Chronologically reversed - seek out the older entries first.....
I met a man today whose story sums up the situation better than any words I can use. He is an Indian citizen who was in Nepal to look after his ill mother-in-law. With her insistence, he has left her behind (she’s too ill to travel) in order to escape for his own safety. People are succumbing to the natural survival instinct of ‘fight or flight’ – there is no way of fighting an Earthquake, so people are escaping instead. They believe that they are literally running for their lives. Due to the lack of comprehensive coverage in many villages, stories abound that the Earthquakes will continue for weeks, months, or even years. I have no idea how much truth is in this but, having spent some time with people here and, knowing their natural tendency for pessimism and exaggeration, I must acknowledge both the possibility that this may be true, or that it may be completely exaggerated. Either way, it’s enough to make people scarper.
Armed with a print screen of an email from the Indian Embassy, confirming my permission to travel through, I still met with resistance both sides of the border. Those who know me know that I’m not a fan of conflict, and hate confrontation but, when I know I’m right, I can, and will put up a fight. Anyways, I made it through to India, caught a flight from Bagdogra to Delhi, and another from Delhi to Bangkok. It is there that I now sit in a hotel room, working on fumes having not slept for 36 hours. I could have slept on the plane but, having secured a Business Class seat for the price of an Economy Class, I was determined to stay awake and enjoy the experience.
The pre-boarding lounge itself is an experience – buffet food and an invite to help myself to as much of any drink I fancied. Unfortunately, I was victim to discrimination, and had to have my boarding pass checked three times. No-one seemed to believe that a bearded man in flip-flops, muddy work trousers, vest, and backwards cap could possibly afford to fly Business class. I think I look rather dashing myself though, don’t you think? (see picture - I didn't like the beard at first, but it's really grown on me.....) I never thought there could be that much difference between the two – after all, it’s the same plane, right? I stand corrected. The food I had on that plane was the best I’ve had in almost three months – and served with a bottomless glass of complimentary wine.
On now to Thailand – a new tab again if, and when, there’s something to write about x
Despite the worry, a local wedding is still held this evening in the village, and we’re invited – or so we thought. On arriving, and realising that everyone’s eyes were on us, I turned to our host and our communication was as follows:
Me: “We were invited, weren’t we?”
Him: “Erm, not really – but they won’t mind.”
Me: “Really? I just walked to the buffet and helped myself to a massive plate of food”
Him: “Oh, erm… Just try to pretend it’s what you do in Weddings where you come from”
Me: “It is what I do – but only because I’m invited in the first place!”
He tried to convince me that nobody would have noticed but, being that I, and the other three volunteers were the only white people there, and the only ones not related to someone, I somehow doubt this was the case. Thankfully (nay, make that ‘worryingly’, given the news we’ve already had coming from Kathmandu), another violent shake of the ground caused panic and fear distracting attention away from us.
The ideal behind a permaculture farm, it seems, is a total integration of organic farming methods, in order to create an almost wholly self-sustaining operation. This stretches to the intricate planning of where everything is built, stored, fed, and planted. For example, one is required to pee in a different part of the farm than one poops, because both are collected for different purposes. One is asked to wash one’s hands in yet another part of the farm again so that the waste water from that habit feeds yet another plant, and so on.
The pee itself is collected in 100 litre barrels, and mixed with the leaves of plants less desirable to insects (e.g. Marigolds, Garlic, Mustard), and anaerobically fermented for a few months at a time. It is then used both as a liquid fertilizer and an insect repellent, by being sprayed on the plants. I’ll tell you this for free: not since I last travelled on an Arriva Wales train have I smelled something quite so disgusting as this concoction!
For supper tonight, we were served ‘fermented vegetables’. I began to ask how they were fermented before realising that, as there is no choice in food, and I have to eat them anyway, perhaps I’d rather never know exactly how they were made.
The farm I’ll call home for now is named ‘Almost Heaven Farm’. Having just arrived, I’m yet to decide if that refers to a heavenly way of life, but certainly it takes on a rather literal meaning. At an altitude of approximately 5000 feet, it rests amongst the clouds, and the freshness in the air can be tasted with each breath. At this point, I become suddenly aware of how embarrassingly unprepared I am for the cold climate that accompanies these heights. Neither flip-flops nor black work shoes are ideal garments for farming in the pi$$ing rain, and I’ll also now need to buy new work trousers and shirts before I re-enter the classroom. I might as well wear my tie to water the strawberries too, just to complete the look!
Children’s cartoons always seem to claim that clouds are soft, fluffy, and warm. Bollox! The clouds ghost through the windows every morning, spreading its Midas touch, giving everything it touches a cold dampness. Each morning I predict I’ll be doing the same: double checking if that damp patch in my bed sheets is really the cloud, or a return of that ‘little problem’ I suffered in my earlier years. It was a proud and happy day when I finally stopped wetting the bed. I remember it well – it was the best birthday present a 25-year old man could ask for!