Saturday, December 11, 2010

Harvesting Rice

This year some of the ladies from my market invited me to harvest rice with them. Last year I rode my bike to the rice field, took a few pictures, then got outta there once it started to get hot (so a half an hour later). This year if only I'd been so lucky. I really wasn't too keen on going in the first place, but because they are so kind to me I just couldn't say no. I asked what time I should go and they said "when the sun starts to come up." However, this morning when the sun came up I decided to finish drinking my coffee and listen to NPR (I love having Internet all the time). So, I arrived at their house around 6:30 am ready to harvest rice. Ready in that I was wearing my ridiculous bear pajama pants (gift from first host family and COMPLETELY socially acceptable to wear anywhere in public), a tee-shirt, long sleeve shirt and hat. Entirely too hot. However, they don't want you to turn dark .

Now, in my mind I was hoping that by "harvesting rice" they meant I would show up, they would teach me how to cut a few stalks of rice, we'd take some pictures, then they would send me on my way home. In fact, this is what all volunteers I know have done when they have "harvested rice." However, no such luck for me- they really wanted my help harvesting rice(probably because it was only 4 women harvesting a huge plot by themselves) . We cut rice until 12:00. It is such hard work. A couple hours into it I could barely stand up (to which I took a water break and secretly popped some IBUPROFEN.)To make matters worse, there has been entirely too much rain this year so most of the rice has been blown down and is in standing water. So, we were all cutting rice in water above our ankles. Additionally, there are leaches. Which is the main reason I didn't ever want to harvest rice. I cannot tell you how many leaches I or someone else picked off me (it's because my skin is white and my blood is sweet that they bit me everyone said). Then you pick them off and you're bleeding everywhere. To which they told me to wash it in the water. Yes, the water I was wading in that is brown from dirt, water buffalo droppings and who knows what else. Despite the backbreaking work, heat and general difficulty of the task it was a lot of fun. Everyone that passed got a kick out of me harvesting rice. They would yell, "The American knows how to harvest rice!" or "Does your back hurt yet?" In a way it was a unique way to bond with my community and to better understand them. It once again gave me a greater appreciation for the bowl of rice I daily eat knowing that it came at the expense of someone's very hard work.