I have never had the experience, at home or abroad, of walking along picturing the root structure of every weed that lines the sidewalk. After spending the last week and a half weeding an entire organic operation, I have developed a fondness for dandilions (very satisfying main root to remove) and a deep-rooted (haha) hatred for clover. Clover is sneaky. With all of those connected, hair-thin roots, I have a hard time believing it's ever brought anyone luck.
That said, there is something quite fulfilling about ending a day with grimy fingernails. Compared to applying to graduate school (which seems like a never-ending process), it's soothing to look at plot of well-turned soil and think that you have single-handedly made possible the lives of a thousand quinoa seedlings.
Incredibly beautiful quinoa plant.
Steamy, well-weeded greenhouse.
The setting made the days satisfying as well. Mawenko (the name of the farm we were at) perches on the coast of Chiloe, an island off the coast of southern Chile. Our hosts, Nelson and Venecia and their two too-cute children, had a beautiful house for volunteers.
The living room of the volunteer house.
View from the table pictured above.
On several mornings, we even got to see dolphins jumping around in the bay. The only downside of the house was the teeeeeeny wood stove that was meant to heat the entire building. It's the beginning of spring here. Mornings and evenings are downright cold. Lauren spend an un-godly amount of time coaxing our capricious stove into flame.
Looks friendly but isn't.
We got to spend a good bit of time with the family during meal times, but we also got to spend most of the evenings on our own in this cottage. It was a relaxing balance. After busing around from place to place for a while, it's nice to be in a place long enough to unpack and put some things on a shelf. On a particulary rainy day, we even got to make a mosaic for the volunteers' cottage as our "work" for the day.
Aine and Caur in fine-form. The hammoc in the volunteers' cottage was an endless source of entertainment.
And I just realized that I don't actually have the mosaic pictures as they're on Lauren's camera. You can check our her blog for a peak: www.wanderyear.blogspot.com.
On our day off, we rode with Nelson to a nearby town and artisan market. He told us a lot about the history of the island as we bounced along nodding and saying "Si, claro." I think we might have been the least linguistically prepared volunteers they have ever had. But they were both incredibly patient with our nods and ridiculous comments. Venecia spent a good while one afternoon talking about the state of agriculture and the food industry in Chile. She asked (mostly to be polite as she already knew how limited our Spanish is) what it was like in the U.S. I was dying to enter into a conversation with her, but somehow ended up pantomiming "Happy Meal" in an effort to explain the marketing that's directed toward children. "We have happy food, to the children, with small cowboy or doll!" (how I know those two words and not the general word for "toy" is beyond me). Anyhow, back to the market. Thank goodness we only had about 45 minutes. Any knitter would have gone crazy. I think I officially have an entire sheep in my pack. U.S. Customs loves when you try to bring farm animals back in the the states.
Me gazing longingly at wool rugs.
One our way back to Puerto Montt from the farm, we spent a day in Castro, the capitol of Chiloe. We had some lovely coffees and treats out and enjoyed a sunny amble around town. It was a nice day of transition between farm life and the next adventure.
In front (and slightly blocking) the picturesque, waterfront houses in Castro.
I'm currently writing this from a quaint hostel in Puerto Natales, the gateway city to Torres del Paine National Park. Lauren and I leave tomorrow morning for a week-long backpacking trip through some of the world's most stunning scenery. It's time to pack up the netbook, set grad school work aside, and revel in mountains and glaciers (and day-dream about the shockingly easy boat ride to Antartica).