Two years ago the local government began a development of 100 identical houses on a barren block of land miles from the beach. The new suburb was christened "Trans Lok" and locals were encouraged to put their name on a list to be allocated a new house totally free. The holder of the list was a senior member of our village, so the majority of lots went to his neighbours. The only criteria was a minimum wage, and as everyone here comes in under the threshold, all were eligible. We were told we could apply, but thought it was a bit far from the beach.
The vision was to ease crowding in houses with multiple generations under the same roof. Some villagers saw it as an opportunity to move camp and rent out their house by the road to teachers, policeman, builders and other itinerant workers. I don't think that was the government's intention, but a lucrative loophole nonetheless.
Each successful family received a simple hut with three small rooms. Any add-ons, such as the extravagance of a kitchen, is at the cost and sweat of the owner. The government stipulated that to receive the house for free, it had to be continuously inhabited for two years. At the end of this period it is yours to do with whatever you please. The way around this was to send one member of the family for a sleep over each night. They could water the garden, do a bit of landscaping, then come home for breakfast. Until recently, very few people actually lived at Trans Lok.
Almost two years into the project, gardens are flourishing (most of our papayas come from here) and families are starting to make the permanent move. Houses are starting to show individual flare - a painted door or fancy gate, and names painted on the window. At sunset the new village comes to life as the night shift sleepers arrive. Kids play in the street and it has a feeling of security and community.