Day seven in Thailand. The unit in sustainable agriculture has just begun and I can hardly wait to dive in. All the new sights and smells, flavors and textures keep me on my toes at every turn. New words like agroforest and permaculture dance across my intellectual pallet like the spicy tom yum I had for lunch.
Our time here has been fantastic so far. From the cat cafe Catmosphere(a totally awesome place 10/10 would recommend) to the night bazar in Chiang Mai town which entails rows and rows of toursity gimmicks and flowy pants(of which I now own three, oops) coupled with the barely spicy pad thai stalls and fish spas, to the UDHP agriculture and development compound where we learn about sustainable agriculture and development. The rural vs. urban contrast seems to be present in all our visits.
The colorful markets are my favorite. On our way to the Fang hot springs today we drove past a rural sunday market. Tables and tables piled high with produce and goods lined the road. A woman squatted in front of her tarp stacked with totally unidentifiable vegetables. Across the street an shriveled old man hawks his dried sea creatures, yelling in Thai and motioning at what I can only assume is dried squid. Another notable activity was when we collected the ingredients for our lunch from UHDP’s very own agroforest. Splitting into groups we all ventured into the forest. One group to collect banana leaves for pork dumplings, some went to collect catfish for curried catfish. It felt like the OG version of Chopped. Once we collected our materials we were directed by our fabulous UDDP caretakers. I spent the next fifteen minutes working with a woman named Pii Joy. I watched as she effortlessly chopped the outer layers off of the fish tail palm to get to the starchy heart in a few moments. She handed me the machete and watched as I clumsily chopped at the cursed root, cursing my screaming western calves and unskilled western hands. After I broke the second heart we moved onto the chili pork paste and fish palm soup. The only difficulty here was that I was the only non Thai speaker in a room full of lively thai women who were cheerfully chatting, chopping and stirring, laughing as I stumbled to keep up with my knife and my mouth. Thai is a strange language compared to English. What english speakers would consider nasal and whiny, Thai speakers consider key. I could not tell you how many random Thai speakers have corrected my ka(the way you end a sentence, greet, or say yes) because it is not nearly long or nasal enough not the words of a feng(westerner).
All in all I love the totally foreign experience. I have the feeling of being lost in an unfamiliar city. Only instead of panic, there is excitement. I have no idea what I’m doing, what I’m saying or where I’m going a good 90% of the time, But isn’t that part of the adventure?