It looks like we're officially exchanging a year's worth of riding around in our mini-van for two weeks of riding elephants in Thailand. Or at least one day of riding elephants. There will be plenty of other things we'll want to do.
Two days before Christmas, our 1996 Honda Odyssey was caught in the tractor beam of a huge boulder during a snow storm and the car was totaled. Thankfully everyone in the car was fine. We've been experimenting with a one car life ever since, and we're surprised at how doable it is. Having school and work close by helps. Slowly we've started to make a one car life part of the plan for our Year of Plenty; trying to reduce consumption and more importantly get more connected as a family. With our confidence growing in our ability to make it through the year we made our boldest step to date. On Thursday we got our insurance settlement check and on Friday we bought four round trip tickets to Bangkok, Thailand.
In an ironic twist, our flight leaves from Seattle on Christmas Day. It was our discontent with Christmas hyper consumption that got us going down this road, so it's fitting that our journey would culminate in a very unexpected way a year later. Come to think of it, our plan was hatched sitting across from each other at a Thai restaurant.
If you're reading this and wondering what Thailand has to do with local consumption in Spokane, it doesn't. In thinking through our plans we didn't want to ignore the important ways our American wealth and consumption impact poor people around the world. Some would say that the best thing Americans can do is spend, spend, spend; because our consumption drives the world economy, and in the process lifts people out of poverty. This may be true in part, but it also leaves a mass of wreckage in its wake, especially in the lives of the poorest of the poor.
Because of the above, and also because we were in a bit of a crisis over where to get rice and coffee, we added an international region to our list of approved suppliers of goods. We were leaning towards Guatemala (bananas, coffee), but in the end we decided on Thailand, (rice, coffee). Nancy lived in Thailand for three years and speaks fluent Thai, so in the end it was a no-brainer. It's so far away and so expensive to get there that it took us awhile to even imagine it was possible to visit there.
We'll have to do an extended post on our supply lines of Thai goods but in brief; we found a supply of coffee direct from Chiang Mai, Thailand; we found a great importer of Thai goods in Seattle to supplement what we find at the local "Oriental Market"; we're using palm sugar instead of regular sugar; we're using the original Sriracha sauce from Thailand instead of the stuff made in Rosemead, CA; and the girls are getting a steady supply of Thai Pocky's in their lunches.
Some who take a carbon-neutral approach to local consumption might feel like this betrays the spirit of the locavore and the locasumer, but for us the guiding principle is relationships with the people that are involved in bringing our stuff to market. We are limiting ourselves to buying stuff from people we can visit and get to know during the year. We're not so much trying to reduce our carbon footprint, although we're glad to do that, we're trying to increase our relational footprint.
So we're going to Thailand to meet the farmers, and the workers, and the factories...and ride elephants.