On Sunday, Teacher Pussadee invited me to her home village, Ban Mueng, to spend the day with her and her family, doing what typical Thai’s do: eat, sit around, eat, visit, and eat.
Before she moved to Suwannaphum to become a teacher and have children, Pussadee was a rice farmer. It’s what many in her family of nine still do, and she was kind enough to give me a tour of the land. Harvest is just beginning for some, but much of the ground is still too wet for most, and the rice is too green.
I learned about the different kinds of rice (white, sticky, long grain, etc.) and the process from start to finish. Most men still harvest the fields by hand, but few are fortunate to have small combine-like machines. After it’s cut, they hammer out the grain with a mallet, separating the pieces. It’s then left to dry in the sun before it’s put in large sacks and sold to the markets.
On the walk around the village, Pussadee introduced me to her cousin. She was weaving bamboo into small colanders used for making khao nio, sticky rice. The grain takes several hours to soak in water (nam), and then it is slowly drained out, becoming a delicious component to any meal.
After we ate lunch at Pussadee’s mother’s house, we went to see her sister, Liang, who still lives on the farm but runs a small restaurant for extra money. She specializes in som tam, spicy papaya salad.
Liang has several papaya trees in her yard, so the 20 Thai baht she charges for the salad is nearly all profit. Bananas, coconuts and mangoes also grow freely on her property, making her restaurant (a typical stand in front of her father-in-laws house) an easy business in such a small village.
Along with salad, her stand is popular for flavored ice. In the hour that we visited, almost all the children in the village came to indulge in one. I couldn’t resist myself. She made me a strawberry treat, and it was served with a side of nostalgia. In my childhood days, my friends and I used to look forward to an icee after swimming lessons at the town pool.
Pussadee’s daughter came to Ban Mueng with us, as they go together every Sunday, and we met her 2-year-old nephew who was spending time with his grandma. They’re so cute I had to refrain from picking them up and squeezing them. It’s not polite to pick up other people’s children, and it’s an absolute no-no to touch one on the head, something I realized I do often back home. The head is considered the most sacred part of the body, and touching it is said to bring bad luck.
Likewise, the feet are considered the dirtiest part of the body, and pointing them at a person is an insult. While sitting around the patio on mats as we lounged and ate, I tried to be cautious of where my feet were. Even though the Thais will forgive most foreigners for little known faux pas, I certainly don’t need to evoke any bad luck while I’m in a country where I have no idea what I’m eating; getting in cars with strangers; and living with a plethora of insects and animals. Basically, all the things my mother taught me not to do.
I think I’ll try to keep the Good Luck Gods on my side.