A THATCH HUT
I'm way behind in writing, but it's been one of those great times to be behind. There's been so much to write about, but also so much to do. Four days ago I started to build my first ever thatch building, for sake of a better word. I guess I could call it a bungalow or a hut, but this structure has no walls, just a huge grass roof and a wooden platform to sit on in the shade. "Shade" is the important word here. This last month has been hard in ways for me because of the heat, and I think of myself as very good in the heat. But as I've written before here, it's been really hot!
I've had this idea for a while to build a shady grass structure, but one evening, I guess five nights back, Pee suddenly announced that Oie and Oat (baby Off's parents who live right across the street) have time to help us cut eucalyptus at Pee's farm and to transport back with their two-wheeled tractor. So off we went, gathering every sharp machete we could find, and once we got to the farm, we worked till dark cutting 20 to 30 foot lengths of eucalyptus. It had already been a long work day for everyone, so we were all tired. But we got the wood back and unloaded it and called it a day.
The next morning I embarked. My plan was to copy a structure Oie and Oat had built across the road, a place we now call "ban Off," or house of Off (who is four months old). All day I measured and cut, and again, working in the sunshine and the heat, it was really hard. All the time I looked to the sky for clouds, but nothing.
Day two was much the same as I started to actually build. I knew people would help me if I asked, but I was happy to do it on my own so that I could learn. The end of day two, cumulus clouds started to build, and then boom. Rainy- season rain!
With optimism from the rain (another subject altogether), day three was a letdown, again hard and hot. The structure is just a hut, but it's not like I have actual boards with straight lines (which I am used to). I am building with the eucalyptus, lengths about five inches in diameter. Nothing is straight! Around two in the afternoon Oie arrives with her father, Aht. They walk across the street, take a look at things, not saying a word. And then they start in! Together we work hours – again in the sunny hot – but their movements are incredibly efficient. Aht has been building this way all his life, and so has Oie. They start on the roof, and at this point I step back. I have no idea of how it gets made, or maybe a little idea, but no idea of how to execute it. I'm just in awe watching them. And as they work, other people start watching. A crowd gathers, everyone with an opinion. And then suddenly there is a roof!
Then chat chat chat. I don't know what is going on; my usual state of existence here in the village. And then suddenly there's an old beat-up burgundy Toyota truck and a super nice guy. He offers to drive me to buy grass for the roof! We need approximately 150 already-made lengths of woven thatch, each one about 3 feet by 5 feet. We jump in the truck and start out. It starts to rain, so he closes his window, then takes off the window latch and hands it to me so that I can close my window (he has only one). We drive about thirty minutes toward Cambodia, then in a small village we purchase the thatch, drive home, buy some bottles of lao khao (rice whiskey), and everyone again shows up to help. Thirty minutes after dark there's a roof!
Okay, so there're a lot of details I've left out, but right now the rain is pouring so hard (and so much thunder) that I must shut off my computer. This is evening of day four, and the rain is beyond incredible, and we are maybe three hours in. It's one of those five inch rains!! My god.