Showing posts with label AJWS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AJWS. Show all posts

Friday, March 27, 2009

Saturday Morning - Catching Up

[Saturday morning, March 27, 11am Thai time] My impending departure seems to be sinking in at the office. "But you just got here." Our housesitter emailed "You are welcome to stay where you are for a few years if you like. We'll keep an eye on things.." Yesterday we had our most serious meeting about the website. I had made some mock up pages and so with the printouts in hand, plus my mockups projected on the whiteboard, we got through a lot of stuff. It won't be done before I leave, but it's getting closer.

The air has been much cleaner this week. You can see the mountains. We've had attempted thunderstorms several times - gusts of wind jump up like sleeping cats briefly batting at flies then die down, clouds appear in the sky, there's a flash or two of lightening and distant rumbling of thunder. A couple of times it actually rained hard, but mostly just some scattered drops or nothing at all.

The picture on the left was yesterday. You can actually see that the sky has a suggestion of blue in it compared to the picture on the right from a couple of months ago. And you could actually see things on the mountainside, not simply the faded silhouette in the picture on the right. You can also see this teak tree had a lot more leaves then.

Firefox 3.07 as soon as I had loaded it about two weeks ago had seriously slowed down my internet access, so this morning when 3.08 asked to be downloaded, I immediately said yes and things are moving much faster.

But I'm moving much slower. Somehow I've done something to my right ankle and walking is a less than easy, but I'm determined that we're not going to spend our Saturday inside. We only have one more Saturday after today before we head home. Tonight is Ann-Marie's good bye party. She was a volunteer at my office for two years and had been away a while when we came last year. She's been working at Chiang Mai University and is headed for a job in Paris.

Several days ago I noticed a stack of king-sized mattresses in the laundry room. I immediately asked if we could have one. Even when you put two twins together, there's inevitably a crack that interferes with marital harmony. And the next day our two twins were bridged by our new superhard (I always liked the mattresses in Asia because they are so hard, but had never seen it so clearly stated. I bet there'd be a market for harder mattresses like these in the US. The line above LADY is clear in my photo and if you double click on it.)

I'm looking around at miscellaneous photos that never got up. Here's Matt standing next to a tiny little red Rover about two weeks ago.

Here's a building they've been working on while we've been here. It's just before I get to work on my bike in the morning. The first picture was March 3 (thanks to digital cameras that keep track of the date) and the second one was March 25.

And here's the mural across the street that I pass as I pull out of our building's little parking lot every morning.

And here's an artist who was sitting at the table outside my office one evening as I was leaving for home. This wasn't any parricular village, but a mix of features from a number of villages.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Vegie Thai Part 2 - West Chiang Mai Vegie Option

So yesterday we went to Vegie Thai for lunch. Today they delivered. I have to say, the food was really good. And I like that it's not delivered in styrofoam, but in a reusable plastic (I know, but a little at a time) container. Here it's on my desk after being delivered. 30 Baht (US$0.84 on my computer conversion table) delivered. It's vegie healthy and tastes great.

Why didn't I figure this out before my second to last week here? But some of the others in the office are happy to know about this option. He still is working on the English part of the website. The tabs have English, but then there is almost none on the pages. I'll try to help, but I'm not here for long. But he does speak English so if you call or email, you can probably order a lunch or dinner to be delivered. Don't worry about what to order, you'll get what they are making that day.

And he's using produce from small scale farmers.

For Chiang Mai vegetarians, I translated some of the instructions for how to order:

Note: Please circle the days when you want to receive a meal. Then underline to show you want noon or evening. The food is all vegetarian to promote health. There is no MSG.

Delivery Area: Chiang Mai University; Nimanhamen Road, Sirimangklajan Road (?); Suthep Road; Soi Wat Umong and Bong Noi.
Outside the delivery service area, the cost of delivery will be calculated based on distance.

You can choose which day you want to receive a meal.
Lunch will be delivered by noon. (30 Baht per person)
Dinner will be delivered by 6pm (You will receive three items for 120 Baht for 2-3 people OR two items for two people for 80 Baht. Or two items for one person for 40 Baht. Brown rice is 10 Baht extra per person.

Contact Vegie Thai (Bento without meat): 0 eight seven-324 97two eight

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Vegie Thai and My Own Cicada Shots

Tok had shown me the VegieThai website. It's run by a friend of his who is an accomplished chef and who has started a business that includes delivering vegie meals, as well as special meals based on health needs. You can also pick up food or eat at the place. Which was near my office, but I couldn't figure out the map on the website. It is in the foothills, west of Wat Ramphoeng on the southwest side of Chiang Mai. It's good for people around Nimanhamen and around Chiang Mai University.

