Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Andaman Trip - Our last day (and a bit)

Slept better on the second night.....this had nothing to do with the fact that the 2nd village was quieter (It wasn't) but had more to do with the fact that I found my ear plugs!! (This is what I get for letting Chris pack my stuff.....I couldn't find a bloody thing and had no signal on my phone so couldn't even ask him where they were!!). I slept better until 4.30am when the two cockerels that were living behind our house decided to have a fight - fighting cockerels are incredibly loud!! (I think someone must have separated them cause we heard some talking and then the fighting stopped.....bliss!!)

We didn't have a shower in this house - you would not believe how much nerve you need to take a bucket of freezing cold water and throw it over yourself......it's the second one that's hard, the first you can kind of kid yourself that it's not going to be that bad, there is no such luxury with the second one.....you know exactly how cold it's going to be!!! Anyway, the entire group got together for breakfast and, once again, it was roti. This time it was slightly different - we didn't go through the rolling into turd shape bit so these were a lot thinner, a bit like a crepe really, with the banana inside it rather than on the top (Didn't lose any of the taste though!!!).

After breakfast we met up with the villagers who run the Tsunami Soap Co-operative and learned all about how you actually make soap. They had all the ingredients laid out for us to see and most of the smells are mixed by hand - they had cinnamon, cardamom, saffron, lemongrass and loads of others that I can't remember. It was fascinating - first you have to melt palm oil pellets in a large pot - this takes a surprisingly long time and you end up with something that looks a little like very lumpy porridge, then once it's the right consistency you add the 'flavour' and stir it through to make sure it is all absorbed into the palm oil mixture, it's then poured into large trays and left to dry for up to four weeks. Once it's dry all the way through it's shaped, using what can only be described as cookie cutters, and then sold. We all got to have a go at making the actual soap (the stirring is really hard work) and then we all got to make two lots of soap on a rope - it was really good fun but boy did we make a mess!! (We were told that the leftovers will be re melted and used)

After lunch it was time for four of our party to head home - they had only been able to come for three days which was actually a real shame as they missed out on the tour of the mangroves and planting the mangrove trees which, for me, was one of the highlights of the trip. After saying good buy the seven of us that were left headed down to the village pier and got ourselves organised into two little boats for our tour. It was amazing - the mangrove trees themselves are just phenomenal.....their root system is like nothing I have ever seen before in my life!! (Lots of photos were taken and I think they may make an appearance in the odd drawing or two!!). It was really interesting talking to our guide (one of the villagers) as he told us that the Mangroves not only protect the coast from erosion but their massive root system is really efficient at dissipating wave energy so the villages that had not cut back a lot of the Mangrove forests in their area were not as badly hit by the tsunami as others. (The scary thing is that despite numerous re-planting programs over half the world's mangroves have already been lost). Anyway, the boat moored at a mud bank, we all clambered out, got our gloves on and got planting - between the seven of us we managed to plant 80 mangrove trees.....not bad for an afternoon's work eh!! We then got back into the boats and were taken to the site of the old lower village where 46 women and children lost their lives.......here.......words fail me.

When we got back to the village we learned that, since it is cashew nut season here, we were going to get the opportunity to see the villagers harvest some of them. Now I don't know about you but I have never really given much thought to cashew nuts and where they are grown or how they are picked (I just know that I absolutely love them.....oh, and according to Tracey, they make you perky!!) - They grow on trees and here is a picture of a freshly picked cashew nut still attached to its fruit. The fruit (yes I tried it) was....erm.....well, it was incredibly juicy but managed to completely dry your mouth out at the same time - a very odd sensation!! (For those of you who live here or have visited - it tasted a little bit like Jack Fruit......but even that's not really a good comparison!!). Anyway, then you have to separate the cashew from the fruit and leave it to dry (during the drying we had dinner) and it gets roasted. This involved some sticks, two bricks and a large square (iron maybe?) container. The fire was lit and once it got going the cashews were put into the container which balanced on top of the bricks.....I never knew roasting cashews could be so dangerous!! When the oil in the nut is released the fire grows huge and the pressure inside the nuts makes some of them go pinging out so you have to watch out for low flying, bloody hot, cashew nuts!! (Now there is a phrase you don't hear every day!!) A piece of wood was then brought out and we got down to the business of cracking the black shell off the nut, peeling the poisonous film off it and then eating it. OMG OMG OMG they were sooooo good!!!

