About a year ago, my sister and I ambitiously attempted making cheese. This required unpasteurized milk, which I tracked down with the help of my Karen teacher.
And since then, we’ve been buying our milk from the same milk lady.
I don’t have a significant belief in the benefits of unpasteurized milk, but I do like that it comes from the cow and to me within hours. I also love that it comes in a bag, saves us just a few baht, and supports a local family that I’ve come to know. They saw us in the hospital a few weeks ago and waved excitedly.
Even as much as I like this activity, it’s a weird experience.
For the first year, I was told to come between 2pm and 3pm. That changed last month, and now I am to come at 5pm.
When I arrive, we exchange smiles and hellos in Burmese, and I say my token Burmese words: milk, and a number–the number of bags that I would like. Each bag is between two and two & a half cups and costs about 60 cents each.
But no matter how many bags I request, she suggests a different number. I have no idea why. Sometimes she’ll suggest I buy more, sometimes she’ll say they only have so many or they’ll only give me so many or something of the sort. Either way, it’s like a game: do I ask for one less than I want, because she might try to up-sell me one more. Or do I ask for extra, because she might not give them all to me?
After I make my irrelevant request for a certain number of bags, she smiles and tells me how many I will get. She invites me to sit and wait. I take off my shoes and sit in the first chair by the door.
And it just keeps getting interesting.
Usually, she gets on her motorbike and leaves to go get the milk, presumably from the place in the market that her husband is selling the milk. But she never takes me there or tells me where it is; even through a translator, she asked me to come to her house.
The room I enter into serves as a living room, dining room, and business. Big wood furniture cabinets line two walls, and one blares a television. Big, oversized chairs line one wall, where I sit. An absolutely abnormal number of pots sit above the cabinets; I have no concept of who could use so many.
While she is gone, I sit in the chair. Sometimes there are a number of people around: some are kids or grandkids or aunts or uncles. A number of people who look very similar and are eating, sleeping, watching television or sitting and watching me.
Sometimes there are people who sit beside me in the other chairs, waiting for other things. I don’t know what.
Sometimes, she leaves me there by myself. I sat there today for about ten minutes, in her house by myself. She did this today.
And then she returns. She gives me small bags of milk with a big smile, and we exchange thank yous in Burmese. If her daughter is there who knows English, she tells her to tell me thank you in English, and asks if I will come back tomorrow. I tell her probably not tomorrow–as no human should intake these quantities of milk overnight–but next week, per usual.