Playground building week recap.

I’m back home and this is the first post I have made personally. Susan has been wonderful taking care of the blogging while I was gone. I didn’t have my laptop with me, so I sent her emails and photos and she put them together to keep everyone updated.

So, we spent last week building the playground I designed with my friend John for the kids of the Catalyst Foundation ( We flew from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) to Rach Gia at about 6am on Tuesday, checked-in to the hotel, and were ridden to the jobsite on the back of motorbikes.

Megan being driven to work by Speed Racer's younger sister.

The kids treated us to a performance they had prepared. The kids who weren’t in the performance were hanging all over us. They kept stroking the hair on my legs and my whiskers and then started pulling on it when they found they could get a response by doing that.

The kids performing for us.

After the performance, John and I went to look at the wood that had been left for us and figure out what everyone should be doing. They had said that they might have the wood posts already set in the ground before we got there and they had not. However, the concrete footings WERE in the ground, only no wood set in them. We found out later that the local Party officials had told them not to put the posts in concrete in case they asked them to move the playground later. So we had to hold the posts straight and attach boards to them to temporarily shore them up.

Screwed by the Peoples Party!

The joke’s on them. They couldn’t move this thing if they tried. It’s about a million pounds and can be seen from space.

Note the concrete footings not holding our posts up!

The carpenter who laid out the concrete footings also decided to change the plan dimensions which had been carefully translated into centimeters for him. Every dimension on the plan that said 140 was crossed out and 165 was written in. He thought that was better.

Screwed by a rogue carpenter!

It was a slow start and we had to add a bunch or reinforcing to keep the (now unsupported) structure from racking. On the positive side, the wood was all milled from 2 trees and it is gorgeous. It looks like and is as hard as mahogany.

Every morning when we got to the school, we were greeted by kids who jumped on us. John’s greeting on the last morning:

John greeted on the last morning. Just like our jobsites at home!

On the third day, we went and visited the garbage dump where the Catalyst families live and work. I should never feel sorry for myself again. I probably will, but I shouldn’t. They live at the dump because it is where they work collecting plastic bags for recycling.

Susan's favorite beverage is also a housewrap.

Meanwhile, the girls kicked a** and put on all of the siding and put together and attached the rope wall (among other things). Clockwise from top-left, Megan, Bridget, Natalie, and Liz:

Megan, Bridget, Natalie, and Liz install the rope climber.

Natalie is from CNN and fought through heat exhaustion and intestinal distress to film about 25 hours of footage over the two week expedition. It may turn into a 5 minute piece on CNN, but she said she’d send us a highlight reel.

Natalie, Curtis, and Myself.

Curtis was the expedition co-leader and the most positive and nicest guy in the world. He told me someone once told him he has the personality of a dog always wagging its tail. Paul referred to him as “Doug” the dog from the movie “Up” (as in “My name is Doug. I have just met you and I love you.”)

We worked through 100 degree heat and one torrential downpour, but it all worked out in the end. We needed exactly the 4 days that we had to get it up in time for the opening. The kids stormed the playground and you never heard such joy before.

Playground being load tested by the Catalyst kids.

The Roadmonkey crew and friends after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

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