Wednesday, June. 24, 8:54 PM
Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai, Thailand
The plan was to forage in the garden. As soon as I stepped-out into the yard, I had a sandal malfunction, the toe-hold coming clear out, broken for now. Picture me, walking around, and around, and around (barefoot) for the next hour and half, canvassing the surrounding farmland, until the magic hour was gone and it was dark.
There weren’t many edibles. I found, in abundance, hard, dark green, unripe papayas, bananas and coconuts. Field after field of fruitless trees and withering, off-season vegetable plots. The only thing, ironically, which I found perfect for harvest were bright red chili peppers! (If only there were a decent coconut, I’d have totally made some sambol, a mixture of fried-up red chillies and shredded coconut, my favorite Sri Lankan side-dish!) But no. I did try chucking some wood up at a coconut tree in vain anyway, just to be thorough.
My conscience and I wrestled for fun. Standing in the garden, looking around for any sign of productive specimen, some little chicks began pecking at my ankles. Hmmm…. In the garage I found an incubator full of brown eggs… Haha, no way! (That’s evil.) My mind wandered to the pigs in the pigpens… Naaah! I did finally encounter a grid of small, perfect, beautiful pineapples, but I didn’t have the heart to pluck one before its prime. [Grumble.]
(Side note: Even though I’m not eating pig, and it’s not at all appetizing to me at this point, boy did the pig pen here turn me off anyway! The smell, watching them eat the slop… It reminded me of Jamie asking in Goa, when we’d bike past all the prawns lying out on the tarmac to dry, “Doesn’t this gross you out?” And it didn’t. I was okay with it, and I felt comfortable in my choice at that point. That’s precisely why I’d like to go volunteer on the Organic Shrimp Farm in Southern Thailand. I want to see where they come from and how they are farmed, and then decide to-eat or not-to-eat, equipped with ALL the first-hand knowledge of how this food came to my plate. Amy, on the other hand, is NOT psyched for the Seafood Farm, but I see it as an opportunity to grow, either closer to my current status of Pescetarian/Aquarium, or away from it.)
A feeling of eeriness overcame me, as for over an hour I was utterly alone in a vast wilderness, foraging with no luck, mountains all around me, a wisp of smoke coming from a house far away down in the valley… a ghost estate! Eventually, down by the rice paddies, a couple of nice buffalos popped out of nowhere. Their unusually pretty eyes had me transfixed for a while. Upon snapping out of it, I whipped out my notebook and introduced myself to the mud-caked pair. Phom cheu Anthony, sa bai dii reu khap. (My name is Anthony, how are you?) The heavily built male responded Yaak dai kluay (I want bananas.) I replied Phom haa kluay! (I’m looking for bananas!) Nodding with his huge backswept horns, he directed me Khang lang khun (Behind you), and alas, a gleaming bunch of golden bananas hung in the tree behind me! I picked my treasure and fed my new friends. The bully ate three of them, and on my fourth try I managed to deliver one to his old lady.
Elated, walking back through the tall grass with six more bananas (little ones!) and three chillies stuffed in my pockets, I knew what was for dinner tonight. (It was ME! – the mosquitos were making a feast of my legs.)
Back at my big empty house, kid sounds drew me out onto the porch, where the Thai lady and her little boy made gestures of eating food. I was Saved!! Shocking myself, Phom kin jay khap slipped right out of my mouth! (I’m vegetarian.) With my phrase book in hand, we walked over to their house for dinner and language practice! Her husband, Alea, looked-up from under the hood of his pickup truck and welcomed me in English. English!! I learned that six other Wwoofers have passed through already this month, and that I’m welcome to help out in the rice paddies tomorrow! Joy!!! We ate rice, soup, veggies, and fish. The fish bowl had a mix of many kinds, big and small, one type very long (snake fish, eeew!) Could this be an early sign of my growing out of Aquatarianism, too? (I can still see his weird little snake head, mouth open… all heads stay on over here!!) It’s good to know your food intimately. That’s why I’m farming.
So 8am (with busted sandal) tomorrow I head into the paddy. Oh, and the wi-fi was a tease… I tried to hop on but I’m guess they haven’t paid the bill (they’re on vacay in Canada two months already!) This living and working with the Lisu may indeed be the best opportunity I’ve had yet to integrate with the local community… here we go!