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Bags behind the counter and for 250 baht we get the keys to a red moped. “Have you driven moped in Thailand before?” “Yes” I lie. He gives us a quick rundown on go, stop, turn and that pushes us on our way yelling “relax!” after us as we zip down the street. Visions of gruesome death flash through Alec’s mind as he clings on to me from behind. Soon enough I’ve got the hang of it and we’re grinning as we cruise down the highway towards the ancient Sukhothai ruins. Inside we take turns driving around and getting off on foot to explore the Wats. This is a holy site but I can’t help but imagine how perfect it would be for a paintball scenario game. After a few hours we head back into town, grab some lunch, and then hop on the bounciest bus to Chiang Mai just as the monsoon hits.

5 hours later we’re checked into the Junior Guesthouse in the Old City and head down to the local bar/club scene. Pretty unimpressive at first but after walking into a Streetlight Manifesto cover at a reggae bar and spending the next couple hours dancing to a Thai ska band our opinions change. Late night fries with bacon solidify Alec’s decision to move here when he finishes his TEfL course. I too am starting to feel the draw. In the morning we rent bicycles for 50 baht, ride all around town, visit a ridiculously upscale coffee shop, tour the Chiang Mai Uni art museum, and then pass the monsoon playing League with the locals.

Dinner and chilling before we head out to the famous Chiang Mai night market and then scope out some more night life. Hopefully mopeds up the mountain to the Wat tomorrow.

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And so it (really) begins

Today we stored most of our baggage at the hotel and hopped on a 1st class aircon bus to Sukhothai. We barely made our bus and we were pretty confused as to what to do when the bus pulled over at a corrugated tin awning half way through the 7 hour trip but pleasantly surprised to find through the help of our fellow passengers that roadside lunch (in our case soup) was included with our 320 baht ticket. I passed the time napping and making faces at the baby in front of us while Alec remained mesmerized by the scenes passing by. An upset win of travel Catan also helped though it may have pushed Alec’s tolerance of me to its edge. Overall we were both very relieved to leave Bangkok which was too big, too monolithic, too inaccessible.

Arriving in Sukhothai which is the location of the first Siamese empire and a Unesco World Heritage site feels like the real beginning of our Thai journey, away from the east-west liminal zone that was the Chatrium Riverside. After getting checked in to our guest house we went out for a stroll and ended up eating a delicious meal of asparagus fried chicken at the local night market and drinking local rum and soda. A quick stop in with the local boys at a cyber cafe against Alec’s protests satisfies my League cravings though I could easily stay a few more hours. The plan tomorrow is to rent mopeds and ride into the historical park to check out the ruins. Then we’ll hop on another 6 hour bus ride to Chiang Mai or spend another night in Sukhothai. I’m loving this zero pressure zero itinerary thing so far. Another thing I’m loving in comparison to Morocco and India is the lack of harassment. When I say “no thanks” to someone here they just smile and wave us on. I think I’ve reached my limit of iPhone typing so I’ll leave it at this for now.

Sawadeekaap.

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Catching chickens, boiling turkeys, and skinning rabbits.

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Monday

Today the camera on my phone stopped working which was a damn shame because a fox got into the barn and killed three turkeys and a rabbit, I built a fire, I herded turkeys and geese, I caught chickens, I helped skin a rabbit, I boiled three turkeys and a rabbit for the cats and I picked beans with the bebushkas.

I took some pictures from Stephen’s iPhone (man I really wish I had one of those puppies now) and had him take some of me too so I’ll see if I can get any up tonight.

Tomorrow morning I head back to Prague bright and early for two days before it’s off to Bangkok.  It really hasn’t set in yet that I’m going to Bangkok.  I’ve made no plans other than getting my visa.  I have no idea why I’m going, what I’ll do once I get there, or how long I’ll stay.  Here goes nothing.

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Sunday

Today I found 8 peacock eggs, saw a pig fart itself awake, juggled three kittens while holding a can of cat food, herded a flock of geese, saw a cat carrying the corpse of a kitten, drove a tractor, tamed wasps, fried rice, picked peppers, baked a pie and roasted a duck.

