Well, Andrew finally arrived in Ranong about a month ago and it’s been a month of action since….
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
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)
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.
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
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
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
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…
Happy new year to everyone!