{Travelling Tuesdays} Field Work in Bali

I’ve been travelling endlessly in the last 10 years and to be honest, I’ve not blogged about a large part of my travels. Each week on {Travelling Tuesdays}, I hope to share an experience or two I gleaned from my travels with my readers and to reflect upon how these have impacted my personal growth.

As a researcher, I am all too familiar with field work but nothing can prepare me for actual field work in the padi fields of Bali. In my zealousness to render myself as useful as I can be to the villagers, I offered up my service do some farming.

Bright and early in the morning after breakfast, I followed Mr. Farmer (as introduced by the village head to me) to the padi fields to help out. Starting from the mayor’s home, we trudged through some forest and home gardens before ending up to a clearing of padi fields.

The indigenous Balinese villagers are always so helpful and recommended I wear a sarong so I don’t dirty my shorts.

Before any planting can begin, we needed to plough the fields. Many rice field around the world now uses machinery or tractors to help out with the farming but in small villages in Bali, the traditional methods of farming is still preserved.

Cows (which are sacred to the Balinese) are often the farmer’s best friend and do most of the heavy lifting on the padi field.

After a couple of simple instructions from Mr. Farmer, I was on my own to try navigating the cows up and down the fields.

While the cows are easy enough to navigate (they don’t even need instructions and naturally know that they have to walk up an down the padi fields), ploughing turned out to be harder than I thought.

Unlike the Mr. Farmer who could simply sit on the plough and instruct the cow to thread up and down the fields, I was too light and could not weigh the plough deep enough into the soil. It took 3 times of pacing the cows up and down to get the soil properly ploughed. I really felt bad that the cows had to work three times harder because of me.

Gaining more confident with ploughing, I realised that if I sat further back on the very end of the wooden stick, I would be able to pivot the plough deeper into the soil. Alternatively, I could also stand on the wooden slate, pushing my weight on it to allow it to dig deeper as the cows drag the plough and me across the fields.

Padi farming is mucky business and after getting used to the fields, I decided that I didn’t need the sarong cause I was prepared to get dirty anyways.

Part 2 of my farming consists of planting the seedlings into the padi. In the above photo, you’ll see Mr. Farmer gathering rice seedlings that have been grown in mats till they were ready for planting.

Grabbing some seedlings, I proceed to plant them in rows together with the other farmers.

Guess what? I totally suck at planting rice seedlings.

I supposed it’s no surprise since it is my first time working on a padi farm but I couldn’t believe how tough it was to actually plant the rice seedlings gently in the soil. It can’t be too deep or too shallow, the rice seedling needs to stand upright and the spacing between the rows of rice seedling must be even. Planting is back breaking work because you keep bending up and down all the time.

In the time that it takes me to plant one row of rice seedlings (carefully spacing them out and replanting if it looks slanted), Mr. Farmer has planted 3 rows. And each of his seedlings are perfectly spaced, standing straight, in just the right amounts. It looks so perfect, I’ll believe it was machine done. Mine in comparison, was simply awkward.

I was quite embarrassed that I may not have been as much help to them as I had intended to be but I guess I must have provided a lot of laughter and humour for them on the farm as they watched a city girl learn farming for the first time.

Once everything was planted, I washed off the mud from my feet. The skin on my feet felt silky smooth after the mud mask it was given the whole day!

While farmers enjoy a smoke or a cup of coconut liquor at the end of their day’s work, I was mightily refreshed and contented with my all natural coconut juice.

It was time to head back to the village for a good dinner. I learnt so much spending the day farming. Even though it was a day of work under the hot sun, the simplicity of enjoying the moment and focusing on just doing the job right gave immense peace and happiness.

In this day of multi-tasking and multiple gadgetry, maybe once in awhile, it might do wonders to unplug and focus on just one task at hand. Uni-tasking is not only more efficient but there is a sense of pleasure for the soul when it gets lost in the hum-drum of perfecting one solo mission.

Thanks for reading. Now it’s time for me to unplug and spend my day evening with my kindle and a hot cocoa. I absolutely love reading because it takes me away from everything else but the story at hand.


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