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  • 28 years old
  • From Illinois, United States
  • Currently in Cordoba, Argentina

Chile & Argentina: Surrounded by a Bunch of Friends that I Have Yet to Meet

ramblings concerning a 6 week jaunt through Chile & Argentina. April/May2011

On a Brief Stay with Some Folks

Argentina Capilla del Monte, Argentina  |  May 19, 2011
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 Hu-manure, man. 

So although my WWOOFing plans fell through with the farms in Córdoba, I managed to find through my friend Benjamin and Couchsurfing a little place that does just about the same thing.  It’s called El Jardín de los Presentes and it’s located in Capilla del Monte in the northern part of the Córdoba Province of Argentina.  They’re a smart—that’s to say, well-educated—bunch and are currently mostly working on some eco-building while doing the normal tending to the garden, compost, and chickens.  In day one, I showed up a little later than I hoped, put my tent up rather slowly do to some faulty parts, and then helped Fernando and Claudio with some building.  What they’re building now is something they’re calling an Earthship, which is more or less just a super artful and functional house made of a combination of natural materials and recycled ones.  It’s going to have two floors and function as a dwelling.  Right now, the construction is in sort of the primary phases; currently it looks like a pile of tires filled with earth.  But judging by some of the other structures on the property, it will be amazing when it’s done.  The kitchen for instance, has a garden on its roof, running warm water, and is well heated simply by the clever use of windows.  Not to mention that it’s beautiful.  All of the other dwellings are very similar in this way—modestly sized but artfully and functionally designed.  They also have a dry toilet that is used for composting.  Hu-manure man.  For break-time, we had fresh fruit and shared a mate.  Then a few hours later, we had lunch which consisted of brown rice and verduras al disco with this tasty wheaty flat sort of bread. 

After lunch I had a good conversation with Fernando.  He mentioned that he and one of his friends were talking and they came to the conclusion that there are three types of people in society: the sheep—those that do the normal thing because it’s the normal thing, without asking a single question; the skeptical—those who are aware of how screwed society is, but continue to live within it, doing the best they can to change it in that way or do their own thing inside of the bigger structure; and the free—those who have asked the questions, found their own answers, and are living them more or less outside of (and sometimes even against) the influence of general society.  The friend he had the conversation with was definitely a member of the second group, while Fernando is a member of the third.  I feel like maybe I’m a member of the second still looking for my answers to put into action. 

Day two, which was a Sunday, was a free day.  As such, I did a lot of sitting around, exploring the huerta, asking a lot of questions, and watching a few documentaries that Pablo—the oldest guy who seemed to be the head of the project—gave me.  The first one I watched had to do with the imminence of world peak oil production, and how Cuba already experienced its own simulated peak oil after the Soviet Union fell.  The result was that the prices of everything sky-rocketed and nobody had money for anything, even food.  As a reaction, the people got bikes to transport themselves, gardens were put on the roofs of urban areas, and a huge percentage of people returned completely to farming.  Farmers became some of the best paid people in the country, and doctors and lawyers and professionals of all kinds even had a part time jobs producing food.  Since oil was the problem, petroleum based pesticides couldn’t be used, so the people had to get clever.  Now 80% of the food in Cuba is grown organically.  WHAT?!  I very much need to do more research on this because it would obviously be very useful to the rest of the world to understand how to cope with impending oil shortages and the other economic problems that will come with them.  A good answer is simply giving up on oil as much as possible and making your own damn food.  Of course a complete cut from oil isn’t possible in a very short period of time, but the more people that are prepared to make the transition, the better.

Day three we woke up with the sun—which due to the fact that it’s almost winter here, wasn’t til a bit before 8am—had a small, but hearty breakfast of fruits and grains and mate, and got to work.  The morning starts slowly, and I helped Fernando water some plants and recently planted trees.  After that, I finished varnishing a gorgeous wooden door that I had started on the night before but couldn’t finish because the sun went down.  Upon finishing that, the real work started and my task was largely to move a shit ton of dirt from one place to another so that it could be utilized in building the new dwelling.  Two travelers/WWOOFERs/people from Spain arrived later on and they made a killer lunch.  After that I helped Fernando chop up a tree that had fallen nearby to use for firewood and building material.  Fun stuff.  I found myself really enjoying the work, if for nothing else because it was outside and physical, and it was something I could take a bit of pride in doing.  Of course, there’s only so much pride you can take in moving a shit ton of dirt, but if I were to stick around at the huerta, the finished product would be something to take a lot of pride in.  At very least, it feels good to know I helped people who have a vision of how they want their lives to be and are doing everything within their capabilities to make it reality. 

Generally, the people at El Jardín de los Presentes live very modestly.  Most of them, like me, slept in tents despite having a huge plot of land.  As the project is still young, they haven’t yet built all of the dwellings necessary to house all six of the inhabitants.  After two years, they have a pretty solid amount of crops and a few really gorgeous buildings, including the shared kitchen.  They compost everything and are working to make more fertile soil to support their permaculture type of harvesting.  With winters that aren’t too cold and summers that aren’t too hot, these folks have it made.  When you live from the dirt, why would you want any other place to sleep but in a home made mostly of dirt?  I think Wendell Berry maybe sums this up wisely… “If we don’t live where we work and when we work, we’re wasting our work and our lives too.”

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