I have been very busy visiting villages and setting up projects for the future. Luckily, I have been able to extend my circle of contacts and through them reach out to more remote communities. Recently, I went with a new friend, Mr P’Nong, to revisit the little village of Ko Mong Ta. I had previously visited this village to take in the preparations for the funeral of a well-known Buddhist nun. This time, I went to look at the solar home systems put in by the Thai government about 4 years ago. Most of them seemed to be still working, despite some obvious Rube Goldberg modifications! But the high points of the visit were sitting quietly in the main hall of the Buddhist monastery for almost two hours, then swimming in the river and going for a long hike with the resident novice monk. Thailand does Buddhism a little differently from other places, (at least judging by their meat intake). When I found a functioning cigarette lighter on the trail and offered it to the young monk, he immediately whipped out an old stogie, and lit it up with relish!
I spent a few days with Jim and family and some folks from Aquaeous Solutions, (a group dedicated to developing sources of clean water), out at Whispering Seed farm. Our task was to build three inter-connected water tanks, using pre-cast concrete rings. I really enjoyed this hard physical work, despite afternoon temperatures pushing 100 degrees F. I was able to using one of my solar powered water pumps to keep the (human) concrete mixers supplied. Also, to cure the cement tanks they had to be filled immediately. The little pump had no problem delivering about 1,000 liters an hour and filling all three tanks in about six hours.
I have three remote clinics to install small solar electric systems on, two of which are for the Mon National Health Committee. They are too far inside Burma for me to venture, so I have hired a solar apprentice, Tun Ein, to do the installations for me. I give him classes every week and I hope that he will be of great help to me in the future. The third system is going to Ti Lai Pa, a magical Karen village I previously visited with Nandoe. I’m told the clinic construction is proceeding apace and now the question is – can I get in there and do the job before the monsoon rains make the road impassable? Since part of Ti Lai Pa is inside Thailand, I can go there and Tun Ein and I can do the installation together, (an essential preparation for him, before tackling the Mon systems by himself).
Tomorrow, I hope to complete the solar hot water heating system at Nawpawlulu’s. Today, we hauled it up onto the roof and now only a few minor plumbing details remain. It’s now the hot season and the demand for piping hot showers is down somewhat, but I hope that from December to February, when the daily temperature swing is about 50 degrees F, my foresight will be appreciated. One of the fun benefits of working at Pawlulu’s has been getting to know some of the people there. Youngsters like Ponatee and Yusip have helped me work on the solar hot water and gradually I have come to know Aye Jo, a 93 year-old youngster! My guess is that he was a Karen soldier, both under the British and during the later Karen insurgency. I look forward to spending more time with him and getting more details on almost a century of life lived along the turbulent borderland.
So it all looks good for the remaining six weeks of my stay. I will be very busy, which is the way I like it. I am making plans to return here for another stint next year. After a sticky start, I have found that the community of both foreigners and local people is very supportive of me and my goals. The hard ground-breaking work has been done and now I’m in a position to really help local projects and to spread the solar gospel far and wide!