Been in South America for three months now, and as of late I´m hovering near the thousand dollar mark - which means it´s time to hit the panic button. Or, it´s time to start doing weird things which cost almost no money.
In past travels, I´ve been able to make my way quite affordably by living at yoga centers and/or working on organic farms. I spent three weeks at the Kripalu Center for Health and Yoga in the winter of 2006, and gained a lot of sanity in the process. Not to mention I kicked it with great people eating amazing food and falling in love with a skinny ayurvedic black-haired raven delight for the grand total of like fifty bucks all said and done.
Later that same year I spent a month at the Salt Spring Center of Yoga and washed my share of floors, stacked my share of firewood, took my share of midnight naked saunas in the British Colombia October rain.
I’ve worked on organic farms in Israel, Italy, Laos and New Zealand. Every experience was a fresh and delicious one. Work-exchange is a great way to see cultures, make odd friends, eat live foods, and see, taste, and smell and fart in real nature.
It is also an excellent way to meet Peruvian Hare Krishnas, in this weird incarnation I call my 32nd year of life.
. . . I found this place, which is called “Eco-Truly”, on-line when I punched in “Peru” and “organic farm” (or, it might have been “peru volunteer yoga”, I can´t remember) . . . and it didn´t say a single thing about “you will get up at 6:00 in the cold drizzle and eat potatoes while odd men dressed in orange gallavant about muttering “hare bo!” and “hare om!” in the most pleasant way possible and you will grin and bear it and in fact enjoy it, knowing that there is no fucking way on god’s green earth that while using your pitiful little Spanish you could explain that seven years ago today you were moving your corduroyed porno possessions into a 12-room mansion in the Malibu sunshine hills and readying yourself to reap the benefits of a different kind of subculture, yet one no less dedicated to baffling group-think and weird customology. . .
The architecture here is baffling and beautiful . . . we are in some sort of arid desert region that is also by some weird stroke of luck by the beach, which is to say we´re in Huaral, or Aucallama, or some town that is one hour north of Lima as the crow flies, winding dusty desert roads that dropped me off with my backpack and shoulderbag and a pile of dirty laundry and bit of white soap in a plastic sac into this freakish oasis wherein old Peruvian troubadors from the hills came to work the fields and craft insanely textured round buildings which shoot up your meditative energies straight to Krishna, if that´s what you like to do.
I´m living inside of one of these weird tunnels, having solid black sleepy dreams, sitting by myself in the cold mysto-dark on a hardis mattress thinking about girls and time gone by. There´s much quiet in the ashram, a quiet only disturbed by the dinging of a bell that tells us it´s time to eat potatoes - again.
Last night two women, wearing orange robes with noses painted white, dots on the center of their forehead, opening up to god, entertained around the campfire, late at night. Two women from Spain. They played a guitar and an accordian lovingly. I had never heard an accordian that sounded good before last night. The Spanish Catalan voices and the orange spark glowing embers, in the background the roll of the beach, waves crashing against the shore.
And I was freezing but I couldn´t leave because their voices sounded so thick and swollen with joyful death and in the space of three days I had not known either of these rather serious women to smile but last night while the darker-haired of the two played guitar she would not stop smiling and while the silkener-haired of the two pushed the folds of her accordian together she would not stop smiling. They sat fifteen feet apart and the fire separated them from one another, but they shared something between them. I stumbled off to bed and thought about them both for a long time until my scratchy blanket turned soft on me and I was asleep.
They expect four good hours of out of me of work every day, and I will give that willingly. We are building some sort of chicken-coop roof. I am not exactly sure what it is going to be, to be honest. But I am not much for construction. I am not much for hammering, gardening, painting, cooking, or listening to informational talks about Hare Om in Spanish. I am more into wandering, walking, sitting by myself, and feeling the mysterious desert breeze. But I am working on this chicken coop roof with two new compadres, one 34 years old and handsome, with the paint of Krishna on his face, the other 50 and tiny and skinny and rat-like complete with the whiskers, a good man from Lima who is not one of them. He is here to escape something and be somewhere safe, like me. We are working on this coop roof every morning for four hourse. And to be honest I´m starting to care about how level it falls.
This whole trip I´ve been keeping to myself, sitting in rooms that have as few people as possible, sticking my head behind a computer . . . I’ve not tried to flex my Spanish skills and neither have I made too many friends. The friends I’ve made were drunken Irishmen with indecipherable wild eyes and honeyhaired English girls from Essex and Nottingshire and Israelis smoking Caribes eating ceviche on broken beds. This is my first taste of really traveling, getting to know a singular strange culture, and I have to admit that I’m digging it. I feel alive, for the first time in a very long time.
I am heading to Pisco in one week, to volunteer in a spot that was hard hit by a 2007 earthquake. More construction, I will share my neglible talents. But I gather that they can use all the grunts who want to be there. Bad food, cold weather, stale sweat: I will taste of you. Hare Om.
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