  my Englishman friend mel and his wife came by yesterday, and said they would go with us - which is good, as they have a pick-up.  should be fun- get outta town for a bit anyway.  except they are coming to get us at 7am.  thai's like to have parades and things at eight o'clock in the morning!

I am in southeast asia April 19 - July 20 2007 ::: http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/


070620 Thaikarl - what to do with your day. and rains.


the days roll by quickly here.  time is relative, fluid and driven by activity or the lack of it.  out here in the country, days are very much driven by the sun.  rises at 5:30am, dark by 7pm.  after dark, there is  not much to do.  we don't work under flood lights.  the chickens start squawking and crowing early.  the relative cool of the night begins to slip away as the sun starts to heat everything up.  Tok usually gets up before me, as she has to make food for teri before she goes to school.  mama is up early also.  i lay in bed for a while, half awake, listening to the sounds of the neighborhood.  when Tok or mama starts pounding chilies in the motoar and pestles, the knock knock knocking penetrates even the deepest doze. 

i lose track of days.  teri will still be her in the morning when i get up and i am surprised.  well, it's saturday - no school.  oh.  or we will be coming back from town and the weekly market is set up beside the road a few km out of the town.  wow, it's monday?  it is?  the workers show up around 8am, siesta during the hot part of the day around 2pm, and leave around 5. or 4, or when they feel like it. 

i have my  list of projects.  i try to work on the  rockery  for the  waterfall twice a day.  if i  make cement and set rocks in the morning, the cement will be set and i can make another layer in the evening.  yesterday, Tok and i went to her uncles house and cut a piece of green bamboo.  inch and a  half thick and 25 feet long.  we used that as a support pole for adding some corrugated tin to extend the roof out back.  wee needed to cover the area of the new sink, and the space beside that where mama cooks on her little 3 corner wood stove.  somedays i am busy all day, other days it's off and on.  if we goto town to buy food or  for appointments, it puts a big hole in the day.  when the sky is overcast, it is cooler and we tend to work outside more.  clear sunny days means heat and sweating.  you move slower, drink lots of water.

yesterday, the  sky grew dark, the wind came up, and the sky dumped rain.  and i mean dumped.  the roar of the water pounding the roof required raising your voice to say anything.  rivers of water appeared in the  yard, flowing under the new room and off to the fields out back.  there is a 24 gallon jar behind the house where a eight foot piece of gutter empties into.  the jar was one quarter full when the rain started, overflowing when it  ended.  i like to take my showers outside using the rainwater from this jar.  normally we shower with well water.  the water from the well is very hard- when it drys there are deposits of minerals left behind.  the rain lasted only half and hour, the sun came back out,  and we went back to work on the  roof.  i can only imagine what the 'rainy season' is  like.  thats in late july to september.  i haven't been here for that time. yet.  the soil here is very silted clay, so after a rain the ground turns to sucking, sticking goo that adheres to the bottom of your shoes til you can hardly walk from the weight. 

progress on the new room is being made nearly everyday.  they have put the roof on.  i held out to get these brilliant metallic blue battens for the new roof.  looks beautiful - but the only place you can see it is from up on the big road, as the crown of the roof points to the west, along the property length.  someday we'll have too re-roof the rest of the house with the same tiles so you can really  see it.  the overhanging roof for the balcony will run north-south, facing the big road, so you  will be able to see the beautiful tiles from there.  one of Toks massage customers has a furniture and construction shop.  she got us a good deal on new windows and a door for the  new room.  we also contracted with her for painting the house inside and out.  no more dull cement walls!

the budget is looking rather squeezed.  Tok told me last night,  that we haven't accounted for building a stairs and roofing for the stairs to get to the new room.  we may  have too use a  ladder to get up  there until i get get some more money together.  that will be rather weird... but  oh  well.  typical for a re-model and new building project eh?

i asked Tok what Lom Sak - the name of the town nearby - means.  she said "lom" means like when you are stuck in the  dirt and can't move, as when your car gets stuck in the sand and the  wheels just spin.  "Sak" is a tree they grow here for house building - it's very strong, grows straight  up with few branches.  so Lom Sak means "tree that is stuck in the dirt and can't move". or something like that.  I also asked about Dong Khwang, our village name.  "Dong" means 'Woods' and "Khwang" means 'can't go in' so the village name means "Impenetrable Woods". and of course  i  have to add - or something like that.

more photos:  bugs, and working on the house, and country life
amazing thailand!
Nu and Tok

I am in southeast asia April 19 - July 20 2007 ::: http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/


070616 greetings from phetchabun


we took a little break from all the building to drive the motorbike down to phetchabun - a larger city 35 km to the south of  lom sak.  looking for a pump for the waterfall pond we are building.  bought a large Ganesh statue and a pot instead.  i see the link to the local land plot didn't make it into the email.  the link is here.

we have to hustle to get back - it's getting dark, and i'm carrying a 30 pound statue on my lap. on the back of the motorbike.


