Can’t Hold Back the Inundation


I step around the corner from the hospital and to find the compound buzzing with people. I walk up to the table and state that I am here to volunteer. In a moment I am part of the effort. I am offered a seat and a pen to sign in on the log. They pin a name tag onto my shirt. A long continuous line of people is pressing at the table to sign up. “Is everyone here to volunteer,” I ask. “They are,” the lady replies. I am amazed at the turnout of what must be fifty or sixty people waiting. I am soon to find out what pure manpower can do.
The lady who first welcomed me leads me through the procedure. “You can join this line here. This man will hand you a bag. As you move with the line, a person from each station will put supplies into the bag and they will be loaded onto the truck”. It’s a simple but effective sort of relay. The Red Cross is well organised and they know what they are doing. By the time each person gets to the end of the line, they will be holding a complete relief package that is quickly handed over, tied up, and passed onto the truck. Then it’s time to start over again.
For the course of the afternoon, I’m immersed in the continuous process of stepping from station to station, filling bags, and starting anew. In between I get a chance to chat to some of the people in line around me. As one of only three or four foreigners here, I’m somewhat of a rarity and the Thais in line are curious to chat to me. All sorts of people are here, from gangly teenagers in simple shorts and t-shirts to modestly dressed housewives to the kind of well-dressed women with silk skirts and hand clutches I would pass on the skytrain near a large shopping mall but wouldn’t expect to find here. And a common thread is running through people of the kind I don’t get to see in the city–a greater purpose pulling us together into action. As I pass my friend in the queue Priscilla I smile to her and we exchange a brief word. She’s been here each day and often stays until late in the night. The action of helping simply pulled her in, and her enthusiasm inspired me to come.
The bag is open: in drops a ten-pack of instant noodles, four cans of rice, a tin of vegetables and one of fish, candle wax, mosquito repellent, large plastic bags, a waterproof pouch–everything required for a flood-affected family. As I pass the full bag from my hands, an older man takes it rapidly, passes it to a station of swift-fingered bag-tiers, and it is conveyed through several teenagers onto the truck. Right now, the human chain is moving swiftly and the truck is gradually filling up.

I’m stepping away on sore legs into the sinking sun.
It’s been a full afternoon. We filled three trucks. I’m sitting in Lumpini Park, on the edge of a glimmering, lake, as the sun reddens and sinks behind a a line of Bangkok’s high towers. I’m watching the light’s reflection on the water, knowing that large parts of the city are covered in water much murkier than this. We can’t hold back the inundation, but what we can do is send out supplies.

Here’s an inspiring article that shows how one man’s rescue mission grew into an NGO called Thailand Direct Flood Relief.

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The Hills of Bulgaria are Alive with Drumbeats

Greetings from Bulgaria! Udavi Payanam has reached the high grassy hillsides of Trinoga, a lovely community I will tell you more about soon.

Trinoga is connected to Arecolonia, an art and ecological living project.

For now, heres a video of some amazing things they’ve been building here.

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Naya House: The Open Door

I’m blessed to have found the Naya House–a tranquil guesthouse and community set in a lush garden on an island in the Marmara Sea, Turkey.

Naya offers a door to finding your own truth, if you are ready to look for it. Meaning truth in Sanskrit, the Naya House is a place where you can relax, reflect or help improve your inner and outer surroundings.

You can stay as a guest in the beautifully refurbished 103 year old house, with each room custom designed like the four elements or do a work exchange, in which you can help in the garden, kitchen or activities like cleaning up the beach in return for accomodation in one of five tents provided on the hill. And these are very comfortable tents with nice thick mattresses.

Set in a lush and beautifully tended garden, Naya has a warm, fire-coloured kitchen, a green watered pond with little fishes that nibble on your toes, a yoga platform, a workshop, a combination spa and pizza oven, solar panels, a biogas system, a number of friendly fluffy cats, and an awesome fleet of bicycles we painted wild animal stripes and spots on. They have different yoga, meditation and painting classes each day of the week and in July they hosted a big group of artists for the Buyuk Ada art festival.

Ludwig, the inventor and creator of the Naya House, has designed and built custom furniture in the rooms, built the combination spa and pizza oven and biogas system and is planning next to dig channels to direct the flow of water down the hill.

enter. naya. bloom.

