Running water, a Buddhist Christmas & Happy 2554

Well, Andrew finally arrived in Ranong about a month ago and it’s been a month of action since….

Running Water!

Those who have visited us or lived in Ranong will be familiar with our biggest gripe – there’s generally no water during the day. ‘The day’ can begin around 6am and not end until 3am so this can be a bit of an inconvenience. A large 40

One of two tanks. Frame in the background

gallon* drum is used to store all the water for the day. With a baby on the way and 50 washable nappies waiting to be soiled, this inconvenience would become a serious marriage issue. Fortunately after years of Building Services Engineering this is exactly the sort of practical challenge I was ready for – so I set about designing a solution. With a carefully considered design (checked and verified of course) sketched in my book, we recruited a Burmese builder, a few apprentices and went shopping for tanks, steel and pipes.  After 3 days of drilling the concrete wall, welding up in our ceiling, the noxious smell of ‘pipe glue’ and many discussions in Burmese about my designs, we had a secondary water system that consisted of:

  • A welded steel frame resting atop the concrete bathroom wall and bolted to the external wall
  • Two 200l tanks sitting on the steel frame
  • A series of tank-fed taps in the bathroom and kitchen/laundry
  • A supply feed into the tanks with an automatic cut-off (think of the mechanism in your toilet cistern)

Bathroom taps

At midnight when the water pressure was finally enough to reach the tanks, we heard the sound of the tanks filling up with water and knew that meant success!

With the tanks now fully operational, we have running water at most of our taps both during the day and night. The only limitations are:

  • we can’t quite do two full loads of laundry during the day and still have water left
  • I have to resist the temptation to climb up into the ceiling and make ‘improvements’ to my design – one such attempt resulted in minor flooding and emergency operations at midnight!
  • we have to make sure we pray each night that the steel frame doesn’t suffer a catastrophic failure and drop 400kg of tank and water on someone having a bucket shower!

Fortunately there are some secondary benefits to our tank system as well:

  • Since we’re on the top floor, the tanks and pipes are just under the roof so during the day the scorching sun heats up the water to a nicely tepid temperature. This is great for washing dishes or having a bucket shower as cold water from the tap is just a little too cold at this time of year. 🙂
  • The tanks act as a sort of sedimentation filter so the water out of the tanks is actually clear, much preferable than the sometimes brown stuff that comes out of the mains.

Buddhist Christmas

Christmas day is a working day in Thailand. It’s a fact that succinctly sums up the official irrelevance of a Western, Christian festival in a proudly (never-colonized) Eastern and staunchly Buddhist land. But this is Asia – so the ‘official’ line is never quite the whole story.

From our perspective, there are in fact two distinct Christmases in Ranong. Firstly, the beginnings of a commercial Christmas industry, secondly and much more interesting were the numerous Christmas celebrations held by

CP kids singing

MMR and our little Marist community. The massive MMR party included  children,  teachers, HIV patients, staff, parents, library users, adult students, and all other manner of folk who are associated with MMRs various programmes. Over 450 people inundated Marist house for a celebration that included performances of song, dance and drama,  food, general celebration and much joy. I was

The kindergarten angels flying in

actually dreading the  evening as it approached – I was filled with scepticism about the relevance of Christmas to all these Buddhist folk. I wondered whether this was somehow diminishing the very special meaning of Christmas, just so it could be shared. Were we imposing a celebration that was so counter-cultural that it had no place here?

Watching  the celebrations, mercifully free of any official duties, I realized that as foreigners, our very presence in Thailand  is counter-cultural. Our whole mission – to bring hope and dignity to oppressed Burmese – is alien, and

Interpretive dance

our basic belief in the goodness of joy is  foreign. As this unlikely cohort of Burmese, Thai, Filipinos and Kiwis celebrated, it became clear that actually people did understand what Christmas is about. They understood that we were here, in Ranong, because of the joy of Christmas, they understood and appreciated that our presence makes a difference in their lives. So therefore celebrating  Christmas was an expression, an acknowledgement of the transformative power of the joy of Christmas.  For me, despite the absence of family and close friends, being surrounded by people celebrating that simple, true, and powerful  joy of Christmas made this a distinctly authentic Christmas.

Happy new year – 2554!

To celebrate the New Year, the year 2554 according to the Buddhist calendar, our little Marist community took off for a little break by the beach. It was a perfectly relaxing break to the intense Christmas celebrations with beach football, barbecues, swimming in an ocean all to ourselves and a beautiful Mass on the beach to begin the new year.

Here are some more pictures…

Rap'n Santa

400 people and counting

Feeding the 400

New Year's Mass on the beach

Happy new year to everyone!

5 thoughts on “Running water, a Buddhist Christmas & Happy 2554

  1. Happy New Year Andrew and Nuala!

    Enjoy your tepid showers, sounds very pleasant 🙂

    Can’t wait to see your baby girl. All the very best.

  2. Happy New Year to both of you .

    Great story from two great people. Wel done plumber ! A few props under the tanks will keep you from getting too much water at once . The Christmas may have been different to the old ways but I made out that you did share your love and peace with those arond you. That’s what Chrismas is all about.Sacred Heart Church has been packed for a long time now and the mixture of cultures makes it so much more meaningful and true to the Lord’s request for all Christians to be one in Him.
    Keep up the good work.
    Jos.

  3. Hey guys!!

    Happy New Year to you both!! Good to see you putting your Engineering skills to good use Andrew 🙂 Not sure if Papaya has arrived yet, but hope you are all doing well and looking forward to see you in a couple of weeks and checking out this super awesome water system ;-).

    Take care,

    Serena and Dennis

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