Friday, July 29, 2011

Leaf Entertainment

The jungle hides many secrets and mysteries most of which we as westerners are oblivious to while walking through the jungle. For the Karen people the knowledge of the forest is passed on from the elderly to the youth. During our walks with the mahouts and villagers we have an opportunity to learn some of this traditional knowledge. This knowledge not only includes medicinal plants but also plants that entertain and dazzle.Two of these plants are what we call the popping plant and the bubble plant. On long walks in the forest loud pops can be heard coming from mahouts, and now volunteers alike. By placing this elliptical shaped leaf on top of your fingers and slapping your other hand down upon the leaf you can create a loud sudden popping noise. So far there are three different techniques that exist, one using the thumb and pointer finger the other two using the thumb and pinky finger. All strategies require practice to perfect. Pati Sai-ee who seems to have his own strategy and has the most experience remains the most successful.

All the mahouts find ways to entertain themselves during walks and sometimes can be identified just by their sounds. One of Jordohs many calls is a high pitched raspy whistle made by placing a leaf between your two thumbs. Many different volunteers have picked this up quickly and can answer back.

The bubble plant was recently discovered by volunteers while waiting for the elephants at the spirit forest. Pachi (also affectionately known as mini mahout) along with some friends were waiting with us and demonstrated the most astounding use of a simple plant. By taking the stem from a leaf from this plant and breaking it he produced perfect bubbles. When the stem is broken a thin soapy triangular film is formed between the stem and the broken piece. When gently blown through little bubbles are produced and the bigger the triangle the larger the bubbles. This technique is especially difficult but great fun to practice! Overall volunteers love to learn local traditional plant knowledge from villagers both young and old.