The sun is setting over the hills, orange glow reflecting off the lake onto the patio of my weeklong lakeside home. This is luxury living. People pay money to stay in places like this. I guess I did too. Maybe when I wake up tomorrow and hike through the hills I will think differently, but this feels like a retreat, a splendid vacation. People also pay to work now that I think of it. My sister is a hiking guide at a spa that recently changed its name to “Biggest Loser Resort” in conjunction with a reality TV show where fat people compete to lose weight by working out. The spa makes millions off making fat people work. HAHA.. Maybe this summer is a weight loss program for me. If anything, it would be a wonderful added bonus.

Day 1

Turns out most communication is non verbal. Either that or filling bags with dirt is a remarkably simple task to learn…. scratch that. Our two teams combined filled 21 bags with dirt during our morning shift. The workers need to have 200 bags to make the two dams we were working on. 7 law school students could not keep pace with 2 50-something-year-old men. Why are some skills so valued and others not? Imagine filling bags with dirt for 8 hours. My oversized fake 501 jeans were soaked all the way through. My white boxers now totally blue. It felt remarkable. Doing something and immediately seeing the progress. I think something in human nature craves results. I am used to working in areas where the results are ambiguous and come very slowly. A semesters worth of reading and thinking boils down to one test which translates to one grade that when put next to other grades makes a cumulative number from which prospective employers base a portion of their assessment of me. What crap. Part of me would rather fill bags of dirt with some of the most cheerful people I know, and I don’t even speak their language.

Tze Time

I like to tell stories. I also like to write stories, but sometimes, when I meet a truly interesting person, I just want to listen. Tze is in town and it could not have been better timed. Everyone was pretty exhausted and only drank lightly before heading off to bed. I stayed outside on the patio, amidst an orchestra of bugs and the laughs of lizards, talking with Tze. He told me the whole history of Thailand and the history of Burma, and the tenets of Budhism and his view on politics and Thai culture and dating and life. I can maybe thank a bottle of Chang for opening him up a bit, but it was so nice to sit and chat and listen to a totally new view of the world. I feel satisfied and dare I say “immersed” for the first time this week. I don’t know that I will have another opportunity to have an intimate conversation like that with a Thai person this summer, but I look forward to working with Tze on any project.

Saem, the Dam, and the special light.

Saem and I walked to the dam and laid on our yoga mat beds looking up at the stars. She says she has never seen the stars so clearly before. It was hardly clear at all and I felt remarkably spoiled because I grew up in the desert and slept every summer night on my tampoline under clear star-filled skies. We saw a light in the sky. It looked small like a satellite, moving smoothly before it grew larger and larger becoming a bright orange ball of glow, then fading back down to a dot and sailing out of sight slowly. In all my years sleeping under the stars, I have never seen a light like this. I told Tze when we came back to check on us and he told Porn, our house mom. She consulted her husband PeTam and together they explained that it was a special light that usually only monks see to remind them of something special from their past life. They said they both had never seen such a light in all their lives, but they hope to one day. Tze said maybe we were Thai in a past life and that is why we got to see the light. I don’t know about any of those theories, but this is a special place and I love being out here.

Kids are Kids, but these kids are also grown-ups

The school does not have enough supplies. Thealphabet chart has “Uicon” (supposed to be Unicorn) for the U animal. X is xmasturkey, all one word. The is no A/C and we could not even find paper to play a game with. The kids in grades 1-3 range in age from 5-12. Some are tiny and some are quite large. They wrestle and goof off like any kids, but when it comes down to it, they watch out for each other. They make sure everyone gets a turn, that the big kids dont always win the games, and that they cooperate despite our complete failure to speak Thai. Sumchai is 12. He has some kind of physical disability but his english is the best of all the kids in the class, and he was eager to translate our directions into Thai. I was eager to let him. Each day he would hug me and hold on until I made him let go. What will happen to kids like Sumchai? I feel terrible for walking into his life for a week and then walking out. Friday when we left, he hugged me and said, “No see you tomorrow” and he ran away.

make it rain.

All week we wanted rain. Anything to cool the air and make our furnace house more bearable. Sometime during dinner, Nur managed to finagle a saw and a hoe from PeTam and cut up a dead tree. A fire was burning on the beach before the sunlight was all the way gone. No one wanted to join him because the hot hot heat was already too much. I felt bad for Nor sitting down by the lake all alone so I told them I would go to the fire and do a rain dance to make it rain before bedtime. I swear, I took the energy from the fire and called in the storm. I know how preposterously superstitious that sounds, but it really really worked. The fire went from hot under clear skies to horizontal from the wind with thunderheads piling over our lake. They all came down and we danced. The rain lasted all night. I tried not to take all the credit I was given, but really, would rain dances be so popular for so long if they never ever worked?