Chiang May Ling & Eng Ting Ting (4-9 Aug 2016):
"A clip from CNA programme "A Singaporean Abroad" left an impression. I snapped a shot from the TV screen and sent to a few friends that we should support Tigerland Rice Farm for its cause. Two years passed. I can't recall what was the recent trigger. Well, Ting agreed without any hesitation "let's go". Nature with farming
is in her blood. I was thinking of 5 days only, while she spontaneously
said 6 days base on the programme.
At Chiang Rai, we were received by Father Gun. A couple of first impression was his eagerness to remember the names of his guests. And his impeccable English, mastered within 5-years, through sheer hard work from dictionary puts me to shame. Breadth of his vocabulary is amazing. The most lasting impression is the respectful relationship between the couple. Father Gun is very proud of his wife, continuously singing praises of her. They communicate all the time, never bark at each other, accompanies each other on outings with us. While we cannot understand what is spoken, the power of body-language is genuine.
Upon arrival at the farm, we were treated to our first dinner by Mother Tomei. We had sumptuous fluffy fried eggs for every meal. Eggs must be special for guests, as their staple is primarily vegetables forested around the farm. We tasted their organic vegetables, fresh passion fruit juice, honey coffee.
On the first night, there were 4 young Spanish Trekkers who stayed over as they were on a trekking expedition. A Scorpion drama unfolded in the night as one of them got stung. He was hopping with pain while his friends thought he was joking. Kitt assured him the numbness from the sting was temporary. Spanish said to Kitt " You sure. Will i die? I wake you up if I am not well at night ok" hahahha... A big boy in pain! But I was relieved it wasn't me. After that I tried to look first before I place my hands at any corners so as not to disturb the Scorpions!
The walk into Tigerland house is at least 400m trek. A motorbike ride through uneven terrain would be thrilling. But not a good idea for the rider to pillion anyone (like me) tense behind that may rock his balance. The farm is now served by a concrete bridge across the river, completed a week earlier. They have waited for Budget for a year while groups of volunteers built step by step. Luckily, I am spared from using the narrow bamboo bridge, that gets washed away all the time.
Bamboos must be extremely strong and sturdy. The farm house structure is held up just by bamboo. I am still puzzled why and how. The most basic toiletry system would be most challenging for "bathroom-freak" Singaporeans. I am most thankful for the ever-flowing spring water. "No save water" for me was heavenly though I felt guilty as i felt I had consumed a dozen persons' needs. I wonder if the ”Spring-water mountain God" is angry with me.
In the morning, by 4am, the Coo-coroo symphony starts. Every household competes their vocals... Ours was just below the room - loud and clear. Nice vocal. Why do they all stop by day-break bewilders me. They sleep after that?
We had 3 full meals every day - Farmer's volume. We ate all initially as we know how precious food is. But it was just too much as we only eat a third in Singapore hahhaha. Then we got more comfortable to take only what we can eat. Father Gun must be wondering if we have enough strength at the farm, or will we give him problem if we faint!
Following days, Father Gun and Mother Tomei showed us planting seedlings into padi-field, milling and winnowing of grains, foraging food for meals, checking out the cows, fishing and crabbing in the pitch dark fields. The power of "Made in Thailand" headlamp is overwhelming. We both bought 5 to bring home! Oh mine, with light , the night insects and moths must be enjoying their feast on me at the same time. I must prepare better in future night-hunting experience.
The Karen tribe is a Christian community. They are closely knitted with strong family bonds and ties, supporting each other's family events and celebrations. Father Gun brought us to join in a wedding celebration, an election for a referendum, and another house-warming invitation. For each event, we are
treated to a simple 2-dish meal by the host. The community gathers together for good time. Father Gun is well respected in the community and seems to be everyone's relatives.
We appreciate that he brought us to the local households for our shopping. We bought local weaved bag, skirt, and Ting's "Salvatore Ferragamo" farming boots x 2 pairs! He knows every nook and corner to
find Karen tribes' skill. Only regret we missed a pair of "greenish" hiking boot. Just 150baht for something that serves its purpose.. We will get it when we return!
Leeches - Gosh. Have I overcome the sight of them? I hope so after getting hit by a few, otherwise would my blood be sacrificed for nothing! One fed till it was full and drop off, with me still wondering if that
was a leech. They do leave quite a deep bite, maybe that's what really makes us detest them. Well, with some medicine, the itchiness from all sorts of bites are wearing off after a week, phwee.
Father Gun has 3 grandsons. The 2nd boy, Kilt, was comfortable to hang with us for the short time he spent at the farm. Very sweet well-mannered brave boy. Kitt is a busy man in the community. He has many duties during the week. Leading the Spanish boys on the trek to another city, election duty, attending relative's wedding, ferrying his son to school, dropping in the farm to say hello to us....
Overall, we witness a community who is there for everybody. The living standards maybe behind, but we have lots to be reminded that they are equally happy with what God gives them, working hard for their community to get better.
Question is whether our plot of seedlings have grown up after days of rainfall. Well Father Gun assured us that rice is is very strong - it will survive !! We believe him. We wish the Tiger Kitt family and Karen community well, health, happiness!"