It’s cold and wet here. Unusually so I am told. Floods in Qld before we left, earthquakes in NZ and Japan, it feels like the planet is trying to shake us off like a fleas off a dog.
But I woke up this morning to the sound of gurgling water. After arriving at HEPA in the dark of night what a surprise to see a river not a stones throw from out hut. It may be wet and cold, but this place is truly beautiful. One of the goals of HEPA is to allow people to live in harmony with nature and they have chosen a great place to do it.
To a degree we are guinea pigs here as we are the first lot of foreigners (other than Dave, Joni and Robert who have been here for a while) to come and stay for an extended period. As such it has been a learning process for the SPERI/HEPA staff about what to tell people to bring, what to expect etc. For example gum boots and raincoats are a necessity here at this time of year, as is winter clothing, and I mean like going to the snow winter clothing! Well it’s not that cold but as it is quite humid it feels colder than it really is.
My feet were soaked and cold for the first few days until we had some boots brought in. Nights are particularly cold so some thermals and probably a good quality sleeping bag would have been great. But we have plenty of blankets and we built a fire in the hut – yes, an open fire that is pretty much just a slab of clay in the middle of a timber hut. But the locals seem perfectly comfortable with this and have been doing it for a long time so who am I to argue?
There is no chimney, the smoke just goes up and out the ventilation in the roof except if the fire isn’t lit properly, it can then get a bit smoky in here.
Living in a community is an interesting experience. Our house is still being finished (no toilet yet). So, meanwhile we are sharing space in House number 2 (there are 3 houses in this compound so the imaginative names House 1, 2 and 3 are used).
Some partitions have been constructed but they are very thin and only about two meters high so there is very little privacy. But everyone is very nice and everyone gets along fine. In our hut we have Cassy and Sai in one room, Tia and me in another (the twins alternate between me and Cass). Then we have Paula and Tyo her son in another room, and one room was used by Lawry and Jessica but they have now gone to Simacai (another farm near Chinese border) where they will be teaching English so Djit gets her room back. We also have Ryan, Vin, Djit and Huong living here in house 2 with the occasional ring in, for example Anong (Lao student) has been crashing here lately. Jasmine is in House number 1 with Eva. Eva is like the queen bee of HEPA. She is from Spain and has worked with aid organisations such as Geenpeace and other intentional communities for a very long time. She is the organiser/manager/instigator of song and dance, and just an all round awesome person. She is the one on the far right in the photo above.