Sunday, January 30, 2011

In which my drawings are useful

Alright everyone, this right here is one of the best parts of my job.  I mentioned a few posts ago that the Echo folks had me illustrating a seed-saving tutorial.  I used big markers on heavy canvas, to create sort of a flip chart which can survive being rolled up and taken to villages.  Not that these are particularly amazing illustrations or anything, but it's a true pleasure to work on a project that will directly be useful, and possibly helpful.  Here it is in action last week at a seed swap meeting in a Palong village.  This tribe is seriously displaced, having left their homeland in China and then needing to flee Burma and now trying to find a place to be in Thailand.  It's a longer story than that involving land rights and citizenship issues, and far more convoluted, and I don't know most of it so I won't try to tell it. 

Of course, the Palong women who are listening to this presentation probably already know more about saving seeds than I ever will.

I realized long ago that I'm not cut out to be an actual agricultural development worker, or an environmental educator, or an ecologist who has the knowledge and equipment to save the world and everything in it...even though that's where my interests and passions lie.  However, I can draw, and therefore can offer that skill to the people doing the groundwork.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Palong woman weaving

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Aritifcial with pepper

I've been in Thailand for a full week now, feeling very settled into my work and play.  I'll be spending about 3 days per week at ISDSI, and the other days working on freelance projects (a girl's gotta keep generating income) or exploring the city or taking advantage of any mini-adventure opportunities that come up.  I spent yesterday working for the ECHO Asia office on a series of large illustrations on canvas sheets, depicting seed-saving techniques...I will see those sheets in action tomorrow at a seed-swap event in a village populated by displaced hill tribe people.  On the other end of the humanitarian spectrum, I'm designing a t-shirt for the ISDSI crossfit gym.  More about that later.

And yes, in case you were wondering...the food continues to be amazing.  One of my goals this year is to learn how to prepare some of these dishes.  To the right here, you'll see the ingredients for som tam (green papaya salad).  I learned that food should contain something sour, sweet, salty, and hot to get a good balance.  In this case: lime, palm sugar, fish sauce, and chilis.  The fish you see over there was awfully good too.  My friend Laura referred to the crispy basil/lemongrass/garlic scattered on it as "the magic."  I'm not entirely sure that it doesn't also contain crack cocaine, since it's very addictive and I want more (just kidding, Mom).

I started Thai language classes today, and my head feels like it might explode from all the newness I tried to absorb.  I hope some of it sticks and doesn't just pass through my brain without stopping to visit for a while.  Fortunately today's class was all about food words.

I'll leave you with this menu, from last Sunday's restaurant adventure.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I don't know what it means, but it looks cool

Yay!  I'm in Thailand!  It's a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon here, and I'm optimistic that the jetlag is done with a minimum of fuss.  My trip over was a fairly uneventful 36 hours, and the first week has been busy getting adjusted and oriented and generally arriving.  I feel like I never left, picking right up again where I left off last year.  The people I'm mainly working for, ISDSI, sent everyone on a retreat this weekend to a beautiful national park with a waterfall.  More photos might make their way onto my blog in the near future, but for right now I'll just show you the amazing Saturniid moth that visited us last night.

Monday, January 10, 2011

soil as soft as summer

One of my favorite songs, and particularly apropos as I am packing to fly to the other side of the world.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Last year, in Bangkok

(I'm flying to Thailand in a week or so, and remembered writing the following in the airport last year during the arduous journey home.  I had forgotten about the statue of the three-headed elephant.)
I’m in the Bangkok airport in a plastic chair across from the waiting room for monks, midnight Thai time on a Monday night, waiting for an early morning flight which will stop in Japan on the way back to the east coast and winter.   I have a stuffed head, no voice above a whisper, and shall we say "female complaints."  Am exiled to the outer circle of airport hell because I was given the wrong information about which terminal to go to in Chiang Mai, and therefore missed passport control and cannot check in again until a few hours before my flight.  All the comfortable places to hang out are inside the gates.

Let’s go back a few days to when I got locked out of the house.  I had finished work at the international studies institute (water buffalo icon was the last thing on the docket) and took off for the afternoon to explore Nimmanheiman, a “high-so” neighborhood in Chiang Mai.  I successfully got a pedicure, a delicious smoothie with lots of passionfruit juice, and had trolled through a few galleries, which resulted in procuring a seed pod lined with gold leaf and a nice conversation with a fellow botanical illustrator.  Then I walked through some back sois searching for the statue of the three-headed elephant and the weird parking lot which would lead me to my friends’ place with the lovely swimming pool.  Success there as well, refreshed and slightly more tanned I went upstairs and got changed and was planning to head home for a few hours of quiet.  This is where things took the turn.  Laura calls to let me know that the housekeeper probably locked the door to which I do not have a key.  Meanwhile, I can feel the sniffle I had turning into a full-blown head cold.  My friends are gracious and feed me, I’m picked up a few hours later, finally get home and collapse.

Saturday morning: woke up  at 6 AM with lungs at half capacity, knowing I have to run a 5K at 8:00.  We barely get there in time because of a child meltdown over a piece of plastic ribbon which was suddenly his pet snake which needed to have its head taped.  Actually felt better after the run, but then I was locked out of the car which had my breakfast in it, and I got a headache from a combination of smacking my head getting into the rot dang and sinuses and a run in hot weather and diesel fumes and a winding road.  Teaching “art in the park,” not so much.  Staggered home and slept all afternoon.  Art show that evening at a church event, which was great.  But my voice started disappearing, and I could not sleep that night.

Sunday, sabai sabai morning…but no voice at all, not even a peep.  Started packing, incredible how much I picked up here.  Walking street in the evening, a great time and a few last minute beautiful purchases.  Spiral earrings, crazy quilt hill tribe style, Harley shirt in Thai script for my brother.  Hard to have a conversation in a busy street market when I can’t speak above a whisper.  More packing, another late night.

Monday, also sabai sabai.  Skype date with my family (short because still no voice), rode on the outside of the song tau which makes me happy, good lunch, easy final packing, goodbyes all around, a beautiful ride in heavy traffic along three walls of the old city.  Sad whispered farewells, a virtual girding of my loins for the 36 hours ahead, and then I went through the wrong gate…

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Birds falling from the sky

Hooray, the first blog entry of a new year!  At least I have some new art to show to start things out right. 

Ben has been in town for the week, which of course means some art adventures.  He was keen to work on some etchings, and I appreciated the kick in the pants to get out the plates and chemicals and work on an idea which has been percolating in my subconscious for a while.  I had been watching big fluffy snowflakes fall and thinking they looked a little like birds in a flock...and what if there was some kind of spontaneous generation of avian life from the clouds?  But now I read today about three places (Arkansas, Louisiana, Sweden) where actual birds are actually falling out the actual sky...dead in shocking big groups from unknown causes.  That's a whole different story from my fanciful, rather pretty vision.

I was just reading up on the recent falling-birds stories, and so far there's no working theory about why this is happening.  I don't have the scientific background to make any viable theories, but it has the feel of canaries-in-coal-mines to me.  What is going on in the atmosphere and environment that would be killing off birds like that?  I become suspicious about human causes, chemicals and other junky by-products we keep off-gassing.  Doesn't help that I was recently also reading about the continued clean-up of the Gulf oil spill. 

It's good to talk about the larger issues of societal responsibility for trashing the environment (which range from poverty to lobbyists), but it's also good for me to look at what my own responsibilities are on my own little scale.  It's time for new year's resolutions....over the last few years I've made and kept two really good ones: never taking plastic bags in stores (3 years ago), and only recycled toilet paper in my house (at least 10 years ago).  What's it going to be this year?