09 Jun Community Living at Punpun
Written by Barbara Amorim, 2017 Thailand: Farm to Table
Community living is a concept as old as the human race. Our modern lifestyle with singles, couples, and single-families living in isolated housing units is relatively modern, and uncommon in much of the world.
Living in a commune or community co-op is more akin to our traditional roots. The basic premise is that you live in close proximity with a group of people with whom you share the use of certain common facilities, and things are set up in a way that promotes connection and familiarity.
People choose to live in a commune for a spectra of reasons, but a recurring theme seems to be simplicity. People love their lives working for the “man” and being enslaved by the corporate world, but for what? There comes a time when you ask yourself: is this what I really want? Does my life have meaning this way?
I had the amazing opportunity to get a taste of what a community living situation could be. During my OG program, I spent 4 days living and working at Punpun, a small organic farm and learning centre in northern Thailand. Life there is not easy, but it seems simple and less complicated.
It was amazing to see how these people worked together in order to sustain themselves; working as one and providing for all. It was almost like a culture shock within a culture shock. They developed community agreements to guide day-to-day activities, the sharing of food, and the scheduling of chores that include cooking, feeding the cows and chickens, gardening, etc.
I found that many people around Punpun didn’t necessarily grow up within the community; most are volunteers and come for weeks or months at a time. For example Thip, one of the residents, came as a volunteer and has been there for a little over five months. Another example would by Wyatt, although he has been in and out of Punpun for a few years.
The success of a community depends on a combination of personality factors and the functional infrastructure. Ideally, the community has a clearly articulated mission and goals, so those coming in will know what they are getting into. At Punpun, it seems to me that their purpose was education and sustainability. Having the resources needed in order to live a life with food. As Jo, one of the founders of Punpun stated, only with food are you able to survive.
Systems for paying expenses, buying food, keeping the house clean, and keeping the property tended need to be equitable and clearly articulated. The personal qualities that work best in community are open-ness and curiosity toward others, and a willingness to share resources, as well as the skill to claim personal boundaries when needed.
As soon as we arrived at Punpun, I felt a warmth of love and acceptance. We were involved in everything they did those few days, never really feeling like visitors but like a part of their community. A good communitarian is willing to work through conflict and drop judgments, to look at one’s own foibles, control issues, and blind spots; is committed to creating a better world by doing the interpersonal work of learning to live cooperatively and happily with others.
Even during the few short days that I was there, I was able to see the differences between their commune and my western way of living. They are collaborative, whereas we are self-interested. They are belief-driven and we are economically driven. They look to achieve emotional bonds. They look to expand and share their knowledge, whereas we often choose to contain it only for ourselves. Punpun is about sustainability and we want short-term results. They create innovation, whereas we use it. They are purpose-driven and we are profit-driven. The differences between us were so apparent and eye-opening that they made me reflect on what my purpose is.
Punpun offered a new way of thinking that most of us should refer back to. Life doesn’t necessarily have to be a constant battle against time and money. If we take a moment to think about what we truly want, and how to make our lives a little less complicated, happiness and fulfillment could be just around the corner.