We’ve been living at Panya for about a month now, so we figured it was past time for an update! When we first got here, we set up camp in the dorms. There are two housing buildings right next to each other when you first arrive at Panya. They each have rows of dorm beds on the top floor and private rooms on the ground level. For the most part, people that are staying for Panya for a short time stay in the dorms, and long-termers stay in the private rooms. Since all of the private rooms were taken when we arrived, we were temporarily put in the dorms.
The first few days were mostly spent getting to know our surroundings and the people we were going to be living in the community with. Right now, there are 3 people that are currently sort of ‘running things’ that have been living at Panya for several years. Their names are Ben, Kyle, and Lola and they have been living here for several years teaching courses and maintaining the farm. Kyle and Lola also have a 4 month old baby girl and have just finished building a new house for the 3 of them! We happened to arrive at a time where a bunch of long term volunteers were leaving so it was a little chaotic with all of the comings and goings. We have now gotten used to the routine of things and it’s feeling a lot more like ‘home.’ Currently, there are 4 interns (Joe and I, included) in addition to the course instructors. Sometimes there are more and sometimes less, it just depends on when volunteers come.
Two and a half weeks ago marked the beginning of a Permaculture Design Course, the first course that we have been present for. For the most part, the interns and volunteers continue going about their projects during the course, but we are also allowed to sit in on some of the lectures. There are around 10 students that have come for the course, so we have had to adjust our routine to having all the extra bodies around!
When a course is not in session, the residents of Panya are divided into four groups: Dinner, Lunch, Potwash, and Tidy. The chores rotate each day so that everyone is either cooking for the group or cleaning up. We try to use a lot of food from our garden and supplement it with foods from the market. It is always a vegetarian diet and usually vegan. We eat a lot of rice, as well. During a course though, a local woman and friend of the farm cooks lunch and dinner for all of the students and residents. That has been fantastic because not only do we not have to cook, she makes amazing food!
There are lots of creepy crawlies at Panya, including cobras, scorpions, and centipedes. There are also lots of tiny flies that buzz around your ankles 24/7. Oh, and mosquitoes as well. It was a bit annoying at first, but we’ve come to ignore it. We have seen 2 scorpions and a few snakes. The red centipedes can supposedly get really large but we’ve only seen little ones. Apparently the centipedes are the most painful out of everything you can get stung/bitten by, but the only thing you might need to seek medical attention for is a cobra bite. Last week, a yellow jacket (or some kind of formidable-looking, yellow and black stinging insect) got inside our mosquito net and stung me on the wrist. That’s been the only sting so far…but there have been lots of red ant bites. We have a lot of those as well. Oh, and termites. One night, there were so many flying termites buzzing around the lights in the kitchen, you could barely see across the room. There are also lots of beetles that fly around at night time. Some of them are literally 3 inches long and really fat. The geckos will hang out on the ceiling and catch them as they fly by, which can be quite entertaining.
There are two compost toilet facilities on site. One behind the dorms, and a large one across the road from the workshop. The one behind the dorms only has one toilet. The one near the workshop has four, but only two are used at a time, to let the other two have time to compost. There are also two male showers and two female showers next to the compost toilet. All of the soaps we use (for dish washing, personal hygiene, etc.) are natural and organic so that the water can be used to hydrate the gardens.
Although the farm can feel remote, we are only a 30 minute walk from the village where we can access wifi at a local internet cafe. And Chiang Mai is only about an hour away. There is a truck and a motorbike we can use to get to the market as well. There are also two reservoirs near by, a waterfall, and a canal. We go to the big reservoir to swim a lot, which is nice with it being so hot right now. Mostly, we have really enjoyed being disconnected and spending our days surrounded by natural beauty.
Now that we have spent a month helping out with other people’s projects and listening in on the Permaculture Design Course, it’s about time for us to decide what areas of the farm we want to focus on. I will be focusing on natural building and Joe is thinking about working on the food forest. We don’t have specific projects in mind, yet but we think those will be our areas of specialization for the remainder of our time at Panya. We have some idea we’ve been kicking around…hopefully we’ll have some cool stuff to share in a month or so.
We’ve been having a blast at Panya. The last month has absolutely flown by, and we’re looking forward to two more months of cracking down and starting some projects. We’re only a third of the way through, but can already tell it’s going to be tough when it comes time to leave. We are very grateful to be able to do what we are doing! Thanks for following, we’ll be in touch soon! 🙂