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Bebushka Duty

WEDNESDAY

- green house with the bebushkas.  harvesting beans.

- helping with bee stuff: cleaning out the trailer, wiring frames, waxing frames (pictured below courtesy of Stephen).  I wonder if he knows he has his sepia filter on?

- DRIVING THE CART!

- pasta, chili, chili in the eyes is PAINFUL

THURSDAY

- green house with the bebushkas.  more tea recipes

- wiring frames all day.  Ingmar sits and watches while telling us about pig slaughtering.  I’m going to miss the pig slaughter by a couple days.  Mixed feelings.

- reading more Dresden files, bored, napping, bored

- gespacho and rice milk from Maria and Gerard

- league

FRIDAY

- green house with the bebushkas.  Mia says no more veggies which i translate roughly to them “Mia neni zelenina” so we transplant a bunch of sproutlings and tidy up a bunch of rotting cabbage. 

- wiring frames

- FRIED RICE

- finish the third dresden book.  no more.

- goose

- natl treasure, league, sam and leah return after midnight means i don’t have to work tomorrow

SATURDAY

- sleep in, eggs + potatoes

- nice long walk.  always makes things better.  always.

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And on the seventh day…

I decide that I really don’t want to eat the borsch so I putt off dinner until 8:30 or 9 and then start looking around the kitchen for ideas.  We don’t have a lot of stuff other than pasta and tomatos so I decide to make latkas instead.  I’ve never made latkas on my own so I look up a quick recipe of potatoes, onion and egg.  I have to put on my sandals and walk down to the veggie beds for onions which is both amazingly cool and kind of inconvenient.  I don’t use any measuring devices and just eyeball everything so I’m not supremely confident but they turn out alright.  A little too potato-y and not enough fry-y.

More weird dreams. Trekking/rafting trip with Mac and other weird stuff.

SUNDAY

Another morning of the animal routine and then strimming for the rest of the day.  We’ve finished everything except for the two steep hills behind the greenhouse which look nearly impossible and we’re dreading having to do it tomorrow.

Sunday is the infamous pizza day on the farm and we’re all enlisted to help out at 4.  I knead dough with Kevin and Sam and then volunteer to tend the fire in the woodfired oven.  Chat with Ingmar and Mia about their history of the farm which really can be summarized as a history of downsizing.  I ask Ingmar about the cannabis plants in the greenhouse which he says are only for tea and that I should try making some for for myself some night— it’s good for my cholesterol.

- the sons arrive, talk some hardcore trash, so I CoD with them.  they win.

- exhaust

MONDAY

- strim strim strim

- read Stormfront

- watch monty python

- play laggy LoL

TUESDAY

- and on the seventh day he rested.

- gladiator, coffee, nice walk with Stephen + Leah

- read Fool Moon

- chicken wings mmmm

- less laggy league

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On almost catching a fish

After a couple unsatisfying hours of CoD I get up for a change of pace.  My first impulse is to grab my kindle and head outside but as I step out into the courtyard it just doesn’t feel right.  I scan the sky while considering my options and after deciding that the rains seems to have moved off I head back inside, drop off my kindle, and go looking for a fishing rod.

I find the rod in a storage room downstairs.  What else do I need?  I don’t know much about fishing…ah!  There’s a net, I guess that’s useful.  Don’t I need bait?  I scan the room until my eyes fall on a dead fly on the windowsill.  Well…ok.  I impale the fly on the hook and head out to the pond.  It takes me a few casts to get the hang of it and by the time I do the fly is gone.  I’ve seen more bugs on this farm than I’ve seen this whole year in Prague so I figure something useable can’t be too far.  I grab a stick, dig around in the dirt, and find a worm before I know it.  It’s kind of tough to get the worm on the hook because its so skinny and before long its gone too.