Nu and Tok

I am in southeast asia April 19 - July 20 2007 ::: http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/


070613 Thaiakarl - the house story


last year in 2006  i was here in thailand for 5 months, i spent most of my time here in the village at Toks house.  one day Tok mentioned that the people who lived in the house behind hers wanted to sell their house.  The house is where Gam (pronounced to sound like 'Game'), a young boy lives.  there is a mother and father, and another brother who lives there, be we always call it "Gam's house" or "Gams mothers house".  The plot of land the house is on used to be part of Toks fields, but she sold it to gams mother. they brought in dirt to raise the ground above the fields and they built a house on the land.  Tok took the money from the sale of the land and added to her existing house.

i was quite interested in this house for sale.  buying it would give me a house of my own (sorta - foreigners cannot own property or houses in thailand. but there are ways to deal with that), and it would restore the land back to what Tok inherited from her father.  we went over to talk to them about it.  they wanted 500,000 baht. flat.  and they wanted the money in december 2006, which was some six months away at the time.  500k baht, at that time was 13,500 USD.  not a lot for a house and land eh?  

refer to the overview image at the picasa gallery: overview of the land layout.

when i returned to the states, i began selling off assets.  i sold my three triumph motorcycles - which was painful, but i can't take them to thailand.  i cashed in some stock, took payouts on other things, sold more stuff, and saved money from working.  i also decided to give up my apartment to save the rent and utilities, but it worked out in trade with my room mate, that i lived there until i left for this trip, but paid basically no rent or utilities for the last 5 months before i left for thailand.  i wire-transferred over to an account Tok set up for the house a couple thousand dollars here, couple thousand there....  meanwhile, the dollar was falling against the Thai Baht.  which mean that by march 2007, the 500,000 Baht price for the house was now $15,225 USD.

Games family had re-set the sale date to march 2007.  at that time, I had only 8,000 USD in the account.  Then Tok told me that the sale was off.  i wasn't too disappointed - the only thing that would be a drag would be if they sold the house to someone else and we had new neighbors that were party people or something otherwise obnoxious.  i still had the money in the bank, i was a ton or two lighter in the possessions i carried and was that much further along to my objective of living in with Tok in thailand.

there was something funny about the deal that didn't make it thru the translation to me.  know i know what it was.  seems that the family had changed their minds about selling the house quite some time ago.  that's okay, it's their house, if they don't want to sell it, or if they do, it's up to them.  but they neglected to mention this to us, and let Tok continue to think the deal was on.  Tok heard from another person in town that they weren't going to sell the house.  why they just didn't say so a long time ago is a mystery to me.  the only real aggrivation was that  i could have come here earlier in the year, and been back in seattle for the summer when there is more work for me.  instead i was compiling money for the purchase,  and delayed coming here until the end of april.

so, Tok told them that they would have to go with the original plotting of the land when Tok sold it to them.  since the land was the back section of a long plot of land, Tok had to yield a narrow public access-way along side her property to the part she sold, so that games family would be able to get from their property out to the big road.  up until now, they have been driving along between the mango trees and Toks house, which is a straight path from the driveway by the big road, back to their property.  but, they are supposed to be using a 2.5 meter section that borders Toks land back to their place.  Tok told them they had to build a road and start using it.  the mango trees had to be cut down, and games family cut down a large tree on the corner of their property to allow for the cut in from the access road to their land.  a man on a grader pushed around the existing dirt, and trucks brought in a dirt/rock mix that doesn't turn to solid mud when it rains.  this he graded to make a track where the access road is, and we paid for our own load of dirt/rock mix to improve the area next to our house.

