The end of the big T

Tanya cycling through India

T is for Thailand, but it is also for Tropics. As our time here in Thailand end, so does our trip. For the past 10 months we have spent all of our time in the tropic, from the northern Thailand, northern Vietnam and middle of India. We have also been in the far south, in Singapore nearly straddling the equator. We have seen the season (hot, hotter and wet), and although hot season was hot when we arrived, it is now cold. Hotter is still hot and wet is wet. Torrential downpours have caused small streams to fill paths, make roads more like river instead of roads, and have transformed the landscape from yellow to bright green. The lethargic hot weather makes any task difficult.

Learning at the PDC

Taking our PDC in Malaysia during the hot season was tough, I remember laying on the cement trying to cool down. I also remember working on Grassroots farm during this hot period, hoping for rain just to keep cool. I also remember when it would get cold at night in Hampie and Dalat, having to wear a sweater and a toque (who knew?)

New tastes, Durian, the King of Fruit

We both embarked on this trip in hopes to see something different, and experience something different. Riding a bicycle through India was a great way to achieve this goal. We also wanted to get inspired, thanks to places like Sadhana forest and the Panya project we are inspired. But also to our PDC teachers and everyone else we have met along the way. We have learned so much on this trip. We have learned:

  • How to build with mud

  • How to make kimchi

  • How to make wine

  • How to live in a community

    Learning about biodynamics

  • The best way to find ones way around rural India

  • How to grow food

  • How to cook without a cook book

  • How to cook for a hundred people

  • How to make various Biodynamic perperations

It was damn cold in Dalat

I know there is so much more as well. I never thought that I could get sick of traveling, and although I’m not sick of traveling, I am ready to come home. There is so much I want to try, there is so much I want to do and I’m looking forward to doing it.

SE Asia is full of culture and history

I want to thank all the loyal readers of this blog, we appreciate you dedication and patients. The last couple of months have been pretty inactive (in terms of blog posts). Since the beginning of this trip there has been more then 16,000 views on grannygear, which is pretty amazing, so we thank you all for your support. For those that we met on the road, maybe one day our paths will cross and we can catch up. For the rest of you back home, we are looking forward to meeting up people we haven’t seen in about a year and just chillin. See you soon.

Odd jobs at Panya

Hand made Bougainville Bongophone

Panya has been a great learning environment because of the variety. Along with all that I have learned, I have also discovered that I enjoy working with wood. After watching the movie Coconut Revolution, Sam and I got the crazy idea to build and Bougainville Bongophone. It sounds complex, but it isn’t. All you need is some bamboo. You cut everyone to a different length and you get a great (and kind cartoony) sound. Sam and I worked on this project for three days, mostly cutting and chiseling. This is the parts that I enjoyed, I now want to make a Cajon when I get back home. We learned a tough lesson though, when trying to make something out of bamboo, make sure it is dried (yellow not green). When it dries, it tends to crack, which is what happened to us, and as such, our instrument no longer works.

you hit this side with some flip flops to make the noise

If one remember from a few posts ago, we got the idea of making a tree nursery, which required us to level some land…by hand. Leveling by hand took some time (and energy), but it was good.

Kelly and Sam discussing where we should shave down to make the site level


Tanya and Sam moving sand and gravel

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After that we had to move 6m3 of gravel and sand (once again by hand). The piles of material were all placed around the leveled area evenly. The next step was to make a well in the middle of the pile.

Some of the piles, ready for cement and water


Smoothing (you can use bamboo or pvc piping)

In the well cement and water was mixed with the surrounding material to make a mix and then we spread the mix out evenly. You repeat this a few more times and you have a super easy flat surface. This mix was ultra wet so it would self level, and the goal was to make all with a piece of bamboo (that didn’t work out for us). In the end the concrete dried, and although it isn’t super posh, it is pretty nice (considering it was done in 2 hours with 7 people that have never done it before). The next step is to put up wall and a roof and we got ourselves a weed free nursery.

Kelly working on some finishing

Kelly working on some finishing

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First of four levels that will makes up the walls

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Trip to Pae, unaware of the demise of Dam (the dog)

On a less possitive note, one of the dogs dies while we were on holiday. Panya being permaculture, we thought the best way to remember Dam (the dead dog) was to put her into a 18 day compost pile. There is a video of this happening.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qY4pRB0vr4M]

One of the most important things I learned at Panya was how easy it is to do things. Things I always thought a professional needed to do, one can do oneself. Just do it. You want a nursery, build it; you want a musical instrument, build it; you want hoot water, build a solar water heater, you want a solar bread oven, build it.

Posted from Ban Pao, Chiang Mai, Thailand
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Natural Building Internship at Panya

The last month at Panya has been spent participating in a Natural Building Internship.  I went into it with a bit of trepidation, having never build or to have wanted to build anything in my life (I don’t even assemble Ikea stuff), and Kelly was intrigued and wondering how natural building could actually work.  The project was to redesign and rebuild the Sala which is the community space where we eat and relax.

What the sala looked like before we started and now

We started with building a proper office where people could set up laptops and which will house the hundreds of books available (I helped make the bookshelves).  We use mud bricks that are made in the dry season.  They are made of a mix of clay, sand, and rice husks.  The we use a fresh mud mix of the same materials as the mortar.  For this mud mix we dug a huge hole in the ground and every day about 5 people get to stomp around in the mud adding clay and rice husks to get the right consistency.  It amazing how fast walls come together, and what’s great is you can shave down the bricks easily so you can make all kinds of interesting shapes.

We also built some arched walls, columns, benches, and stairs.  There is still lots of finishing work to be done.  I really enjoyed doing things like plastering the walls and painting (we use paint made from water, tapioca flour, and natural color), but when it comes to doing things like taking out the support beams without the roof collapsing I tried to stay far away.  A great learning experience overall!

Posted from Ban Pao, Chiang Mai, Thailand
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