So, we are in Phang Nga Province, but not in Phang-Nga town – we’re actually in a town called Khao Lak, which is basically a big long street of shops and more shops. There are so many tailors, it’s a bit ridiculous!
We arrived after a 12 hour journey on wednesday, all exhausted and a bit cranky. I found it hard again to settle into a new place, and it didn’t help that I’m not sleeping very well here. However, it is a beautiful place, the office (and where we are sleeping) is just a few metres from the beach. Because it is low season at the moment, the place is deserted – in a way it’s very creepy, almost like a ghost town, because half the shops are shut as well, but it’s very nice having the whole beach to ourselves.
Since arriving, we have had 2 days of work (only 5 days of work left!) and one morning doing a child activity. On thursday I was in the office, with Mary. I was just continuing work on the website, and Mary was continuing the work from the Bangkok office. Then on friday I went on home visits. One of the staff members, P Aom, was admitted to hospital on thursday night (midnight), because she had a headache and was feeling ill and very weak. So we did our first home visit, then went to visit P Aom.
The first home visit was really interesting, we started out by just meeting this guy who works at the front of his house, which is right beside the road. He buys peoples broken stuff (TVs, fans, etc) and fixes them before selling them on. We were told that he was married with a 6-year-old daughter. We then met his wife as well, who works as a waitress in a hotel. They don’t earn very much, but they both seemed very healthy and happy. P Nay told us that both parents are HIV+, but thankfully their daughter isn’t. The parents disagree on how to deal with their daughter – she does not know they have HIV, and the father thinks it should stay that way. The mother, however, thinks her daughter should be properly educated about HIV/AIDs. The main worry for them is that the child will be bullied or ignored because of her parents condition. HIV is still very much looked down upon in Thailand, and people still believe that it can be caught just by touching someone who is positive.
So then we went to the hospital, to visit P Aom. We had only known her for 1 day, but already I knew she was very happy and smiley, and just a cheerful person. So when we got into her room, there was a big smile on her face, and she welcomed us in. She looked very healthy, but she was saying that she is still very weak. P Nay was saying today that she is back home now, but we are not sure if she will be in work tomorrow or not.
By then, it was time for lunch, so we had lunch in the car beside a beach (it was raining…). We went back to the office for a couple of hours, before heading out to our second home visit. We drove into this massive dumping ground, and found this little shack. One young(ish) lady was waiting for us, and shortly after we arrived the rain began again, so we were ushered into this shack. It was disgusting. Just one single room, the floor was covered with bags of rubbish, the rain was leaking through the roof, and it was swarming with flies. If you stood still for 2 minutes, you would have at least 5 flies on you somewhere. I was thinking, how on earth does this woman live here?! Then we discovered that actually she (and her mother, who turned up) lived about 6km away. So we proceded to take them home. Their house was pretty decent, it was made of concrete and had 3 rooms leading off the kitchen. There were 4 people living there – the lady (P Kay), her husband, her mother and her younger sister. P Nay talked to them for about an hour or so, about what it is like to work on the rubbish dump (they collect recyclables and sell them on), and how they get by on the little money they have. They were also talking about the younger sister – she is 13 and is a typical teenager, she doesn’t care about her sister and mother, and has no regard for how they try to look after her. She just wants more money, doesn’t want to earn any herself, and just goes out with friends all the time. It’s hard for any parent, but even harder for one who is very poor. We also got to meet the families puppies, they have 2 very cute, tiny puppies. Tash and I held one each, and they were so fluffy and cute!
Oh, and on the way to that home visit, we saw an elephant beside the road! It was just standing there, quite happily munching on some leaves…
Friday night, the girls went for a slightly damp beach walk, and I stayed in the office. I just took the time to relax and enjoy the quiet.
Saturday was another busy day – we had a child activity in the morning, which is basically where a bunch of kids gather and we do stuff with them! we had about 30 kids, of varying ages (from 5-14, I’d say..), and so we planned the 2/3 hours before. We did some games, taught them about the Body of Christ passage in the Bible, and then did some related art. The kids seemed to really enjoy themselves, and so did we! There were some real characters there, and they were just so funny. One girl took an immediate liking to me, and we just played frisbee together for a while before it started.
After that, we went to a local restaraunt for some lunch, with P Nay and P M. Then they dropped us at a local Tsunami Museum (the Tsunami hit this area pretty badly), which was quite interesting, if very small. We spent about an hour wandering around it, then got a taxi back to the office, and spent the rest of the day here just relaxing.
While we are in Khao Lak, we get all our food cooked for by the restaraunt next door, called Sunshine. Siam Care have paid for breakfast and dinner there every day that we are here, which is very nice. We can pretty much request anything, and if it’s too expensive then we can pay the extra. The food is really good, and the lady who runs the place is quite chatty. One thing that I have noticed around here is how much everyone wants you to buy their stuff! You’ll be walking along the street and the shopowners will be shouting out to you, ‘come have a look,’ ‘come on in!’. It’s so weird, but I guess you get used to it.
Today we went to P Nay’s church, which was an experience. Very small, lovely building, female pastor. I didn’t find it particularly friendly, but that might be because none of the members speak English. We did get a translator, but she was translating to the whole congregation, so the sermon took twice as long as it should have! I was falling asleep by the end of it…
After, we went to the beach for a few hours (a different one to the one on Thursday night), where both Mary and I got pretty badly sunburnt! Tash and I went in the sea for a while, which was good fun – we found a little bit that was sheltered from the waves by some rocks. However, I did get sand EVERYWHERE. P Nay then picked us up again, and we did some shopping. I spent so much money. I bought a dress, but then discovered that it doesn’t fit 😦 so I might have to see if I can take it back. Only problem is, I’m not sure they do that sort of thing…So maybe I’ll sell it on to someone when I get home!
That’s you up to date with Phang-Nga. We have just 11 days left until we fly home.