Hei, aloha, salut, hola, howdy & guten tag!
You probably thought I’d given up on my website but how wrong you were! I’m back, still alive, doing well, have tonnes of news I’d like to share, so here’s a little update!
Firstly, voiceofmartin.wordpress.com has become martinvoll.com! I have taken back the cyber-ownership of my own name, along with no less than three other domains (read on), and I am the proud owner of some Canadian server space. All subscribers to my old website have been moved across to this one, so there is nothing you need to do, dear reader. Many pages on martinvoll.com have received a bit of attention but only the (blush) Drawings page has truly received something new.
But onto more important things. Our little Mexican-Norwegian family has received a new addition (not counting our three chickens). Kaya Anjali entered this world on Tuesday March 13th in a very relaxed birth in front of the fire in our own house here in the Sierra Sur of Oaxaca, Mexico. It's true what they say about the second being easier – it took only about two hours from the moment Adria woke me up with a determined “it's really happening now” until Kaya Anjali arrived into my hands with the first rays of morning light. Our incredible midwife Ela caught the last 20 minutes of the muted spectacle and Sylvan woke up only for the finale. Thanks to Adria's stoicism and ability to surrender the whole event can only be described as serene, as natural as natural can be and, indeed, uneventful... if you overlook the small chimney fire I caused by overloading our fireplace with our best firewood and filling the house with smoke... (big blush).
Kaya is now five months old and so far her life is a reflection of her birth – serene and peaceful. Sylvan has turned three and is as peaceful as a tornado. He is already spreading his wings and becoming a free spirit, spending more time running around with his friends than with his parents. He is a great big brother to Kaya, they have already developed a unique language only the two of them can understand. Sylvan's Spanish vocabulary is soon better than mine, but he's lagging behind in Norwegian and English – I am determined to make more of an effort. Kaya Anjali has eaten her first mouthfuls of banana and avocado and is just about to start crawling. See photos below.
Talking of kids, I am now also the godfather of both Zuma Maiu here in Mexico and Jonathan in Norway, so you could say I now have 4 kids...
The next big piece of news is that we can, after six years of looking for land, finally call ourselves landowners! You may address me as “Don Martin” from now on. We have bought a piece of land of about 4-5 hectares. To be able to buy the land we had to present ourselves at the “general assembly” in the nearest “rancheria” (too small to be called a village), where they officially accepted us into the community and gave us the green light to buy the land. This is an old tradition that I feel honoured to be a part of; if only more small communities around the world would protect their lands like this.
We bought the land with two other families of close friends, so for now we are a small tribe of five adults and four kids. We make decisions as a community so I when I talk about this publicly I must emphasise that the following is just my personal opinion and that the communal will is yet to be fully revealed.
Our land is fairly close to the village where we all still live – it's completely virgin with no infrastructure whatsoever – yet far enough away to feel that you're in the middle of nowhere. We have secure access, two water sources, the borders are small mountain streams of the purest water imaginable, enough for drinking, gardens and hopefully energy creation. There are mixed forests of pine, oak, madrone and palo de aguila, decent soil and enough flat areas for construction.
It's very early days but we envision a sustainable community, both ecologically, socially and financially, of families living in harmony with nature. “Growth” and “rewilding” are keywords for us. We want to find the right sustainable balance of private versus communal, business versus service and openness versus protection, though I hope “donation-based” will become an accurate term to describe our community most of the time. I imagine creating infrastructure of private homes, guest houses, communal kitchens, temples and workshops, along with a high level of self-sufficiency in terms of energy, building materials, organic produce such as fruit and vegetables, medicines, soap, clothes, not to mention having trout, chickens, goats, maybe even a couple of horses... and of course my Sylvan Sound Temple, a recording studio / sound immersion experience / dance hall / musicians' collective centre! And then finding creative ways to share all this abundance with the rest of the world, through anything from bio-construction workshops to meditation retreats, volunteering and community immersion programmes, ceremonies, local community support, recording retreats, music festivals... you name it, the opportunities are endless. Right now the world is very hungry for alternative living solutions and, in time, we will have lots to share.
High-flying ideas and ideals are fun, but with small children and limited financial resources we have to keep our feet on the ground. It will take a very... very... very long time to bring all these visions to fruition. We start from zero, but in this there is also a deep sense of satisfaction.
I / we will probably launch several crowdfunding campaigns over the next few years. Actually, I imagine four. The first very soon, for myself, for some of the artistic tools I lost when my house got robbed in December last year. Then for our community. Then for our forest regeneration project. And finally for my Sylvan Sound Temple. To be absolutely clear, I won't ask for money to fund our life here or to construct our personal house, we are more than capable of making a living. But I also won't hesitate to ask for support for projects that have a communal flavour, projects that in turn will benefit others and / or Mother Earth.
