Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Richer or poorer

My world was terribly small when I was a child. When I was twelve we studied South America in geography classes. I remember having to learn how to label the various countries on a blank map and doing something clever with contour lines to show the height of various peaks… It meant absolutely nothing to me. I never got turned on to geography and preferred to tour the world in my head, from the sofa, through reading.

One piece of the South American homework found me researching rubber trees. I found a picture in an ancient, musty encyclopaedia that had belonged to one of my grandfathers of a rubber tree and I copied it into my exercise book. It meant little to me except that I can still see the picture in my head today.

Two years ago I spent a little under a week at a community based tourism project, Andaman Discoveries, which grew out of the devastation of the 2004 tsunami. I was still brim full of the arrogance of the Westerner, despite having lived in Thailand for two years. I had thought I was the richer...

My second homestay was in Tung Nang Dam village. The only way to the village is by boat through mangroves. When the boat dropped us we walked across a long, narrow pier with random planks missing and then through cashew orchards, bamboo and rubber plantations until we arrived at the village. By this time in Thailand I was au fait with rubber trees - they are a regular view when travelling outside Bangkok - but I was still fascinated by them. On my last evening I told my host family the story of copying the picture of a rubber tree collecting sap from my Granddad’s encyclopaedia.

The following morning was my departure day. However, before we set off to catch the boat the wife of my host called one of their men to come into the rubber plantation next to the house. We walked into the dewy field and she instructed him to cut the rubber tree to show me the sap.

I went away richer and, I hope, with more humility.







































Previous mentions of my adventures with Andaman Discoveries can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

7 comments:

Carol said...

Lovely post hon!! It's an amazing place isn't it :-)

C x

JJ Beattie said...

Carol, thanks. Yes it is. I had such a wonderful time there ...

ChrisH said...

Now that's what I call a geography lesson! I hated geography at school, it seemed such a dry subject and I was terrible at 'colouring in' neatly. You'll never forget what you've been shown by those people.

Queenie said...

I'd love to do a trip like that. Maybe one day...

JJ Beattie said...

Chris, so did I and yet now I'm fascinated by the colours that earth/soil can be and why and why rocks are the shapes they are... There must have been something wrong with the teaching.

Queenie, yes you should. It was wonderful.

DOT said...

Brings back memories of my childhood in Malaysia when we kids used to follow the rubber tappers through the plantations, collecting the dried bits of sap to wind into round, bouncy balls.

I can almost recapture the
humidity, sense of claustrophobia and scent of the trees.

Angie said...

Wow, that looks so fabulous. Geography would be a much more interesting subject if you could see those places yourself. And now you are! :)