Time to Say Goodbye

I have gone to a Confirmation, a First Communion, a baby shower, and multiple birthday parties. I have seen horror movies and listened to 80’s music and endless Latin ballads.  I milked a cow and collected eggs and ate wild berries and harvested fruit from trees in the backyard. Saw mountains and tarantulas, and a volcano spewing smoke and ash. I have lived with triplets, their parents, two cats, two dogs, two Loras, a canary, several chickens, two iguanas, and some doves.

I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee, learning to cook comida típica (aka arepas) and eating plants from the garden. I savor the culantro, the beans, the rich lettuce fed off of plentiful rain. I’ve seen the worst attack of ants on basil of my life, and I’ve seen extreme joy from the first harvest of a market garden carved from dirt, all hard work paying off.

I love my new friends that I was lucky enough to meet here, and I’ll miss every one of them. Because we watched the stars together, and played more soccer than I thought was possible, and they showed me their world how they see it, with all the varied species of wildlife that I got to know for the first time. Monkeys, frogs, snakes, and birds. We walk through cafetal and fincas, seeing this world by virtue of our own energy and willpower.

I went to the beach and swam in the ocean, and I stood at the edge of a volcano’s crater. I met endless amounts of family members and I laughed with babies and old people. There were no hot showers for three months, and I ate rice and beans at least twice a day, which was unironically really delicious. My Spanish has improved massively, and I try to make mistakes with candor and grace.

I know how to make a dreamcatcher and plant yucca. I can identify medicinal plants and make fresco. I try to translate English music for my host family, scrambling to speak as quickly as the words pass me by. I answer endless questions about which season is which in the States: when do the leaves fall, how long does the summer last, and do the dogs have to come inside when it snows?

Costa Rica sounds like passionate love songs in Spanish, and it sounds like the rain that is loud on the metal roof, and it sounds like the frogs at night and the dogs that bark as you pass the gated houses. It sounds like Spanish sentences that are longer than English sentences, a string of words that seems like it’ll never end, a ceaseless wave. It sounds like the Nokia ring tone and horns honking during soccer games, and it sounds like GOOOOOOOOL!!!!!!!!! Costa Rica is every color, saturated. A mariachi serenaded me at a surprise going-away party, and there were millions of hugs and smiles. I pass the houses that I now know, saying Adios to everyone, because I want to share my love for this place with all of them, and with every greeting is a silent thank you that I hope they hear, because they’ve given me so much just by being who they are, in their beautiful home. I feel joy at the sight of all of life in Aquiares.

I’m so grateful for my time here. I hope I’ll be back soon.


Day 1: The beach. This Sunday I was able to travel to Limon, about a three hour drive, and go to a beach that looked like a computer’s desktop background mixed with one of those calendars that makes you jealous of Hawaii. We got up at 4:30 in the morning to leave by 5, and it was different to be awake so early. The sky was some shade of gray with a couple stars still sprinkled among it. There was only growing light.

I squished into the back of a car with my host sister and dad, and his cousin and wife occupied the front seats. We drove through a quiet Turrialba, passing by graffiti that said, We finish by believing in our own smile, and homeless people curled up in blankets in bus stations. Costa Rica flew by us, all winding roads and green mountains, until we got to a thruway and it was a straight shot from there to the casual little beach town of Puerto Viejo in Limon.

It was full of rasta hippies and a lot of foreigners there to do yoga retreats and go to the dusty bars and go on wildlife walks to see monkeys, sloths, snakes, frogs, etc. We saw someone scuba diving, a man fishing, American girls tanning, women braiding hair and making bracelets by the beach. There were a lot of weed smokers and Bob Marley shirts, and the whole place was so chill and casual and beachy that I could’ve stayed there forever.

The water was ridiculously clear and warmer than the water we use to shower. The sand was made of big pieces and we amused ourselves finding shells at the area of beach where people didn’t swim because it’s dangerous to swim near the reef. We found a million shells of all different colors and saw a hermit crab scuttling across the sand. There were pelicans flying overhead and the slow, quiet sound of waves licking the beach. We moved down the beach and swam in the perfect water that was bluer than the sky, salt water on our lips, until we left with sunburned cheeks and sandy toes, to drive back home. We’d gone about ten minutes when we stopped the car at the side of the road and got out to watch the monkeys that were lazing in the treetops above us, making sounds like barking dogs.

