Tales From The Village 4
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– The Flodders
It seems that every community has them, a family whose behaviour make them social pariahs. And being outcasts they have no compunction about acting in the most outrageous manner. The Flodders (from the Dutch movie) in our village are no different.
Our village has a different character to most as for 50 years there was a large timber mill providing abundant jobs. The mill drew many workers who purchased small plots of land and built houses. These days the mill is virtually closed, doing just a small bit of work on contract milling. So those workers who established homes here now have to travel elsewhere for work. But the area around the mill, where we have our house, still has a slightly suburban feel.
When the mill was in full production the Flodders sold their farmland for housing plots. With the money they received they paraded their newfound wealth and really put down the poorer workers, they also built the first 2 storey house in the village. Twenty years on all the money has long gone except for the house which is still there, but with the Thais having no belief in the value of maintenance, it’s now a dilapidated wreck.
With this area having a suburban feel, the Flodders are the only ones to keep cattle. But only having a quarter rai plot of land the cows have to live around the house. So to get more room to keep their cattle the Flodders engaged in that typical Thai activity – encroaching on the neighbours land.
Opposite their house is farmland and they started simply enough by using a small corner of the land to raise some vegetables. Soon they planted a row of banana plants about 5 metres from the road to mark “their” patch. Then slowly a few bits of wood were strung together to form a corral for the cattle, which quickly gained an extension with a roof to provide shade. When they got a new cow there were added extensions, and then more land was needed for charcoal making operation. So in just 8 months they have gone from a small veggie garden to using a plot of the farmers land that measures over 20 by 50 metres.
And having the outright gall to take the land in the first place, they then shout down the farmer when he tries to tell them to clear off. The farmer doesn’t actually own the land, but leases it from the owner from the next village. So he was very happy to lease it to us when we needed space for our party, so now the Flodders occupy one end of the 2 rai plot that we lease. Are we going to get rid of them – no, but we will get the owner to mark the extent of his property and then curtail their expansion and fence the area we want to preserve.
I just thank my lucky stars that they don’t live next door to me.
– The village gets a new lake
With last years severe drought one of the large factories up on the main highway was looking to secure a reliable water supply. So they purchased a 30 rai rice-farm in the village and proceeded to dig a large reservoir.
A massive undertaking with about 15 excavators, a fleet of over 30 trucks, and many graders, rollers, bulldozers, tractors and various support vehicles (water and fuel trucks). The entire 30 rai site to be dug out to a depth of 7 metres, with some of the earth being used to construct a 3 metre embankment. The whole project to provide a water supply in excess of 500,000 cubic metres.
The village political scene escapes me, but we have the village leader (pooyai bahn) who is the elected equivalent of a mayor. There is also the orbortor who represents the village affairs in the district government. When both the pooyai bahn and the orbortor work together many projects can be completed to help the village. But when they are at loggerheads, like ours, nothing progresses smoothly in the village.
So after the digging operation had been in progress for about 3 weeks the orbortor arrives with the police and stops all activity. Seems like the pooyai bahn had organised everything and overlooked the fact that they needed a couple of permits. Seeing her main chance the orbortor then declares that she won’t sign the necessary permit without an under-the-table payment of 500,000 baht. Ha ha. The company engages its lawyers, and while the entire site has ground to a stop, they pursue the permit through legal channels. With no legal reason to refuse it they soon have the appropriate permit to continue digging.
But having lost face on one issue the orbortor wasn’t going to give them a free ride, so the permit to use the main road wasn’t forthcoming. Never mind, the company hired another farm and all material excavated from the site is piled onto the new site. Now the village has a new mountain as well as a new lake. The orbortor’s term will finish soon, then the permits should be forthcoming and the mountain will be able to be sold and trucked out.
At present the final construction phase is being completed, with a pump house and equipment being installed while a pipeline is being laid up to the factory – about 5 km. Water permits have been secured and the reservoir is slowly being filled with water pumped from the local river.
As payment for his part in progressing the project the pooyai bahn was given an elevated 2 rai property over looking the reservoir. I suggested to him that he should buy a fleet of little sail and/or row boats and use the lake as a type of resort. The next couple of months will be interesting to see if the village has gained a valuable water resource that can be used for everyone’s enjoyment, or if the company will enclose its water behind a high fence and keep the village out. My hopes are for the former, but I’m not too confident.
– Electric Fence
In rural Thailand the accepted way to demarcate an electric fence is to tie plastic bags to the wire. And you’ll see fields with lots of plastic bags round them all over the country. In Farangland an electric fence is a regulated equipment, and the normal way to see if its live is just to brush it with the back of the hand. Not so in Thailand. Don’t ever touch an electric fence here unless you are absolutely certain of the means of powering it.