After talking with Tok, we decided to improve the existing house.  it is made from cinderblock, with a wood built upstairs.  Tok wanted to have stucco cement applied over the cinderblock, paint the house, and varnish the wood parts.  i kept telling her i could  do the work, and she kept telling me i was basically crazy.  she had a contractor lined up to come and do the work.   Boon and his crew of guys showed up with tools and ordered in a truckload of sand and rock...and so it began.  Once they got started, it became obvious why Tok didn't think i could do the job.  these guys start at 8 in the morning, and have the labor divided up so that someone is mixing concrete and filling buckets, and two or three guys are applying it to the walls.  amazing how they are able to get a nice flat application of concrete.  construction workers make  167 baht ($4.87 USD) PER DAY.  so, i'll work on the fountain and other detail things and let them do the big stuff.  then, it was suggested that we put a meter-wide concrete border all around the house, so that when it rains, the roof run-off doesn't splash dirt on the the newly painted house.  So they started on that.  then i decided that whilst they were here doing concrete, we should enlarge the front porch a bit, and put a concrete floor on the dirt floored section in the back of the house, beside the kitchen. so that's working also.  Tok had asked me if i could build a small waterfall pond beside the house, perhaps under the big mango tree.  but then she had a brilliant idea to put the pond alongside the porch, which developed into the pond being integrated into the expanded porch on the east side, behind which is a jasmine flower bush, and we would put a big round tank behind that to use as another pond for water lilies and fish.

I was outside looking around the front of the house one day, and suddenly had a big idea - if we can't buy another house, why not make a new one?

i was looking at all the different houses around here, from the 'shacks' up to the elegant thai traditional style mansions, and i decided that what we didn't have, but i really like, was a house on stilts.  up in the air, with dry space underneath.  up where there is something to see out the windows.  i dragged Tok outside and with much arm waving and long-stepping about, described my idea for a new bedroom for us.  I envisioned a big room, high on stilts that sat towards the back of our lot, with a wide balcony that ran across the west side towards the big road.  because there used to be an old toilet beside the existing house, they tell me that you cannot build a new room over an old toilet - your house will be 'broken' if you do - we have to offset the new room to the north, leaving a space between the existing house and the new room.  which means that they will have to build a set of stairs inside the house, that goes up thru the roof of the back part of the house, across a bridge to the balcony of the new room.  of course, Tok decided she wanted aircon in this room, which means the room will  have to be built with a ceiling and double walls to keep the cool in.  unlike the rest of the house, which is open framing under the roof an, and eves.

see my rough google sketchup picture of the new room in the picassa gallery.

Boon and his guys were now to be employed for a couple of months.  we are going through all the usual disruptions of having major remodeling and construction going on - noise, dust and debris everywhere.  but when it is all finished, we will have a much nicer house to live in.  Flat walls, painted inside and out, stained woodwork  on the upper part of the old house and a big 15 foot square new bedroom with a large balcony.  we've also re-routed the drainage pipe for grey water to run alongside the property line, west to the pond, with side drains for the big water jars, a dish washing sink, and the washing machine.  and we have a cement floor in the kitchen porch, which used to be dirt, fixed a leak in the roof, put tile in the bathroom, took the old built in water tank out of the bathroom so the room is bigger, extended the porch a bit, and we'll have a waterfall garden pond next to the front porch.  i'll be able to sit  up on the high balcony for  coffee in the mornings when the sun is on the  east side of the house, and can sit on the porch near the waterfall in the afternoons when the sun is in the west.

all in all, the whole thing has worked out better than the  original idea to buy gams mothers house.  if that had happened, i would have two houses that need fixing up, and no funds do do it.  now, we will have one house, with a nice addition, and overall improvements to the whole property.

and as an added bonus, the new room blocks off the annoying porch-light that gams family leaves on at night, so our yard is dark when we want it to be, like when we take the mat outside and lay on the  ground together and look at the stars and the sky.


Nu and Tok

I am in southeast asia April 19 - July 20 2007 ::: http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/


