From Chiang Mai.
Days 1 and 2 were extremely hot on the work site as we arrived shortly after sun-up to begin the work day. The first day was a bit emotional when we first met the waiting family who must have been looking forward to this for months – maybe longer. We arrived as ordinary people but were received as heroes. A seemingly happy and welcoming couple of few words but big smiles and obviously big hearts greeted us emotionally and an instant respect and connection was forged between the two groups of people with vastly different backgrounds. These people clearly don’t have much as they live in and under the structure (house) next to the build site. The children as well as the grandparents who all contribute to the work necessary to get the job done were eager to get started.
The first day was actually back breaking work and hurt the softest of us. But as a group of strangers from different parts of Canada (plus 1 from NYC) we became a team helping each other as sweat poured from our bodies while we filled bucket after bucket with sand used to level out the floor area of this 900sf (more or less) house.
The second day was equally hot and hard as we mixed 10 parts sand, ½ bag of concrete mix, 3 ½ buckets of water and 10 buckets of rocks into the mix used to cover yesterdays’ sand and make what will become the floor for this house. The ingredients for the mix has been burned into my memory forever, and will surely last longer than the sore legs, sore back and the blisters on the inside of my hands from the shovel and spade work.
While we organized the work, the family contributed by working alongside us; hauling the mix or being a part of our line of people-power moving the buckets of mix from the stationary mixing barrel to the site where it was needed. The remaining family members who were not active on the site were never far away and always willing with a cold, open water bottle and offering it with a big smile. I’d be leaving out the highlight of our workday by not mentioning the amazing lunch the family and neighboring contributors provided. Right from the kitchen of a Thai home, our lunches are becoming the highlight of the workday. The food is incredible and we all go back for seconds of all that they have to serve before dragging our wet, sticky selves away from the lunch table and stagger through the heat back to the site and complete the day’s work.
It’s hard, but super rewarding work. So far, I’d consider our host-family to be friendly and curious about who we are and why we’re here. I’m sure that as time permits and access to our translator becomes more available we’ll all exchange stories of where we’re from and how it is that we arrived here. I’m most curious to talk to the 86 year old man who sits nearest the site, just in the shade and says very little; but today as we finished up and were heading back to our lunch spot to gather our things before returning to our hotel he grabbed my hand and said something in Thai – I so wish I understood him. His piercing eyes looked right through me. I’m going to do what I can to get to know him because there’s a wisdom there and I want to know it.
The team is fantastic and diverse. My buddy for the day was Jesse, a 19 year old super well-adjusted young man from New Brunswick whose heart is clearly in danger of bursting through his chest. I asked him yesterday who his parents were - kind of joking, but kind of serious. What a great kid. What a great team! I’m so fortunate to be a part of this experience and can’t wait for tomorrow!