I go scavenging again and after overturning an old dilapidated piece of wood I find a couple big slugs of the variety I’ve already slaughtered out in the veggie beds.  I grab one the slimy fuckers and get casting.  The problem is I have no idea what the hell I’m supposed to do.  Do I let it sit still?  Don’t they always talk about patience when they talk about fishing?  But aren’t I suppose to move it along so it looks alive?  Should I keep it moving, or jerk it around then stop and wait?  I don’t know so I just keep trying a bunch of different ways.

I think I feel a tug but it could be anything.  At some point the slug is gone so I go looking for more which turns out to be no problem except the as soon as I find them I have to beat the chickens to them.  I’m pulling along when the completely unexpected happens — something pulls back.  I start reeling in faster and now it’s unmistakable, there’s something hooked.  

I reel and reel taking a few steps back and before I know it I’ve got a huge fish flopping in and out of the water.  It’s way bigger than I expected to find in this pond, eighteen inches at least with a sharp pointed snout (can I use snout to describe a fish’s head?) which I will later learn is characteristic of Northern Pike.  I’ve never really made it this far into fishing and I’m kind of at a loss for what to do.  The line feels like its going to break at any second, the net is just out of reach, so I reach for the line to pull it in by hand.  Then all of a sudden the line is slack and the fish is gone.  

I realize my heart is beating and I’m exhilarated.  I’m going to get this fucker.  I go back for another slug and in my zealousness I end up slinging two slugs clear across the lake — the first plop is the hook, the second the slug 50 feet away.  Oops.  I find another, bigger, worm and hook that one up good.  

Cast, reel, jerk, reel, jerk, reel, reel, nothing.  Again.  Again.  Again.  I’m hooked.

"Nate!  Catch anything?"  "What? No…almost!"  "You coming to the pub?" "Pub…yeah…yeah I’ll catch up I gotta put this stuff away…oh, how do I get there?"  "Just keep going left." "Left, got it.  Just three more casts I tell myself.  Well, that one doesn’t count it hardly went anywhere at all.  Five to ten casts later I pull myself away, clean up, and head down the road into town.

It’s a three km walk into Votice and I didn’t think to ask the name of the pub they were going to but I figure there can’t be too many pubs to choose from.  I stop in at the first place with high hopes but scan the room and see no Americans.  I continue on but the next place is a herna bar and it’s hard to imagine them there so I double back and check the back patio of the first place where I find the gang.  Dinner is fine but I’m practically falling asleep at the table.  The walk back with Dar, Leah, and Kevin is really nice though.

Yet another restless night this time with very vivid dreams of light green watermelon (the inside, not the outside) and hammering nails into my own kneecaps to name a few.  Weird.

FRIDAY

Outside at eight and Ingmar assigns us to another day of strimming.  Today i take a weed wacker.  It’s kind of hard but kind of satisfying to lay waste to whole colonies of nettle and there’s very visible progress to be seen.  Still its tough and we’re at it for five hours straight.  While trimming out behind the back of the greenhouse something catches my eye and I stop to go check it out.

Yup.  That’s what I thought.  Ingmar you dog.  He’s got a couple peculiar yet unmistakable five leafed plants hidden behind the tomatoes.  I don’t know anything about growing these things but I can tell its not ready yet so I get back to strimming.  We call it quits at 12:55 and I’m definitely sore today.  I walk the long away around the back of the barn and pick two jacket pocketfuls of blackberries to snack on later.

Leftover pasta and banana splits for lunch.  It starts raining right on schedule at 1:30 so I pop on Inglorious Basterds and Sam sits down to watch it with me.  After the movie I bum around for awhile until I get restless and head out to try my luck at fishing again.  I pick a bagful of slugs on the way out of the courtyard and head down to the pond.  An hour of slinging slugs and no bites later I pack up and head back into the farm.  One of the neighbors is walking her dogs as I’m walking back and we have a very broken Czinglish conversation.

