There isn’t much to do in the Village of Ban Thappan, where I’ve spent my time since the 2nd of January, at least not in the conventional senses. And that’s a good thing. The people here live a lifestyle that revolves around family, food, nature, and simplicity. There’s no bar here, no library, no theater, not even an ATM. And now, I too have fallen into that regular routine.
My mornings, aside from the odd one where I head to town, consist of writing and phone conversations with friends, an early breakfast with the park staff, followed by a couple of hours manning the reception desk or sitting in the garden by the waterfall, giving tours to those who pass through. Somewhere in the middle of this I switch from the desk to the garden or the garden to the desk, stopping for a lunchtime sandwich along the way. Of course in both my posts I have a significant amount of down-time which has allowed me to pick up reading for pleasure once again.
I’ve been reading at a pace of about one book a week and I hope to keep this up. So far I’ve finished, Superfreakonomics, American Gun, and Theodore Roosevelt: an Autobiography. If you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them.
When the park closes and my time in the garden or at the desk comes to a close. I sit down with the other volunteers and we have some tea and a bit of cake and discuss the day. There is usually some odd event of nature that takes place in the garden that none of use have ever witnessed. Yesterday it was the formation of a Euploea core pupa and the mating dances of two Papilio memnon. Of course we also discuss the guests, both good and bad.
Sometimes after our tea we take a hike to the top of the Kuang Si Waterfall and meditate or go for a swim in the river, or go shopping for supplies in the village. Yesterday, we ventured a bit further into the village to play catch with my co-volunteer’s frisbee and came across the local soccer pitch where it seems that the preteens from all around the village come after school to practice some sport. You could tell the contrast in class between the children. Some sported the latest soccer cleats and authentic jerseys while others, great athletes, danced around the ball in flip-flops. What really blew my mind was that some of these 10, 11 and 12 year-olds were already smoking. But I suppose it’s a different culture. I’m going to town today, and I think I might buy them a new ball, as the one they have is torn to shreds.
As the sun begins to set I hop in the shower to wash off the day’s grime. Afterwards we begin cooking dinner, which always ends up being some strange assortment of western foods blended with Asian spices. I have to say. It isn’t terrible. We’ve made vegetable lasagna, chicken dumplings, veggie stirfry, tomato-eggplant sauces, veggie tempura, and slutty-brownies among other things. The process is absolutely enjoyable. Here I can just cook. There’s no time limit. I don’t have to worry about meal prepping for the week and I can spend as much or as little time in kitchen as I want. And the scarcity of ingredients makes it a nice challenge. There is a special feeling of accomplishment that comes from successfully making a dish with an ingredient that you had to travel 54 km on the back of a tuk tuk to acquire.
Once dinner is done and the dishes from the day are cleaned, its completely dark. We head back to our bungalows for the night. Usually we gather in one, under mosquito netting for a movie night before heading to bed around 10 pm. By 5am the roosters are singing their morning song and it’s time to wake up and do it again.
I don’t know that I would want the rest of my life to be like this. But I have to say there’s something refreshing in the routine. This one will only last another week before I dive into a new country with a new language and a very complex history: Vietnam. So I think I do my best to just enjoy this break.
Until next time,