After that, we passed through banana plantations where blue bags protected the developing fruit, and the shipping port with huge boats loaded with trailers on trailers labeled Chiquita, Del Monte, Dole. It was too much food to think about, loaded in those climate-controlled trailers that were neatly stacked on top of each other, all on a boat that was too heavy to possibly move across the giant ocean until all that fruit arrives carefully arranged on shelves at Wegmans. It was a wakeup call, to see that image after all the happy people and the jolly monkeys and the beach waves. It makes you remember what’s actually happening in the world.

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Day 2: Volcán Poás. Waking up the day after the beach was extremely difficult, especially because it was once again at four a.m. This time the whole family except for host mom Seidy loaded into the car while it was still dark outside so we could see the second largest volcano in Costa Rica.

The drive was longer this time, through San Jose, and then mountain pastures where there stood cows, sheep, and a pair of deer. We stopped to eat sandwiches for lunch at an overlook where we could see across valleys with clustered cities, to more mountains on the other side, with the same pure rolling hills of miles of green pasture. Men cut hay with machetes and loaded into trailers pulled by small tractors. I breathed the different air that was there and my host family gave me a leaf to chew on that had a delicious flavor but also felt like it was burning my tongue.

We got to the volcano in the late morning and filed through the visitors’ center first, learning about ecosystems of Costa Rica and the parts of a volcano. When we got to the actual volcano, it was clouded over and we saw nothing but a white wall in front of us, behind which was the crater itself. We continued up to another crater, the principal crater, where there is a lagoon of rainwater that is a dark teal color. It was flat and smooth but for the tiny brushstrokes of wind. There were tourists speaking seven different languages around us and taking pictures with the endemic squirrels that crawl on people’s bags looking for food. Back at the first crater, some of the fog had passed, and we could see straight down into the ashen gray surface of the volcano. It smelled like sulfur and the cool clouds passing over our faces.

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On the way home, we made a stop at Sarchí, where Robert’s uncle lives. It was a big furniture-making place, and there was shop after shop lining the streets advertising wooden tables, chairs, shelves. At the uncle’s house, we could see other colored houses lining up along the vast side of the mountain, and the rainclouds that were coming for us. We went to a souvenir store and saw beautiful furniture and amazing paintings that they were making there in the shop. It was a short stop, so I thought we’d make it back relatively quickly, but actually we got stuck in traffic for over an hour in San Jose. Homeless people came to ask for money at our windows and salesmen walked up and down the row of cars with flowers or plátanos. It was rather overwhelming, and the quiet, dark country roads were a relief after that. We made it home safe and sound after many hours, and sleeping has never felt so sweet.

10 Days

Good news, the garden is still doing great! We’ve found some weird bugs, harvested more crops, and climbed up a giant hill to look for an anthill (they are defoliating the basil again), where we were gifted with a beautiful view of all our hard work. It’s been a privilege to work with such good people in such a supportive community. I feel proud of our work and humbled by the community’s response.

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In other news, I took a 3 hour walk with one host brother and his uncle, and we found ourselves in another farm on another part of the mountain. It was shrouded in fog, with rolling pastures and trees draped in Spanish moss, and beautiful Jerseys and Holsteins blinking at us as they grazed. In the middle of this place, two swings hung from a wire that was suspended between two of those Spanish moss-covered trees. There was a view of the Aquiares church that made it look like we were in a plane, but really we were standing between two ponds in the pasture. It sounds like a place of utter tranquility, but for the racket that the birds were making as they watched us from the trees. I looked for four-leaf clovers and we found sweet wild strawberries that we shared.

When we went home, there was dinner and then there was arroz con leche, and a horror movie. My host mom gave me feathers that fell from her pet Loras, who talk and sing and imitate people coughing. I am caught up in how good this place is, how natural life feels here, and how I’ll have to leave soon. I have ten days. For now I am enjoying everything, and that is easy to do.

