We got back into the boat where we rode for a few minutes to the other side of the river where the sorting and drying facility was nestled back into the woods. Walking in, we were able to see the entire process that occurs prior to shipping the crushed leaves to Pontianak to be ground into powder.
First, the leaves must be collected and separated by vein (typically Green Vein, Red Vein, or White Vein, Yellow Vein or Horned). The women here are employees, using gloves and hairnets as they sort the leaves on the floor. I specifically state that they are employees because not everyone who works for kratom farmers and producers are employees. Some, as in many countries, are slave laborers, something which I am very concerned about and something that Infinity Supplements is very concerned about as well. In addition, conditions are very important to consider because when “kratom dust” is inhaled for long periods of time, one’s desire to eat diminishes. Employers have mandatory meal times and breaks in order to keep their employees healthy.
The women then thread the good leaves onto a colored string to help sort them and then hang them up to dry inside.
Each day, they move the leaves to a different section to indicate how many days they have been drying. Then, usually on the third day, the women take the leaves to a special wire/mesh table where they pull the vein from the leaf and roll it in a “wax on, wax off” motion until it breaks up into tea-like pieces.
When this is complete, the bags are taken to Pontianak where the leaves are crushed into a fine powder, packaged a kilogram at a time and sent to the buyers around the world.
Business complete, it became picture time with the Americans.
It was nearing nightfall on this long day and one of our friends told us it’s time to take a bath. Okay! At this point I’m ready to be clean. I’m dirty, I’m stinky, and I’ve been bitten by tons of mosquitos, so I start to look for the shower. Instead, he handed me a cloth called a “kemban” which is basically a giant cloth that forms a circle. You step into it, tie it around your top and wallah! a shower for women. While the men bathed in the river, I sat on the deck and pulled water from the river up to a bucket on the deck. Once there was enough water, I sat down, poured the water over my head, and washed sitting down. Quite the experience. The most interesting shower I’ve taken anywhere!
We were river clean and now, our guides and friends invited us to share a meal and some social time in honor of our visit. We were incredibly humbled by their hospitality and warmth in greeting us in their environment. So we got back in the boat and returned the fishing village and were welcomed again, but this time with a meal. The meal was three different kinds of fish, whole fish, with the eyeballs and stuff…rice, soy bean patties, cucumber, casava, and water. The women who prepared the meal sat to the side while the men and myself ate first as the honored guests. The fish wasn’t bad people! This was an authentic river meal. We enjoyed the dinner and then their traditional sweet coffee, more sweet than coffee, while the children peered in through the window and attempted to take some sly photos of us. I invited them in and the children thoroughly enjoyed snapping multiple selfies of us holding up peace signs and thumbs up, both of which are very popular for pictures.
Taking the boat back to Ketapang in the dark, I fought fatigue as I tried not to nod off to sleep on the way back. Once we reached land again and found a hotel, we were ready to collapse from the extensive day of travel and from all the knowledge we had gained.