Trip Start Jul 20, 2006
37Trip End May 10, 2007
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Time moves slowly in the mountains, perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the majority of the day is spent ensuring your survival. Cultivating the rice paddies, colleting fire wood so you can cook, gathering roots from the fields and fruit from the trees for food, and fetching water from the river. No phone service, no computers, no modern luxuries - just plain and simple living - living to ensure your continual living. Awake with the snorts of the pigs and the crows of the roosters. Time slows, but the second you come back down from the mountain, time begins to move at an immeasurable speed.
On my second trip ascending into Doi Obluang National Park with the Sustainable Development Foundation I spent countless days in the fields with the Keren villagers, collecting and analyzing over 65 plant species and the effects it has on their ecosystem. While I'm not much of a plant person, it was incredible to spend days in the fields with the villagers as their insurmountable knowledge about all the flora and fauna never seized to amaze me. It was lunch time one day and all of a sudden a fire was built in the middle of the field and lunch was cooked. It was time to drink highland white whisky and a villager went over to a piece of bamboo, hacked it up, and brought back a shot glass.
The research teams collected and categorized the plants by fertilizer, animal or human food, medicinal purposes, or ritualistic use and stated whether they were beneficial or harmful to the surrounding ecosystem. This was one of many of these projects being carried out by SDF and is done so for various purposes. It empowers the villagers to express the values of their agricultural techniques so as to persuade the government of their self-sufficiency and lifestyle based on effective use of natural resources.
On our last day of being in Ban Houimanaw the village children and I created a mural on the schoolhouse wall using colored chalk. I drew a big globe and began to explain to the children what it was as they duplicated my globe by creating their own. We outlined our hands on the outside of the globe - it was a really fun experience to work and play with the children who at first were very timid and shy, but warmed up to the idea of an outdoor art project.
My treks up into the mountains have been the most amazing experiences. I squat to pee, dig a hole to do the other, and carry my used toilet paper around until I reach a trash can in the lowlands. I don't shower and hike on non-existent trails to soak my dirty feet in the river. At night, I will climb a tree and sit under the stars, while listening to the sound of nature. Instead of marshmallow's I roast bananas over the fire. I've eaten fish head soup, plants directly pulled up from the soil, and rice cultivated in the rice paddies adjacent to the bamboo hut I'm sleeping on the floor in. I get looked at as if I belong behind a glass wall in a museum of white people lost in a tribal world and I could not love my experiences there more. Beverly Hills is not high society; the Keren are high society.