After a lazy morning sleep in until 9.00am (usually we were up with the roosters at about 5.30am) today I had the fortune of taking the families "truck" for a spin. These are the most common form of transport in the area for the farmers (apart from the 125cc motorbikes of course) as they are virtually indestructible and can carry anything you can possibly think of. From what I can tell they are run by Kubota tractor engines. They are four gears with a huge gear lever floor mounted centrally. I didn't start off too well as I managed to get it bogged down in the driveway but I didn't feel too bad as Tawan managed to get it stuck too so with a trowel to dig out the mud around the tyres we got going after two tries and were off.
We went for a bit of a spin around the back roads through the rice, sugar cane and potato farms. They also showed me their grandfathers rice farm as well. The countryside was beautiful and i really enjoyed our excursion, even when i handed the reigns back to tawan and we managed to get bogged down again so i jumped off the back to give it a push and managed to sink half my legs and trousers into the mud and had to dig out my jandals as well!
Temporary accomodation for the workers when planting and harvesting the rice.
We have now returned to our "home" in Bangkok after a seven hour drive back. I have just navigated Bangkok streets on a Friday night of a public holiday in torrential rain, so am pleased to be back. :)
Mid morning we enjoyed a meal with Tops mum and dad and I felt a sense of sadness at leaving as not only has it been a week of many firsts, more importantly I have been deeply moved by their kindness and generosity of spirit over the week.
They welcomed me in to their home, made me feel like one of the family and I will forever be grateful. Not to mention all the authentic made at home Isaan food I ate.
I have learnt a huge amount about both Buddhism and Thai/Isaan culture. You know, by western standards this community has very very little yet they are the first to give to family and friends when in need and will literally give their last baht to someone who needs it. When I look at the families I have met there is a huge responsibility for children to support their parents and to provide for them both time, resources and money and in fact what I have seen within this family is that and a huge sense of responsibility. There is also a great sense of community that flows along exactly the same lines.
On our departure Tops parents performed a small ceremony of tying string bands around both our wrists to offer us a safe journey home and also to support our decision to be together. I know that if things work out as it is still early days and down the track top is able to come to new zealand with me at the end of the year, i know that he will be offered the same warm welcome into my family.
Tops mum sent us away with the most beautiful gifts of hand made pillows, silk and mat for the floor for my family and again, i just had the most amazing time and it felt just so right.
I have been hugely humbled by this experience, and you know, we in the western world surround ourselves with "things". Those "things" become so very important, but what I have experienced in the last few days are people who will literally give you their one shirt off their back if it is required and who manage to find joy and laughter with friends and family.
Tomorrow I return the car by midday then plan to have a relaxed weekend during which I will sit down and look at what the next adventure will be. At the same time I need to start thinking about a plan for the end of the year. One of my closest friends and girlfriend are looking at going to Hong Kong in mid November and have asked if I would be interested in coming of which of course I would be and it could be a great little mini trip on the way home as it is only a couple of hours away from here. The reason planning needs to be looked at now is that if Top is to come we need to sort out his visa and the like.
I'll tell you what - I never could have imagined the paths that this journey has taken so far. 2011 is cracking up to be a bloody interesting year, that's for sure!!!
Thanks for taking time out of your day to follow my blog. Cheers, Nick.