We uncover the most profound truths behind leaves and under stones and in simple tasks like chopping wood and carrying water.

What did the stableboy do when he saw the face of god?          He returned to the stable.

Profound realisations cause us to do the same tasks with acute consciousness.

As Ludwig said, the greatest teacher around is the tiny kitten playing in the blades of grass, for the pure joy in existence he expresses.

When we came to Naya we were given a mission: beautify this beach. So myself, my brother and a merry band of Lithuanians we met on the ferry went by bicycle up the coast of the island with a big stack of rubbish bags and did an awesome little cleanup campaign. Plastic bags were clogged in the dry grasses down the cliffside to a small pebbly beach and styrofoam peices had washed into crevices in the rocks. We filled ten bags and convinced two Turkish guys who were there to also start picking up, and they left with two full bags. When we left the sun was setting over a much more beautiful beach.

To get to the Naya House: From Istanbul you can go by ferry to Buyuk Ada (the Big Island). Fast ferries take 30  or 40 minutes and cost 7 lira; slow ferries take 90 minutes and cost 3 lira. Buyuk Ada is the last stop. From the terminal its a 20 minute walk: you go left along the coast, cut through town to the main road (which you cant miss because its streaming with bicycles and horse drawn carriages), then walk up the hill until you see a gate with a peacock and sign for Naya.

Come with a sense of exploration and leave inspired!

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stalks of wheat that stir in the wind

I discovered the Düşler Akademisi or Dreams Academy, a school that provides classes theatre, rhythem, dance, photography, djing, painting and design for a full range of creative expression for disabled children. Their aim is to make art, and jobs, accessible for disabled people. We had a very short time to cross some very large distances in Turkey so we didnt get a chance to we are calling on you for that. They’ve just been donated a great big building to build a production studio and a house for volunteers. Over 1,000 volunteers have already come from around the world and they are looking for more.

What volunteers can do at the Dreams Academy:

-teach classes during the school year

-help at a yearly summercamp on the sea near Izmir in July/August

-help at weekly workshops

I also came across the wonderful Bugday Association, a network of farms all over Turkey that stands up for ecological values.

Tatuta offers 69 farms to stay/volunteer at all over Turkey, yay! I would love to visit all of them.

Read the story of an Englishwoman who found love, spontaneity and ecological living in Turkey and how she learned to harness the wind and the water on Dedetepe Farm!

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All the Potential of Europe and Asia…

Reached Istanbul by land. This city, with its beguiling blend of east and west, ancient and contemporary, and as a cultural crossroads continues to astonish. This year’s European Capital of Culture and at the same time, the last outpost of Asia, I have a feeling I will make some great discoveries here.

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Admiring the Greenery in Greece

It takes an hour and a half to cross the Medeterranean by air. But to do so is to cross into another world. One of the biggest culture shocks of crossing from the Middle East to Western Europe was the sudden cleanliness in the streets. Athens in the middle of the night is such a clean and well-lit place!

Then I sighted a glossy, sleek structure on the street corner like a tiny rectangular building with no doors. It was a recycling kiosk. You just drop your waste in and its compartments allow for several different types of waste and provide a few euro cents in return. A beautiful innovation.

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Udavi Payanam Reaches Egypt–By Boat

Snorkeling the Red Sea–just below the surface of the clear, salty water a bright reef shimmers, parrot fish weave between corals, anemones wave with the current and–whats that?–a transparent, sinister shape floats into view. It’s a plastic bag. I scoop it up, and all of the other plastic bags I come across, and take them to an onshore bin. The friend I am snorkeling with is aware of this problem too and has done the same in the past. So at least two of us clean up the plastic we come across–what kind of reef would it be if everyone else did the same? It’s time to start a trend.

We raise the Udavi flag in salute to learning from history and to all things new and possible.

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Highlights, Jordan

Amman is not known for being green, and recycling, for the majority of people, is still as yet a shadowy concept. And yet, we of Udavi Payanam found plenty of ecological projects to get involved in.

Here are the highlights:

Attending the Think Green Conference and learning about the current thinking on ecology in the Middle East.

Volunteering with Entity Green Training, a recycling company that trains hotels in recycling, creates new products from recycled materials and has started a new recycling collection centre.

How I helped: By researching for a report about community attitudes towards scavengers and building prototypes of products from recycled materials.

