Hello again world! It sure has been a while. My first semester of teaching ended mid-March, and I was kept busy grading exams and getting ready for many adventures! Thailand's academic calendar is different from that in the United States, so my break that lasted from March to May was equivalent to a summer vacation.
The first part of my adventure was spent with my dad, who flew out to visit! We traveled in Chiang Mai, an island called Koh Samet, and then I showed him around Chanthaburi, the town where I teach. It was a great time that we managed to pack into just over a week!
After this I went and worked for ten days at the Happy Healing Home, an organic farm in the province of Chiang Mai. This was a really nice experience! Every morning we were woken up before 6am by the call of the roosters. All volunteers had their own rhythms and interests, and thus sometimes worked on various different tasks. In the mornings I usually ground coffee beans and prepared coffee over the fire. After everyone was awake and had taken a cup of coffee or tea, we helped to prepare breakfast with fresh ingredients from the garden, and some mornings we did yoga and exercises before breakfast.
Following breakfast we went out to work. The work varied by day, and by individual. Sometimes I worked on a building project, or took care of the buffaloes, or tended to the garden. Working in the garden was definitely my favorite part. I loved getting my hands dirty in the soil and learning about the plants and their nutritional or medicinal properties from Pinan Jim and Pinan Tea, the couple that runs the organic farm. Working in the sun in the garden, always covered in dirt or water – I just felt so blissful surrounded by and caring for all of the plants that sustain us. The garden was certainly my happy place!
After a few hours of work we would return for yet another delicious meal. The food was honestly just phenomenal! Always super fresh and prepared with love. After lunch we all rested for some time before the late afternoon work. Usually during the afternoons I went out and collected grass for the buffaloes to eat. And while it was a monotonous activity after doing it day after day, it was also very meditative, as were really all activities on the farm. Working on the farm and constantly using my hands and physical energy, I always was focused on what I was doing right in that present moment. I realize when living in a city just how easy it is to get caught up in the craziness of life - always multi-tasking, always thinking about the future. But being able to really focus on and enjoy the present moment you are experiencing is very important, and is something I am making more of an effort to do in my everyday life. As Pinan Jim explained to us volunteers one day, not focusing on the present moment ultimately just detracts from your happiness.
In the evenings we had a light dinner, and then gathered around the communal area for tea, meditation, yoga, and listening to Pinan Jim play the guitar. During this time we conversed about various topics like Lanna culture, meditation, medicinal remedies – truly whatever you wanted to learn more about and discuss.
Overall it was quite a nice stay at the farm. I would recommend it to anyone interested in learning about a self-sustainable life of growing your own food and building your shelter, or if you are interested in gardening, permaculture, meditation, Lanna cooking, caring for animals, or simply if you want to get your hands dirty and do physical work. I would also suggest staying for a minimum of one week. It takes a few days to find your rhythm, so it is best to give yourself time to adjust and fully enjoy your stay. Staying on the farm required a lot of physical work as well, so be prepared for that! The living situation was very similar to camping. I had a small hut to live in with a mosquito net, mattress and blankets. The electricity was limited to lights in the common area – otherwise we were living completely off the grid! No refrigeration, fires made by hand for cooking, bucket showers, toilets where you flush by pouring a bucket of water into the toilet bowl, drinking water that came from a nearby well, filtered by a simple cloth over the faucet to catch any leaves, and of course no wifi! So it was definitely an adjustment, but also just a really lovely and peaceful experience of living the simple life on a farm in northern Thailand.
After my stay on the farm I met up with my friends Luke and Joey, and we went and saw Coldplay in Bangkok! And that was just such an awesome experience! Seeing one of my favorite bands live for the first time, and dancing and singing with great friends. It was such a memorable day!