One of the most difficult things about traveling for me, has been taking time to reflect on what we’ve seen. Especially in big cities. In the city, coming from the city, it very easy to fall into the rhythm and pace of a big city whereby our play acts as a substitute for work. We work hard to find places to go, things to see, good places to eat. It’s not as easy as you think. I hear some of you laugh, but I challenge you to try it. You learn something about yourself and one another when you’re lucky enough to travel with the love of your life. After all, what it comes down to, is we’re living, simply living. Sure we’re not in a production mode right now, we’re not “producing” anything for the better of humanity, but how many of us, when we are, truly are anyways.But every place we’ve visited has left an impact on us and I think we have something important or at least interesting to share about every place, it is getting to writing about that that is the hardest thing on the road. When, there is no internet, we’re focused on traveling and when there is internet, we’re focused on planning traveling. It’s a weird thing. So, today we’ve taking a moment out from traveling, to do a bit of reflecting and relaxing. Also, taking time to actually pay attention to where we are and what’s happening here and now. This moment, I’m thinking about Thailand and how our Sustainability Study trip in Northern Thailand and then our extended stay at Pun Pun has impacted our ideas and thoughts about what we’ll do when we return and also, how we can approach everyday a little differently, even while we travel. Tracie spoke a little about Jo Jandai and Peggy Reents, but I’ll quickly go back over a little about them from my perspective. From the moment we met Jo in the Isaan province of Thailand, we felt a sense of peace and comfort. Jo is one of those people who exudes wisdom and calm from his pores. It is hard to explain, but his energy and sense of caring for others and the land are something some spend entire lifetimes trying to achieve. A sense of enlightenment. Filled with humility, wisdom, sense of humor and itinerant knowledge. But he’s just a man, just this farmer from Thailand, who is willing to share his experience and hope to create a more sensible world. Peggy takes that humility and warmth and brings it down to earth and balances it with a touch of realism and well rounded jovial punches and laughs. She’s come to Thailand, fallen in love with the people and the land, and become a native Thai. What Jo lacks in style, settling for a more simplistic and
utilitarian view on life, Peggy comes balances out with a sense of style and grace. You see it in how she raises her son Thon, in the finishing touches of the buildings and systems of Pun Pun, and in her everyday dress. Yet when it comes to teaching self-reliance, she’s on par with Jo, taking no-nonsense approach and sharing her willingness to jump into the mud pits and give a hands on tutorial on earthen brick-making or how to make soap from common ingredients. Not only was our trip a tour of sustainable communities, it was also an in-depth immersion in how to become self reliant. Over the course of ten days we visited five different farmer communities/families, all of which had one major theme intertwined: “Self Reliance”. Jo used this phrase repeatedly as did many of the farmers we visited. As Peggy and Jo explained it to us, many of the farmers that had returned to the land to farm, and do so organically, were committed to more than just a return to farming. They are very committed to showing and sharing with other Thais and communities ways to become self-reliant and become independent from the consumer driven economies that are seeming to tear the natural world apart. This is not to say that they are against all technological advancement or many aspects of modern society; rather, they have found that for all the good that a consumer-based economy produces, it is not outweighed by the free time lost. In farming, the consumer-based economy has meant a life full of debt, here in Thailand and abroad. Farmers have to buy a specific seed that the government wants one to grow, which requires a certain amount of fertilizer, which increases over time as yields decrease, the inputs into the system become greater and greater, and the debt to keep up becomes ever greater. Many farmers left the farm to pay off their debts by working hard in the city, only to return to the farm with an economic collapse in the early 90’s in Thailand. Jo, and many of the farmer’s we met were directly influenced at this time, to reflect and figure out a way to do it on their own. For them it wasn’t about disconnecting from society – that is not self-reliance, in fact it’s the opposite. It is about connecting with your communities and sharing with them in the methods each other use, to increase yields in the fields, to sharing of water purification ideas, irrigation, water supply issues, waste management, and the list goes on. It took a gross failure of a consumer based society structure to give people the TIME to figure out better ways. Self-reliance for all of the farmers we met equals more free time, which for farmers like Jo means more time to conduct workshops, to go visit other farmers, to share ideas, to share a meal, to share a story. To live. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? And the fact is, for most of us it sounds like just a dream, but if you really take a look at your daily needs and what makes you happy, you may find that this sounds more possible than impossible. Take a look at some of the photos from our Sustainability Trip and our stay at Pun Pun that we’ve posted over on <a href://http://www.flickr.com/photos/emptyhighway/>flickr.com</a> that we’ve linked below. Talk to you soon, the sun is coming out in rainy cool Chengdu and it may be time to go out for a walk and enjoy the day.
Isaan, Thailand: Photos from the Province and photos from Pa Jo, an amazing farmer there… Bahn Si Than: Jo Jandai’s village Suan Song Fan: An Organic Farmer’s Collaborative in Isaan Province Pun Pun, Northern Thailand (Outside Chang Mai)