The food/agriculture unit homestay has come to an end. These last six days were filled with excitement and unbelievable experiences. I cannot share everything from this past week, but I’ll go over the highlights.
First stop, Roi Et province. We stayed in a village that was in transition from non-organic to organic farming, so almost every family had pigs to make their organic fertilizer. We got a tour of some farms, and they really tried to make it interactive. So, I got to plant a banana tree!
Before heading to Yasothon province, the location of our last homestay of the unit, we stopped in Masaharaka to observe our future families protesting the use of chemicals in farming. The speakers brought some to tears as they spoke of the horrors that have come as adverse effects, and the passion of these people to protect their livelihood was an unbelievable thing to watch. Wearing green, just as the organic market they participate in is the Green Market, the street was flooded with signs and images of pesticides. This peaceful demonstration showed more than just what chemicals can do—it showed the importance of community. These individuals came together for a cause, and their community was shown through both the market and the signs floating down the street.
I loved my family at this homestay. Paw and I were surprisingly able to communicate a lot, so I got to learn about both his and Meh’s farming practices and lives. Both have lived in the village their entire lives, and have been farming organically for 12 years now. We took the tractor out to the farm and came back with a bounty of delicious treats. A green papaya for Som Tom, a local dish, long beans, peanuts, sugar cane, okra, and my favorite—passion fruit. I got to learn about the different type of rice that he grows, and then that day we stayed up late and helped prepare for the market. Weighing peppers, sorting veggies, carrying coconuts, and watching as Meh prepared the banana snacks—coconut and rice wrapped in banana leaf. We woke early (4:00) to meet our parents at the market, and helped sell their rice and treats. (My time at local farmer’s markets paid off, because I would not allow for bargaining).
Our week came to an end after our last exchange with a local government official who was very passionate about hating TNCs. This past week was a great first unit trip—personal connections were formed and we got a real insight into the issues. These next 10 days in Khon Kaen will be rough, because I can’t wait to get back into the villages.
(Oh! I almost forgot… if you put a green mango into a box for a few days, it ripens perfectly! It’s a very useful skill when mangos are not in season.)