Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Organic Agriculture Part 2: JJ Market

We woke up at the crack of dawn, thanked our Mae Taa host families profusely, and made our way back to Chiang Mai to sell with vendors from the village at the Saturday organic market. Because my particular host family does not sell at the market on Saturdays, I was assigned to another vendor for the morning. For the first 20 minutes my partner Emilie and I awkwardly stood behind her observing the system. I finally spoke up and told our new Mae that I wanted to help. She began pointing at items on the table and rattling off prices in Thai.

I couldn't remember everything immediately and kept having to ask her again. But I jumped right in, bagging food for customers, taking their money, and handing back change while she packaged shrimp behind the table. Emilie and I worked out a system where I handled money and she bagged produce. It was kind of stressful trying to remember the prices and get people the correct change all in Thai! We ate a hurried breakfast-- warm soy milk with sugar and fried buddy pastries-- at our table while juggling bags of basil and 20 Baht notes.

There were a few farang customers, but most of the buyers were savvy-looking Thai couples. The woman we worked with gave us each a big bunch of Thai bananas as thanks for our help. "Kap khoon jow," she told us, which means thank you in the Northern Thai dialect. Northern Thailand was an independent kingdom until the 1930s, when it was annexed by the King of Siam. The Lanna ("land of a million rice paddies") language is still intermingled with the central Thai language.

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