070611 Thaikarl - what a mess... everywhere it seems

they started putting up the upright beams on the new room today!  Boon and his helper have been spending the last 4 days planing down each board with a hand power plane, and cutting the notches for beams and braces.  Pix are in the house building gallery.
and a new bug in the gallery.  and just some prettyness after the rain last evening.
i've been slowed down with some intestinal bug last few days.  nothing major, just weakens me and keeps me near the ban nam (water room)  there is lots for me to do, electrical, concrete, waterfall building, ... some list.  it will all get done. 
meanwhile, everything is a mess, everywhere.  there is lumber and tools all over the yard, paper cement sacks, debris, concrete tailing's, and pretty much the same inside the house also.  by the time it's all done, i'll have to come back to USA to get back to work again!!  oh well.
today Tok has a few massage clients in town.  she came in before me on the motorbike.  i put a Tee in the 2 inch drain pipe behind the house and fit a side pipe to the new concrete drain pad we made.  now we have a place to put our new sink.  we didn't like the store-bought sink stands, so we bought a plastic sink basin, with a drain-hose and stopper.  we took that to a man in the village who makes things from metal, and he welded up a simple four-legged stand, with a frame to drop the sink basin into.  cost 200 baht ($6.00) for the frame.  then tok and i took scrap strips of wood from the stack and make a drainboard next to the sink, and two slatted shelves underneath for pots and mortars.  the whole thing came out much better than the store bought one, and we saved more than a thousand baht.  when i got the Tee in place, i showered and dressed up and took the Car into town.  There are orange pickup trucks with two rows of seats in the bed that go back and forth all day between Lomsak and Phetchabun.  kind of a local shuttle service.  they just call it "taking a car"  even tho they are trucks.  they call them Song theow  which means Two Row (of seats).  15 baht (50cents) gets me from the house to lomsak which is about 8 km.  so i've got to spend a little time in the Internet shop today.
now we are going to the burning of a person who died at the temple.  a friend of Toks husband i think.  so i had to dress up today.
Nu and Tok
I am in southeast asia April 19 - July 20 2007 ::: http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/


070606 Thaikarl - the new room dedication


and auspicious day today.  this morning the first pole of the new room went in the ground.  apparently you have to do this right, with ceremony and observance.  an old man came to do the blessings.  mama prepared some baskets from banana tree skins.  into each basket they put sweets, leaves, candles, food, rice a ball of dirt and other things. when it was time, the old man came out and sat on a mat next to the middle pole, saying prayers.  around him were more offerings - whiskey, money, candles, water, cigarettes.  they had tied a palm plant to the pole, and a small model of a fish catching basket, and a wooden stand for a bowel.  with more words and muttering, they men hoisted the pole on their shoulders with ropes, and flipped it into the prepared hole in the ground.  the blessing man went around and placed the banana skin baskets at each corner of the construction, and sprinkled water from a bowl at all the significant spots.  i of course, was wandering around wondering the significance of each bit, and taking pictures and video of everything. 

when all the ceremony was done, the men proceeded to put the other five poles in the ground, and square them up.   you can really get a much better sense of what is going to be built here, now that the poles define the area.  i'm really jazzed.  it's going to be nice to have our own room, up in the  air, with a balcony and windows that look out to the fields.  games family inadvertently improved our view by cutting down two of the trees on the north side of their lot.  they didn't do it  to improve the view, they have to to make room to get their car in and out of their land now that they are confined to the narrow public road out to the big road.

so many things to decide - when you are building from scratch.  what for the roof? what color? what wood? where to save money and where not? what kind of windows? railings?   and there is always somebody walking up with a little bit of paper with some thai characters on it with numbers and figures - and a figure at the bottom to be paid.  bags of cement, poles, dirt, sand, rocks, wood all magically appear in the yard, then disappear when they get used.  

they finished off redoing the rooms upstairs.  nice it is.  they took what was a bedroom and a balcony and made it into two rooms, one a little larger than the other, and a balcony space 1/2 the size it used to be at the top of the stairs.  these will be for mama and teri - who  now share the same bed downstairs.  their old sleeping area wasn't even a room, it was an area blocked off by a large long cabinet, a dresser and a chunk of plywood.  this will all be open space when every one moves into their new rooms.

i'm afraid i'll run out of money before the project is finished, so we'll have to go with sheet tin for the room over the stairs,  and maybe put the railing on the balcony later and all that.  that's a classic scenario isn't it?  more plans than cash?

else, i've been busy around the house, digging the hole for the water/fall pond, supervising the workers (ha ha ha).  haven't been into  the internet shop much in the last couple of weeks, so pardon the  quiet time.  i'm composing a more detailed longer piece about the house i  was going to buy,  and the improvements to this house that we are doing instead. with drawings and photos and some back-fill on the story.

otherwise, things are doing wonderful.  i am constantly facinated by how-things-work here.  and noticing the plants and bugs.  saw a moth that was bigger than the span of  my fingers sitting under the leaf of  a tree.  havent' been spending much time at the internet shop last couple of weeks, so pardon the quiet period.  we've had some cloudy weather move in, which is  nice as its a bit cooler, and occasional rains to wet things down

i've posted more pictures to the picasa gallery..

Nu and Tok

I am in southeast asia April 19 - July 20 2007 ::: http://thaikarl.blogspot.com/