Sa wat dee khrap from Chiang Mai, Thailand! I have now been here for a whole week. It feels like it’s been longer. There is this wonderful expansion of time during the first couple of weeks in a new country. Everything is novel, so it seems as if the week has been packed with too many remarkable sights, sounds, smells and tastes to really be accommodated in only seven days. I’ve been tasting new fruit, including the legendary mangosteen, which Queen Elizabeth herself is said to have craved:
I’ve made like a tourist a bit too and wandered around the ancient wats (temples) of old Chiang Mai. This one was built to commemorate the founding of the city:
And beyond the fruit there has been a profusion of gustatory delights to be had. Southeast Asia is a place of remarkable cuisine diversity. The markets are filled with sellers of prepared foods hawking Burmese dried shredded beef , Indian-style rhotis, fermented fish, curries of all kinds, desserts made of rice flour flavored with butterfly peas…the list goes on. Following my fellow ECHO intern Ruth through this cornucopia, I felt like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. All I thought I knew about food went out the window once I tasted fermented tea leaf salad–and liked it.
Most of my week has been spent taking Thai classes and getting oriented to ECHO Asia’s office here in Chiang Mai. I’ll be spending most of my time at the seed bank, which is a few hours into the countryside, but I’ll be working closely with the staff in Chiang Mai, so it’s been wonderful to meet them all. ECHO really has a great team here, and I’m excited to be joining it.
Thai languages courses are a real mind-bender though. Just an example: the words for “near” and “far” are only differentiated by their tone. So klUY (rising tone) means near, kluy (low tone) means far away. Ample opportunities for misunderstanding there. But it is a fascinating language, with a sort of expressive buoyancy to it when spoken in the proper tones and cadences.
So that’s my life so far. Next Friday I’ll be headed up to the seedbank to begin work!