Monday, January 31

slow life

wow. so much to write, and i've been doing a lot of writing in my journals. hopefully to be transcribed at some point, but this is not it. internet time is too limited and too slow. i'm just over a week into the permaculture course and it's amazing. though, parts are a bit too hippy for my tastes in terms of community building. i spent a lot of money to be here and i want to be learning as much permaculture as i can. though in the past week we have built an earthen house. incredible. and wow.

so the above was from the time at the internet cafe and below is the actual entry from my journal...

Short day today. We started with testing paint colors on the kitchen. When they're dry Jim and Nao will pick which color blend they prefer.

Class with Robin began with offers and requests. I'm offering to read The BFG; wonder if anyone will take me up on it. Request for Thai and Karen language, massage, stories. So much to share in the remaining days.

We left the land at 4:30 for Sangkhla. Internet for the first time in 9 days wasn't as fulfilling as it used to be. Although, it appears that my mom has figured out how to reply to email. It was heart warming to have heard from her even though they were simple messages with no news from home. I sent her a long message which prehaps will insprie a more lengthy response.

The next two days are field trips of sorts. Rainbow Camp tomorrow - a gaterhing of groups focused on alternative education with no schedule, just play. I'm feeling the need for some alone time, so I've brought along my knitting. Although, maybe I should bust out my interacting ability because this might be a good time to network and lead me to other places in this big world.

Sunday, January 30


Rough night has led to a lazy day. There were garlicy snails at dinner last night that prehaps were not the best of ideas knowing that the river is used for everything here. I slept with earplugs in and kept waking myself up by moaning in my sleep. Severe stomach discomfort, I feel very unsettled. All of this combined with a splinter/infected place in my hand and my allergies bugging me. To complain just a bit more, today was the hottest day we've had yet. And apparently, I smell good to the flies. Enough of that, I'm sure it will pass.

We had more group development discussion this morning. I'm hoping everyone will continue to take personal responsibility for their own learning. Maybe this will involve not everyone being in class all the time and more individual projects. We covered lots today - swale building, contours of the land and on maps, aspect of the land. Exactly what I've been wanting.

Friday, January 28


Seems as though frustrations are running high. Robin seems to be dictated by her emotions which are being effected by nicotine and caffine withdrawl. She feels as though much of "her time" is being taken for other uses. I feel as though she uses a lot of her time on fluffy hippy stuff that doesn't seem completely necessary. Finding something in nature that describes how we feel that morning, reviewing ~everything~ from the previous day. I feel as if there is no way we will learn everything she has to offer. I feel that a lot of what we will learn will be very specific to Whispering Seed. I trust myself and my instinct enough to transfer that information; most of us here will be able to do that. I'm very curious as to why folks are here. It seems as though it's very divided. Some here for permaculture; some life experience (which I find very frustrating as it is taking away from my learning - get your life experience through LIVING every day, every moment), some here to work this land, help this cause specifically.

And this rant makes me seem very irritated. Honesttly, I'm not. I'm learning to be less of a control freak; knowing I have no control over this situation and just trying to live as I see best.

Wednesday, January 26

Arun Sewat

Arun Sewat - Sun rise - good morning. Got up at 7 and went for a long walk with Nehama, who has lived with Joy. We have many friends and communities in common. She is such a pleasure.

Tuesday, January 25

Bread for Breakfast

Jo made us bread for breakfast. A white bread that was dense and moist from being steamed to bake. Absolutely delicious. We also had fried rice for breakfast. I admit, I am craving a more western breakfast. I'd love just a bowl of cereal with a banana. OH - apparently there are five or six types of bananas here. The ones we've been eating are quite small and while sweet, they are not sugary sweet and tend to have a frim texture. Not firm like it's unripe, but firm like an al dente noodle. You have to be careful when you bite in as some have huge hard pebble sized seeds.

The morning session was with Robin Clayfield. She led one yesterday as well after our journey to the temple. Thus far her work has been group bonding and discussing learning styles and her way of teaching using Accelerated Learning and mind map methods. I understand where she's coming from, but a lot of it still feels very hippy too me.

