August 27, 2016:
I traveled with my language school to learn about rice- how it’s planted, grown and the farmers behind the work. Naturally, you have to leave early before the sun is at its strongest, we met at 6:30am to prepare for the trip to Kandal Province. Even though we arrived before 9am, the sun managed to shine, what felt like, its strongest rays on us while we were learning how to plant in the rice fields.
It was incredible to not only witness work but skills the farmers pass down to the next generation. The labor is not for the faint of heart. For each bend of your back you press the the tall green stalks in the mud with your thumb deep enough into the earth so the plant can securely root itself. This is repeated every 20 centimeters in a grid-like formation until the rice field is full. It usually takes one farmer many many hours to plant what the 30+ of us were able to help accomplish in about an hour. Granted, with all the guidance we were given, I hope we planted the rice correctly so that farmers did not have to replant the next day!
I was unsure of my feelings after… would I find my hidden gift of farming or would I [internally] moan at the repeated back bending under the sun. I am not naive to forget I have some of ‘city’ in me in which labor will become tiring to me and I will dream of a cold shower and a nap under a fan. But after the field was filled with crop and we looked up at what we had worked at, many of the first time, I was satisfied. Not with my work, I’m sure it was shoddy at best but that I was able to learn something I probably would never have learned otherwise in a community that was gracious of my ignorance and welcoming to teach a newbie farmer like myself.
- I did not discover a hidden skill in rice planting
- When I next eat rice, which I do most everyday, I may feel the need to bend over to plant an imaginary crop in the mud… one of the strongest memories associated with rice now
- I eat produce with appreciation because farming and hard labor are NOT for the faint of heart