I’m dropped off outside a Wat…what? A temple. If the temple hadn’t been there I would have thought I was in a scene from “Rambo 1-9″
“Hmm, maybe I’ll speak to my yet not found agent about this place. I could see a movie here.”
The area is amazing. Trees all around, plenty of water, not surprising after that cyclone we just drove through, and total silence except for the 3000 000 cicadas that are going mental in the trees.
“Well at least it isn’t some weirdo playing the banjo’” I reassure myself.
I’m greeted by a local who takes my bags.
We walk down a muddy slope,” yip the rain again,” across a stream, with just a plank as a bridge that end halfway across the river. Why? I’m not sure but I start to cross it anyway. I’m really happy I have my own porter as I’m sure I would have seen my own arse if I tried to carry my bags across the PLANK.
“I wonder if his tip can come out of the donation?” I question myself. “We’ll cross that plank when we get to it.”
Once across the river we walk up a short hill. Now I’m really ecstatic I have my own private batman. And on the top of the hill is “Second home”. If I was carrying my bags I would have dropped them there and then. I’m thinking,” F…k this for a joke I want my first home, or flat, back in Vredehoek , with my own little mountain and a proper bridge. I don’t care how amazing the views are you can’t expect me to stay here. What times the next bus, or pick-up, or donkey for that matter, I want out of here!”
After coming down from my second hyperventilation incident for the day, I take a second look and realise all isn’t so bad.
The main building of Second Home is made from cobbing with wooden poles that hold up the leaved roof. There is a kitchen, a lounging area with a bamboo floor strewn with mats and cushions to lounge on. There is even a TV and DVD player and plug points to recharge mobile phones.
Everything is very rustic but looks quite comfortable and I think to myself,” I could get quite comfortable here after about an 18 week forced stay. “Thank you lord for electricity, I’m sure they’ve got all 9 Rambo’s which will keep me busy for a while. Geez, they might have even shot the movies around here it looks so alike. I’m sure ol’ Sly Stallone probably has a holiday hut nearby to help with his mid life crisis and post steroid come down”
I’m greeted by the monk, shaven head, as all monks are, small and thin. With a broad smile he welcomes me warmly
“Hello Gally.” He chimes you are the first Aflican to visit. I feel like Neil Armstrong, and this place is so not what I’m used to, it COULD be the moon.
While his greeting me, I’m thinking of the weight loss programme that he must be on because if I could get my hands on it and take it home, sell it, I could retire, fat….fatter on ……Roman Abromovitch’s yacht before the end of next month.
He is a small man, but then most Thais are. But he is strong and this I can tell by the grip of his hand.
“Oh… Kay,” I think to myself,” Don’t mess with this little geezer, and listen to everything that he says. He want me to meditate, I meditate.’
Chinawoorn has a sense of peacefulness about him with a touch of warmth and kindness. It has been his dream to start a project like Second Home for a while. As his whole line of ancestry is from a nearby village it was a natural choice to build it here. He considers himself a monk of the world and everybody, from all walks of life, are welcome to his oasis on top of the wet, muddy hill.
He wasn’t always a monk and only converted when he became disillusioned with life in his twenties. At the time he was working at a hotel in Chiang Mai and was drinking, partying and screwing around.
“Ok, so what’s the problem with the last sentence I think to myself. I was also drinking and partying, and if I was getting some in my twenties, the last thing I would do is become a CELIBATE monk. I hope his got all is marbles, especially that I’m going to be here with him in a place where nobody understands any english.”
He shows me to my quarters, which is an open ended “A” frame hut consisting of a bunk, a mattress and a mosquito net. In a word, open plan and tiny. The only reason there wasn’t a TV was because they probably couldn’t fit it in. But the views are fantastic but there’s also no water and electricity.
“Yay, I can lie on my bed-because that’s the only space there is once my rug sack is in, and marvel at the views. At least if I stretch my arms and legs at the same time there’s no walls to get in the way.”
I shove my things into the corner and take off to have a look around the place.
There are 8 of these open planned units dotted all over the farm which is about 7 Rai or 2800 square metres in size. The layout of the farm runs across 3 small hills and the vegetable garden runs through two small valleys and over one hill. It all sounds very big, but it’s not.
