How we spent Laney's birthday

We have been resting this week. We took a vacation in the city of Mendoza, wandered the streets and ate at various vegetarian restaurants. There are tons of these in Mendoza, which is interesting because all the guide books we read said its hard to find vegetarian food anywhere in Argentina except El Bolson. Seeing as we only found one vegetarian restaurant in El Bolson, that wasn't even in the town, and found about a dozen in Mendoza, our conclusion; is guide books lie.

What is interesting about Mendoza is a lack of distinct culture besides consumption. Although its filled with veggie restaurants and some art here and there its done in a very "I'm in my suit on lunch break trying to eat healthy and this painting would look great in my condo" way. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with this, the city is flourishing no doubt about that. But I suppose we are drawn to something a little more DIY, rough around the edges sort of sub culture. This is hard to find in Mendoza.

For Laney's birthday we decided to go to the termas cachuetas, hot springs in the mountains outside the city. Laney's mom offered to pay for wherever we wanted to stay the night. (Thanks mom, it was a great gift). We found these stone cabins by the river with a fireplace and fire heated hot tube out on the deck.
It was wonderful! See attached picture above.

We spent the day playing at the hotspring, which was really half spa half waterpark. They kicked us out of the kiddie pool. So we found an adult sized waterslide that used heated thermal waters and went down is about 20 times. We were being too mischievous though, playing bumper cars in the tube and using each others bodies as surf boards, that they sent a lifeguard to monitor our activity. Too much fun for a "spa".

Later that night, back at the cabin we drank a bottle of locally made wine in the hot tub and saw two shooting stars. Later we played rummy by the fire. In the morning we took full advantage of our late checkout. Jameson made us breakfast in bed and took the rest of the morning trying to reorganize Laneys bag. She's still in the process of figuring out where everything should go.

Today after three days of exploring and relaxation we head back to the farm and go back to work. We won't have any electricity there so don't expect to hear from us as regularly.



The inevitable brick walls

While working a favorite conversation of Laney and I's is to contemplate how and when we will get home. For those of you who don't know we have been tossing around the idea of skipping our return flight from Santiago in October to find an alternate way back.

We played with the idea of taking the scenic route through central america into mexico and into the states. But at the speed we are traveling we wouldn't hit Texas until 2012. Which according to the Mayans is when the world is going to end and who wants to be in Texas for that.

Then we thought of finding a way through the caribbean working on a yatch or a cruise ship. But it seems to be a "easier said than done" sort of option. Cruise ships only want round trip workers, makes sense, and yatch work is not so internet friendly. We could always just get to the caribbean and see if we can find something. Hold a carboard sign up on the peir that says " to greneda, or cuba, or florida". But its quite an expensive place to get stuck and even more expensive to leave. So though this plan isn't totally scratched out its white slip on sailing shoes are starting to loose hope.

Then we thought of just getting to the base of the caribbean, say trinidad and flying to miami from there. Plane tickets are cheap. It just might work. But then today we found out you need an advanced tourist visa to get into Brazil, and seeing as Brazil is huge there doesn't seem a way around it. We plan to stop by the Brazilian embassy when we get to Buenos Aires to see how crazy and expensive the process is. Hopefully its painless.

So there you have it our current brick walls. We have learned a lot in the way of planning on our first year away trip. Thankfully we can walk away with a better idea of how to do it next time.

In other news we are still on the farm outside of Mendoza and very much enjoying ourselves. Although we did learn the sad fact that chickens are racist. Its true the brown chickens hate the black chickens and the speckled ones. They attack them when they get to close and won't let them eat until they are done. At least the one black chicken and the small group of speckled ones get along. In fact one gray chicken escaped from the pin because it would rather live a life at risk from dogs and cats than live with the brown birds. I don't blame you grey bird. It seems the only one who isn't racist is the rooster. He has sex with all of them.


Working working working

We were as good as amish; hand drill, hand saw, machetes, and homemade ladders.

We finished our project!

View from outside

Veiw from inside




Day 100 in South America

This is the progress made on the corral so far. I know it doesn't look like much but trust me its big and fences are hard work. The projects slowed for a couple of days when I was sick from bad water, but rest assured I am well now.

For about a week on the farm we were the only volunteers here. During this time we really got to know the family and the children. They are wonderful spiritual people. It also gave me an opportunity to work on my spanish, something I really want to get better at.

But then a large group of United Statesians came and ruined everything. Now the whole farm speaks english and the family completely avoids meal times. Life is different when your no longer the minority. I'm sure things will get back to normal soon, you know how Americas are, always on the go. In reality a lot of the new comers are very cool people, sometimes you just miss the "cultural exchange" feeling you get when its just you and the family.

Now about the food... Wow. The first time my mind was blown was when Azucena (The mother and jefa) made this warm dish with pears, apples and ricotta cheese. We have homemade wheat bread nearly every day. She makes this fried hot peppers dish and roasted potatoes with cheese sauce.
In the days when we were the only two volunteers we were welcome to search in the chicken pen every morning for fresh eggs for breakfast, and tomatoes from the garden.

Life is still good here. We sleep in a loft above the dormitory. Our hot showers are heated by fire wood. The work is manageable. We are by no means slaves like we were in the oregano fields. We will get used to all the people too, I'm sure. Just have to switch into a different social mode.

-Jameson & Laney


Our Current project

We are building corral for the three beautiful horses that the family owns. For those of you city folk who don't know what a corral is, its the place where the horses stay at night. A space with a shelter where they don't have to be tied up.
We've had this problem recently on the farm where the horses get loose from where they are tied and go tromping in the neighbors garden. It has caused too many quarrels.
Hopefully we will be finished building the thing next week. Then we can start on fencing in the rest of the property.


Madre Tierra

On a farm 45 minutes outside the city of Mendoza lay a geographic oddity, which is now where we work.
The work is not difficult, just different.

Right now we are covering a hand made structure with a "stucco" type compound called "barro". Barro is a mixture of dirt, ground rock, saw dust, water and horse shit. That's right folks horse shit, which is applied with our bare hands and mixed together in a giant pool with our bare feet. Strangely enough though barro does not carry a poor odor or feel like what one would imagine poop feels like.
The structure is built by grounding tree branches as posts and weaving sticks in between the branches. Then filling in the spaces with hay, wine bottles and old car shields as windows. Then it is sealed with the barro.
They end up looking really cool, like little mud huts.

The overall vibe on the farm is strange for various reasons. One, is the farm has many different projects going on simultaneously. This means we never really finish anything. I truly admire the ambition, but there is something to be said for finishing what you started.

The food here is Amazing, usually vegan, but always vegetarian. The farm is run by a family which consist of a father, mother and two young free range children.
We are really enjoying ourselves here. Some of the basic principles of the farm, like building a fire to get hot water and having a compost pile for a toilet, really help you appreciate luxuries you sometimes take for granted. I think we may learn more from the attitude of the farm than from our "on the job training".