Archive for December, 2011
Despite the ubiquitous crowds of drunk and stoned foreigners watching endless Friends re-runs, Vang Vieng is still a place of beauty. You just have to have the time to look for it. Other than the Organic Farm, my favorite parts of Vang Vieng were the caves and swimming holes.
The neighborhood in which I grew up was one of those communities that really came together during the holidays. Almost every single street had its own representative Christmas figure which was placed in front of each of the houses on that street. One street used candy canes, another had snowmen, and so on.
As you may recall, my two concrete goals for this Southeast Asian journey were 1) to meditate in Myanmar; and 2) to volunteer at the Vang Vieng Organic Farm.
The first goal I accomplished to my satisfaction back in July, and since then I had been eagerly anticipating my stint with Mr. T in Vang Vieng.
Years ago, a friend of mine volunteered here and had the time of his life, working with a bunch of village kids to build a community center out of mud bricks. I am happy to report that the community center is in good shape and still a beloved activity area for local children.
I was hoping to spend some time in the quiet countryside and learn basic organic farming techniques. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed the first day I arrived.
In the last couple of years, locals have built a row of tubing bars along the river just downstream of the Organic Farm. These bars blast deafening western pop music from about 11 AM to 5 PM everyday, sending tangible vibrations through all matter, living or not, within a several hundred meter radius. It was impossible to concentrate, relax, or enjoy myself with the thumping bass and sickeningly catchy melodies constantly forcing themselves into my eardrums. Even my trusty earplugs were no use.
The organic farming front wasn’t much better. It was the end of rainy season and not much planting or harvesting was going on. All I could do was help take care of the goats – which turned out to be even more fun than it sounds.
First thing every morning, we’d get up to sweep goat shit. The goats live in a raised structure with cracks between the wooden boards, allowing their pellets to be swept onto the ground below. Once the poop is on the ground, it is swept up and placed into earthworm composting tubs. Every few months, the contents of the tubs are emptied and used for fertilizer.
And here, the story of our goat cheese begins.