I’ve got to stop peeing behind bushes!

Trip Start Jan 15, 2010
Trip End Nov 09, 2010

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Friday, February 26, 2010

After 3 weeks on the farm, we’re tucked nicely in Mendoza, Argentina now (drinking vino tinto as I write this!), enjoying the luxuries of things like TOILETS, SHOWERS, ELECTRICITY and BEDS! However nice those things are, we had an amazing time with the six new friends we lived and worked with on “the farm” in Tunuyan. I’m thankful and grateful that Margot didn’t kick us off the farm when we first arrived. Part of her welcoming words were, “we don’t get volunteers that look like you”. We understood what she meant and at the same time became more scared. We actually talked about leaving before we really even got settled. Thankfully that didn’t happen.

Tamara has talked a lot already about the whole experience, but here are some of my highlights;

The FOOD was amazing! We entered this part of the trip expecting the physical work and that we’d lose some weight, but never did we expect to eat so well with “just a garden” feeding us for the most part. Breakfast was almost always oatmeal (thank you brown sugar and cinnamon), but the lunch and dinners were a variety of lentils, rice, squash, tomatoes, corn, beets, turnips, eggplant, herbs, flowers and more - all grown right there. Each meal was also always very pretty food! Paul made the most attractive dishes, always using edible flowers and one time filling squash flowers with corn off the cob. It looked and tasted divine! As Tamara wrote, we never lost any weight and never complained about it!

The MUD was a primary chore during the work day. The house Margot and Vida are building is truly amazing. I would love to return when construction is complete to see it all. The phase of construction they are in has been to apply the first of three layers of mud/straw over the bamboo/cana covered walls. The mud is a combination of clay, sand, fermented straw and water. Making the mud was the dirtiest and most laborious job, but even just applying it was dirty too - and fun!

The DITCH. We went there usually twice each day. Right before lunch/siesta, after working all morning, then again at the end of each day to rinse off/bathe. There are irrigation ditches all over the place, meandering through the properties but they are all fed from the “the ditch” that we all loved and used - except Tamara, until the end when she converted into a ditch diver. It was about a quarter mile walk along the perimeter of the neighbor farm to reach the “swimmer friendly” part of the ditch. Sometimes there was a horse tied to a tree along the trail, meaning we sometimes walked through horse poop, and sometimes the irrigation was flowing such that part of the trail was also under water. Either obstacle was okay though, because when we got to the ditch we were going to get wet, cold and clean! There was a small elevation change at the ditch where we went, creating a small waterfall and current acceleration. The fall was only about 1-2 feet at most, but the water was always moving quickly. It took one of my flip flops away! The current of the water was also so quick that hopefully as a result everything was relatively clean. Never mind the small leech I found on my leg during the first week. I remember Margot saying she thought we were leaving when I discovered that! We always did leech check after that, but never found another. The water was cold though! It’s one of those kinds of cold that was always refreshing, but it takes your breath away for a moment when you first jump in. The point we “swam” in was just about 2-4 feet across and 4-5 feet deep, but when you’re hot and dirty and have no other water source, it was a very welcome perfect way to keep “clean”. I loved the ditch!

SIESTA! What the hell are Americans (the USA kind) thinking by not doing this???? Every work day we stop at 1:00 for lunch, followed by siesta until 4:30. That means whatever you want. My routine was to lay in the hammock (thanks Page for the awesome hammock!) and read for a while (I read Three Cups of Tea on the farm - an awesome book!) and sleep for a while in the middle of the day (!) - or lay back and watch the sky and trees and listen to the sounds. Birds, bugs, the next door cow (separating mom and baby makes a lot of mooing), chickens and the wind. The farms here are all framed by giant 50 foot poplar trees and when you’re relaxing and just observing you can hear the wind blowing through them and see the leaves and branches swaying. With the almost always bright blue skies above them it’s very peaceful and beautiful. The clouds here seem almost 3D like too, making the skies that much more beautiful.

The ACCOMODATIONS were basically camping. We’ve already noted the spartan conditions. We slept in a small 2-person tent. Three weeks on the ground in a tent may not be something we’ve ever done before, but it’s turned out to be fun, adventurous and ultimately rewarding. The kitchen had a small 2-burner propane stovetop. Drinking water was retrieved from a town spigot at the end of the dirt road - at the virgin statue. Hopefully that virgin insured we’re okay drinking her water!

The KIOSKO was where we buy beer and wine. It’s the smallest little window with bars on it that some guy sells drinks and snacks from off the side of his house. The beer is always the giant 1.5 liter bottles and he usually insists on pouring the beer into used plastic soda bottles (so he keeps his bottle deposits). Unless you bring your own plastic bottle, you have no idea where the thing has been before you find yourself walking down the dirt road sipping a nice cold beer. He sells bottles of wine too, and both are cheap; 1.5 liter beers about $2-3, a bottle of wine about $3-4!

The PEOPLE were all great fun! Margot and Vida, you have an amazing property, garden and house under way. Thank you so much for the opportunity to let us help you weed the garden, plant some cover crop and help you in a very small phase of the construction of your house. I do hope we can some day return to see the finished house and celebrate its completion with you. Lauren, Paul, Remi and Sarah - thank you for being on the farm at the same time as Tamara and I. It was great fun working and playing with you for three weeks. We’ve got the photos, lack of sleep, hangovers and memories to prove it all. Best wishes to each of you for the adventures ahead of you!

Farm life is over for now. Back in civilization, so I’ll stop ducking behind bushes to pee (as guys were instructed to do). Enjoying a few R&R days in Mendoza before heading over the Andes Mountains to Chile. More later. Love to all! Ciao…..

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Doug N on

I am proud of you two, Life will me much sweater after this.

barbara on

sign me up, I especially like the siesta part of the trip, then the beer wine part, okay I know you guys worked really hard also.... Sounds like such a great adventure, love your blogs.... keep them coming.

CTang on

sounds like a great experience - thank goodness for the beer!

hey jeff -- i just saw greg mortenson who was here in houston -- i read his book also - amazing story and man. he raised enough $$ here for 3 schools. i'm sure you're glad to be in so america vs. pakistan!

keep having fun - look forward to hear about your next adventure.

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