Saturday, December 19, 2009

Building a home for Wanida in Chiang Mai, Thailand

I was so fortunate to be selected to go to Thailand this year for the Habitat Build. It was 66 people traveling to Chiang Mai which is a city North of Thailand. We flew from Atlanta to Narita and then from Narita to Bangkok and then from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Looooong journey but worth every second.

We were tasked with building a total of 6 homes and this was part of an 82 home build with Delta Air Lines and the Jimmy Carter Foundation. Jimmy & Rosalind Carter were both present and I saw Jimmy working in the hot sun, mixing cement. Truly amazing couple and people.
On the first day we had a fun excursion planned to the Elephant Reserve -- very nice and I just loved the elephants! Monday was our first day of hard work and the sun was hot at 90 plus degrees. I was the leader of team "Bandanas" and we were assigned to house number 34!

The home was around 300 square feet, one external sink and one external kitchen. Foundation was laid and our job was to build with concrete blocks. uptil row 26. Then we had to get the roof up and the tiles and finally finish up with doors and windows. In all honesty, the first day was pretty chaotic -- too many chiefs and order givers and not enough teamwork. My house had 8 people from Delta, 4 from native thailand, 1 Habitat contractor, 1 block leader & 5 others from different parts of US and the world. Thats too many people! So at around 11 am, I called a team meeting under the tree and established some rules -- Rule 1: Only the construction lead gives instructions Rule 2: We will each be assigned areas like walls, doors, windows, grouting, mixing cement and we will each stick to our areas. Rule 3: we will keep ourselves hydrated and make sure we help each other out and take care of each other.

Things started getting smooth as we went along. Soon we were gelling and by day 2 we were rocking and rolling. By day 3 our house was ahead of most others. I have to mention that I had a fainting/passing out episode on Day 1 in the afternoon -- I drank a ton of water but I ended up going to the medical tent and then back to the hotel where I slept until the next morning. The doctors called it soem kind of Heat Stroke-Exhaustion. I heard that it was almost 100 degress that first day and I knew I had to be careful. So I decided to rest and after my rest, I was back on day 2 and then good to go. My co-team Cheryl was great and she helped me out a great deal. The rest of my team were rock stars too -- Ed and Alex, the married couple who worked at Delta for 31 years. David Hamm who had great engineering skills and was nick named the "scaffolding cat". CK, my pilot friend who was with me on the Chile build as well. Jane who was Miss congeniality and added humor to every day. Debbie, our lawyer and grouter, Belinda our Red Coat and Francis from Philli. Kirk from China and John from Tampa were also very good. I was very lucky to be working with such awesome people and I will always remember the moments I shared and everything I learned.

The lady in the picture with me is the home owner Wanida. With the help of a translator and learing some Thai myself like Sawa dee ka (hello), Kap kun kha (thank you so much)...I began to start conversations with her. She is 50 and this is the first time in her life that she will have a roof over her head. She is a tailor and also does some landscaping. She wanted her plants planted in certain spots and she was right on in terms of light and shade plants so I knew that gardening was a passion for her. Wanida has been HIV positive for 15 years but has been recieving the medications and is living a happy life. She has one daughter who made me a lovely bookmark that had a beautiful elephant drawing. Wanida was such a nice person -- so greateful and so loving and sweet. She worked hand in hand with us every day. On the last day we gave her the key to her home and she cried and hugged me -- I will never forget the emotion I felt when I hugged her. I cried a lot and again felt grateful and blessed for what I have today.
I wished her many happy years in her new home and told her I would loved come back to visit and have dinner some day. She said she would make me her special chicken curry.


Anonymous said...

good points and the details are more specific than somewhere else, thanks.

- Norman

Anonymous said...

last week our group held a similar discussion on this subject and you point out something we have not covered yet, appreciate that.

- Kris

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