Harvest time means that all the green fields from the beginning of my journey have turned golden yellow. It is a physical representation of truly how much time has passed. Pretty cool, though, because just as the rice has changed through process, so have I, through our group process.
This last unit before final projects was based on mining, and it brought together everything we have learned so far. Water gets poisoned, land rights are violated, and of course, the farmland is destroyed. What was most interesting about this unit was its complexity. I, as an American consumer, contribute to this issue. At our reading discussion, we had to take everything that had mined products in it and put it at our feet. Jewlery, electronics from our backpacks, notebooks, pens — everything was sitting at our feet. It was a scary realization. Then we went off to the communities, and they, too, use products that have been mined. It’s really a “not in my backyard” argument, but it needs to happen in our current economy, so whose backyard do we put it in? More importantly, how do we ensure that those people have a say? That seems to be one of the biggest problems here in Northeast Thailand. The villagers simply are not heard when the proposed projects will change their livelihood forever.
Despite all the work that was due, two friends and I decided to take our personal days and return back to the organic village. What an adventure it was. I could not stay with my host family, so I stayed with my friends and Paw Wan. Paw is the local rice varieties expert, so it was cool harvesting rice in his farm. It wasn’t just Jasmine 105 or Gaw Kaw 6; we were harvesting black rice, and then for dinner, we had the most delicious red sticky rice. (Which doesn’t mean the rice is sticky — it is a different kind of rice that is eaten in this region.)
The trip back was where the adventure happened. A driver brought us to the city nearby, then we got on an open air bus to take us to the bus station, and then there was only standing room on the four-hour bus ride. Plus, the air conditioning was broken. I found myself sitting on the floor (because it was cooler) scrunched between my friends, and just hoping that time would pass quickly.
We got home safe and sound as always, appreciating the adventure and impressed with our language skills. It is now time for final projects, so off to the village to assess the feasibility of a Green Market. But more on that soon…