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14 January

Page history last edited by PBworks 18 years, 1 month ago

Saturday 14th January

Children's Day!


Today is Chidren's Day and there are festivities and celebrations all over the country. The Thais really love children, and it shows.


A biggish event


Mr. Wee comes to pick us up at 8.30 and we load up the songtheuw and head about half an hour north to do a show at a biggish event that Gow from the Tsunami Volunteer Centre is helping to organise.


Khao LakThere are about 250 children and 200 adults and a very festive feel in the air. We have to wait while a group of Thai children, led by a French ballerina, do a dance on the stage - "Swan Lake", which seems really strange out here somehow. The little girls are all immaculately dressed in white or pink dance tunics or tu-tu's, with their hair drawn back and a huge amount of make-up on their faces. The stage is so basically built that however delicately they dance, when they do a jete or any sort of jump, the whole stage shakes and creaks - they would have done better to do it on the grass in front of the stage really. We are on next and the show goes really well - there is a lovely mix of pure skill and comedy and slapstick in the show now and the children really appreciate it.




Where is Crystal Ball Paul?


Straight after this first show we head the half hour back south to the Krathom Bungalows where we are apparently being picked up by a posse of helpers (police or unofficial police, apparently!) that Somchai has arranged, to take us to the next show. We were expecting Crystal Ball Paul to have arrived on the night bus from Bangkok by now, but there is no sign of him - so I leave him a note, and we have to head on without him, as the 3-vehicle, 6-man posse who seem now to be in charge of us are twitching a bit, and pointing at their watches.


Speeding to the show




Wat Trimaad SchoolWe drive south for about 30 minutes horrendously fast (we later learn that this journey actually takes an hour when taken at a legal speed!) The vehicles are all 4-wheel-drive and have flashing lights on the top - there are a couple of near-misses, but eventually we arrive safely at a big building which is apparently Wat Trimaad School in Khok Kloy. We thought we weren't doing the second and last show of the day until 1.30 or 2.00, but it appears they want us to do a show immediately - indeed there is a large audience of about 230 children and 200 parents seated, waiting. Luckily they are all in very festive mood and wait patiently while we set up the show. The show goes down really well - our performers are in fine fettle and full of energy. I'm pretty competent with the sound system now - I know I mentioned previously that I am a bit of a technophobe, but I forgot to mention that I am also stone deaf in my right ear (the result of having mumps when I was 30 years old). This makes it very difficult for the performers to make "asides" to me if they want the music louder or quieter - but a lot of miming goes on and we manage fine, though I fear that Jo and Jake may joke for years about their deaf sound technician!




After this second show, we assume that we will head home to Krathom Bungalows - but it appears there are other plans for us! No Somchai for translation, but a very nice man called Chai, the leader of the posse who appear to have "kidnapped" us (though in the nicest way possible) says, no, no, they are taking us to lunch and then for a rest and then we are doing another show in Khok Kloy in the early evening. It would have been nice to have known! Lucky we hadn't made other plans! Well we had actually agreed to do an evening show down the road from our bungalows at a big event, but it had fallen through in the end as their timetable was over-full. Just as well really as we might have had difficulty extracting ourselves from the grip of our abductors, whose transport we were now relying on,


Gun in his waistbelt


We decide to submit graciously to what appears to be a day of abduction. We really are not clear if they are police or a vigilante group or what - one of them at least certainly has a huge gun in his waistbelt, and they are talking loudly on the radio all the time. Their communication system certainly seems to work - when we arrived at the big school event, gates flew open the moment our cavalcade approached and people leapt to open the door of the vehicle - we were obviously expected!


Lunch, high speed drive, painkillers


Our hosts give us a delicious Thai lunch at a local restaurant and then drive us off at high speed to a huge hotel on a hot-spring beach. It had been quite badly damaged in the Tsunami, though no one had been killed - but it has been beautifully repaired and re-landscaped. We sit around for a bit, not quite knowing what we are doing here, and are then driven, again at very high speed, down the road a mile or two to meet the owner of the hotel. This very busy, rather Mafiosa-looking man is in the middle of a meeting and doesn't look as though he wants to meet us at all - but apparently he gives us permission to lie on his sun-loungers on his beautiful deserted beach, which is very nice. Jo and Hags take a dip in the tepid sea and Jake and I stretch out in the shade. Jake's shoulder is hurting a lot, so we dose him with painkillers and hope he will be OK for the next show which is apparently happening in a couple of hours.


You're on in 15 minutes


After this restful interlude we set off at very high speed, with flashing lights rotating, and arrive at a big football ground in Khok Kloy. There is a very large, high (very dangerously built) stage with a large PA system - there are chairs laid out in neat rows in front of the stage and shaded stalls all around the perimeter of the ground. Backstage there are dancing girls and amazing costumes, and we are told we are on in 15 minutes!