So, today Ew called early (last week we called too late) and booked us for lunch at the place. I say 'place' because it isn't exactly a restaurant. It's a private house with some tables in the yard. But even though it's close, it isn't easy to find. There were two Thais and me in the car. They called him and still went the wrong way. It took three phone calls to actually get there.

But it was rather special. It was just us. The food was beautiful and delicious. And the price was more than reasonable. We spent a good part of lunch talking about English translations of the Thai menu. I didn't think 'condiments' conveyed what he meant. His condiments included lots of fresh greens. We talked about the possibility of memberships, paid in advance, like a gym membership. As long as people have to call in beforehand - even at the house - he needs some sort of system to let people know how and when to order. At this point you don't have a choice of food, just a choice of days, and you take what is cooked on that day. But there is a full monthly menu in Thai. The English one doesn't quite capture the sense of things. And I too was at a loss for how to say it better.

I'm not sure this is a business plan that can work - especially given his location. You need to make several turns this way and that after you get off what is a through road, but certainly not even close to a main road.

But I wish him luck. It's a great project if he can pull it off. And his working with some of our farmers and pushing for more organic vegetables. We had a great papaya ice for dessert.

And as we left I spotted these two cicadas - after having posted a borrowed picture yesterday. This first one, I think, has a live animal inside.

The second one is an empty skin. And not even the first one was tymbalizing.

They're about the size of a walnut.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sustainable Farming the Old Fashioned Way - Karen Village

All this is in the context of the modern debates on global warming, sustainable farming, and land rights for the various hill tribes living in official forest land in Thailand. What we saw yesterday was a bit of paradise in some ways. Westerners looking at the pictures of the housing might cringe, but all things considered this is much more comfortable than a lot of the housing in rural Alaska villages. And, what I learned 40 years ago as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Thailand, what Westerners have over less wealthy cultures is a physical standard of living advantage (one that has shrunk considerably in the intervening years, at least for Thailand) and what the Thais have is a social, cultural advantage - things like connectedness to the land and to each other, traditions and ceremonies that tie them together, friendships and family connections that are close and supportive. This advantage is also shrinking.

Of course these are generalizations for both sides. But that discussion seems a pertinent preface to the pictures and comments below.

J's been helping S get his oral English ready for his nine month's training program at the Asian Rural Institute in Japan. He leaves next week. Yesterday he picked us up at 7:30am and drove us the not quite two hours up into the mountains. The following will be a bunch of pictures with some description. At 1200 meters above sea level, it was delightfully cooler than Chiang Mai at about 600 meters up. After we passed the tourist elephant camp, the road up got steeper and windier. J's stomach usually isn't too good, but S drove slowly. Then he stopped at a little shop and came out with a plaster (I'd say band-aid, but it wasn't really) that he said to stick on her belly, which she did. She had no problem up or back.

We got to the village and then his house where we met his mother, brother, sister, and niece. All but the sister were in this picture. They were looking at the Alaska calendar we brought them. We were given Karen style shoulder bags she made - a beautiful burnt orange color.

Here's the house. This has been added on to over the years to get to this stage. The original house is what is just the kitchen now.

And just like in any family anywhere, his niece's artwork is up for everyone to admire.

I had to go to the bathroom and I was led to a little building out back with a row of blooming orchids in front. The bathroom had running water and a regular toilet. He said they have a natural draining system with different materials besides a large hole. Unlike tanks, this one drains well and never fills up. My understanding was they used various natural materials as a drain/filter.

In their English lessons, S had told Joan that they had what he called a "lazy garden" around the house. It's where they threw things and let them grow on their own - unlike the more cultivated fields away from the house. We had passed rows and rows of beautiful lettuce, but I didn't get a picture. The lettuce and some other crops are part of the Kings Project and they get picked up and sold at organic vegetable markets, but he's not sure where.
And not everything in the lazy garden is quite so casual either. Here are some seedling avocados. Avocados were also introduced through the King's project.

And a macadamia nut tree.

This is a fishtank where they can get dinner when they need fish. Though we had fish that didn't come from the tank for lunch later.

This earthen house was built by a friend - there's a big hole still next to it where the earth was dug up. It's in there on the edge of the lazy garden.