Visiting the Aqaba House, a green building and ecolodge specially designed to maximise natural light, use shading, and solar cooling to reduce energy consumption. It is the first ecological building in Aqaba.

Discovering the Creative Co-op of Reuse, a program run by the Life Centre, Aqaba that trains at-risk women in the production of jewelry and handicrafts from recycled materials.

How I helped: By trading ideas of similar projects and writing an article to get the word out.

Discussing ideas with the Couchsurfing Jordan Environment Group, and finding lots of ways to promote ecological action.

Jordan has developed very rapidly and Amman has quickly lept to become a world-class city–I think its more than ready to also be a sustainable and ecologically-minded city. I met a lot of hardworking and inspiring people there who are making a change. From this, I see a lot of potential for Jordan.

If YOU, the reader, find yourself in Jordan, check out these places and contribute your own steps to change!

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recycled material takes form

Using one side of a juice carton as a base, I constructed a purse from recycled fabric that I had collected in India. From a few scraps that would have otherwise been thrown away something substantial emerged…

photo coming soon.

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Activate. CS Jordan Environmental Group. Let citrus juices flow across the desert.

Get aware
Get involved
Last week we called a meeting of the Couchsurfing Jordan Environmental Group to discuss the current environmental issues that we’re facing and plan activities for the coming weeks.
A few critical environmental issues we’re facing in Jordan–
-water shortages and misuse
-recycling, the lack thereof
-littering and lack of awareness
-vandalism of the caves
Challenges–just cleaning things up is not sustainable, because people will grow complacent by expecting cleanup efforts to continue without their imput. At the least you need to clean up, pull schoolchildren, and a wide range of community members into the process, and leave behind a sign that encourages people to leave the place nice. Maybe on the first few days post some friendly enforcers to hand out informational phamplets (from recycled paper) and field questions on why not to litter, in the wadi, for example, where families typically come, picnic within the first 100 meters and leave a scattering of debris which more families come and scatter over.
From this discussion we brainstormed a lovely way to produce environmental action from a synthesis of social groups.
We identified Couchsurfing as a catalyst. Its a versatile network through which travellers flow, bringing untired energy, and fresh ideas wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string.
Couchsurfing is limited by the nature of travelling; that the stay of travellers is typically brief. They dont possess the time to see grand projects come into flower or fruition. But they can serve a vital function: to fuel longer projects with fresh inspiration and short bursts of energy. To keep environmental projects fresh, juicy and flowing like rivers of fruit punch.
It’s significant to note, from pervious cleanup efforts, the admiration which which kids regard foreigners, whom they seldom see, involved in cleaning up their natural environment and the environment which they and their families probably scattered with plastic cups once but will do so no longer.
And couchsurfers, working along with schoolchildren, working along with community organisations, could be a potent (but non-toxic and environmentally friendly) combination.
The four stages of Awareness:
-Fast Asleep
-Just woke–still groggy
-Full Power

And here is something environmental you can do immediately if you are in Jordan. It fulfills two important criteria–it’s easy and it costs nothing. Join the Couchsurfing Jordan Environmental Group–go on, jump in, the water’s nice–get involved in the events that are happening and organise your own event. They need manpower and womanpower.
Here’s the link to the CS Jordan Environment Society: (can we call it CSJES for short?).  Join. Do it. Now. If youre not in Jordan start your own environmental group through CS or somewhere else.
Heres another way you can start your own group:
A global campaign that mobilizes communities to clean up the world. Associated with: UN Environment Programme. Located in: 120 countries, most likely including yours.

Why am I writing this?, perhaps you wonder. Why am I spending my weekday morning writing this when I could be watching television or shopping? Why am I spending my time trying to encourage YOU, the reader, to do something regardless of whether youre in Jordan or New South Wales or Northern Irtusk or Southeast Tajikstan. Because I can see the potential for change. I know that we multiply that potential as we begin to create change. And potential is the fabric from which actions are made.
With our thoughts we make the world and with our actions we pull our dreams into being. With our fears we make four walls around us. Until we make a window the currents of inspiration on the air can’t drift in. My greatest fears have already coughed out their feeble sickness on me, and with the stones from the fallen wall I will make a bridge. Right now it’s an invisible bridge. But as I bring my dreams into being the stepping stones emerge.
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