Sunday, July 19, 2009

Alas, A Complete Circle

So as it turns out, we just couldn't hack it on the farm. Maybe we are wimps, and maybe it was just time to come on home. Or maybe a little of both. :-) All in all, we worked on the farm for 10 days, and it was honestly a really amazing learning experience. We learned how to build fences, construct gates, dig irrigation ditches, plant garden beds for aloe plants, dig holes for composted bathroom waste (yikes!! I know, but pretty cool if you think about your waste actually going to good use), heat our shower water over a fire, cook stew over a fire, and some other pretty cool lessons to store away.

But, we were pretty exhausted and I think that we just realized that we were also a little bit (maybe a lotta bit) homesick. At first we worried that it would be an emotionally taxing experience as we were met with a little bit of seemingly-hostile judgment, but as the days wore on, everyone warmed up. It was amazing to see how at first the Argentines on the farm seemed distrustful and hesitant toward us, and how by the end of a week and a half, we were all eating breakfast together around a fire and chatting way past dinner time! I guess that is really the beauty of close-quarter, intense situations, like volunteering. From our experience, we honestly learned to remember the importance of living simply, eating locally AND seasonally, and of knowing where and how to cultivate food, all lessons we are going to really REALLY strive to embrace in our new chapter back in the good ol´ USA.

The biggest blessing of our stay on the farm were the friends we met--Owen and Shoshana, two amazing newly-weds who made the stay at the farm absolutely incredible. They showed up on the Monday after we had arrived, and we bonded so much with them. I am honestly so thankful to have met them, and so thankful for the intense quarters that made us feel like we had known each other so much longer than a week (I guess that's what happens when you all sleep in the same room and you all go number 2 in the same plastic bucket). Owen and Shoshana left with us last Sunday, and together we went and explored the Mendoza province, to really go out of Argentina with a bang. We stayed with O & S for three days in an adorable little town called Tupungato. We drank wine, became carnivores again, biked our butts off, and even went on a horseback ride up into the Andes. It was so beautiful. Then we parted ways, O & S headed back to the States, and Nick and I headed further into the Andes to a small ski town called Los Penitentes. There, Nick re-taught me how to ski (best ski instructor ever--I hadn't been skiing in 8 years!) and he was so patient with me as together we cruised down the slopes. It was a blast, and I am sufficiently bruised up as a reminder of the good falls I had. :-) Finally, we hopped on a night bus to Mendoza city Friday evening, and it is here that we have spent the weekend, enjoying this lovely city with all its lovely plazas, restaurants, wines, and parks.

This evening we are boarding an over-night bus to Buenos Aires, from where we will fly to Mexico City and then onto Chicago tomorrow. A real circle, seeing as we came last summer from Chicago to Mexico City and finally to Buenos Aires. We can not believe our Argentine year has come to a close...In a way we are sad to leave behind this chapter that has been so free, so adventurous, and filled with so many great new friends and new life lessons. But most of all, we feel really really excited to go home. A year is a long time, and there hasn't been a day that has gone by where we didn't miss everyone we love so much at home. So, we are promising ourselves not to forget these life-lessons and not to loose touch with the amazing people who have made our stay here...

Chau chau, Argentina. Thank you endlessly for everything!!

PS: When we get home, we will post all of our pictures from our adventures these last 2.5 weeks!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Week One on the Farm!

Oh man are we sore! Our fingers and arms are tic-tac-toed with scratches and we now understand where the term ¨farmer's tan¨ comes from. After an 11 hour bus ride Wednesday night and a 2 hour bus ride Thursday morning, we finally arrived at the Madre Tierra farm and promptly jumped right into work. We were handed shovels and taught how to uproot trees from the forest and replant them next to the man-made ditches lining the property. We breaked for lunch and then spent the afternoon building fences surrounding the land. At sundown we brought the horses into the stable after they had spent the day grazing, and then we prepared dinner. By 9:30 pm we were exhausted and fell into our sleeping bags. We are sleeping in a cubby above the other volunteer's bedroom that is cozy and perfect for us, but it gets COLD up there! During the night the temperature drops below freezing and Nick and I are sharing one twin-bed instead of a full-bed mattress to conserve warmth through body heat. Often we have a few guests crawl in during the night and share in the wealth of warmth--the farm cats! At times there are three of them cuddled up beside us inside our sleeping bag!

Our second and third days passed much the same as our first. We hear the roosters crow at 7 am and we get up more or less an hour later. We don't have to work until 10 am, but the morning hours are perfect for Nick to study for the GRE's and for me to read and write. And it really is something to look outside and see the morning clouds pass over the Andes that loom snow-caped in the distance...

However, although we like the work and love what we are learning, the truth is it has been a bit of a lonely experience so far. We have experienced a lot of anti-US sentiment and feel that we have been unfairly associated with everything bad our government has done. It is the first time I have felt really out-rightly judged for something I feel I am unfairly accused of. It is strange because we are automatically tagged with certain labels, and it seems that because of that, even small talk isn't something that some people want to engage in with us. It is strange and a bit lonely, and for sure something pretty new to us.

But, if anything, we are learning how fortunate we are to have each other. At the end of the day, we can turn to one another with these feelings and I think it allows us to each other in a truer, clearer light and become closer. So for that, it is only a positive, and I am thankful for that outcome. Also, we are learning the importance of living free of judgment. We are experiencing first-hand what it is like to be judged for something we have no control over, and we are learning the importance of open arms and an open heart.

And in the end, we are learning what we set out to learn--how to build and how to grow. And that knowledge is priceless, and something we will lovingly apply to our future!

I will post pictures later when we have more time on the Internet, but for now I will leave you with this list of the Top Five Craziest Things About This Farm Life:

1. We take 2 showers per week, and rapid lightening fire showers at that!
2. We go to the bathroom in a composting toilet!
3. Our alarm clock is a rooster...That in itself sounds pretty badass...Maybe it's all worth it for that story!
4. For dinner, we make soups right over a wood-burning fire, cooking pumpkin fresh from the patch and garlic hot off the vine.
5. We haven't looked at a clock for days, going completely in-tune with the sun and our bodies.