Thais believe that the bounty of their land will always be enough to take care of them, if they live a life within their means. There is an expression, “The fields will have rice; the river will have fish” to describe this belief. For years, the King has been promoting the idea of a “sufficiency economy” – ensuring that even in the face of globalization, enough of the Kingdom’s productivity is put towards self-sufficiency to avoid the trap of rampant consumerism.
A related belief is that things in nature work out all right. For example, the types of fruits that grow best in a particular season are also the types of fruits that are most refreshing and enjoyable during that time of season. It is this reason, the belief goes, that during the hottest season of the year, the sweetest, juiciest fruits are in their prime: pineapples, mangos and lychees being prime examples of this.
Right: Ken and Ajarn Yai sitting in the shade of a lychee tree.
It is definitely the hottest season of the year here in Thailand with temperatures hitting 100 F / 37 C for the past few days and at least the next few to come. So it was a very welcome invitation when Ajarn Yai called and said that Khruu Somchai’s lychees were in season.
Originally we were going to go down to Samut Songkhram at the beginning of Songkran. “Hurry, hurry!” cried Ajarn Yai into the phone, “The thunderstorms will damage the lychees and you’ll miss them!” Traffic on Songkran was bad (361 deaths and 4805 injuries in the seven-day period; a reduction of 13 deaths from last year) and so Tod and I decided, with Tawn’s urging, against driving there.
After the holiday season, Ajarn Yai was still insistent that we should come down and try the lychees. Last week, Ken, Tod and I drove down on a very hot morning and met Ajarn Yai at the school in Bangkhonthiinai. It is the midst of summer break, a good thing as the classrooms were stifling with no air conditioning.
Khruu Somchai’s suan (plantation) is not too large – maybe a few acres handed down from his father – and is about a three-minute drive from the school. There are bananas, pomelo, and lychees growing in neat rows along narrow, vegetation-filled irrigation canals.
A number of young ladies – extended family members, I think – were in the plantation harvesting lychees and bundling branches of them in one-kilogram bunches.
Below: Farmer Chris harvesting lychees (a totally set-up shot as all I did was hold a cut bunch of lychees and a pair of shears to make it look like I was doing the work!); Farmer Chris enjoying the fruits of his labors.
Plastic chairs materialized and we sat down in the shade of trees to eat some of these fresh-picked lychees. They were incredibly sweet and warm thanks to the ambient temperature. The regular lychees have small stones in them, but there are special lychees – nicknamed khatoey (same as the lady-boys) because they don’t have a stone. This is the result of weather: some years some trees will produce these smaller, slightly more acidic stoneless fruit. Other years, none will be produced.
We ate and visited for about one hour. Ajarn Yai reports that no students have come to visit during the summer and neither has she gone visiting. She is very concerned for their safety and doesn’t want them out away from home unsupervised because of non-specific bogeymen and the risk that the children will be abducted and murdered. This was an interesting fear she related because while I’m sure these types of crimes do and can occur in Thailand, from what I’ve seen in the press they are a fair bit less common than in, say, the United States.
After eating lychees nearly to the point of stomach ache, we said thank you, gracefully accepted our obligatory gift bags of lychees to take home, and headed back to Khrungthep.
In other news, Paul is in town from San Francisco, visiting his girlfriend Aori. We met up with them (joined by Wit) for dinner this week at Basilico Italian Restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 33. We’d love for Paul to consider moving here! Below: Tawn and Aori pose together; We learn not to pose for pictures on a step – the difference in our heights was considerably exaggurated as the step angles away from the camera and Paul and Aori are at the far end of the step.
The Australian Film Festival is in full swing. I’ve seen two movies, and joined Kenneth and James to watch “Black and White“, the 2002 Robert Carlyle historical vehicle about the 1959 trial and wrongful conviction of an Aboriginal man in the rape and murder of a 9-year-old girl. Carlisle plays the Irish-Australian lawyer who fought the system, believing the small town police had beat the confession from the illiterate transient worker.
It was a fascinating movie with strong acting and an interesting insight into a case that ultimately proved to be the impetus for significant judicial reform in Australia, including the introduction of “natural justice” – the idea that public defenders should receive compensation for their expenses defending poor clients. Previously, lawyers would be chosen from a lottery system and have to provide defense using their own means, meaning that poor clients usually received a substandard defense.
Saturday we went to the condominium with a contractor to get full measurements of the place. Tawn has been busy working with banks to figure out how we get a loan with both our names on it. Since I have no work permit here, the banks are saying they don’t do that. But in the second breath suggest that we should go ahead and apply and see if it approved. There’s something very Thai about that.