We began to get into the foundation ideas of permaculture. So much is common sense. Is this how change will be brought about? By living the life? Sharing it with others? Seems like such a slow method. But all of this feels so natural to me. Getting back to the land. Living simply. Finding multiple uses for everything. Being surrounded by smiling, conent people whose lives are spent living rather than working. I feel like I need to take a year and spend it working with and on land with an intentional community, or maybe just on the ranch or up at the lair. Being in Asia feels very right to me as well. I am so glad I'm here.

Monday, January 24

Sunrise Service

We got up at 6:30 today to attend temple. Apparently 2 Mondays a month are a big deal at the temple. We all wore sarongs to show respect, though I'm not sure how respectful mine was as it kept falling off. We went to the temple and lit inscense in many places, listed to the village spiritual leader chant and then to the monks chant.

We were then invited to the spiritual leader's home. He had been given hotel toiletries years ago by other westerners and asked us what they meant, how they were special. He did want to believe our explanation that they were probably all they had to offer at the time. He'd been keeping a miniature sewing kit and shower cap for all these years, and it seems was going to continue to do so. He offered us bettle nut, those in our group desperate for some caffine or interested in experiencing a new thing, gave it a try. It appeared to be very similar to that in India. This is wraped in leaves, dyes your teeth and gums red, an instant nicotine type rush. Although, this I'm saying from observation not experience as I didn't try it in either local.

Breakfast was sauteed greens, rice, 2 meat stews (fish and chicken), black sesame chili paste and fresh sweet tamarind. My first experience with the sweet tamarind, sticky, a bit sour, peel the husk, don't eat the dark brown beautiful seeds; though the seeds can be dry roasted and turned to tea.

We continued work on the baandin kitchen/store room, it's almost finished. Amazing how fast it's going up. We've got the window holes created; two of the windows are arched windows, two in the storage area will have wooden frames put in and panes of wood and a glass bottle window decoration of layered brown and clear glass bottles. We have around 15 layers of bricks layed, in just two days!

Sunday, January 23

Check it out!

Bike Blenders - I want one for Burning Man!
KIeiwerks - an Asheville based earth building information website.

Today we set up our tents - home sweet home for the next month. Began baandin with Jo. Hundereds of bricks already made. Learn the texture of the mud to make more. Lay the foundation and build four layers of house. Clean ourselves in the river, where we're never allowed to be naked. Umm, how does one get clean if you're not naked? This is going to be especially for this girl who doesn't really buy into the idea of modesty. It's already immediately clear that the men don't have the same restrictions - walking around shirtless, bathing in their underwear in the river. One thing is certain, I will be talking to the local women about this double standard. I want to understand, to know how they feel about this.

Saturday, January 22

The road to Sangkla

Wonderful day of travel. Rather than taking the easy, expensive (150 baht) route of a taxi to the bus station, I opted for the 12 baht public A/C bus, which dropped me right at the station. Then another A/C bus to Kanchanaburi, a 2 hour ride, where they gave me cold water. I arrived just in time to catch the 12 o'clock public bus to Sangkhlaburi (often just called Sangkla). Open windows, open back door, turquois and teal walls, chrome ceiling, red-orange vinyl seats. It started with standing room only. By the mid point there were only 7 or so of us. It was a five and a half hour ride and I loved every minute. The change in scenery and smalls from dry and brown to the green in the hills along the river Kwai. The slow amble up and down hills and tight curves, the journey felt so much safer than busses in India. I never once had the thought that I was about to die. Upon arrival to the Sangkla bus "station" I took a motorcycle ride to the Whispering Seed office and even that felt safe if a bit painful with my pack on my back, small bag in the front and balancing side saddle.

Sangkhla is beautiful. The WS "office" is a deck over the Khao Laem lake. Gorgeous. We had a delicious Burmese dinner.