If it could be described as a women, she would be very petite, lying on her back with a little patch….of garden, just about where her legs would meet.
“Hhhmmmm celibacy remember”
There is a running shower with, once again, amazing views and, yes, to my pure and utter delight a western styled toilet. I’m happy.
When I arrive there are 4 other volunteers already working there, and it is fantastic to speak to meet english speaking, likeminded people. Enlightened, that’s what we are!
I’ve got a bit of catching up to do, but after 5 days I’m sure I’ll be way ahead of them, I chuckle to myself”.
As I arrived late in the day and I’m still coming down from my trip up here, I have a quick, absolutely no meat dinner, and head off to bed.
I squeeze my way into my abode, cover myself with my mosquito net and quickly fall asleep in the absolutely pitch black night.
Halfwa y through the night I wake up to go to the toilet, which is as far as I can aim from my open door, and I’m confronted by what I think is “Close encounters of the, I don’t know what kind”
In front of me are 1000,s of little lights flying in every direction. Thinking that it’s those Cicadas attacking , I’m just about to dive inside, when I realise that the lights are tiny little fireflies. For a moment I just stood there, while I dribbled on my foot, and stared in wonder at this amazing sight. The last time I saw anything similar was at a psychedelic trance party while trip……, well a while ago.
The next morning I wake up, shake myself, and out of bed. Have a shower and then head for breakfast, which consists of fruit, rice, egg, nuts coffee, and vegetables. Absolutely no bacon in sight.
We start at about 9am with whatever chores are needed to be done. There is a small field that needs to be cleared for rice planting and it is full of stubborn weeds. Chinawoorn tells me to go get a hoe, and for a minute I get really excited. So I pick up a ho,…hoe and off I go. Ho, ho, ho.
Now let me tell you there is not much that beats toking on some strong weed, and the satisfaction of tugging out a stubborn weed comes a close second but this is back breaking work and after about 15 minutes I’m thinking that maybe we should uplift the local villages, get them over here ,and get them to start a garden service. I mean hey this is self sufficiency we’re talking about but a little bit of good old capitalism ain’t going to hurt anybody.
After about 2 hours, some working harder than others, we take a break and are finished for the day.
Dropping off my ho..e, I say “Thank God, otherwise I’d have to rethink how much I was going to donate.”
For the rest of the day we pretty much chill and if we want to learn about Thai cooking we can help Chinaworn, who prepares all our meals. He is more than happy to, and always available to ask questions about cooking or anything else for that matter.
“Not me,” I say.”For 60 bucks a day I don’t want to know what’s going on in the kitchen and I plan to be served, looking around for the little bell.
Thinking about it now, I should have asked him how to get those f…..g weeds out.
“Maybe I should suggest poison.”
Lunch is served, and once again no meat, but I’m starting to get used to the idea by now.
Everybody sits around and chats about from where they’re from. The local villagers that work for Chinawoorn, but don’t do weed, join us and lots of fun is had as they don’t speak much english. But somehow we all get by while nibbling on our cabbage, rice and chilli. And Chinawoorn’s project is benefiting the locals as they are employed- one of the volunteers is building his own, two tiered A frame on stilts and he is employing the locals to help in build. When it is finished he will donate it to Second home. You see He is trying to stick within the norms of Buddhism and doesn’t want to become too attached to it.
“Well hey buddy, I’m more than happy to detach it from you for a while,” I think to myself while slurping up a noodle.
The afternoon everybody just lazes around, some go back and do a bit of work, but I just laze around.
And then the rains come and it is a sight to behold. From the safety from under the leaved roof, and I Do have a new found respect for leaves, we watch it bucket down all around us. And along with the rain comes, what I’m sure is the Thai pet- as there are 100’s in each household-, the mosquito. And it is revered in Thailand and applauded, well that’s what everybody does when they start appearing, clapping. I still don’t know why. I
Can someone please tell me why are they here really. What the hell do they do except piss us off.
