After a relaxing visit to the beaches of Koh Lanta, we headed to the small, rural village of Pak Song, Thailand for our second volunteering gig. We volunteered with a wonderful organization named DinDang, which means red clay in Thai. DinDang is a natural building center, where the owner, Bow, is building clay houses to show the local people how to build sustainably using their natural resources. It was an incredible experience, where I accomplished things I previously didn’t think possible – I scaled steep mountains to carry down cut trees and picked coffee beans covered in biting ants.
If a picture speaks a thousand words, how much does a movie say? See below for a video adventure of our time at DinDang!
SERENADE AT DIN DANG
Our first night at DinDang was magical! Thai food buffet with our new volunteer friends followed by a live French brass band. Wait, what? No, you read that right. We were serenaded by a French brass band that was traveling around SE Asia volunteering. It was AWESOME!
WORKING AT DINDANG
We had a really cool week at DinDang where every day was different. The first day we helped repair an arch with a clay/straw mixture. The second day, I got to mix mud, Lucille Ball style. Check out the video!
– Day 3, we scaled a steep mountain to bring down cut trees, and then skinned the bark off the trees.
– Day 4, we used the trees to make a roof/floor for the next level of the clay house. Check out the workers putting a platform in the clay house before we assembled the roof/floor with wood and clay.
-Day 5, we went to Bow’s organic coffee and bettle nut plantation to harvest coffee cherries and bettle nuts. Those ants in the picture below lived in many of the coffee trees. Unfortunately for me and Emma, I pulled an ant nest on top of us as we collected coffee beans – an experience I don’t think either of us will soon forget. Sorry Emma!
Although collecting the coffee cherries and being bitten by ants was definitely my least favorite experience of the week, I am grateful for the awareness it brought me. I got to see first hand, very first hand, what it means to have an organic plantation. When no pesticides are used, ants can make their homes in the coffee trees. That means that whoever harvests the coffee gets a fair share of ant bites for their efforts. It also means that the rivers beside the plantation are clean, and happy little frogs and fish and bugs can make their homes there. Next time you order an organic coffee and pay the extra $1 for it, think, perhaps, that you are paying for someone’s ant bites, maybe even mine, and for those happy little froggies to live in the river by the farm.
BOW AND THE BEST SONG
Bow is the owner of DinDang. He is a passionate person who is doing his part to save the world by sharing his ethic for simple and sustainable living with volunteers and the local community. Bow is an inspiration, an example of someone who has a dream and is working very hard to make it come true. Here is a short video of Bow singing to the volunteers a sweet Thai lullaby. It became our favorite song.
What always makes the experience? For me, it’s the people! We met a wonderful group of volunteers at DinDang – Astrid, Emma, Julian and Jessie. Here we are being silly and dancing in the truck on the way to the coffee plantation. This, of course, will be in the much anticipated, and upcoming music video.
For those of you planning a trip to Thailand, here are some words and phrases that I learned at DinDang that have come in useful:
- Hello/Bye – Sawad D kah/krab (Female/Male)
- Thank you – Kap khuen kah/krab (F/M)
- Not spicy – My pet
- Toilet – Hong-nam
- Thank you for bringing the food – Kap khuen saam rap ahun kah/krab (Female/Male) [this phrase we used 2x a day at DinDang. We sang it loudly before each meal to praise our wonderful chef who cooked us delicious Thai food every day]
Now we are off to Chiang Mai for some vacationing, cooking classes, elephant viewing and temple visiting!