Tapioca – Who knew?

My tapioca field

I’m sitting in my small corner looking out a door and window at the small farm my wife and I enjoy so much.

 Mango trees, lemongrass, hibiscus and many things I only know the Thai word for adorn my view. We have four Lee-la-wadee, the Thai name is so nice to say. They are the trees that have flowers that Hawaiian leis are made from. One is filled with burst of white flowers and the rest are a hue of red, purple and yellow all together to form beauty.

 I go about my day working, writing and just walking and I used to—every once in a while—want for conversation in English. It didn’t happen often but when it did my only outlet was my wife. That’s not a bad thing but sometimes I have things on my mind that I want to share and get answers from others. I can speak Thai but I’m not able to carry on long intellectual conversations. Thai is a simple language compared to English and even though I know many words and phrases I do often get lost. Words strung together which I know, come out making no sense. The Thai language has a word for yes and no but are rarely used in speaking.  Yes-No, means Do you agree? No-yes, means No or I don’t agree. Many questions are answered without ever using yes or no. I would ask a question and then have to run to my wife for the answer. Why couldn’t they just say yes or no?

 So when I wanted to have a conversation that I would enjoy I would have to talk to myself—in my head of course… well, most of the time. I found that this has helped my writing. I work out plots, argue out points of view and even come to consensus over where the story should go. The more I think about it, I realize I’ve done this most of my life but many times didn’t have the time to really listen.

 Now I’ve discovered the social media and it has brought friends, new friends and a wealth of talent to my door step. And they come from all over the world! I was really frightened to take the first step into Facebook, Twitter, and now blogging. I’m still uneasy about posting blogs. Why would anyone care about what I might be doing or thinking? I have friends at Twitter to thank for the encouragement and pushing me along, lifting me up and dusting me off when I fall. I would have never believed it before I tried it.

 Now, I still spend much of my time alone with my writing and farming and viewing this exotic place I live, but I also have so many great people to look to and get a pat on the back. If I miss a day of checking on friends I feel something is missing.

 Back to the point– I think. This season we’re growing tapioca as the main crop. When I first came here I thought tapioca grew on trees as tiny clear balls like I saw in pudding. Don’t laugh.

 We went to visit my wife’s sister and when I found out she grew tapioca I rushed to her big field and asked, “Where is it?” Not a tree in sight. Pi Juop laughed and pointed at the big field of large bushes. I lifted the large leaves and wanted to know where the fruit was.  I would like to tell you that my sister-in-law thinks I’m the funniest person she’s ever met because of the dumb questions I ask. Sometimes she sits on the ground and laughs while I look on wondering, “What?”

 Since the tapioca was nearly ready for harvest she got her hoe and dug one of the big bushes up and showed me some big potato-like tubers and again laughed at my confusion.

 Tapioca grows underground! Can you believe it? And it’s not just for pudding! It is dried for flour to thicken sauces, as body powder, meat and veggies are rolled in it and fried and a lot of things I’m sure I don’t understand. It can also be baked like a potato but I don’t recommend that to a real potato eater. Who knew? Not me.

 I hope you have enjoyed this post. I really would like to hear from you. You can even use big words—I have a dictionary.

21 responses to “Tapioca – Who knew?

  1. Dannie, you’re a riot! I love tapioca, and the Chinese use it as well.

    I enjoyed how you described talking yourself through a story. I do the same thing and sometimes I even act it out. My male muse usually visits me when I take a shower, so it’s a hot and steamy place to be. If he doesn’t show up, it’s because I’m in a hurry.

    I’m so happy you’re blogging, and you’re doing everything right! Your posts are entertaining, humorous, have pictures, and they share something really important – a slice of your life.

    You are a very interesting man to know – my cheerleader and my bodyguard – what more can a girl ask for? 😉


    • Eden, Now I’m going have dreams of showers. Truly you are so kind and give me a smile every time you write. Words that come from such an incredible writer carry me through the day! What more could anyone ask of a friend!