And being true to the Thai politeness, these mosquito’s don’t want to disturb so they’re very quiet while they ‘re busy sucking the last drop of our life force out of us. Like thieves in the night, they come take and go, while we left scratching ourselves raw.
Chinaworn is often invited to villagers houses for dinner, and at times prey for them for one thing or another. On two occasions he was invited to prey for new houses that had been built by farmers. When these times arise he invites us along to go with and observe and when we go he usually takes us on a scenic route, across rivers, up hills, down valleys through forests and across fields. The last time I went on such strolls was when I was doing 12kilometre route marches in the army. Well at least this time we don’t have back packs. A bit of rations would help to keep the sugar levels up although.
The country architecture is quite basic and not very varied, obviously there is one architect who is making a killing. The wooden houses consist of an entrance room, which also doubles up as the eating area, with the bedrooms and bathroom running off the back end of the house. As Thais are brilliant squatters , there are very few, if any, chairs. The rooms are uncluttered, with maybe a cupboard, or chest of drawers and everything is left natural-wooded-,EXCEPT the linoleum covered floors which comes in a range of eye catching colours, beige, light brown or muddy brown. But somehow it all works. I do however think that there is definitely scope for an interior designer who has specialised in linoleum, preferably one who can differentiate colours.
We all sit on cushions and once the prayers and blessings, which consist of humming and aahhing, we begin to eat.
Now for someone who has had two knee operations and isn’t too supple, about 47 seconds into the meal, my legs have a tendency to let me know that they are not enjoying the position that they are in. As well as, the cushions that we are sitting on, designed for Thai backside, thin and light, are of absolutely 52 seconds later my arse starts to scream, even louder.” Listen buddy, how about the left cheek for a while. Ok that;s enough how about the right cheek. I tell you what how about a chair, even better yet why not a fucking Lazy Boy!”
But sticking with Thai custom of politeness, I finish my food in about 18 seconds and look expectantly at everyone else to hurry up so we can at least stand the fuck up.
The whole episode only takes about 20 minutes and soon we are on our way back home- via a shorter route thankfully.
On most nights when we weren’t trekking and squatting out for dinner, we would all eat together and then either sit around and have a discussion of a spiritual nature, no not alchohol or ghosts and then we would wander off to do our own meditation, or whatever ever brought us to a personal climax.
On the 5th and final day of my stay, all the other volunteers have gone on their own personal journey’s and it is just Chinawoorn and I.
“I wonder if I let anyone know that I was coming here , and I wonder how long it would be before they realise that I’m missing?” I think t myself.
That day I left the weed alone and Chinawoorn and I sat around talking about.”WHY THE HELL DID HE GIVE UP SHAGGING TO BECOME A MONK!!” Not about mediation and the philosophies of Buddhism, which was why I went there in the first place.
It was all very enlightening especially when he mentioned that all thoughts are uncertain, we are all connected and there is no self. Something I should tell my bank manager the next he phones to tell me I’m overdrawn.
“Hey bru, just chill, I’m connected, somebody else will sort it out.
On the last night we were hit with a massive storm and as I was leaving at 6am the next morning, Chinawoorn suggested that I sleep in the main house, on stilts and without walls. So after slipping and sliding down the hill to get to my , built off no plan, teeny house, and inching my way up the now quicksandish side of the hill. I settled in for the night.
About an hour after I fell asleep the rain stopped. And how do I know this?….because when the rain stops all, and I mean every last m…..f…..g frog decides to wake up and croak. One frog sounds like those wooden clackers that we used to shake up and down that made a totally un-useful noise.
Well just imagine a continent packed, sardine style, full of frogs that are right under the floor of your stilted house and all wake up at the same time.
Words fail me to describe exactly how quickly I stood up and exactly how far my arse puckered up, but I thought if this is enlightenment then I’m out of here
After realising what it was and lying awake for the rest of the night listening to this deafening noise while wondering what I could do to these amphibians, along with the mosquitos. I realised that they’d make great alarm clocks with and added bonus…If you get to lick their backs you would think you were Alice in wonderland with your own personal drummer.
Sitting on the”bus” heading back to the city, tired, I really felt enlightened after my stay there. About 5 kilos enlightened after the meals without meat.