Monday, February 4, 2013

Teacher Roy Goes Back in Time

My Fang Vehicle
A month ago, Nee moved south to central Thailand to take a job, leaving me here without a car.  As a result I have had to take advantage of friends, songtaews and my bicycle.  I was planning to take a ride yesterday, Saturday, and then I managed to catch another bug of some sort.  Nothing deadly.  Just a fever and lack of energy that laid me on my back.  I managed to do laundry and that was it.

This morning, feeling better, I decided I needed to go to the market.  Fang has two on-going markets, one nearby and the other a bit further from me.  I prefer the latter one because it is better lit, seems cleaner, and all the tables have vendors.  When I go to a market that is only half full, as the other one is, I feel like I should be somewhere else.  To get to my market, I first ride away from it to catch the nearby street, or soi, as they are called here, and follow it back into the rice fields behind my apartment.

The rice fields are in their second growth for the year.  Riding past them are calm and peaceful, with seabirds and cows finding food for themselves.  I believe the birds are cranes.  I usually associate them with being near the beach and this little village is many miles from anything resembling a beach.  My degree was in horticulture taken at a farm university in California.  I was told that California raises most of the rice in the US, just a few miles north of the state capitol.  When I would drive up highway 99 there, there would be the bright green rice fields on both sides of the roads and visible for miles beyond.  No human ever touches rice in such a farm.  Tractors till the soil, airplanes plant the seeds and spray them with fertilizer and pesticide to keep them happy and healthy.  And when the harvest comes, the rice is taken up by giant combines.  Thailand still grows rice much like it was done for centuries.

The fields are tilled with tractors and then after that, hand-labor takes over.  This field had half a dozen men and women a few weeks ago leave their bags hanging on a nearby tree to go hand-plant each rice seedling.  When you drive from here all the way to just outside Bangkok, you see rice growing for as far as the eye can see.  If they were to use western technology, they could double or triple their yield, but Thailand is already one of the largest producers in Asia.  I have yet to see a single crop duster flying overhead.

Riding to the market, I enter from the back to the sound of meat cleavers chopping freshly-killed pigs, their smiling faces staring up at me from the tables.  Beyond are mushrooms, onions, broccoli, cabbage, bananas, pineapples, lemon grass, mangoes, and so many other fruits and vegetables all from nearby farms.  If I bought the same in Bangkok, much would have come from this area, shipped in pick-up trucks without refrigeration.  Here, I get it with the field dirt still attached.

On the way back, I passed a coconut tree along the road filled with fruit.  My niece in the US had mentioned her interest in the wonders of coconut milk so I took a picture of some from their source.  While I took the photo, I heard a voice behind me.

She was working in her garden and signalling me to take her photo.  She then directed me to come talk to her, even though we couldn't speak each other's language.

Her rows were neatly hoed, without weeds and ready for the coming season.

She was harvesting a green Nee calls morning glory though it has no relationship to the nasty vine that I fought in California.  This one tastes wonderful when you stir-fry it with oyster sauce.  She laughed and handed me the bunch in her hands.  When I asked how much, she waved her hands to say no charge.  As I went back to my bike, the old man from across the street who owned the coconut asked me how much did I pay (tow rye?) and I said zero (soong.)  He laughed and confirmed it with the lady.  She called back that I was a teacher at Rangsee and then he laughed and I rode on.

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