adventures in Thailand



MANGO ORCHARD  If you’ve read earlier blogs you might recall that behind my rented home sits a mango orchard with 100 or more trees. Before leaving for the USA in late February, they had flowered and had these small globules that reminded me of grapes in clusters. By the time of my return in early May, most of the mangoes had come and gone.

Some of the trees nearest my home still had mangoes hanging from them but each fruit was enclosed in a paper bag. That’s to keep the insects out.

They remain that way—not sure if they are late blooming trees or what. Occasionally I pick a heavy one, let it finish ripening in the house and then eat it. Yummy. Meanwhile I purchase mangoes at the market in town—so good and so inexpensive. Often they are part of my favorite breakfast: cut up fruit in plain or vanilla yogurt with a few tablespoons of muesli on top.

The grass around the mango trees has grown to two or three feet tall. Over the weekend a man came with his industrial-strength weed whacker and cut the grass in front of the house. (No lawn mowers here—grass is too tall and tough, I assume. Instead big weed whackers remove grass.) Over the next few days he continued with the weed whacker around each mango tree but left tall grass in between.

Thought that was strange until this morning when a small rented (?) tractor arrived to cut the remaining grass in the orchard. I guess the machine can’t get close to the trees, requiring a two step process—first the weed whacker then the grass-cutting tractor.

LATER: My landlady came by today and gave me three mangos. She’s harvesting the ones in paper bags now.

RICE PADDIES   Across from my house and on the sides of most of my road are rice paddies. When I arrived in late July the rice was green and growing. By mid-November and December the rice had started to mature, turn golden brown and become heavy with rice on top. That’s when the labor-intensive rice harvest began. Most of the fields were cut by hand by groups of day workers, mostly from the Hill Tribes. They cut, bundled and laid out the rice sheaves to dry. A few days later they returned to that area to thrash the rice, remove the grain and leave the stalks. Eventually the dried stalks would be gathered and removed or turned into big round rice stalk houses. These solid structures, which are about 12 feet in diameter, sit at the edge of the fields until next rice harvest. Then the dried stalks are removed (to use in building, I think) and a new rice house is erected.

Now it is rice-planting season, equally labor intensive. (In between many of the rice paddies turned into soybean fields that were harvested during my absence.) The muddy fields are plowed by a man hand-guiding a motorized piece of equipment that churns up the earth. The mud goes up to his knees at times. It looks like a horrible job, especially on hot, sunny days.

Then the fields are flooded with water from the narrow canal that runs along one side of the road. That’s the stage we are in currently. Nothing has been planted yet. You’ll hear about the next steps when they occur.

LATER: Rice grains have been scattered on the wet fields. Then yesterday it rained and today—lo and behold—the grains have already sprouted. They’re kind of green now.

Speaking of the canal, did I mention previously that three or four homes on my long street use the canal as their bathtub and washing machine? Several of the poor homes have no running water. During school vacation the kids could be found every afternoon frolicking in the canal. The mothers or grandmothers wash the families’ clothing in the canal and bathe there as well.

It’s odd because right next to a poor home with an outhouse sits a beautiful, modern home with satellite dish on