The cast of characters: Jim and Nao, American and Thai respectively, creators of the Whispering Seed, full time residents. Jane, Frank, Kinue, Aram, Megumi, Matthew and I all arrived around the same time. Victoria, Sarah (aka Nehama, Joy's former housemate) and Troy to arrive later. Together, we'll be the foreign component, Kinue is Japanese, Aram Korean and the rest of us American born. Man, Oat, Bou Loy, Phra Suradhat (a Buddhist monk) are the Thai contingent. There are Thai/Karen (one of the hill tribes) children around. Robin and Jo will be our permaculture and earth building (baandin) facilitators respectively.

The first night there are sounds of laughter, people getting acquainted, learning each others' languages. I am so excited for the upcoming month.

Friday, January 21

bye bye bangkok

another great day here. bangkok film festival is going on, so i went and saw a film today - a great way to escape the afternoon heat. saw chameli, an indian film that i don't recommend at all. then went for my clothes fitting. wowsa, i'm having some bad ass stuff made. expensive, but fun; and i figure since i never buy clothes at home, it's ok :) had a great dinner this evening with juan and emily; juan is a friend of joy's; it was big fun making new friends. when i come back through bangkok on my way out, i plan to stay with them and check out the bangkok night life.
tomorrow, i head to sangklaburi to begin the permaculture course. probably won't have much internet access, but i'll try to continue journaling.

Thursday, January 20

bangkok's tourist economy

I've been amazed at the sheer number of tourists here. People of all ages - you're "typical" round the world traveler in their mid to late 20s, then the folks my parents' age, in their 50s, either in the form of couples or men here for the sex tourism - so many large, older, white men with wee bitty young Thai women; it's very disturbing. I've heard there's a large gay community here, but I haven't seen it. there are also older travelers, in their 60s, prehaps 70s. it's a very easy country to get around, as i've said. the huge disparity between rich and poor that is so prevalent in India, isn't as true here. Bangkok has a thriving middle class.

I had a great day/night. I'm not very good at bargaining, spent too much for cloth to have made into clothes by a Miss Hong. I'm probably paying too much for that as well, but it's still far cheaper than having custom clothes made in the US. I'm having 2 shirts, one long coat, a skirt and a skimpy dress made. I came back to the hostel and went off with 3 other folks. We took a river boat as far north as we could go, to the next town, Nothaburi. We stumbled upon a food fair! Probably 50 booths set up selling different things. One had 5 different curries that you could get over noodles and then add cucumbers, bean sprouts, vinegared bananas and cabbage. I skipped that though and went for the stewed pork, predominately feet, but some flank as well, that was cooking in a broth, so tender it was falling off the bone, served on rice with a garnish of fried fat - the way I'm describing this it doesn't sound very good, but oh my! it was delicious. Then we got some pork sate, a wonderful pork sausage that was packed full of fresh ginger, lemon grass, and chilis. There was a cucumber salad. After all this, it was time for some sweets. I tried a barley (huge grains), corn and tapioca type thing topped with a salty coconut milk; it was weird, but good. We also got a purple rice, fresh coconut sweet thing. Later a gelatenous ball filled with a toasted coconut and brown sugar concoction that was so good. Boy, what a food night!

I finished the evening off with another Thai massage; found one for 200 baht an hour. This one involved a lot more of the contortion and pounding of my knots, constantly toeing the line between pain and pleasure, but I feel great now. No definite plans for tomorrow, beyond my fitting at 5. Hopefully, I'll be able to get together with Joy's friend who lives in Bangkok. I still need to get a towel and prehaps a blanket, but I'd rather count on my sleeping bag to be enough. Ooh, I know what else I want to do, have my teeth cleaned. Much cheaper to do it here than back home where I lack dental insurance. Yes, even abroad, one shouldn't neglect their gums.


