A solar field where the Sandhana Forest community gets all of its energy needs.
_Today we went to Sadhana Forest.  We woke up, had breakfast at our guest house and I was really eager to do my Christmas shopping so I left right away.  Unfortunately, the shops open at 9:30am so I had to wait for a half hour.  While I was waiting I realized that I didn't have a pack to carry the presents home so I raced back to our room and got my day pack.  At the guest house I intercepted my Dad and we went to the Visitors Centre together and we were still five minutes early.   We waited until the shops opened and I got what I needed and we got on our bikes and rode to Sadhana Forest.  Allegra and Mom took the bus.   We rode for . . .

_about an hour not knowing exactly where we were going.  The roads were dusty and uneven with cows wandering around aimlessly and a bus missed me by about a foot.  We travelled along these narrow roads for half an hour until we got to the main highway.  I hadn't seen a highway this wide since our transfer in LA.
     When we got to Sandhana Forest I was unimpressed at first.  We arrived a little late and met Mom and Allegra in the middle of a Yoga class.  I wasn't interested so I went exploring around the area which gave me the wrong first impression that these people lived in trees and wiped their butts with their fingers and were completely uncivilized, unhygienic and alien to me.  I basically waited until their yoga class was over and then I went back to the main hut to collect my family.  Another yoga class started and they convinced me to participate so I did.  Basically what I had to do was get on all fours while people stood and sat on my back.  It was very strange.  I didn't find it "healing" or "spiritual".  I didn't want to be in the class and I didn't want to embarrass myself or my family so I got up and quietly told my Dad I was leaving the class.  The camp was made of bamboo and twine, and the roofs were thatched with various kinds of jungle leaves: it looked very much like something out of the Jungle Book.  After the second yoga class was finished we had lunch, it was during this time that my views of the place changed drastically.  I saw the food that they served was fresh, clean and delicious and there was enough to feed 200 people.  I was still skeptical about wiping my butt with my hand so I avoided eating too much so as not to use the composting toilets while I was there. 

Here we are sitting in the main hut eating our lunch
_After lunch we asked a volunteer to give us a tour.  His name was Samuel and he showed us the children's land which is an area designed to educate the local Indian school children.  During this tour he explained how the area was all barren before they tried to regenerate a new forest.  After 8 years of planting the land had become more fertile and the water table rose about 1m/year.     The locals are benefitting from this effort because they have more water available to them.  Instead of the rain water washing itself and the nutrients immediately out to the ocean, it is being absorbed into the ground. He also said it would take 100 more years for the forest to get back to the way it originally was.
_    After the tour I helped cook dinner in the kitchen by building a fire at one of the brick ovens which I found extremely fun.  These ovens are very efficient because you can burn a small amount of wood and bring water to a boil very fast.  I found that the coconut shells were the best for burning because they burned hot and slow and the hairy husk around them then caught fire quickly like kindling.  It was time to go, we said good-bye to everyone we met and hopped on our bikes and it didn't take as long to get back to our guest house because we knew the way back.  When we got back I showered up, which felt great, and then wrapped everyone's Christmas gifts.  I still can't get over how hot it is even though it's Christmas.

Zia Angela
1/11/2012 12:28:34 pm

Great picture of you by the hot oven Birch. They couldn't have picked a better person to heat the stove. You have lots of experience building Bon fires at the cottage. It is surprising that they use their hands to wipe, gross even. Talk about culture shock. Great to hear you're having a good time.
Zia Angela

Aunt Madeline
1/11/2012 10:55:33 pm

Good to hear from you Birch! Sounds like you are all having a good time. Nice to hear that your experience at Sandhana Forest was a positive one, after your initial impression. Keep having fun! xox

1/19/2012 09:51:19 am

Hey birch it sounds like you are having a really amazing time. You look fit and heathy,and sound so grown up. Looking forward to hearing all your stories. Love deb

5/8/2012 02:44:34 pm

The blog was absolutely fantastic! Lot of great information which can be helpful in some or the other way. Keep updating the blog, looking forward for more contents...Great job, keep it up..


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