There are basically three ways to power a fence, and all are equally appropriate to keeping cattle enclosed. The first is to use a car battery run though a transformer / accumulator to provide low voltage power to the fence. This type is perfectly safe for peoples and will at most provide a small kick.
The second involves taking the 240 volt supply and running it through a transformer to provide DC power. Touch one of these and they have the power to quite literally kick you across the road. And they will.
The third type is where the farmer simply connects the 240 volt from the overhead power lines directly to his fence. With AC power this one won’t kick you anywhere, but will hold you until you dead. The cows know to keep away.
Recently there was an incident in the news where the police raided a house where gambling was in progress. Gambling is illegal in Thailand, and that even means a card game in the privacy of your own home, if money is involved. And money, and a lot more, is often involved. A few years ago when the timber mill in the village was still operational card games were quite common and the stakes were often very high. With people loosing houses and in one case a man even lost his wife. How would that go down in Farangland. “Sorry dear, you have to move in with Jim because I lost you in a poker game tonight”. Ching ching.
Anyway, when the police raided the house in the news storey we had the excitement of the police coming in the front door while the gamblers all ran out the back door. Unfortunately one of them got caught in the electric fence and was pumped full of electricity until more than slightly dead.
The village is separated by the railway line, with those on one side being predominately farmers, with fairly large land holdings, and those on the other side being previous workers of the timber mill. When she was a young girl the wife tried to attend a Loy Krathong party on the other side of the tracks, but was told in no uncertain terms that poor people weren’t invited. This is our first year back in the village so she asked me if we could have a Loy Krathong party for all the kids. The main feature of which is a Mini Miss Loy Krathong beauty competition, for kids aged 6 to 12.
We asked the wife’s father to help subsidize the party, and he agreed the woodyard would provide a first prize of 3,000 baht, and also a stage for the presentation. So we had to provide prizes in the same range. So the prize list for the evening was 3,000 first prize, 1,500 second, 1,000 third and 4 prizes of 500 for best wai, best smile, best Thai dancing and Grahams favourite. Three thousand baht is very close to a months wages for many in the village.
A suitable poster was produced and displayed in each of the village shops, and by the time acceptances closed we had 20 entrants for the competition. One father even came and asked if he had to buy balloons for his daughter. In a typical Thai beauty pageant they raise money by selling balloons, with the girl having the most balloons being declared the winner. But we had already determined that the contest would be reasonably fair, with impartial judges operating a relaxed set of rules. All the competitors have been attending “Miss World” type rehearsals, learning correctly to walk, wai and express themselves on stage.
But stage mothers are the same the world over, and we soon had one woman asking what she had to do to guarantee her daughter first place. The wife has a wonderful way with words and explained to the mother that that was not the attitude we were trying to instil in the girls.
So leading up to Loy Krathong there’s a lot of activity in the field we lease. I sponsor a football team of the local village boys; paying entrance fees for competitions and providing them with uniforms. So they were all here to dig out a pool to float the krathongs. It ended up being a fairly large pool with a central island, all covered in black plastic to keep the water in. Every day during the school holidays a bunch of kids had been turning up to practice traditional Thai dancing and aerobics, as part of the entertainment. And on last weekend were busy making krathongs for sale.
The day before a large crew arrive from the father-in-law’s woodyard and construct a decent sized stage – 5 x 11 metre. And while all the work is going on people from the village are dropping by for a chat and to see what’s going on. I really like the way the village peoples get behind these activities and everyone works to make it a success.
On the day the village handyman, who tells everyone in the village that he’s our ‘manager’, made an offering to the god-of-land asking for a good party and to keep the rain away until at least 10:30.
As a finale for the evening, as Mini Miss Loy Krathong was paraded around the pond in a carry-chair, the fireworks display was lit. While fireworks are illegal in Thailand these days, I just love the Thai attitude to laws they don’t agree with; they simply ignore them. So we had a decent mixture of mortar rounds and rockets, and lots of bangs to keep the kids entertained. Although this time the boys ignited the fireworks from a safe distance, so we didn’t have the problem we had last party when a mortar round landed in the crowd and exploded under a table burning several guests on their legs.
And just as the last krathongs were floated on the pond the rains started. Yep, 10:30 exactly. Unfortunate for the kids who had been practicing for the Thai dance show as they had to retreat from the stage in bedraggled wetness. But all in all a fantastic night that was really embraced by everyone in the village.
There have been many complaints on this site by blokes of their LBFM going ‘starfish’. I think this is generally a fully valid response by the girls to the punters complete lack of performance / personality. But don’t despair, there is a remedy. Play aeroplanes.
The beauty of Asian women is that they are so small. Simply pick them up, impale them, then spin them around on the old fella. Viola, you have a propeller. Now you can play aeroplanes. And you don’t even need a step ladder.
Tales from the village always make good reading.