HOLLY MIRANDA SMALE

Writer, photographer, "rapper" and general technophobe takes on the internet in what could be a very, very messy fight. But it's alright: she's harder than she looks, and she's wearing every single ring she could get her hands on.







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Thursday, 15 July 2010

Rice

Sometimes the little things we learn make a big difference.

"Where are you going?" my colleague asked today as I walked out of the school with an extremely gung-ho attitude. I was walking towards a green square of plants, just as I had been told to do.
"You told me to go to the rice field," I announced. "I`m going to the rice field."
"That is not a rice field."
"Oh."
"The rice field is there."
He pointed in the opposite direction.
"Oh. What's that, then?"
"Grass."
"Oh. Will these shoes be okay for weeding? Why are you laughing?"
"You`ll see soon. And you might want to roll your trousers up," he added.
"Why?" I asked, and he laughed again.

A rice field, apparently, is filled with water and wet, light grey clay. Which explained why all my students were in their t-shirts and shorts, and didn`t explain why I had been sent out in all of my work clothes.

"Right," I said when I had waded into the middle and stood, in my suit trousers, knee deep in clay. "We`re pulling up the weeds, right?"
"Yes," one of my students replied.
I bent down and grabbed a handful of grass and pulled at it.
"It's quite tough, isn't it," I pointed out when it wouldn't come out.
"Holly Sensai," my student told me calmly. "That`s the rice."
I pointed at the grass.
"This is the rice?"
"Yes."
"But -" and I leant down a little closer. "Where is the rice?"
"Eh?"
"Is it underground?"
"Eh?"
"Like potatoes?"
"No."
"Where, then?"
"This rice is too small. It's there." And she pointed to the next field, filled with what I thought was corn.
"That`s the rice?"
"Yes."
"On the grass?"
"Yes."
"Hanging from the grass? Like grass seeds?"
"It`s not grass. It's rice."
"Ooooohhhhh."

There were quite a few lessons to be learnt, in fact. I discovered that a frog is called a kaeru in Japanese, and that it will sit quite still in your hand while you stroke it on the head. I discovered that if I say a frog is cute, I will immediately get offered twenty five of them as gifts. I discovered that I can pick up a caterpillar without feeling squeamish. I discovered that my shoulders get extremely burnt in 2 hours of weeding, and I discovered - too late, unfortunately - that my top was too loose and I had shown most of the 9th grade what teachers aren't supposed to show the 9th grade. And then, when I was bright red and covered in clay and frog juice and little spiders, I discovered that I'm allergic to rice plants and that the school nurse wasn't very happy with whoever had sent me into a rice field without sun protection and in a suit.

Some little things make a big difference. I've been eating rice every day for a year now and now I finally know where those little things come from.

And the answer is: not underground.