  2. Okay, here’s an even dumber question… where are those small round tapioca balls from and how are they formed then? And isn’t a certain part of the tapioca poisonous? Now, you’ve piqued my curiosity…

    • Thank you for visiting, Lorna! I’m a big fan. Tapioca can be made into a clear gelatin that is wrapped around sweets and it’s delicious. And made into those little balls. I don’t know the secret. I know one never eats the leaves– so I guess they might be poisonous. After the harvest the large stalks are cut and replanted or sold and bring in almost as much money as the root. You just stick a 15 inch stalk in the ground and you’re done for around 1 year ’til the next harvest. We normally grow corn– three crops a year, but to rest the soil we grow tapioca. Wait until you read about growing bamboo! I know you’ll like that since bamboo forest are so important in your Fantasy books. Which are great by the way.

  3. There may be words in Swahili for “yes” and “no”, but I certainly never used them. Instead it was ndyio (indeed) for yes and hapana (there is none) for no. I think it’s because when you live in a culture where everyone is so dependent on one another it doesn’t pay to give too firm an answer to anything. Not only do you not want to offend anyone, but you may have to worm your way out of agreeing to something later.

    Regardless, it’s great to read about your experiences. I certainly never knew anything about tapioca (other than I like the pudding).

    • Swahili? Man you do get around, Andy! There may be something to what you say for the Thai’s. Face is so important here and the rest of Asia. The greeting here in Issan- central Thailand- is: Have you eaten (rice)yet? And of course the answer is not yes or no. Thai society is built around eating and food. They seem to eat all the time but only small amounts. A plate of food from an American restaurant could feed a family of five over here. I came over here and at every turn I was amazed at what I didn’t know. It’s a great place. Thank you for stopping by. I do love your blog!

  4. Hey Dannie, I have finally made it over to your blog. It has been a real pleasure reading your stories. What a great love you have for your beautiful wife and the land you now call home. I love how you met and the relationship evolved.. It is so challenging to love some one who is on the other side of the world. Your description of Bangkok takes me back – My husband and I had an adventure there a few years back en route to Papua New Guinea. We were travelling from Scandinavia so the contrast was extreme.. we stayed at a place called Charlie House – I found it on the internet – and guess what.. there was not another westerner in sight.. but the people were so lovely and we had Thai massages – OMG the pain.. Your writing really evokes the sense of place – steamy, crowded, noisy, happy laughing people…etc ( not to mention all the mad fluorescent taxis zooming around… ) This is exactly how I remember it. It must have been very tough leaving everything behind – but at the same time what an amazing journey! Tapioca hmm.. we had it in PNG too.. hmmm
    Rock on Dannie, looking forward to reading more


    • Thank you, Michelle! You are another world traveler that I admire. I would like to sit down with you and your husband and just listen to your accent. It wouldn’t matter what you said, but I also know you are so smart I would have to keep my mouth shut, Ha! I’ve been accused of being a romantic– I guess there are worse things to be. All the things you describe about Bankok are still there and I love the massages. So many people travel and don’t have the opportunity to be with the people of the country. I always stay at ‘Thai-style’ hotels and enjoy being around these wonderful people. And my farming neighbors are no different, but it took a while to be accepted. Still kind of on the outside looking in but they try to teach me the ‘right’ way of doing things. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  5. hi Dannie.. i enjoyed the post/blog a lot.. you are so good and so humorous.. it tickled me.. giggling when i read about your sisterinlaw.. and i learned things too..never knew anything about tapioca till now lolol love Laura Novak

    • Thanks you for commenting, Laura! I’m really glad you enjoy my little stories. I was afraid that I would be the only one reading them, Ha! I also enjoy tweeting with you. It’s amazing how many good people I’ve met since starting this journey. A writer’s life is really pretty lonely because we are often locked into a world we build and need the silence to make good stories. It’s so good to hear from people like yourself and know I might be doing these short stories well. That tells me that my novels also have an appeal. Thank you.

  6. Hi Dannie,
    Talking to yourself…(lol) I laugh cause I just wrote a blog on this earlier today…(lol)

    Love learning about the culture of others and no I did not know any of that about tapioca.

