Having finally arrived at my destination, I was ready to settle in and get to work. The next several journal entries will describe the work I’m doing here and the impact I’m making.
The Uza Beach Resort on the island of Ko Jum is a large property with four main components.
- An open-air restaurant facing the beach which presents beautiful sunset over the distant Ko Phi Phi island.
- Two rows of private, elevated bungalows with bathrooms and fans.
- A four-apartment “villa” on the hill overlooking the ocean. These rooms have air conditioning.
- A grassy yard with large shady trees, leading down to the beach.
Like many places on this island (as well as other islands), the property needs a bit of renovation. Ok maybe a lot of renovation. It’s exciting, though, because the property has a ton of potential.
At the time of this writing, I’ve been here about 10 days, and my projects have varied in complexity, required skills, and length. And I’m typically working on multiple projects at a time.
As I describe my projects and progress, I would love to hear from any readers who have suggestions or comments. Is there a better way to mix concrete? Have you ever installed outdoor lighting? You can leave a comment on a post, or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
My first, biggest, and longest-term project is building a bar just off the beach, in the corner of the yard. The location is perfect. The bar will be partially shaded by one of the giant trees, and will offer its patrons a gorgeous view of the beach, ocean, and sunset. Drink service will be convenient for beach guests, and will provide Ben with a high-margin revenue stream. (Currently, guests have to go up to the restaurant to order drinks, and/or the server has to deliver drinks via the same 50-meter walk.)
We want to create a pleasant "bar atmosphere" with music, colorful lights, hammocks, and chaise lounges. The bar itself will be Tiki Hut style - bamboo with thatched roof - set within a sandy pit surrounded by a low rock wall. A few bar stools and beachy knick knacks will complete the scene...and perhaps a bartender from San Francisco.
I called this project “Sunset Suds” because it will be a nice place to enjoy a cold beer at sunset after a hard day swimming and sunning at the beach. (And it’s a nod to one of my favorite movies, Shawshank Redemption.)
When Ben told me about this project, I was excited and shared his vision for the end result. I spent an hour unpacking and getting settled, but then immediately got to work on the project – even though it was already late in the afternoon and I had just arrived. I guess my intense work ethic hasn’t diminished even after a month of vacation.
Ben initially wanted me to haul sand from the beach and just pour it over the 12 foot x 12 foot grassy square that he had marked with rocks as the footprint for the bar. After about 10 buckets full of sand (and about as many buckets of sweat), I sat back for a minute and thought about what I was doing. Wouldn’t it actually be better to clear the land of grass and roots, level it, and then pour the sand in as the foundation? Yes.
So I made the suggestion to Ben and he agreed. (I’ve since found out that Ben is very open to suggestions and feedback on how to improve Uza, which is a great characteristic of his.) I made a further suggestion -- perhaps we could even find a weed-prevention cloth to place on the muddy earth before we put sand on.
With my new direction, I found a hoe and began whacking away at the grass and roots. After another hour or two, the foundation was already taking shape…as were the blisters on my hands. I had brought work gloves but they were already getting worn in a few spots. I got about 25% done before I took a break for the evening.
The next day, I resumed work on “Sunset Suds” and cleared another 50% of the foundation. I was up to 75% done with clearing of the land. The roots were really slowing me down. And there was one big stump in the corner that I was ignoring for now. Removing that was going to be a challenge with the very limited selection of tools and supplies we have at Uza.
On the third day, Ben introduced a new project that was higher priority. I put “Sunset Suds” on hold, and joined three other Helpers on “Concrete Jungle.”
More on that next time…