Friday, December 4, 2009

Our weather here in Isaan continues to be very pleasant - high temperatures in the low to mid 80's F with plenty of sunshine. I believe that the humidity is also down. The weather is very good for continuing the rice harvest. The rice harvest continues and is focused mainly on gathering up the rice and threshing the rice. Today on our trip out to Tahsang Village, there was still plenty of activity in the rice paddies.

Villagers are occupied in bringing the dry sheaves of rice to the threshing machine to separate the rice kernels from the straw stalk. The straw is ejected to form a pile that is used to feed cattle. The rice is bagged at the end of the threshing machine. The bags of rice are brought back to the village and stored until they are taken to the miller to have the husk removed. Only after milling can the "sticky rice" be soaked overnight and steamed prior to eating.

The sugar cane harvest has started to accelerate as well. Some of the fields have already been harvested and we came upon a field in the process of being harvested. Several Lao Loum farmers dressed as they had for harvesting rice had traded in their sickles for a thick and heavy machete type knives to cut the cane. They had spread out single file across the face of the sugar cane field and were cutting their way into the towering mass of dry cane. The harvested canes are roughly trimmed of dry leaves and placed on the ground for further processing. Later the canes will be completely trimmed and bundled together for transportation from the field to the refinery. The staging area for cane trucks just outside of the sugar refinery in Kumphawapi has started to acquire the large tandem truckloads of cane. The road from Kumphawapi to Tahsang Village has recently been rebuilt and repaved. It is very nice now that all the potholes have been eliminated. Unfortunately with the unset of the sugar cane harvest, the road will most likely return to its normal pot holed state by the end of the harvest in March.

We had gone out to the village in preparation for Father's Day. No, we are not jumping the gun on the holiday. In Thailand, Father's day is celebrated on the King's Birthday which is 5 December. Duang has been very busy lately sewing. She has made several skirts, pants as well as a blouse for herself, a skirt and complete pants suit for her mother along with three skirts for my mother. For Father's Day, she is going to make a new pair of pants for her father.

As a young boy I often watched my mother sew dresses for my sister prior to the start of each school year. Watching Duang is a completely different experience. My mother always went to a store and browsed through various catalogs. From the catalogs she obtained a size and style designation for what she wanted to make. My mom or a clerk then went to a large set of cabinets and retrieved the applicable pattern. The patterns were a series of thin tissue paper templates that were pinned to cloth for cutting into that various sections to be sewn. Duang does not go and and purchase ready made patterns - if they even exist here in Isaan.

Twenty years ago Duang was taught by a woman how to create patterns and to sew as part of the King's program to assist Lao Loum women. Duang has a book that indicates where to take various measurements. Duang writes the measurements down in her notebook. From the measurements she uses measuring tape, steel straight edge, and steel curves to draft her own patterns based upon the measurements that she has taken on large sheets of plain paper. Rather than sitting at a drafting table or even a kitchen table, Duang squats in the dining room and draws upon the paper as it lies on the tile floor. Once the templates meet her satisfaction, she cuts them, pins them to the fabric and then cuts the cloth into the appropriate shapes.

Her sewing machine is set up next to my computer work station in the dining room so we spend much of our day side by side working away on our individual projects - not a bad way to spend a day.

The scheduled "Battle of the Villages" is actually at the end of this month so there will not be pictures of school children competing for about a month. We have made some calls to Laos to determine when the Hmong people will be celebrating Hmong New Years this month. It appears that the celebration will be Dec 16 to 18th. The Khmu people in Lack Paid Village have not decided on when they will have their festival this year. The Village Headman will be able to tell us on December 10. With some luck we will be able to attend both events later this month.

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