Khun Hia, the local man sat cross legged on the floor in front of us, brandishing a pair of large metal shears in his right hand. He plucks a large Beetlenut out of the bowl beside him and begins to expertly slice it out of its thick outer shell. He proceeds to take the small inner stone and grind it together with a herbs and a red spicy powder, mashing it into a dry paste.
He cracks a smile and motions towards us, wondering if we'd like to partake in a spoonful. Having tried it before, I know that this is the equivalent of a mouthful of sawdust, but we oblige and tip it back.
Experiences like this have now become a weekly norm. Each new person we meet we learn a new story and recover another piece of the local history while doing Khao Sok volunteering.
During our second stint in Thailand this year we've been living dual lives. For many weeks we've been Kru Matt and Kru Caro, the Canadians taking the first steps of a burgeoning khao sok volunteer program, teaching in the community. In between we've been the videographer to the stars (local stars), creating a pride-piece for the locals to showcase that Khao Sok is a beautiful, important part of Thailand that shouldn't be overlooked or underestimated.
The people here have been incredibly welcoming and open, indulging us with their personal stories and feelings about a place that, in many cases, they've spent their entire lives and seen grow and change for better and for... well, lets just say “different”.
Living within the community for the past five weeks has given us a new and refreshing view of Thailand after our first month of beaches, cities and tourist havens. This isn't to say that there aren't challenges though.
Creating a Thai video, for Thai people in Thai language can definitely have it's difficulties when you can manage little more than a simple “Sawadee kap”, or “ 'Roi mak!”. Our success so far is due in no small part to our friends P'Mai and P'Lek, our unofficial translators and interviewers. They have granted us access to the people and their personal history that would have been unreachable to us alone.
That being said, I do feel there is an understanding and communication we have with these people, though much of it is nonverbal. We rely heavily on body language and expressiveness, but think we've made it clear that we are genuine in our interest to share their feelings and stories in hopes to make Khao Sok stronger.
We hope this video will speak to the people here, and maybe remind them of why they are so lucky to live somewhere like Khao Sok, something that is becoming rare in Thailand.
The growth the town has experienced so far has been modest, but things can quickly change and a unique piece of this country can be lost, just like many have before it.
If protected, Khao Sok can be an example to a country that sometimes may not know when enough is enough. It is a true testament to a way of life where nature and pride intersect to build a harmonious community.
Check out Matt and Caro's Video and their Blog, Passport and a Toothbrush, to read more about khao sok volunteering and their nine month round the world trip.