    Your world sounds beautiful and always newly amazing. Its wonderful to still learn about your own little part of the planet. To embrace our life is one thing but to look on it with new eyes every day is breathtaking. I envy you….


    • Eri. First I have to ask: what are you doing up at this hour? LOL Thank you so much for commenting. I’m reading your book and it’s amazes me to know so many up and coming authors!

      You’re right. As our world grows smaller with all the information available to us its still a mystery– and that’s a good thing. Who wants to know everything and not have so much to discover. I do enjoy it here because it’s something new everyday. It is fertile ground for writers and readers alike.

      Another thing that amazes me– I’m easily amazed– is in this comment section there are people from four countries and three continents so far. Reading about tapioca, ROFL. I love it. Thank you again for making my day bright!

  7. Up at this hour? Writing of course…(lol) Also made turkey and rice soup. Not breakfast of champions but I approve of it.

    I am happy to hear that your reading it. Still amazes me that others do. Hope you find it enjoyable.

    It sounds like your bit of earth holds wonderment abound. If only I were a vast traveler and not this home chained hermit…(lol).

    As to making your day a bit brighter, I am flattered. Truly….

    That says something about you and your technique. You inspire minds with a story and make them strive to learn more.

    • Thank you for your kind words. Turkey and rice soup for breakfast. You would fit right in here. Breakfast here is usually a rice gruel with a bit of meat and a few veggies. It’s good.

      My wife wonders what has happened to me with all the nice things I say now. She calls me Pak Wan– which means, sweet mouth– not always a compliment, LOL

      Writers, and this one included, live in fear that their work will fall flat– but you need not worry, Eri. You have the talent it takes! You’re a hemit and I’m a recluse.

      BTW. I finished the final copy edit of my next book and have sent it to my wonderful editor- again. Can’t wait to see what I messed up, lol.

      • You flatter me once again, more than I deserve. But I appreciate the glow you create. (I will bask in its aftermath…while I promise to not grow a big head…lol)

        I am a hermit or the darker side of the force, a recluse.Weilding my home inspired lockdown onto the world (lol). If this is what is needed to bring forth creations of a writer, then I am off to a good start…(lol).

        Thats wonderful about the final copy. Need to get my hands on your work, so I might indulge my mind to what great literature looks like.


  8. Hey! Is just my eyes playing tricks or does that Tapioca look a lot like another Tropical Plant I’m familar with? You haven’t been Smoking those leaves have you? No, I’m proud a North Carolina Boy like yourself is writing some good tales. I’m settin’ here Laughing cause, I know you’ll probably try those leaves out now! LOL

    • Hey Lamar. Yea, they do resemble that wacky weed, but I was told not to do anything with them and when a Thai won’t eat something you can be damn sure Dannie’s not going to light one up, ROFL. I gave it a little thought before the warning. Besides, my head is fluky enough without taking it on a trip without leaving the farm. Really good to hear from you. And I want everyone to know Lamar and I were born in the same little hospital in Mooresville, NC. Thank you for commenting, MBF!

  9. HI Dannie

    Really enjoyed that – wow, living in Thailand and enjoying a daily view of tapioca fields! You lucky man and I surely hope that it gives you plenty of inspiration, and it shows 🙂 Speaking Thai too. I have been told that Thai is a difficult language to master, as it has 7 tones – we Chinese struggle with 4 :)!

    Anyway, great post, and I look forward to reading more, and keep up with the good work!

    • Hi Junying. Thank you for your kind words. This land does inspire me. Someone asked me why I don’t write novels about Thailand and I think it has to do with living here. When and if I ever go home then I’m sure the words will leap off the pages about what I’ve experienced here.

      The good news is Thai only has five tones and I have yet to master them. My western ear just doesn’t hear a lot of the nuances. The city people smile and say I have a ‘Bon Nok’ accent. Which means I speak like a redneck. I always respond with a “thank you”. Which they don’t understand.

      I very happy you enjoy my short post!

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