07 April 2005

on the andaman and other noiseless ramblings

well, we have finished the school year at Suratthani School after more holidays than i thought could possibly be justifiable, poetry finals, pinatas and withdrawal symptoms.
after "Peter Pan" and "Alice in Wonderland", we were confronted with a vacuum of rehearsals. this slack was quickly taken up by the preparation of our final project, the Poetry Book. we delved into syllables and haikus, word types and cinquains, forms and concretes, letters and acrostics, and tied it all up with title and table of contents pages. the results were awe-inspiring. one student made their poetry book out of a pizza box, another created a story of the tsunami utilizing all of the required poetry forms, and there was a brilliant acrostic about unrequited love that had my eyes crying and my side splitting. suture material, anyone?
having finished these exemplary works of creative writing, i though the mattayom 1 students deserved to whack something with a big stick (isn't that a natural reaction?). so we took a few big balloons, a week's worth of old newspaper, flour and water and made some pinatas. it took much more time than i had originally alotted for the constructions, so each pinata took at least 6 hours to construct and roughly 5 minutes to destroy. but hey! candy is always a good idea.
the withdrawal symptoms, of course, were mine. i have seen some of them during vacation and have to check the temptation to sit them down and extract their life philosophies from them. next year's new teachers are lucky bastards!!! of course, at least by not teaching in thailand next year i am eschewing the arduous task of filling out pink books. no more talk about those evil, pepto-bismol (sp?) monstrosities of illogic. i'm sorry to have brought it up (but not sorry enough to have deleted mention of them before sending).

shortly after the close of the term, mom and dad landed in bangkok. this began a three-week adventure through bangkok, ayutthaya, suratthani, ao railay in krabi, and koh tao. i will let them tell of our exploits in detail, but we had one HECK of time. my major aim was to not leave them in quite as much pain as i did last year when my father was subjected to forced marches, long hard-seat train rides and "populated" bungalows (most residents sporting 4, 6 or 8 legs). we went to ayutthaya on a bus and came back on a boat which was lovely though LONG. mom and dad both got massages at wat pho after visiting the grand palace. we recouped in suratthani before spending some quality beach time on ao railay, my favorite place in thailand so far. the parents took a day snorkelling trip that stopped on koh phi phi, and dad was especially amazed to see the extent of the damage from the tsunami. it is very much changed from our time there last year. ask him and i am sure he will oblige you with pictures. another few days in suratthani followed by our trek to koh tao. the boat was heavily populated because we travelled two days before the full moon party on koh phang-an. oy veh! needless to say, we were all happy to find ourselves on land. Jane's boyfriend, Amnat, happens to work at a dive shop/bungalow, so he arranged transport to sairee beach. dad and i took our advanced open water course which included a night dive (sting rays at night!) and a gorgeous deep dive to chumphon pinnacle (that dive was actually the original reason i talked dad into going with me!). the diving instructor was particularly fascinated with some of dad's tales of using older diving equipment (i am currently reading a great book called "stars of the sea" which tracks the evolution of diving technology, so i have a devel oping appreciationg for how far underwater equipment has come in a short time). our last day on koh tao was spent snorkelling around some of the coral gardens, so mom was illuminated with contentedness upon disembarkment from koh tao. we spent one more day in suratthani together (you can see the fabulous dress mom had tailored if you attend Rob and Jo's wedding) before they left for bangkok. i had to head in the opposite direction to malaysia to renew my tourist visa. it was the best border run ever (and how often do you hear that, really?)! i was planning to hoof the long walk into town from the border, but a janitor told me i would do no such thing, put down his broom, climbed onto his motorbike and drove me straight to the van stop. such drama. such compassion. gotta love it.

more on this portion in a while (i just lost it and the derriere protesteth much at the thought of retyping all of this on such a beautiful day). in short, i have spent the last week on koh phi phi helping out as a volunteer for the coral reef cleanup on the island. there are two major projects in the area: diving/swimming shore cleanup, and business renovation and reconstruction. i've been swimming which i love and doing something i feel is important. we are pulling up oxidizing metal and suffocating plastics that might have long-lasting impact on the coral and fishlife. it's like Swimming for a Cause. we have filled up about 3 pontoons in 5 days which are then ferried to the shore and sifted for salvage metals, etc. i feel as though i have personally taken out enough bricks from the shallow corals to repave broadway, but i imagine that is slightly exaggerating. the government hasn't arranged for any relief on the island that i can discern, but there are three volunteer organizations which are active not only in this region but also on kao lak and phang-nga. if you have a few extra sawbucks lying around and care to donate to the cleanup or a reconstruction program, here are the websites: