A day in the rice field with a friend

a rice terrace near near Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Last Updated on June 7, 2023 by Ellen

Ever since coming to Southeast Asia in November of 2018 we have admired the rice fields.

In fact, some of the most stunning photos I’ve taken have been of rice fields and terraces in Indonesia (pictured above), Vietnam, and Thailand.

But today, for the first time, I was truly ‘in’ the field. In the mud. In the water. In the snails.

My little rice field excursion was courtesy of my friend Juli Calvary. Juli is a 54-year-old Filipino guy with a young wife and a few kids and some property here in Malay, Aklan on Panay Island, Philippines.

In the rice field

Meet Juli

left, tedly's friend Juli; right, Juli working in the mud that will become a rice field

On days when I go up into the nearby mountains to work with the indigenous Ati tribe on several infrastructure projects we are sponsoring, Juli lets me park my bike at his modest property and small carry-out store. Juli is friendly and respectful to the Ati. He has stored and safeguarded Ati building materials. He told me he even extends them credit at his shop.

Juli speaks very good English. We’ve talked a lot about Covid-19 and Ati and America and life as we’ve shared beers on hot afternoons. Juli seems to know something about everything. Salt of the earth. Rice of the earth. I like Juli.

A few times I’ve noticed mud caked or splashed on his feet and legs and clothes. Each time, it’s mud from the rice field where Juli is now prepping for planting. Each time I’ve also said I want to come work in the field. Today was the day.

Well, ‘work’ isn’t quite the right word. Juli actually did work. I sat and watched and held the beers and offered encouragement and wisecracks. Still it was a neat experience – another authentic slice of life that is the reason we live this vagabond lifestyle.

left, Juli working in the rice field; right, tedly with a beer at Juli points to a rice field

In the rice field with Juli

Thankfully, today was overcast with frequent drizzle. The couple hours we spent in the field was pleasant and comfortable. I can’t imagine being out there in blazing Philippine sun.

Juli and I walked his familiar route out to his plots. To get there we balanced on the concrete irrigation walls, walked through a few private yards, and splashed through some mud and puddles. I was on high alert after Juli said to watch out for snakes – even cobras! Was he kidding?

Once we got to Juli’s mushy plot I watched as he moved and leveled mud, created small water channels, sprayed herbicide to control weeds, and cursed at the many golden snails which can destroy a rice crop (each brown lump in the photo below is a snail).

left, snails in mud; right, Juli sprays pesticide in the rice field

I kept out of the muck but Juli got pretty dirty before rinsing off in the irrigation trench. Juli said the plot was ready for planting this week. In the next few days he will get his other field ready.

We finished our beers as the sky darkened and the drizzle turned to rain. We made the walk back to Juli’s house and my bicycle with an eye on the clouds – and another watching for snakes.

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.

Life is NOW!

Thanks for reading, “A day in the rice field with a friend.”

10 more authentic, slow travel experiences to read:

  1. The ‘real’ Ubud – away from tourists
  2. Life on a Vietnamese floating house
  3. Christmas Eve with Filipino friends
  4. The ‘real’ Tulum – away from tourists
  5. Public bus ride into a Moroccan neighborhood
  6. Living with a Mayan family in Guatemala
  7. How to catch fish with Filipinos
  8. Authentic charm of an Indonesian port town
  9. Real travel talk: Toilets around the world
  10. Ati donations will go a long way to help people

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