Monday, June 04, 2007
OK... so a year ago, or even 20 years ago, I never would have imagined that I would be in the middle of a muddy rice field planting rice.... but, there I was this weekend, along with 6 other foreigners (from New Zealand, England, Australia, and a few Americans), gingerly stepping calf-deep into the tadpole/ spider/ leech/ worm/ frog infested rice paddies with bunches of rice seedlings in our hands!
As I have mentioned, most of the paddies were (machine) planted around early May, so our purpose was to walk through each paddy, inspecting the perfect grids and hand planting where the rice had failed to grow.
Masami led our colorful group out to the first field and stepped into the soft mud (wait, how come he got to wear boots?!?), sending hundreds of tadpoles to fan out into all directions. He grabbed and ripped apart a handful of the rice seedlings which were planted along the side of the paddy for this specific day, and pulled off 3 or 4 delicate stems with their twisted roots and pushed them into the mud where there was a missing "patch". Randall, his wife Toko, Jannie, and Becky all had done this before, so they weren't quite as squeamish as the rest of us.
Those who know me well can imagine my trauma as I looked into the almost opaque brownish water... although it was only about 6" deep, we couldn't see the bottom! We gingerly stepped into the mud with our arms cautiously stretched out to keep our balance... We had to be careful to avoid stepping on the seedlings while scanning the watery surface for any imperfections in the greenery grid and stretching to fill that void.
After awhile, feeling the oozy warm mud between my toes and sucking up my ankles and calves was actually very therapeutic. The water was lukewarm, warmed by the sun I suppose, and our feet sank into the super soft fine mud as little green frogs and tiny tadpoles swam around our legs! There were a few times when my feet were so suctioned to the mud that I couldn't lift my legs out!
The weather was perfect though- slightly overcast but warm, and a few times, it sprinkled lightly. Masami told me that during the rice planting season, they call this "Megumi no ame", or "the blessed rain"... how beautiful is that?
With the number of people, it actually went by really quick (and thanks to the one-armed Leigh as the group photographer)! I couldn't imagine planting those fields ALL by hand though! We went back to the Yoshida's where Kumi had been busy making a big hearty lunch for all of us: several loaves of their infamous bread, lots of different types of beans from their garden, 2 types of curry (one was "boar" curry (!) over rice, spaghetti with little fish eggs, salad, and more yogurt.
We tried to get a game of Cranium going but everyone was too exhausted at the end!!!