India is the only comparison I have to make, Mumbai (Bombay) to Bangkok, there is no comparrison. Life/travelling is so much easier here. It's definitely cleaner, water isn't a concern (in Bangkok anyway). There are far less touts, people wanting to take you to "their friends " or "the best hostels" or "this temple is closed you should go buy jewelry". I'm not constantly wondering who will be next to hassle me.
Yesterday was my first full day here. I spent several hours at the national museum learning about Thailand's history. From their I headed to my first wat, or temple. Wat Po is home to the reclining Buddha which is so much bigger than I could have imagined. At least 10 times my height and probably 150 ft long, shining gold immense. The temple buildings are all covered in mosaics of gems, statues everywhere and it's home to the Thai massage school. For 300 baht, less than $10, I got an hour long Thai massage. There wasn't nearly as much contorting of me as I'd expected, although it did end with a spinal twist that popped all my vertebrae, ahhhh!
I also had my first encounter with street food in the form of a rather tame mango with sticky rice. Today, I'll eat street food for lunch, maybe a rice porrige. I also want to get a drink off the streets, they serve them in plastic bags with ice and a straw. Also today, I'm going to visit a tailor and have some clothes made, then off to China town for some thai pants and a sarong. I've had word from the program that it's been quite cold at night there and I'm afraid I might need some more warm pants, a hat at the very least. I think a sarong is in order as I can use that as another blanket to supplement my sleeping bag.

Monday, January 17

leavin' on a jet plane

I had a great night tonight, a fun going away pot luck where a bunch of friends came over, the landlord called and told us we weren't allowed to use any water (no bathroom, nothing) with all these people over because apparently the downstairs has been flooding for the past three weeks while those tennants have been away for the holidays. Regardless, it was a blast. Thank you to everyone who came over :)
So tomorrow, I'm taking off and thought I'd leave a general itinerary of where I'm going, what my plans are and for the sake of folks knowing where I'll be just in case.
* 19th - 22nd January I'll explore Bangkok, go see temples, have a Thai massage or two, potentially buy some funky clothes and pants, I'm staying at Suk 11 hostel.
* 22nd Jan - 22nd Feb permaculture course in Sangklaburi, Kanchanaburi Province, Western Thailand. Check out the Whispering Seed info page for details.
* 23rd Feb - 1st Mar This part is unclear. I'm going to go with the flow and see where I end up. I'd like to get over to Kho PhaNgan, or maybe I'll head to the rain forest, who knows?
Regardless, it will be an adventure :)

Saturday, January 15

almost a new woman

I slept through the night last night; didn't open my eyes to look at the clock once. I can't remember the last time that's happened. Certainly not in the past year. Wow. Congestion is still here, though not as bad and i can stand without it giving me a headache. Happy days! I've been watching loads of movies, most of which i own and have thus seen before, some of which Rae has brought home to me. Ones to note Wimbledon romantic comedy with Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst. He's hot (you get to see his bum!), I like her, it's British and it's funny. Rae also brought home A Knight's Tale, I'm not even going to include an IMDB link for that one, because it's not very good. Although, it also has Paul Bettany, and again you get to see his ass; he's the redeaming feature playing a hilarious Geoffrey Chaucer with a gambling problem. It's a sports movie about jousting. Oh, but the girl who plays the love interest is gorgeous and she has cool make up, hair and costumes. What else? We watched Saved!
When a girl (Jena Malone) attending a Baptist high school becomes pregnant after having sex one time to ~save~ her good christian boyfriend who thinks he's gay, she finds herself ostracized and demonized, as all of her former friends turn on her
I really like that movie, maybe because I was raised in a Catholic family and now no longer consider myself to be such. Oh, and in case you've forgotten in 2 days, I leave for Thailand!!! Woo hoo!

Thursday, January 13

reclaiming my life

I was supposed to be on a Tokyo bound plane right now. Alas, yesterday, in a moment of feeling desperately ill, I changed my flight to Monday instead. I still think this was the right choice. It was only $100 and monies well spent. I woke up this morning with the realization that I had finally slept more than 1 hour straight. In fact I only woke up once during the night! I was very cough-y this morning, but I took a hot bath and said, loudly in my head, "Fuck you, cold! I want my life back." Rae has been taking such good care of me and I've felt like such a mooch. So I emptied the dishwasher, reloaded it, washed my sheets and pillow cases, took the compost out and went to the store for
- oranges and grapefruits
- jello
- chicken broth
- onion
- vapor rub
I also strayed from the list and bought some frozen garlic bread and egg noodles. Note that normally, I would find the jello and garlic bread disgusting, but I've hardly been eating and I feel like I should go with what sounds good. I think I'm going to go knit some more. While I was at the consulate, I made some good progress on adding the pocket to the hooded sweatshirt I'm making. It'd be nice to continue that.

