Monday, April 27, 2009

A day on the betel-nut farm

Betel nut is a bit like chewing-tobacco and is very popular here in Taiwan. The annual crop is huge, second only to rice. I think the stereotypical betel nut consumer is a middle-aged man who drives a blue truck as part of his business. One of the side effects is that it can stain your teeth red and that can make you look a bit scary.

Our friends inherited a betel nut farm and are in the process of tidying it up. They invited us to join them for a day's labor and we accepted straight away. We relished the opportunity to travel to their farm in Ping Dong and help them for a day. A day working on the betel nut plantation meant a day not spent in Tainan with Tainan's noise, Tainan's air, Tainan's ... everything else, and it also gave us a chance to be active outside and socialise with our friends.

Here I am collecting garbage from the boundary fence. I was having a great time: while being out in the beautiful surrounds, I was listening to episodes of the ABC's Bush Telegraph program and catching up on rural news and issues in Australia. Fantastic.

John is almost as tall as me and here he is with this enormous banana tree leaf.

Lunch break.

Our friend J chops up a banana tree, of which there is no shortage on the property. It was my first experience of banana trees being considered a weed, an idea that is still hard to come to terms with and yet, in the right environment banana plants will happily multiply willy-nilly very effectively. By the way, banana trees are not "trees" at all and the bananas we eat these days don't have seeds because they are the offspring of mutant ancestors.

The colors of dusk and the shapes of the silhouettes remind me that I am living on a tropical island.

After a good day's work it's time for a well-earned beverage. Andrea and J soak it up as did we all. It was so nice to experience a different kind of life just for a day, working on a plantation with the mountains in the background and the possibility of snakes hiding within every clump of grass. We loved it and we'll probably be back.

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