By James Stewart
There is a certain sense of emotional and spiritual fulfillment that can only be obtained by walking barefoot along a rural, mud-covered road.
It lies in the softness of the sand and muck beneath your feet. It dances in the chorus of birdsong that mingles with the singing of crickets and the constant tittering of chickens. To you, it is new, it is exciting, and you breathe deeply of it, laughing loudly at the minor miracles around and above your head. To the denizens of Pun Pun Organic Farm, this feeling is a familiar one, and it is here that their hearts call home.
There is much to be said about Pun Pun, although I cannot touch on the contents of our stay there without mentioning the air. Make no mistake, I am not talking about the humidity, as there is more of that than many of us can stomach on a daily basis. Indeed, the air does tend to claw at your skin like a slow itch, and there is rarely a moment throughout the day when you aren’t experiencing some level of bodily sweat. We’ve been traveling through Thailand for almost a month now, so this sensation is nothing new to us.
I mean to say that there is a strange sense of simple comfort; when you stop and take a moment to look around Pun Pun, you are able to appreciate it for what it truly is. This unintended community of hard-working people has taken up the ideals of communal living, mindfulness of ourselves and others, as well as maintaining an intimate relationship with the land.
The air seems to be suffused with this idea of a small utopia, and I found myself smiling on multiple occasions when considering this aspect of Pun Pun.
Our days were structured into segments: in the mornings, we’d eat breakfasts ripe with fresh fruits, rice, and various baked goods, then the group would engage in anything from brick making (a messy but, ultimately, enjoyable task) to natural building, which involved refurbishing an earthen home with our bare hands (coupled with homemade paint and gloves for safety). Lunch would arrive not long after, and we would then find ourselves learning from Pun Pun’s residents, my favorite of which involved candlelit dance therapy in the earthen meeting hall.
Each day, our group would be split into smaller teams that we stayed with throughout the week. During this time we would engage in community work, which included feeding and milking the cows, feeding the chickens, and assisting in the garden and kitchen. I particularly enjoyed the cows, both of whom seemed to view me with enviable disdain—at least until I brought them their food (then they loved me!)
Our living spaces were modest and comfortable, although there did seem to be a significant problem with bugs, spiders, and the like later on in our stay. The people at Pun Pun are remarkable; I struggle to think of anyone I’ve met back home who shared the same sense of community and awareness, not just of the environment, but of themselves, as well.
I relished all of my interactions with the locals. Peggy and Joe, the founders of Pun Pun, carried themselves with a light and liveliness that was infectious. Wherever they went, smiles soon followed.
I never consider where my food is coming from. Not once can I remember thoughtfully reading a label, or making sure what I was buying was humanely prepared or produced. Their relationship with their food was almost romantic, in a way; they showed great respect to the earth and its gifts, and the earth respected them in kind with good food, and a peace of mind that you cannot purchase in a supermarket.