Moving on, another very exciting piece of news is that my album Norge På Langs is ready to be released! It's an album of traditional Norwegian music wrapped in anything from flamenco to bluegrass, along with some original tracks. It's actually the soundtrack to the WebTV documentary series of the same name, about my brother Anders and his friend Knut crossing Norway from the northernmost to the southernmost points in an epic four-month expedition. The edit is more or less finished but as I've also decided to add English subtitles to the film for the benefit of an international audience, I will release the music first. I'm actually launching a brand new record label, Sylvan Sound, to support ecologically-minded artists at the same time, and only the website is missing. It will all be launched no later than October, because that's when my band is going on a small album release tour around the mountains and Oaxaca City!
In the mean time, beyond kids, music and land purchase bureaucracy, what are we actually doing up here? The rainy season has set in, Sylvan is on holiday, with two small kids I can't leave the mountains to find work elsewhere... so how on earth are we making a living in a small, indigenous village in “the most marginalised area of Mexico”? Money certainly doesn't grow on trees around here. As it happens, I'm addicted to challenges. The bigger the challenge, the greater the sense of purpose. I don't think I've ever in my life been as busy as I have been this year. We are planting many seeds to create a sustainable life here, I don't really believe in running around the world chasing money if I can avoid it.
- We moved to a new village with an alternative school for Sylvan at the beginning of 2017 and we are renting a small rancho at the edge of the village. It included two derelict houses filled with rubbish, with only adobe walls, dirt floors, one house with corrugated metal roof and the other with no roof, and with no water, toilet or electricity. 20 months later, we have two beautiful living spaces for a family of four of a good enough standard to give birth in, insulated, with clay fireplaces, wooden floors and a hot shower, all powered by our solar panel. We have certainly received some help but most of the work has been carried out by ourselves. A waste of energy to put all this effort into someone else's house, you might think, but we have paid rent with our work and we have learned enough about building to now have the confidence to build our own house with our own hands on our community land. And no matter what, it's cool to leave behind beautiful things in this life! Actually, last night I could finally rip the page with the headline “House” from my 2.5m long To Do-list (no kidding, it covers the entire length of my desk) and throw it in the fire.
- I have started working with voiceovers again, brushing off my old skills from my London-days. I have constructed a small studio with a soundproof booth and since my relaunch I have recorded Norwegian nationwide TV and radio ads along with corporate reads and on-hold messages. I will soonish launch a new website for my voiceover work. But, as I mentioned, I got robbed and lost a lot of my studio equipment which I struggle to replace, so I will soon start a crowdfunding campaign. I have also recorded my own album and Ananse Y La Luna's album Tengo Que Cantar, which will both be released through Sylvan Sound soon.
- I have become the new baker in town! Good bread was missing in this village so I set about to change that, making integral bread with olive oil and various seed. Out of every batch I keep some, gift some and sell some, keeping a healthy balance of business versus service.
- Tourism is just starting to enter this corner of the mountains but there is very little accommodation available. So I thought up a community project, Kopacabanas, which gives locals a direct benefit from tourism by helping to rent out their empty houses and ranchos, while giving visitors the benefit of an authentic experience and a closer relation with the locals. (“Be a neighbour, not a tourist!”) This is how I can help to create an ecologically, culturally and economically sustainable type of tourism. Giving locals a new source of income makes them less dependent on pine monoculture and on selling their forests for profit. I am basically keeping a list of all available accommodation in the village and acting as the middle-man between locals and visitors. I am receiving my third guest in a few days - exciting.
- I sometimes work for a friend on a crazy project to string up 25km of fibre optic cable and to create local consumers' cooperatives of good quality internet... but it is highly doubtful if this will ever come to fruition.
- I am nevertheless on the path to become the internet king of the mountains; I imagine creating a local social network, a list of local producers and possibly a web shop, a list of non-profit projects, a tourist guide and, with a friend, a local magazine (both paper and digital), along with the ability to gift / sell websites to locals, all packaged under the umbrella of the same domain name that I already own. So I am delving deep into website creation research and a whole new and complex world is slowly opening up to me.
- On top of that I've also become a beekeeper! Along with two friends we have started a project that for now only includes two strong and healthy hives, but as we slowly learn more we hope to expand and some day actually produce honey.
- And finally, the non-profit forest regeneration project is just about to start up. The idea is to receive donations, buy huge pieces of lands and try to recreate the original, resilient mixed forest of the mountains instead of the monoculture pine forests (the local cash crop) that is drying out water sources and inviting pine plague, erosion and poor soil and changing the climate. We imagine employing locals to help with clearing and planting, which will create a more sustainable local economy less dependent on selling trees, and offering small rancho spaces at the edges of the forests for anyone interested in an organic rancho life, which will help to physically protect the forests while supporting traditional lifestyle and culture.
- Meanwhile, Adria is being a fantastic mother to, for the most part, Kaya Anjali (Sylvan naturally gravitates more towards me), while giving ballet classes to kids, giving massages, making soap and selling kombucha...
So no chilled out mountain life for me, nope, not for now, anyway. We're pushing it right to the edge of what we're capable of but there is also so much fun in that. To put all our skills and energy to the best possible use for ourselves and the local community.
Enjoy the photos below!
Peas and clove,