Wednesday, January 12

to do

- fold laundry (done taken care of by loving housemate, rae)
- finish packing (will have to wait until i can bend over without my head hurting)
- go to work (i know, i shouldn't be working, but it's only for 2 hours)
- take another nap
- email friends about this site
- print off hotel confirmation for the first night in Bangkok, print flight confirmations
- remember the things i'm forgetting to do


number of hours i slept last night ... meybe 6, fitfully
number of hours i woked today ... 5, banging out 10 sheet pans (16"x30") of chocolate cherry brownies
number of burns incurred ... 2, if you count the hot tea spill later at home
number of medicines currently coursing through my body attempting to ease my congestion and kill whatever the fuck is attacking me ... 3
pairs of pants i'm wearing ... 2
number of times i've blown my nose and used my netty pot ... priceless. er, i mean infinite.

really, i'd inteded to list the itinerary of my trip to LA in search of my Thai visa, but I've got a sinus infection holding me down. It had better be gone by the time I fly out Thursday morning.

Monday, January 10

I'm off to see the consulate

the Thai consulate of LA

Sunday, 9th January
10:30 am Depart my house under beautiful sunny skies, drive down the street to the photo store to try and get passport photos taken - the last remaining preperation necessary for the visa. Alas, the store is closed on Sundays. Regardless get on 580 and head south east.

10:40 am Exit Lake Shore Ave to see if there are any stores there to do a passport photo. If there was one, it was closed.

11:25 am Exit Castro Valley, which appears to have a lot of strip malls. Go to a Rite Aid with a one hour photo, closed, cashier doesn't live there ?!? Ask the gentelman in line behind me with the watery red eyes who's buying a 1,75 L of plastic bottle vodka. He gives me directions that involve streets I've never heard of and a large, closed, liquor store. I drive around in vain for another 15 minutes, before returning to 580.

12:15 pm What was that I saw along the freeway in Dublin? A 24 hour Kinko's. Sweet! Weave my way back to it only to find that their camera is broken. They direct me to the UPS store and if that fails to the Safeway that's on the other side of the freeway. Well, the UPS store is closed, but Safeway was not. The woman at customer service take a close up of my head with her digital camera and 5 minutes later, I walk away, with 6 miniature me-s.

1:30 or so pm It begins to rain and continues to do so intermitently until I reach LA where it does so with feeling. It was pouring.

6:30 pm Make it to Wendy's and proceed to have a lovely evening eating and catching up.

Monday, 10th of January

6:30 am Wake up and get ready to head to the consulate.

9:02 am Arrive at the consulate to find a jack ass security guard on a power trip who won't let anyone in because the elevators aren't working and the consulate offices are on the 2nd floor.

9:30 am Consulate employees use the stairs (novel!) and head up to the 2nd floor.

10:00 am Those of us waiting for visas, 4 people, are allowed upstairs.

10:30 am Paper work is finished, I'm told to return tomorrow at 10:30. me "But I live in SF and am flying out Thursday" her "Then you should have come sooner" me "please, isn't there anything else" her "you can fill out this fed-ex form and have it priority overnighted - i'll mail it tomorrow" me "but that means you keep my passport, what if it doesn't return" her "that's up to the fed ex people" I go to fill out the form, give it to her, over hear the gentleman who was behind me, who's also in the same boat. As I'm walking away, she calls me back. her "if you copy your plane tickets and write a nice note, maybe the consulate will do it today" Are you kidding me??? Fine, I'll jump through your hoops. Get plane tickets copied, write the note
Dear Consulate Sir or Madam,
I am a resident of San Francisco who is flying to Bangkok on Thursday the 13th of January. I was unable to come to the consulate last week due to the closure of I-5 and work conflicts. I would greatly appreciate it if you could process my visa today. Sincerely,

Give letter and copies to the lady who tells me, "I still don't know. Call me in an hour."