"asdklj asieuaekj Ryba?"  Ah, I know that word.  It means fish.  "Ne ryba" I smile sadly.  She peaks into my bag of slugs and looks very disappointed "Neeee. askjkasjd as dkja jase ae hke."  I shrug sheepishly, "Neumim cesky, pardon."  "Neumim anglicky.  Rusky?" "Ne…." "asdjhasd ajsee akase j eh" she pantomimes digging in the dirt and looking for worms.  I pantomime back a worm to show I understand and she smiles " Yo! yo!  America?"  "Yo, California."  "Oooh.  California super!"  "Yo, tady super."  "Tady super?  Ne."  "Yo, yo, tady super and Praha super."  I point towards the neighbors house in a questioning way and she answers with a nod "asdjhk akse bebushka.  Bebushka mama."  "ooooh" I understand now.  We’ve reached the gate to the farm so I wave goodbye and she waves back "Ahoj!"

Dinner of borsche made by Sam.  A new volunteer from Buffalo, NY shows up named Stephen, and an early night because I’m exhausted.  

SATURDAY

Seven o’clock is starting to feel earlier and earlier.  It’s the usual breakfast of two eggs, toast, and coffee before meeting Igmar in the courtyard at 7:55.  Maria is sent to the kitchen to help Mia, Kevin goes off to keep working on the bees as usual, and Gerard, Sam, Stephen and myself are sent to take care of the animals.  After feeding the cats, dogs, chickens, turkeys, geese, goats, pigs, and peacocks as well as cleaning up the pig’s shit we go find Igmar for further instructions.

Two people need to mill more wheat and two people need to take care of something else.  I get assigned to wheat duty because I’ve done it already and Gerard comes with me.  Igmar gives his same militaristic spiel to Gerard about the million ways not to mill wheat which I can tell goes right over Gerard’s head because his english isn’t that great and Maria isn’t around to translate.  After Igmar leaves I reexplain how to do it via gestures and grunts and I can tell that Gerard understands.  Last time I was doing the positioning and the stacking but the containers are somewhere between 60-100 lbs when they’re full of ground wheat and my forearms were killing me so I opted for the more consistent but less strenuous task of bailing wheat from the 1,000 lb bag into the mill.

After we finish we meet back up with Stephen and Sam and after a few small chores we’re all sent over to a pallet stacked with plastic bags of wood pellets.  We have to move the bags from the pallet into a storeroom by hand.  The pallet has a metric ton in 15 kg bags.  It’s tough.  Very tough.  Igmar says we’ll do two pallets today but Sam loves to show how hard of a worker he is and eggs Igmar on into giving us another, and then yet another pallet.  By the fourth pallet we’re all completely pooped but we make it through and you can tell Igmar is kind of impressed.  He even let’s us off for the day around 12:25.  

I said something about my arms being sore before but now I really mean it.  I’m SORE.  I don’t even take a shower I’m so tired, I just scramble up some eggs, sink into the chair, and play the dumbed down console version of Civ.  After conquering the world around the middle ages I prolong the game for another 30 minutes or so so that I can develop a worthy nuclear arsenal.  I diligently allow the Mongols, the Persians, and the Russians to climb themselves back into the game while I pump all my resources into scientific advancements only to find out that this dumbed down version only allows you ONE measley ICBM.  Not even enough to destroy a single city let alone the world.  

I turn off the console in disgust and hop in a car with Kevin, Sam, Stephen, and Leah who are headed to a nearby town to check out a small brewery.  I can’t drink because of the metronidazole but it’s nice to take a ride and get out anyways.

We get back to the farm around 19:30 and I force myself to sit down and write this out before I get any further behind.  Dinner is borsch again which personally I didn’t think was all that great the first time but that’s ok because Kevin’s making wood-fired pizza tomorrow.  I anticipate another early night and hopefully a better night’s rest due to exhaustion and the winter blanket Mia brought out for me this afternoon.

I don’t have many pictures of the farm to share that really give you a sense of the place, just snap shots of odd moments throughout the day (and also what may possibly turn out to be the crown jewel of my dead bird collection).  But Kevin is here on some sort of journalistic mission writing an article and some blog entries so I’ll link you to his flickr:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/36618821@N02/sets/
**protip: look for the ones that say Votice

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