On Wednesday, November 25, 2015, I began helping the only remaining Helper (an electrician) with a new project called, “Cuckoo for Coconuts.”
Without lighting, the walkways around the Uza Beach bungalows were very dark at night, undoubtedly giving all but the most intrepid guests an uneasy feeling as they returned home for the evening.
Our objective for this project was to install outdoor lighting along the two paths that lead to the bungalows. The lighting would consist of a series of “coconut lamps.”
Each lamp would have two components that we would have to make: The “shade” would be an upside down half coconut shell with a polished varnish finish, and the “stand” would be a iron rod in the shape of a question mark from which we would hang the shade.
Ben was in charge of making the shades, which he did over a series of quiet evenings in the Uza Beach restaurant.
Mikeli and I made the stands. We cut a long iron rod into sections, and used a pipe and special metal-bending device to make the rods into curvy question marks. Mikeli deserves credit for making most of the stands, but he was a patient teacher as he watched me make my share of stands. Each stand was slightly different from the prototype. One was too big, one was too curvy, one was crooked…but alas, that added to the “beach bungalow feel” to the place, we decided. You don’t expect things to be perfect at this type of resort. I ultimately got the hang of the technique. It is opportunities like this to learn a new skill (simple as it may be) that make my volunteering so interesting.
With the shades and stands manufactured, we moved on to the ground work and installation.
For the next couple of days, fending off mosquitos, monkeys, and the hot sun, we worked on two pathways leading to the Bungalows.
One path was completely new, so we dug a long trench parallel to the desired path, fed the electrical wire through a plastic pipe, and buried the pipe leaving access points about every 5-7 meters. At these points, we cut into the pipe, pulled up the slack in the wiring, spliced in the wiring from the lamp, and installed the stand and shade. Then we buried the remaining section of pipe.
The second path already had wiring and piping, but no lights. The existing wiring was going to be too short by the time we used the slack to run up each of the hanging lamps. So we bought new longer wire and fed it through the existing piping, removing the old wiring. All of this was done while the pipe was still underground (except for the beginning and ending points, of course.) Then, similar to the other path, we dug access points every 5-7 meters and followed the same installation approach. In this case, since we didn’t know exactly where the pipe was buried, we had to be a bit careful in our trial-and-error probing with the hoe. (Fortunately, it was laid in more or less a straight line, so it got easier as we went.)
Once the stands were planted, lamps hung, and electrical wire secured, I then went around with a can of black spray paint and painted the stand and wire black. The coconut shells remained in their nice brown varnish finish. We also put some mulch around the base of each lamp as a finishing touch.
The project took us a few days – and thanks to MIkeli the electrician for really leading the project from a technical standpoint. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to see the final result because even though we had installed and tested over 25 lights, we didn’t have enough light bulbs to get everything lit up before Mikeli had to continue with his travels! The local stores here on Ko Jum just aren’t that heavy on inventory.
It was only until about a week later when Ben had time to go to Krabi Town on the mainland to stock up on new light bulbs.
By the time of this writing, the bulbs are in and the well-lit paths look great! This new feature adds an element of safety and security to the property. The island-themed coconut lights provide a welcoming beacon to guests as they make their way back from one of the local restaurants or from an evening walk on the beach.
Even the local monkeys came by to inspect our work. (One even brought her baby.) They probably wondered what we had been doing with all of their coconuts! I think they approved because so far they haven’t ripped out any of the lamps.
“Cuckoo for Coconuts” is done!