Rice Farmer in a Past Life?

Rice Farmer in a Past Life?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIs it possible that I was a Thai rice farmer in a past life? There is no way to know for sure. For some reason the sight of rice fields both delight and a remind me of something from long ago. I never tire of the verdant waves in their paddies: from the young pale green stalks, to the darker and taller plants, the whole growing season is gorgeous. Even when the rice is a hay-like colour at harvest time, it’s still absolutely beautiful.

Not only do I like to look at the rice, but planting it is also a joy. Stepping in the muddy water and feeling the squishy soil between my toes is remarkably soothing. It’s slippery, messy and fun.

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About two weeks ago at Panyaden School we planted rice for Mother’s Day (August 12 – the Queen’s birthday). It will be harvested on Father’s Day (December 5 – the King’s birthday).

The process involves taking a few stalks of rice seedlings and plugging them in the mushy mud. After a while with the sun beating down, stooping over, and being covered in mud could get very uncomfortable. As for me, our hour-long planting session wasn’t nearly enough time.

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Surprisingly, way up north in Chiang Mai far away from the sea, the rice paddies make homes for fish, frogs, and even crabs. We noticed fish and tadpoles swimming, and watched a few frogs jump to safety away from our feet.

There must be something about being muddy. I have always adored ceramics, and while in Colombia, the mud volcano topped the list of attractions of the senses.

Ahh, the visually captivating rice fields of Northern Thailand fill me with reverie. Planting rice feels so natural and a perfect way to be connected with the land, the people, and the culture. I’ll stay here with my daily doses of rice field views in the place that feels like home.

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The Unsettlement of Settling In

The Unsettlement of Settling In

Moving into a new house can be stressful. Moving into a house out of town, in the countryside, by myself, in Thailand, when my only transportation is a bicycle (at least for the moment), is kind of isolating. Even though the house is furnished, I need to buy so much stuff. I don’t have pillows, sheets, cleaning supplies, food, or anything. I had the realtor drop me off at Big C to stock up on the basics. My favorite songthaew driver, named Mr. Neng, took me home with all my household goods. Today, she wasn’t there, but usually he drives with his little one year old daughter happily riding along with him. No such thing as a car seat in a songthaew, she just has a little spot with a blanket.

I cooked my first meal in my new house thinking that it would help if I listened to Fresh Air, like I often would when cooking dinner in Portland. The interview was about Portlandia. This made me homesick. I got the feeling something wasn’t right.

I was doubting my decision making and feeling like maybe I shouldn’t have moved here after all. What am I doing here anyway? The house is nice, but I’m feeling like now I’m just far away from where I need to go. I don’t want to drive. I do love it here, I’m just feeling very anxious. Everything from driving to snakes is making me nervous. Snakes and driving? I know it’s a weird combination, but there are snakes around as I live next to a rice field. Driving here has a whole different set of road rules and types of vehicles.

What a difference a day makes. I awoke the next day feeling immediately better when I looked outside and saw this:

View from my back porch. January 7, 2012. There will be rice planted soon.

The rice farmers are planting way out in the field.

View from the backyard

I cleaned inside, unpacked, my internet was installed, my washing machine was dropped off, I went sheet shopping (FYI decent sheets cost a bloody fortune here). A nice lady named Nok, a friend of my landlady who works in my neighborhood community, picked me up and showed me the back way in and out of my neighborhood. She was extremely friendly, had good English, and wants to make sure I’m comfortable in my new home. My tension started to ease.

Doing laundry here is a bit of a process. Since I haven’t done laundry in a machine in months, I thoroughly enjoyed it. First, the washing machine gets filled with a garden hose. When the grey water gets drained, it just comes out another hose, which I use to water the garden. It takes a while, but I found it soothing. I love my view and my garden which has some herbs, flowers, tons of medicinal plants, and fruit trees, and I look forward to planting some vegetables in the backyard.

My outdoor washing machine - filled with a garden hose. The grey water is used to water my garden.

View from my house on January 7th at sunset.

Feeling more settled, that night I called Mr. Neng to take me to Yoga Tree to watch a documentary film called Freedom Ahead about seed saving, self/community reliance, and permaculture around the world. Some places not faraway from here, The Panya Project and Pun Pun, were featured. I saw a bunch of people I knew there, and was invited to a party where I stayed until very late. I’m beginning to feel like I am starting to find a little bit of a community here.

After that late night, I went to yoga at Wild Rose the next morning, out to lunch with some new friends, then for a Thai massage, and Sunday Walking Street. I found some little lamps for my house and a dress. The woman didn’t have a mirror, and asked, “You have camera?” It was not a bad idea.

Good looks with the yoga top and dress at Sunday Walking Street. I bought the dress, which I usually wear without the yoga top underneath.

Tomorrow will be my first day back at school after the break. I’m feeling much more at home in my house, ready for working, and grateful that Mr. Neng, the songthaew driver, can take me to school. I think it’s all going to be OK.