Published: March 7th 2008March 7th 2008
With fields of mulberries. The weather is also quite pleasant. The days are warm and sunny and the nights are very cool.
It was no smooth transition from Australian life to Lao life, especially after the leisurely comforts of Australia. Instead of looking forward to the thrill of the arrival in a new country, I became stubbornly resistant to the idea of the unfamiliarity of the culture, learning another language, having no friends or family around, eating too many bowls of noodles, unpredictable weather, mosquito bites, smelly clothes, cold showers, my very heavy backpack... and no Harrison. Adventurous Squirrel was on sabbatical and this mental whining session lasted through my 9 hour flight, a 6 hour layover, another 2 hour flight and all day in the bustling city of Vientiane. It thankfully ended the moment I hopped on a bus and headed to Phoudindaeng (don’t try to pronounce it) Organic Farm in Vang Vieng. About the farm (from the website): The farm is located in the village of Phoudindaeng, about 3 km north of Vang Vieng in northern Laos. It is perched on the banks of the Nam Song river amidst the jagged limestone mountains that surround the Song River valley. Vangviang Organic Farm was founded by Thanongsi Soangkoun in 1996 with the goal of introducing organic farming methods in an
area where chemicals and deforestation were ruining the land. He wanted to lead by example, showing that organic methods could be profitable as well as healthy. He also wanted to assist the local people through community projects supported by the profits from the farm.
I love this photo but can't take the credit. From fellow volunteer Andrea...
Today, the farm is a vibrant center for a variety of projects that center around the organic production of mulberry trees, along with organic fruits, vegetables, and poultry for the restaurant that adjoins the farm. The mulberry trees provide leaves to feed to the silk worms, plus mulberry tea, mulberry wine, and mulberry shakes. Wages support the many villagers who work there and the profits provide assistance for the whole community. And, amidst all this activity, there is a steady stream of foreign visitors who come for the quiet relaxation, the opportunity to work on an organic farm, and to teach English to a room full of excited children. Volunteers often come for a few days, and then stay for weeks...
Upon arrival I immediately felt an odd familiarity and comfort I can't describe. I’m greeted with friendly faces, a bowl full of Harvest curry, and a glass of hibiscus tea. My accommodation
Volunteers help locals to build their 'mudbrick" houses
is a quaint little wooden bungalow on stilts alongside a field of mulberry bushes. From my window are spectacular views of the mountains and the Nam Song river. The scenery is magical. I signed up to volunteer at the organic farm several months ago, and was already scheduled to begin work immediately (like, as soon as I finished the Harvest curry). I start my day about 6am and finish around 8pm. It’s long hours, but it doesn’t feel like work. Funny how that is when you enjoy what you do.
And there is plenty to do on the farm; cleaning the animal stalls/feeding the animals, picking mulberry leaves, weeding, gardening, helping out in the restaurant kitchen, building mudbrick houses and lots of English classes. But I have to say, my favorite is running the little bar at the foot of the river Nam Song, details on a separate blog.
There are always a handful of volunteers coming and going from all over the world, I am refreshed than only about 1 in 20 are American, not that I have anything against my own country, but because I love to engage in the multi-cultural conversations that are as diverse
Me & The Kids
7am and everyone's wide awake.
(now awaiting mom's email that warns me against foreign farm animal diseases)
as they are unpredictable. Yesterday I looked around the table and noted that there were 2 people from Germany, one person from France, one from Belgium, one from Sweden, one from New Zealand, and one from England. Why it’s like a UN conference. We do have a few key things in common. Everyone has some knowledge of the English language, we all want to contribute our time to the farm or community in some way, and we all definitely love the mulberry fruit shakes.
There are more photos below