This journey begins on 8th July 2015. I am travelling with 6 lovely Boy-Girl Scouts from France to Maab Aung Agri-Nature Learning Center, located in Chonburi just one hour drive from Bangkok. This camp called “Agri-Nature Camp”. We expect to learn about agriculture in Thailand and how to live with nature as primary objective. However, we learn more than that.
This learning center is built to follow the King Rama IX’s sufficient economy theory on agriculture and nature living which also combines non-formal school and temple in one place. This is concept of community, temple and school as one called “บวร” in Thai.
We arrive at night time so we can’t see much on the first day just straight to accommodation (Earth House) and sleep. But, when I wake up, I am surprise with nature around us. It’s so green, truly nature within the city. This place has an area of 16 acres. I am more surprise to know that this land is used to be as hard as rock that no one thinks it can grow anything. Today it is a little forest.
During our camp, we are working with Thai volunteers and students. We divide into four groups to join morning routine with students. Morning routines start from 6 a.m. until 8:30 a.m. There is cooking, gardening; cleaning temple area and walking with the monk for food offering rotate it respectively. We practice Buddhist way of life to have peace of mind. We have breakfast in the temple with big buffet from food that villagers offer to the monk. We eat on the floor. We put everything (food and dessert) in one bowl and eat with one spoon or hand. After finish eating, everyone has to give a bowl to teacher to check that there is no single grain of rice left behind. They value rice as the most important part of living. Students here have learned to grow rice by themselves to know its value.
Our first activity is rice planting. Some volunteers do not want to step in the rice field (can see from their face expression). I do not want to encounter with snake or leech in the water and it is only my imagination. It is safe to plant the rice.
Second activity is building earth house. We have to make earth brick by combining soil, sand, water and rice paddy with our feet (I think of it as feet massage) and put it in mold and left it dry for a week to be ready to use. There are bricks which ready to use so we start to build the wall up. You don’t need to be an architect to make it, everyone can do it. It is easy, simple and the most importantly low cost with materials that you can find around you in nature.
Third activity is packing natural fertilizer for sell. We fill 35kg for one pack and we need to make total of 100 packs. It might be difficult job for one, but as we work together, we can finish in a few hours. The hard part is that we have to do it under the sun seems like no cloud that day, the ray is very strong. We need a long (lunch) break after that J
As it is a learning center so there are people from outside like villagers, organizations, schools, or companies come to stay overnight for workshops. We learn along with them. There are workshops for making natural fertilizer, charcoal, soap and shampoo. It is something I learn in middle school before, but never use it in real life. It is quite useful in bad economy situation which you don’t have to depend on the market for everything. This place helps to teach people how to be self sufficient in this crazy world.
Furthermore, we join the class with students. Their classroom is nature around in this learning center, not a box of walls. We help to build a bench from bamboo for their classroom. It takes half a day to finish it though. I heard about non-formal school before, but never experience it. This school is from grade 10 to PhD, but they teach only one major subject which is “Sufficient Economy”. There are 4 students from Bhutan who come to learn about Sufficient Economy and will go back to their country to apply it. I am impressed to see people from other countries have seen the important of it.
We have a lot of free time to interact with students by sing a song, play music like guitar and drum, play table tennis, bike around the area and etc. Every single student here is talented in one way or another. We have a chance to watch two plays from them. One is from a novel written by our King and other is the landscape model which also created by our King Rama IX. The plays are fun and intellectual at the same time.
Before the last day in this camp, our French team has a night to exchange culture with students and teachers by cooking French food and dessert along with show and game. I love to eat so it is one of my favorite nights here. Everyone is so enjoy and does not want the night to end.
Good memories always stay in our heart.