Saturday, November 28, 2015

Giao Khao, 2015 - 1

The Isaan rice growing season is more or less in sync with the East Asian Monsoon Season, when it rains frequently and substantially, June through September. The rice season begins in July and stretches on until the end of November. Once the Monsoons get going, the ground is soft enough to till, flatten, sow and then transplant. Importantly, there is a steady supply of water to grow the grain at the beginning and through most of its growing stages. Towards the end, when the Monsoons drop off, the drier conditions help dry out the rice paddies which is important, too, otherwise the rice stalks flatten out, lay on the ground and if that goes on for too long, the rice can rott.

(Views from our front yard, at our village home, just prior to cutting, late November 2015)

I didn’t really understand all this until this year, as I have been more active in the entire process, from the beginning of the rice growing season to the end. It has been good for me and also good for family. Although I’m viewed as the Isaan equivalent of a “gentleman farmer” (gonna hafta put that in my resume!), my wife’s family likes to see me out in the fields. It’s kind of a morale thing, although at age 67, I can’t do much of it for very long.

I’m not the only elder person working the fields, either. It is a great tragedy that the newer generations of Thai young adults and kids do not help out in their family’s farms. Those that do are exceptions. Usually, the way it goes is if a kid is in school, s/he is exempt from farmwork, by their parents, in the hopes they will do better in school/college. This includes kids and young adults who attend formal education close enough to home and the farms to be able to do both. For the young adults who have moved out of their family’s home and begun young families of their own – not counting those who have moved too far away to help – their excuse is that they have a job and young kids and don’t have the time.

Bottom Line: It’s now rare to see anyone under the age of 30 working in the Isaan countryside.

(View from Bann Nah, prior to the rice fully maturing, October 2015; compare the green color in this photograph with the golden brown color of the rice a month later, in the pictures above)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Bann Nah 22 - Stairs Pad

We had had a more extensive after-work party than usual, following the installation of the porch ceiling. Then, again, we had another good one when the stairs pad was completed.

But, these progressions marked an “end of an era,” in a way. With the growing demands on Sam Lott’s and Sam Naht’s time – to work at the temple and also help build the chedi – I knew we would now see them hardly at all, at Bann Nah. After all, it was this time last year that we had a three-month work stoppage due to Ohpensa, Boon Katin, Thung Yai trips and Giao Khao. And last year, the chedi wasn’t even in its building phase, yet.

You know that feeling you get when you watch someone leave you and you wonder when will you see them again – knowing, deep down, that it could be a very long time? Like, when you see someone off at the airport?

I had that distinct feeling as Lott and Naht drove off on their motorcycles, down Bann Nah’s long dirt road…

(our road on the right; chedi site in the distance; rice paddies in the foreground)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Bann Nah 32 - Porch Ceiling

In October 2015, the Bann Nah porch teak ceiling was cut and nail-gunned in. I again was staining up to the every end, and sanding, as well. We had run short of the “grade A” slats and I had to work on the “grade B” stuff – slats I had originally rejected – to bring them up to useable quality. It’s amazing what one can do with a belt sander!

Sam Lott and Sam Naht (“Sam” being a title of respect, much like “mister” is in English) did a good job matching up the slats and even got creative in spots.

The porch ceiling now looks so good, that roof sections like the porch’s west side roof and stairs roof – both without ceilings – look notably plain. I’m now thinking that somewhere down the line – maybe in a year or two – we might put mini-ceilings on these, too.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Bann Nah 31 - Porch Small Roof

Continuing to address the rain damage issue to the porch – even though the East Asian Monsoon Season was just about over – our workers Sam Lott and Sam Naht put together the lancah noi (little roof) on the west end of the porch.

This was part of The Plan, but a design deficiency that only I am full aware of. Back when Lungpaw Boon Long suggested we put a lancah noi on top the main roof for aesthetics, I should have changed the plans for the porch roof to be an A-frame – essentially establishing a 3-roof effect. It would have been more expensive, but look lots nicer. As it is, the west side roof (along with the stairs roof), now help create a look to Bann Nah of being a little like an open box with the flaps hanging to the side. Oh well, it’s done and, as I say, I’m probably the only one fully aware of it or who cares.

As with the rest of the building, the little roof on the west side of the porch was built with quality by Lott and Naht, who made sure not to have it too low so we will maintain a good  view of the chedi, once it is built.

(Thip, Naht and Lott taking a break at the outside kitchen)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Change of Season

Fog in the early morning and moisture dripping off the village home’s tin roof heralds in the arrival of the Fall/Harvest Season (October-November). This season is marked by the Thai Buddhist observances of Boon Khao Sah, Oh Pensa and Boon Katin. These are followed by the rice harvest (Giao Khao).

Boon Khao Sah is the Buddhist observance of what could be called “spirits of the dead.” At this time, all those who have gone before are remembered and prayers made on their behalf. My wife Thip had me write down everyone in my family, friends and influential people in my life who are no longer alive. At age 67, I came up with a list of about 150 people. This list was later burned at our temple.

Oh Pensa (or Ohpensa) marks the end of the three-month-long “Buddhist Lent” (Vassa) and is a major Buddhist observance, with ceremonies in the morning, evening (notable for walking around the wat three times, with burning candles) and morning of the next day. I used to make all three, but now attend just on the first morning. Since Oh Pensa falls on the October full moon, I like to go to Bann Nah and watch the full moon rise. Due to the air cooling, the night time skies are much clearer than they are during the Monsoon Season. An added bonus is that surrounding temples in the area let off “sky lanterns,” so it’s quite a show out there on this particular night of the year: the rising moon with sky lanterns drifting across the night sky.

(Karen letting off Sky Lanterns during their 2013 Harvest Festival, at Washuku)