Rubber Story

Buon Ma Thout, December 31st 2010

Mr. Vu, our driver, drove us on. The road began to narrow and buildings faded from our sight. All along the roadside were trees and trees. Rubber trees.

"Let's get down!" said Tin, our tour guide, cheerfully while opening the door for me.

Tin stepped further into the plantation. "Come!" He waved his hand to us. "Let me show you!"

One thing I like about him is the way he explains things to us. He explains it with excitement and not just as something that was his job anyway.

Actually for an Indonesian like me, a rubber tree should be common thing. I've seen many since I was a kid. Every time my family traveled out of town, I would see lots of rubber plantations like this along the road. Mom told me that people take the sap of the tree by scratching the tree trunk and let the sap flow into a bowl tied to the tree. And then I said to myself that time, 

"No wonder my rubber eraser is white. It's because the rubber sap is white."
But to tell you the truth, I've never before been so close to a rubber tree and been taught in detail about the process.

Tin told us that actually the government had rented the land of plantation to the people. Each family's portion of land depends on the number of the family.

Tin took one bowl off the tree and showed us a brownish clot of sap as shown inside the red circle in this photo. It was thick and formed elastic just like rubber.

Tin explained that such clot of rubber sap happens when water enters the bowl. Just a little drop of water will destroy the whole sap in the bowl. Besides turning into clots, the rubber will also smell bad, Tin said.

"What if it rains?" I asked.

"Then that will be considered 'bad luck'," Tin answered.

"So they will have to throw away all the rubber sap in the bowls of the whole plantation?"

"No. The rubber sap that has turned bad still can be used to produce tires, and etc. The rubber sap with good quality is used to produce stuffs like condom, and etc."

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