Written by Steve Ryman. Photo by Steve Ryman and Trang
My excitement for the learning village is growing since I recently visited the site where we will be gathering in March.
Until recently, I had never heard of Hoi An. Now I know why it is considered to be the treasure of Vietnam. Hoi An is a city of about 150,000 on the central coast, only an hour from Da Nang airport. It is an ancient city settled by Chinese and Japanese sailors and merchants and has a definite Buddhist flavor. The inhabitants are considered to be the kindest people in Vietnam (which is saying a lot, given the level of kindness that I have experienced here). There is an ancient city center that has been designated as a World Heritage Site.
Having a learning village in Hoi An is a real treat and an opportunity for visitors to experience a very special part of the country. But, it gets even better because the learning village will not actually be in the city center. Close enough to visit easily, it will be hosted on Triem Tay, an island in one of the many forks of the river. The island is accessible only by a very narrow bridge that accommodates foot traffic, bicycles and motorbikes but not automobiles.
So, while Triem Tay island is only a five minute walk from the city, it is a different world. The island has small villages, numerous coffee shops and cafes and some guesthouses and lots of vegetation. The roads are narrow and the pace of life is slow. It is truly a step back into the ancient village life of Vietnam. This has attracted many young urban dropouts who are living on the island, practicing sustainable practices and farming and who have organized a Steiner school for their children. This gives the island a bit of ‘hippy’ flavor which seems to co-exist very nicely with the traditional village life.
We will be hosting most of the learning village at a Triem Tay Garden, a resort which is both simple, elegant, comfortable and beautiful. You can view pictures of the resort and the rest of the island on the Google Drive. Triem Tay Garden does not have enough rooms to accommodate all of us so we have made arrangements with two other places within a 15 minute walk. An Nhiem Farm (pronounced like Onion Farm) is a lovely eco-community located on the river with single and double rooms in bungalows and a shared community room where people can sleep. There is also a grove of bamboo trees along the river complete with numerous hammocks and room for tents. The third lodging option is Yen Vegan and Macrobiotics Guest House. It is the smallest of the options, owned by one of the ‘hippie’ families from the Steiner School and home for some of the volunteer teachers.
It sounds like a little paradise, doesn’t it? It feels that way also. We are so blessed to be hosted in such an extraordinary setting. Almost too good to be true! I was shocked and dismayed to discover the truth of this assessment. The idyllic island is about to experience big changes. In the middle of the island is a very strange concrete strip of a couple hundred meters, a street without any buildings and unconnected to anything on either end. Very strange! Ominous, actually as it is there waiting for the completion of a bridge in 2020 which will connect the island with the main highway, opening the island to an invasion of automobiles, tourists and all of the other manifestations of modernity.
The lifestyle which has survived on Triem Tay for centuries is doomed in the next few months. It is a gift for us to be able to experience this place before the bridge is finished and it is also a perverse gift, I think, for us to have the current world situation being mirrored to us. The destruction of wild places and intact communities is happening everywhere and it will be felt as a part of the field of this learning village. What becomes possible for us as we consciously practice and explore how to host new possibilities in a collapsing world? I hold this question and expect that it will be very alive in our village.
One of the other discoveries in our visit to Triem Tay is that the infrastructure of the island is limited and the capacity of Triem Tay Garden to comfortably host a large circle is also limited. This means that our village will have to deal with limitations; unlimited growth is no more possible in this setting than it is on our planet. It is our sense that we will need to limit participation in the learning village to about 50 people.
So, if you are still trying to decide whether to attend and have not yet registered, you may want to act soon while there is still room. It is our intention to live in the principles of Open Space including trusting that whoever shows up are the right people. We strongly encourage everyone who thinks that they are the ‘right people’ and who feel that they belong in this village to secure your spot by registering.
I can hardly wait to welcome our community to this magical place.