And this bamboo, look at S standing at the bottom of it clump. It's huge! You may have to double click to enlarge the picture to see S.

Here's a pig pen right next to the house. Ordinarily this could cause some serious odor problems.

S's holding a bottle of a mixture he's concocted to make the pig pen's smell better, well, not so bad. It's got honey, salt, garlic, oyster sauce, ginger, and I forgot the other ingredients. It's mixed with water and put into the pig sty. And it really did not smell bad there at all. Not like the factory pig farms we passed that were pretty disgusting to smell.

Here's another one of the pigs.

Now we are in the kitchen. It was pretty dark in there and they didn't turn on any lights. There is electricity, but I didn't notice it on - except when his sister was ironing. I took some video tape of him explaining how the kitchen works. It's pretty dark, but I'll try to get it up eventually.

There's a lot of stuff sitting around. But it didn't look like a junkyard. Rather things all seemed to have a place. This is a 'modern' electric rice huller.

Next to it is the more traditional type of rice huller.

And there was a cow too. I think elsewhere there are some water buffalo but we didn't see them. And, of course, there were chickens and chicks running around. They eat the eggs, if they can find them. The eggs we had for lunch later were from the market.

And there's a coffee plant too.

Then we got back in the car and drove up what became a more and more marginal road for a couple of kilometers and then got out to go for a hike. One of the joys of this location is that the vegetation change is most notably visible by the existence of pine trees.

Another ethnic Karen, R, who works at this village through an NGO in Chiang Mai, joined us for the hike. He actually comes from a different province neighboring Chiang Mai.

It was nice to see greener scenery than we generally have in Chiang Mai, now well into the dry and hot season.

It was a bit late in the day to see birds. We could hear some, but it was also very hard trying to find them hidden in the trees. But S showed us some bird calls. I have a video of this too and will try to get it up in a post later. None of the other three of us could make a sound this way, but then they couldn't copy my whistling with two fingers in my mouth. I was able to get some sound out later in the car and I'll keep practicing.

We stopped here in this spot dedicated by Buddhists, animists, and Catholics who are all represented in the village. There was a sign that S translated as "This Forest Forever."

I posted the insect pictures from there in the previous post. Here are some fungus we saw. They do look fairly similar to things we have in Alaska. Also saw some ferns that - at least superficially - looked like ferns we have too. I suspect they're different.

It was a lovely hike back.

When we got back S began gathering greens for lunch - a late, 4pm lunch. The food would be better, he said, because we were so hungry. These are from a tree which reminded me of greens that our friends in Beijing collected on a trip out to the country side in 2004. But I'm sure there are lots of things that look alike. These ended up inside omelets.

Here's what he collected.

S started the fire in the kitchen. A lighter and a piece of soft pine got things started quickly.

J and S were working on the greens.

There was also some Pak Bung, another key vegetable in Thai diets. But he cooked this up with a bean sauce and some honey and it tasted different and delicious.

Here the greens go into the egg mix. That's S's niece under the blue plastic basket.

And the Pak Bung gets cooked.

And in less than 45 minutes, lunch was ready.

And we all helped clean up. Really, I did more than take pictures.

The dishwater sink drains out to a small culvert and the grey water gets recycled into the garden and the chickens are the garbage disposal getting all the bits of rice and green that were still on the plates when they were washed.

Things are not perfect here, and there are issues of land ownership, and the government is still trying to get people out of the forest areas. But you can also see that this is a pretty sweet place to live. All sorts of tropical and semi-tropical plants grow, with little effort. S's family - and village - lifestyle is pretty in synch with nature and all the stuff we are trying to relearn in the West. Imagine what he will learn after nine-months of training on an organic, sustainable farm program in Japan.

S also pulled out an album and showed me this document which was a work contract for his great, great grandfather to work for a British timber company. He was hired because he had an elephant that was important for getting the logs out from the deep forest and out onto the roadways. I still think we should consider this in the roadless areas of Southeast Alaska. There are still elephants in Thailand who know how to do this, but they are pretty much unemployed as much of the forest is protected. (The elephants in the earlier pictures are now for tourists to ride.) The document is dated 1908 and shows that S's family has been here for at least 100 years. This is of significance because many argue that the Karen all really came from Burma, but this shows a long provenance in Thailand. The Consulate is in Chiang Mai and the other language is Thai, not Burmese. It is interesting to me, because unlike most Thai writing where the words all run together, in this document, each word is separate like in English.

And here are S's sister with her youngest child as we were leaving.