Frank Sinatra half way through


Luckily Jake's paink has been anaethetised by the painkillers - hopefully he is not too anaethetised to do the show well! I set off to the sound tower in the middle of the audience, then have to run back through the crowd to get my CWI cap as the sound tower is still in full sun and I am going to get sunstroke if I don't have a cap on my head. The PA system is huge and far too complicated for me, so I sit next to the sound technician and give him instructions and cues. The very first one goes wrong and instead of starting Frank Sinatra's "I Get A Kick Out Of You" on the first bar for Haggis's 1-hat and 3-hat routine, the technician starts it half-way through the track. "Stop, stop!", I yell, and get him to start it again at the beginning of the song and from then on the sound goes fine.


Performing on warped planks


The performers do really well considering that Jake is a little bit groggy and the stage is made of narrow, warped planks that make lots of the routines very difficult. There is a large audience of about 500 children and 500 adults in festive mode, and they really love the show. We are given lots of iced coffee, poured back into the convoy of vehicles, sweating profusely, and taken to Chai's restaurant where we are given a lovely meal including our favourite khow neow (sticky rice) with somtam (very spicy grated green papaya salad with peanuts) as well as masses of other dishes. Chai is really nice and so are his "posse", regardless of whether they are police, civil defence security or whatever, and when they have driven us back to our bungalows there are lots of fond farewells and lots of photos taken by the vehicles with the flashing lights.


A really odd day, though not unenjoyable!


Get our priorities right


I really must talk to our "fixers" again though about our timetable and venues. I have told them so often that our prime concern is to visit venues for the children who were most affected by the Tsunami - yet I discovered yesterday, when talking to someone, that Khok Kloy was virtually unaffected by the giant wave. We have a full timetable up in Khao Lak up to the 21st, when we are meant to press on to Krabi, Koh Jam and Koh Phi. Are the schools and venues they have scheduled us into up here really the ones who most need the fun we can offer? I am really not sure. Neither of them are here - I will make some phone calls tomorrow, Sunday, our day off. We don't seem to be scheduled to work with any of the Burmese community, which we particularly wanted to do.


Our plans - theoretically ...


Theoretically we leave here on 22nd January to drive to Krabi (which would undoubtedly need 2 vehicles) where we are meant to do 2 days in camps on 23rd and 24th, then theoretically 25th on Koh Jam Island, travel to Phi Phi on 26th and do shows on Phi Phi on 27th snd 28th, which is the end of the Tour (with us then having a 3-day mini break on 29, 30 and 31st) before flying up to Banglkok on 1st, out of Bangkok to Amman on 2nd, arrving back at Heathrow on 3rd February.


We have been given no information yet about the gigs in Krabi. I know from Frederick of Phi Phi Aid that there are now 67 children on roll at the new school in Phi Phi. Whether the remainder who were evacuated tfrom Phi Phi to Krabi after the Tsunami are still in camps there or have moved elsewhere, I do not yet know.


Should we stay put?


We only have a few days left after we theoretically leave Khao Lak on 22nd January. I need to know that there are enough children in Krabi, Koh Jam and Phi Phi to warrant the expense of travelling there (travel is always expensive, and we are very unlikely to be able to find as reasonably priced accommodation there as we have found here in Khao Lak, and the budget is SO tight.) I am going to ring La of HiPhiPhi this afternoon (and Linda and Somchai) and try to get more information. It could well be that it would be more useful and cost-effective if we were to remain in Khao Lak right up to the 28th as it would appear that there are communities and schools who we could add to our schedule who really need us, while saving the Charity money (we are desperate to spend as little as possible as we are very keen to send a performer to visit the East Coast of Sri Lanka as soon as possible, where many thousands of families are still living in camps and temporary shelters and there is great need.) So today, although it is meant to be a day off, apart from doing the interenet, badge preparing and bean bag making will also be a day of disovering whether we should press onwards or remain here in Khao Lak. This cheaper alternative appeals to me most, as there is clearly a great need here.


Reinforcements arrive


Crystal Ball Paul arrived last night, having had a fairly hellish bus journey from Bangkok. We will include his crystal ball rolling routine in the show and he will help Haggis with the juggling workshops. Nice to have some more show input. I went to bed about 9.30 as I was very tired, and left the performers discussing how to change the show to incorporate Paul - I heard Haggis creep into bed about 2.30 am, so I don't know quite what time they will all wake up! I have been up since 5.00 this morning doing diary and making plans. It is now 9.30 and there is no sign of anyone - I'm going to have breakfast, then go off to the internet office and then make lots of phone calls and think carefully about what is the most sensible, economical, cost-effective and useful way for us to complete this Tour.


15 January

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