Cultural exchange through common value

Today I am due to be responsible for the blog again and it is kind of like a good time for me to do so because I really like to share my overwhelming learning experience since my last sharing in this blog.

Apart from learning about the work related to cooperative structure, effective organic farming management, and market distribution channel etc, what I really like the most about the common value of farmer’s way of living in Montana and in Laos.

Having to share the roof with American’s (farmers) family has changed my perspective toward American’s way of living completely. I learn that the farmers here in US are hard working as in Laos. They love what they do and value the goodness that the mother earth has provided.

Jan Tusick is a very strong and has a lot of courage to help organic farmers to achieve sustainable organic production, to ensure food safety regulation for consumption and maintain economic benefits within local community in terms of employment. To me she is a role model.

Jan and Will (her husband) have not only helped me to learn more about how simple lives can be here in Montana, but also how grateful to be fed with good food!. While I have spent time most of the daytime working with Jan in her office and visiting places to learn about cooperative structure, my favorite time of the whole day happens in the evening.

I would come home everyday in the evening with the menu of the day. Will is always excited about what I am cooking for him and Jan everyday. For example, on the first of my arrival, I cooked green curry for them. On the second, I cooked “Larp” (A Laos traditional food. The name LARP literally means Lucky in my country), I also cooked a Sassy Grill Beef marinated with traditional Lao style sauce, and a bowl of fresh organic vegetables. It was an awesome meal indeed! And that is not all. On the third day I made delicious fried rice, stirred fried veggies, grill beef and Tom Yum soup! We spend the whole evening enjoying food and good company with a glass of wine on our hands. We would talk about many things that were going on during the day, exchange the knowledge of culture, get to know each other and most importantly we also discuss about what we will cook for the next meal! it has become so clear to me that one way we can learn about each other’s culture is through the food making and eating!

Another best part of staying with Jan and Will is where I get to see the stars in the dark blue sky every night before I fall asleep. Who would have thought that my coming to US would have me experienced such a wonderful time. As I lay down in my own bed at night, I would look out the window and I would see the stars bright and shine above me. I would go to sleep deep and sound with peace everyday under the warm blankets. This has me thought of my peaceful childhood live in the farm before my family move to the city of Vientiane 20 years ago.

Staying with Jan and Will, I also get a chance to see how a sheep gives birth to its baby. Will told me that as soon as the baby comes out, the mother will go to lick the baby and this activity would create a bound between a mother and a baby lamp, just like human…Awesome isn’t it!!

Today as Jan and I were traveling to Ontario Oregon for Food Safety Legislation conference. I was not only enjoying the magnificent view of Montana, but we also stopped on the way to dip ourselves into a hot spring at this place called the Zims hot spring. It was so relaxing, yet exciting for me because this is my first time for a hot spring!

I would like to thank Economic Empowerment Program and the Mansfield Center to provide me with this wonderful experience to learn about economic empowerment approach and American culture. And I have to say that I have fell in love with Montana already!

Soukanlaya Rattanavong

Laos

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