11:30 Call consulate office. Her, "Come back at 3:30" Woo hoo!

11:30 - 2:30 Eat lunch, go get traveler's checks, go to the doctor as I feel I'm getting worse (little did I know how bad I'd get), return to the consulate's large waiting room as I have no desire to continue driving in the pouring rain looking for parking. See the visa lady at her desk, all our paper work in front of her, but her blinds are down. I start knitting, thinking maybe she'll see me and give it to me early. Well, she does see me and shouts "3:30!" I nod my head and continue knitting.

3:30 The blinds raise, I'm handed my visa and I hit the road.

9:00 I return home, mission accomplished!

Sunday, January 9

Will my luck continue?

I'm driving down to LA tomorrow in order to get my Thai visa. I'm going to stay with one of my cooking friends - she's going to cook me dinner which I'm very excited about :) Then Monday morning, I plan to be at the Thai consulate when they open at 9. If luck is still with me, they'll process my visa in a few hours and let me continue on my way. Why am I driving to LA to do this? Couldn't I have done it through some other correspondance? Prehaps, but I am unwilling to mail my passport anywhere. I know how these things get "lost" in the mail. And I'm not willing to lose my passport. Do you know how hard those things are to replace? Besides, after this, I'll only have 4 visa pages to go before it's full, and I think it'd be cool to fill a passport.

In an update on communicating with my insurance, yeah, so much for the vacation waiver. Basically I was told that since the prescription isn't more than $100/month, they won't allow me to pay my co-pay for the extra month. Instead, I have to pay for it and then submit a claim for reimbursment. Oh, and they called me at 10:30 in the evening to tell me this. Yes, I know, my insurance company actually followed through and called me back, but at 10:30 at night? Don't they have any sense of propriety?

Friday, January 7


I tend to feel as if I'm always packing, rarely ever completely unpacked. Although, this is nearing an end, as I'm almost entirely unpacked and set up in my new wonderful house in Oakland. But, now the packing has begun for Thailand. Am I taking enough? Am I taking too much? I have anti-histamines, decongestant for my ever constant allergies; anti-diarreahal and grape seed extract to aid in any malignancies my tummy may contract; an anti-malarial that will make me more sensitive to the sun (although, I wonder about this as I'm rarely sensitive to the sun with my dark olive skin), but regardless, sunscreen is packed, spfs 15 and a spray on 30 for my face. I just spent 10 minutes on hold with my stupid insurance trying to get them to give me 2 months of my BC ahead of schedule. I hung up in frustration at the wasted cell minutes, I'll try later from a land line to get my "vacation waiver." Let's see, what else? Bandages, antiseptic cream, anti-itch cream, have I forgotten any antis? I've got biodegradable soap (yeah, Dr. Bronner's Almond), shampoo, conditioner (repackaged into a 6 week sized amount rather than a whole bottle) and laundry detergent, nicked from our box at home. I suppose at some point I should pack some clothes and most importantly my camera. But that doesn't need to happen now.

Thursday, January 6

New Year, New Blog

Check, baby, check, baby, 1-2-3-4. Alright, it appears to be working, finally. I tried for oh, almost 2 hours to get this to work via ftp to my website, emily pleases us, but alas, no dice. So here we are. I decided to stop writing my own html for ease in updating while I'm abroad. I leave in a week for Thailand, where I'll spend 6 weeks, mostly with the folks at Whispering Seed taking a permaculture course. What is permaculture you ask? defines permaculture as:
A system of perennial agriculture emphasizing the use of renewable natural resources and the enrichment of local ecosystems.
The general over view from Whispering Seed
Beginning at the end of January 2005 we will be offering another training in sustainable models of living. This training will include a Permaculture, Deep Ecology and Earthcare Education, natural building workshop and will explore community building, weaving and spinning of cotton, natural medicines and alternative models of learning.
To me, I'm wanting it to be about sustainability, being organic. Living in such a way that we are conscious of the effect we are having. My hope is that when I return from Thailand I can find a job with one of the farming non-profits out here working with sustainable agriculture. But as with most things in my life, I'm going with the flow and we'll see what happens.