View from our stoop

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In an effort to destroy the cattails, because her son is allergic to the snowy fluff it produces this time of year, the development manager instructed her minions to burn them. On a windy day. With gasoline.
Fucking oops.
Nam says that once they realized the fire was out of control and blowing towards said manager’s newly-erected wooden houses (as in, houses she built to live in herself) they called out all the workers in shouting distance to form a bucket brigade. That had no buckets.
Oops again.
Luckily, the fire eventually burnt out when the wind died down. I just I wish I could’ve been here to see it too, so I could educate the natives about a few things. Like how cattails were used by Native Americans for kindling (so maybe they should use less gasoline or something). Or by people around the world for food as well as down for stuffing. Or how cattails are being used in pilot “carbon capture” farming schemes. Then again, I probably would have just stood there laughing wickedly as the world burned just across my pond and attacked the intelligent beings who started it.
Luckily, the red-tailed pheasant-like birds seem to have returned and don’t seem to mind roosting in their newly-roasted environment. I need to get a photo of one someday I suppose…

Our New Thai House Part 2 – Foundations

When setting the first foundation of a Thai house, it is a common practice to hire a Brahman priest and hold a blessing ceremony. Enter Ajarn Chachawan (Ajarn is an honorific title equivalent to sensei in Japanese and pretty much nothing in English), pictured on the left in the photo below. He was also the announcer/master of ceremonies who did the morning ceremony for our wedding two years ago. He will also be supervising the installation of an animistic “spirit house” on our property this month or next. Truth be told, he’s pretty much our go-to guy for all our Brahman needs.
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Clockwise from Ajarn Chachawan: Mother-in-law, yours truly, worker, Nam, worker in red shirt, worker in OSHA-approved safety flip flops (standard worker footwear here; they even weld and walk on roof support beams in them).
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The shot below was taken from the rear of our property (marked with wooden border) toward the pond and front of the (then future) house.
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You can see the two foundations we just planted held in place with tripodal wooden supports. Tied to those foundations with holy-ish string are items of various significance such as banana tree branches and a woven reed fish trap with coins (Thai Baht) in it (we were warned not to put a lot of money in the trap since it would be stolen in the night. And of course it was.). In the holes for the foundations, under the two-piece (tower in basket) wrought iron assembly, we also placed items of various significance which we purchased/gathered a day earlier. This included a specific kind of unhusked “new” rice (that I popped over the stove like popcorn), leaves of a religiously significant species of tree (from a nice old lady’s yard – she also gave us seeds to plant our own trees with, but we lost them), special gold/silver/bronze painted bricks and cedarlike stakes that we purchased at a Buddhist goods store, plus a few other things that escape my memory (at one point I had the list we used for shopping but I lost this as well).

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Our New Thai House entries:
Our New Thai House Part 1 – Picking a Plot
Our New Thai House Part 2 – Foundations
Our New Thai House Part 3 – Groundwork
Our New Thai House Part 4 – Roof and Walls
Our New Thai House Part 5 – The Blessing Way
Landscaping Our House – Before and After

Our New Thai House Part 1 – Picking a Plot

I’ve put off posting proper photos of our new house since we decided to build it, that is, for the better part of a year. What can I say? We were busy getting it finished (this is a home builder’s joke – a new house is never finished).
Getting this house built took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears… We really honed our powers of persuasion, pleading, and cajoling. I learned how to effectively threaten someone in Thai, and Nam learned that being visibly pregnant is a great way to have people do things for you. We both learned that government officials in charge of the positioning of power transformers, who knock away a hand offering an envelope and loudly claim to be unbribable, are merely asking for more money. Life lessons, these.
If I had tried to blog about all the problems we ran into during construction of this house, all of you would have stayed away for the duration, believe me. There was simply too much to bitch about, so I ended up breaking a lot of scrap wood and taking it out on random tailgaters instead. Life is sometimes too crappy to effectively document, anyway.
I have so many photos for this particular subject, I’ve decided to break it up into several posts, which should be generally chronological. I hope you can enjoy reading this series as much as I will writing it.

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Coming to Thailand in October of 2006 to live in a house I helped pay for in advance ended up not working out real well. This was due to a certain insufferable alcoholic-in-law who treated himself to our house before I moved here from Japan. My wife and I therefore decided to move out as soon as possible.
We searched for houses and apartments alike, debating whether to rent or buy. We searched all over Mahasarakham, which is a large area, and sometimes, for comparison, we would even look in neighboring towns. Our search took us all up and down the banks of the Chi river, since I wanted to live close to the water (a sort of compensation for living in dry country). To make a long story a bit shorter, we could find no suitable houses and no suitable land on which to build a new house.
In mid-2007, I revisited a new neighborhood just starting to be built between my university and Nam’s. One of the lots was situated right in front of a natural pond (with some reinforced banks). We fell in love with the sky and decided to build a house there.
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END OF PART 1

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Our New Thai House entries:
Our New Thai House Part 1 – Picking a Plot
Our New Thai House Part 2 – Foundations
Our New Thai House Part 3 – Groundwork
Our New Thai House Part 4 – Roof and Walls
Our New Thai House Part 5 – The Blessing Way
Landscaping Our House – Before and After

Promenade

Earth, sky, sea, and rain
Is she coming back again?
Men of straw sneak a whore
Words that build or destroy
Dirt, dry, bone, sand, and stone
Barbed-wire fence cut me down
I’d like to be around
In a spiral staircase
To the higher ground
And I, like a firework, explode
Roman candle lightning lights up the sky
In the cracked streets trampled under foot
Sidestep…sidewalk
I see you stare…into space
Have I got closer now?
Behind the face
Oh…tell me…
Charity dance with me
Turn me around tonight
Up though a spiral staircase
To the higher ground
Slide show, sea side town
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Above is a partial view from the front of our new house. The view was a major reason why I wanted to build a house here in the first place. If you look closely, you can see the top of my university’s administration building (it’s a kilo or two away in a straight line, unfortunately, there is no road running straight there):
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Since you can see that building from my house, the reverse is also true, of course, and when this house was being built, I used to take my camera and a zoom lens up to the roof in between or after the Master’s classes I taught there. I would take photos of the workers dumping trash in the pond or peeing in my backyard and go confront the foreman with it later, saving the photographic evidence for when he swore in front of the developers that nobody would dare do such things (yeah, I’m pretty much the client from hell).
That roof was also my bug-out area when I needed a smoke or wanted somewhere to relax for a few minutes. The door to the roof was always open and it was often the coolest part of the building with constant breezes, even on the hottest days. You could look over the waist-high wall surrounding the perimeter of the roof onto the parking lot, which was green with all the old trees that make my university so nice to walk around, and the people and cars looked like miniature toys scattered across the floor… The nicest part about going up to the roof was that you were pretty much guaranteed your privacy. I went up there at least a couple times a week for six months, and saw maybe four other people in that time.
It’s funny what kind of thoughts go through your head when you’re looking at people you may or may not know from 16 stories up. I know what I always think of. But there’s a big difference between wondering what it would be like and actually stepping off…
Yesterday, one of our seniors jumped off the roof of the administration building and died. What this boy was thinking, I have no idea. The chances are, I don’t even know who he is.
But it still makes me sad thinking about it.