Life at the moment feels like a nervous new plastic space.

We just moved out of our homestays this morning. My parents dropped me off in my new room with a plastic bag containing bee pollen to drink, sweet purple potatoes, a ceramic mug, and a few slices of green mangos (the hues are slightly shifting to tints of orange, promising sweeter fruit soon).

So much seems to have happened since I’ve last written, but after arriving back from a weekend at Mae Taa where I lived and worked with a community of organic farmers, the last week with my parents in Chiang Mai seemed too valuable to go off and spend an hour at the computer.

To begin, a list of interesting food I’ve encountered recently: larp (raw veal stomach, complete with gastric juices), larvae-containing honey comb, fried chicken feet, and cow/pig placenta. These, of course, are interspersed with boiled eggs, fresh fruit, sweet green (young) rice covered in coconut shreds, fried pumpkin in egg, and an assortment of curries/fish soups/boiled vegetables.

Last weekend provided a series of wonderful events. Mae Taa itself provided a refreshingly calm space outside of Chiang Mai that was both my first introduction to rural life in Thailand as well as an opportunity to move my body around a bit more. The first evening, language immediately became a challenge. Scraping and scrambling through my limited supply of vocabulary, twisting the different tones to hopefully offer anything vaguely recognizable to my host mother was an obvious task. But I opted to stay at a home by myself, precisely to be forced to maneuver through these tasks on my own, so the challenge was slightly exciting.

But perhaps not the most difficult part. That was, to my surprise, trying to prove that I actually wanted to work. As in, plant and weed, hoe and sweat. For a good part of the afternoon my mother insisted I sit in the protection of their cool cement room, bundling produce for the market. While I was happy to help in this way, there finally came a break through on Friday afternoon – when I stubbornly followed her to the field. She chuckled and shook her head but I insisted upon hoeing the ground next to her. When she went to get some greens to transplant, I pushed along and kept working, until the entire section had been completed. It helped, because when she returned to find my face dripping in sweat and my lower shins coated in dust, she seemed to understand my intent. So, together, we crouched over in the irrigation trough and began transplanting the greens. Of course, even with my strong will, I was unable to keep pace with her thirty years of experience, but I managed to hold my part  and complete my section. It felt great.

And so did selling the vegetables at six am on Saturday morning. All together, I was able to attend a co-op meeting (where the farmers chose what vegetables to grow next season), scrap coconuts while squatting on little stump device at a gathering of neighbors (they were making some sort of dessert to sell at the market), and talk a bit with a woman who had just spent the past year on an exchange program in Nepal. There, she worked with a community, teaching them about what the villagers in Mae Taa were doing so that they could adopt a similar program.

The weekend, of course was not finished. Soon after the market on Saturday, my host parents from Chiang Mai picked me off and we drove another two hours outside of the city, to my second village visit. We spent a night in Lampang, the town from which they came. There, the idea of  “Thai family” became more real. Siblings and parents, cousins, aunts uncles – living in close proximity and often on the same piece of land. My parents proudly showed me their childhood homes, how to fish in the canal, and the land where they hope to live one day (both said that if they could choose, they would move back closer to their families).

At one point, I found myself on teh back of this village woman’s motorcycle (I didn’t know her, but met her when I went with my aunt to some celebration), heading towards a wedding. There, eight Thai women toted me around. They fed me crab chips and curry, filled my glass with fanta (while they worked through several servings of whiskey), and giggled at the idea of me performing kareoke on stage. Eventually, I agreed to at least go up and dance. My father eventually came over to the wedding as well. When he arrived, I was dancing with a crowd of women – not one of which who came to above my shoulder in height.

 

So there’s a brief synopsis. I’m now off to my apartment. It should be an interesting change to experience the city in complete freedom. I was sad to leave my parents, but the opportunities are also pretty exciting. (Hopefully by this time next week, I’ll have been to the buffalo market).

Peace, Reb

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