I sleep in and feel like the laziest volunteer on this side of the Nam Kong river. I will do double dishes later.
After a quick breakfast of tea I head to the ditch we created the day before to assist with the brick making. We chop the straw first into smaller pieces, using tools that make me feel like a warrior with a mighty sword. I am in battle with the hay! The straw is then placed into the trench with some rice and water and the dance begins. We slosh and mash the earth into the water, hay, and rice, creating a soft stew. It feels delicious and gooey and we move around the trough until all is combined, to freely play in the mud is nothing less than a childhood dream. The slop is then tossed by hand into wheel barrows and then moved to the tarps where it is placed into molds, a process that takes quite a bit of time as there is only one mold (which makes three bricks per filling). We fill the frame, lift it gently, fill it again, repeat. The bricks take 30 days to properly dry.
We rinse down at the riverside and then head to lunch where we fill our bellies again with lovely nutrition. Plates of spicy papaya salad with peanuts, crisp green salad with mulberry dressing, yellow coconut curry filled with long beans, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, lemongrass, basil, tofu, steamed local fish in banana leaves, rice paper spring rolls with pineapple chili sauce, traditional noodle soup, sticky rice, fruit shakes of mango and banana, iced mulberry and hibiscus tea. Rainbow organic sustenance. You can taste the love.
There is a wonderful couple from Belgium at the farm I have passed countless times in Pai and Luang Prabang, a dread-locked Israeli visits as well whom I chat with for a long time about travels, community, passion. And most amazingly, there is the sister from Columbia. One month ago in Chaing Mai Thailand I waited at one Wat to see if I could attend the (longer) meditation course and was told that space would only be available if one woman did not show up who was intended to arrive the day before. The woman did show and I therefore headed to the other Wat for a different meditation course. The tardy woman was now present here at the farm and staying in the room across from mine. It is a perfectly small world. She too has been traveling for months after losing her job and ending her marriage, all guided by her heart.
The growing tribe at the Organic Mulberry Farm is filled with beautiful souls, all eager to serve, each sharing unique gifts.
At 5pm we head to the school 1 km from the farm, a shoddy building with four classrooms filled with eager Laotian children of various ages. The intended lesson of the day is learning pronouns but being that the level of English was quite low, the notion of understanding pronouns was a far stretch from reality. Each child stood up and spoke their name and age, where they were from, and sometimes, if they had siblings or not. It was a bit challenging for some but they were all smiles regardless of their skill. They asked my age and where I was from. We drew lots of pictures on the chalk board to explain different parts of the sentence…I gave them more of a basic lesson about verbs and subjects, areas still in the process of attaining a sense of understanding. Learning a foreign language is difficult for all…I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to learn Lao. The kids and I read a book out loud, a game that includes guessing the animal after a few given clues. The class is a sea of roaring laughter after a correct response. We sing twinkle twinkle little star together before the class concludes and another begins, this session with students a bit older but just as novice. The same lessons, equal fun.
As I intend to shower to cleanse the mud, sweat, and tears (of JOY) off my body, I am instead pulled into a Lao Lao liquor fete. The farmers are celebrating the days work with homemade banana whiskey. It burns down my throat and I cannot commit to a second despite elaborate peer pressure. An offering of crispy chicken feet to munch on is courteously declined. The guys are too kind.
Another evening of family dining in the open aired restaurant area with colorful fresh food and Lao beer. Conversation flows with love and light before much desired rest. Dream time.