The following morning we had a light breakfast (was slightly disappointed that we didn't get any roti) and then visited the final village where we had lunch and watched pared being re-cycled to make cards. Then it was time for home.

It was an amazing experience!! Those people live very hard lives but they have something very special that I think we've lost......every house door was wide open all day, neighbours popped in and out to borrow things, they all worked together to make the most of what they had and to help each other - it was very humbling. I went with, and I'm ashamed to admit this, the idea that I might be able to help them and, in actuality, it was them that helped me!!


Mel said...

Yummm, the cashew nuts are divine aren't they! They really are dangerous actually because the juice of the nut burns like acid! Great post!

Anonymous said...

Hello, this is the Chris of ChrisnCarol

OK, Carol, next time you pack your own suitcase and when your stopped for having one (if not two...) cats in your case and nothing else don't blame me! And we'll say nothing of you being stopped by the police when we last went back to the UK...

And next time you can pack your mothers case as well, just for good measure - its late, I'm tired and feeling evil! (If you are really bad you can carry it as well - I swear my back has never been the same) - That reminds me, I think that taxi driver is still threatening to sue us from when he picked up my mother case (and my Aunt Maggy's) - never seen anyone collapse quite so quickly from physical stress (and recover equally quickly at the wave of some Baht) before. Still better him than me!

Mel - I am really looking forward to seeing a proper live football game with Jay tomorrow. Watching a UK game is just weird, you're in 30+degrees heat, they're playing in the dark and its -2degrees (OK maybe thats a Scottish game in summer) but its just wrong and will give you (OK, me) jetlag just watching it.

See you soon


For sheer parochialism, next question, whats the Thai for "Who's the mason in the black"? (Who's the non-Buddhist in the black doesn't have the same ring to it)

Steve - Belated Happy Birthday and you were robbed by Rangers - Best of luck on the 'return leg' on 6 April!

(well done against Celtic - but see comment above [Paranoia rules {copyright Celtic Supporters club})

Everyoneelse - feel free to ignore the above!

Carol and Chris said...

Mel - They are gorgeous....especially when eaten like that!!! See you soon hon :-)

Chris - God I hate packing!! I have to admit though....your nearly right....I would end up with cat's and shoes :-D. As for the getting stopped when I entered into the UK....that was just because I had recently died my hair and looked a little like an Eastern European prostitute....the man with the gun backed off when he heard the Glaswegian accent!!

Oh dear God I wouldn't even have attempted to pack my Mum's case!!! You worked miracles on that one!! You know what....I think I saw the taxi man hobbling past the other day :-)

Steve - Happy Birthday :-)

C x

DJ Kirkby said...

Wow what an amazing post. I came over here from Caroline's blog becuase your comment about your 'splats' made me laugh so much. I am so glad I came here and will be back for more.

Carol and Chris said...

DJ - Welcome :-D and thanks for the lovely comment (am just about to visit your blog for a nosey)

C x

Ps. I absolutely love the picture you use - it's beautiful!!

Lane said...

That was a stunner of a post and the last paragraph particularly lovely.

I think once again you must thank Chris very nicely. The splats might not have appreciated your wonderful trip.

The photos, as always. are wonderful. Those roots will be a great basis for your drawings.

Carol and Chris said...

Thanks Lane :-). It was an amazing experience but your right I don't think the splats would have appreciated it!!

C x