Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Frambuesas! y Nueces!

Picking raspberries beneath soaring granite mountains. Laughing with a local family over home-cooked meals. Grabbing ripe apples directly off the branch when we want a snack. And all of this before we retire to our cozy log cabin in a corner of the farm and make a fire in our wood-burning stove.

Did I mention that all of this is free?

Well I guess not entirely free. For six hours a day (five days a week) of our time and labor, we have our cabin, breakfast and lunch provided, and weekends free in an area of Argentina where there are more hikes than we could do in a year.

That's the deal for two weeks of volunteering on an organic farm in El Bolson, Argentina, in northern Patagonia. And I have to say: we are loving it.

A typical day starts at 8:00am for breakfast with the other three volunteers before working from 9:00-12:00. Lunch is prepared either by a volunteer or by the hosts and is eaten with the group around 12:30 or 1:00pm. We then clean up the kitchen and have a break until 3:00pm, when we start working again until 6:00pm. It goes pretty fast and the work isn't too physically demanding.

Where the actual work is concerned, I will admit that we were a bit naive in our expectations. When we decided to make volunteering a part of our trip, we saw it as an opportunity to learn important skills that we could use later for a possible career change. So far, we have learned the useful, resume-building competencies of collecting walnuts, digging up weeds and separating raspberries based on their ripeness. Heavy stuff.
I actually really love picking raspberries. Dead serious.
Miss March of the "Lesbian Farmers of Patagonia" Calendar 2012

Despite the rudimentary work, we are absolutely loving working outside and being active all day long. The farm itself is gorgeous and set in a stunning location, and it's nice to be in one place for more than a week.
My dog Mia. She loves me almost as much as I love her (but apparently not enough to open her eyes for our family portrait...)
Sunset on the mountains that overlook the farm
An aperitif on our makeshift patio

 This place is over-run by adorable fluffy things.
I have no witty caption, I just like this picture.
The best thing about the place, though, is our accommodation. While our cabin is extremely rustic, it is cozy, has a kitchen and a bathroom with hot water, and above all, it is private. For the last three months, we've been constantly sharing a living space with other people. We have gotten used to working around other backpackers in the kitchen when we are cooking, passing people in the hallway on our way to the bathroom and being forced to make small talk in the breakfast area before we've even had our first coffee. For the first time since we left Switzerland, we have our own space (albeit an extremely small and basic one) and it is wonderful.
Home Sweet Home
Keeping the romance alive with bunk beds
Our kitchen/dining room/entry/office
We also lucked out with our hosts, Roly and Analia, who are extremely sweet. That is, we think they are sweet, but since they only speak extremely fast, incomprehensibly-accented Spanish that sounds like a turkey's gobble, we usually only have a vague idea what they are saying and basically just try to interpret facial expressions and hand gestures. In fact, for all we know they could be insulting us during every conversation, but as long as they do it with a smile, we'll just nod with dopey grins on our faces and say, "Si, gracias!"

Just to make things even easier on us, Roly is a very kind but very excitable man who Punctuatates! Every! Sentence! With! An! Exclamation Point! He's so excited about things like walnuts (Nueces!) and raspberries (Frambuesas!) that he talks even faster than usual while giving us instructions, making it all but impossible to understand him. Below is a typical conversation between Roly and us:

Roly: Gobble gobble Nueces! Gobble this morning gobble!

Us: Si!

Roly: Gobble gobble behind the house gobble!

Us: Si...

Roly: Si, si, si! Nueces! Afterwards gobble gobble gobble! Bueno!

Us: Si, gracias!

Lunches are even more awkward, when we sit around the table with Roly and Analia and try to keep up our end of the conversation for an hour. Our Spanish is slowly improving enough that we can make basic small talk, and when Roly isn't talking about walnuts, he calms down a little and we can actually understand him. But it's still pretty painful and we sure as hell aren't having any philosophical discussions around that lunch table.
Overall, our time here is both relaxing and enriching. We are enjoying the place, the work and the people, and are managing to improve our Spanish as well.

But I think by the time we leave this weekend, I'll be glad to say goodbye to nueces.


  1. Way to go guys
    Love reading your adventures

  2. Love this blog and you sharing your adventure with us.

    Your playful, sarcastic wit remind me of myself. thanks again.


  3. You call this volunteering? Puh-leez!

    Lepers with AIDS. Now that's volunteering...



    1. Argentina's all out of those. Orphans with Ebola too. We checked.

      PS- Didn't know I could count you among my audience. Thanks for reading, Tan!

  4. Oh my god how you made me laugh with your discussion report! encore! encore! encore!