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20 Days

I woke up this morning after some nightmares about tarantulas (I wish I was joking) and just felt really good to be here. I have 19 more days in Aquiares, less than three weeks. So I was feeling really grateful about this place, especially because I have been informed that it’s already snowed in Ithaca. So I got up thinking about how sweet it is to wake up with sunlight and go eat pinto for breakfast, filling my plate in a kitchen that smelled like pineapple because there’s a pineapple there on the counter, cut open like a patient on the table in the operating room. And how good it is to hear these particular sounds of different birds, and chickens running around in the backyard, and the Loras, and the washing machine that sounds different from the ones in the States. How good it is to wake up knowing that I’ll be working outside in a bit, under a sun that just won’t stop reminding you that it’s there. My legs feel used because I spent yesterday playing basketball and soccer and doing yoga after working in the morning. I am stirring sugar into my coffee at a table with plates left on it, set for a family. My host brother sang Phil Collins in Spanish in the bathroom this morning as I blinked my eyes back to life and brushed the hair back from my face.

On another note, the experts are saying that Volcán Turrialba is going to erupt. It was spewing smoke and ash, and luckily none of that fell here because the mountain’s wind blew it in the other direction. Everyone thought the volcano had calmed down again, but apparently it’s only a matter of time until it erupts for real. This is a main story on the news every night, and commercials about saving water. The volcano is less than 20 km away, and so we see helicopters flying overhead to go and monitor it every day. There’s nothing really to do except watch and wait, and hope for the best.

In the meantime, we have harvested celery for the first time from the garden! This is fun to harvest because it smells great. A lot of people here like celery, as well as radishes, which surprised me. But vegetable preferences are different because the veggies are used differently. When we eat salad, it can be cabbage and cucumber and carrot soaked in ketchup and mayonnaise (this sounds gross but it’s not), or it could be lettuce with radish and tomato drizzled with lemon juice and a bit of salt. Green beans go to picadillo instead of being eaten raw, ever, or used as a side dish. Whenever anyone sees basil in the garden they can’t resist telling us that it’s great for earaches (mix with oil and put it in your ear to relieve pain), but pesto isn’t a thing. I like these foods, and learning different ways to use my favorite vegetables. Also, it doesn’t matter how you enjoy your lettuce; if you worked to grow it, the satisfaction is the same

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International Agriculture

Today we had the fortune of going to a large farm in San Antonio, Costa Rica. It was about half an hour away by car, through winding, narrow mountain roads, among the foggiest fog that was like a white sheet over our eyes wherever we went. It was raining tiny drops everywhere and the air was still, covering all of us in that cloud together. At the farm we saw two types of greenhouse that had thousands on thousands of sweet pepper plants, and we saw neat rows of tomatoes under protective plastic. There were pastures with sweet Jerseys shrouded in fog, a milk room, a processing plant, a barn where the cows were eating and licking at each other’s faces. The people were humble and kind, and also geniuses. Because they’d built those greenhouses and that milk room without engineers or architects for their buildings, and they work hard every day to maintain their business, practiced hands tying up healthy plants. As our guide told us of their ingenuity and innovation, the man at the dairy merely shook his head and told us that he just likes learning; that’s what life’s about.

I was in awe of the beauty of the area and its people, along with their plants and their cows and the simple and sweet way of life they had. In the greenhouse, we could hear water rushing in a river that runs next to the farm. Moreover, though, I was in awe of the way that they’d created an effortless system that will keep going indefinitely. This is not a certified organic farm: they use any number of fertilizers and pesticides and chemicals through spray, powder, or irrigation. They don’t have an integrated crop rotation or permaculture or the Three Sisters, but they have such initiative and a beyond admirable work ethic. I can see them doing any number of those things in the future, if that’s what they are led to do. Their system has already integrated plants and animals together, and coupled them with human ingenuity. This has to be the future of agriculture as it must adapt to climate change and fluctuating markets and every undefined possibility of the future. This farm, these people, inspired me.

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Back at home in Aquiares, I took another tour of the garden with Seidy. She showed me every one of her medicinal plants and I wrote down their uses as she explained them to me–something I’ve wanted to do since my first week here. She has everything from aloe and prickly pear cactus to basil and rosemary (a natural anti-inflammatory!). The basil is a little different and its flavor was potent and more minty than I was used to. There are plants for stomachaches, to prevent scarring, antibiotics, anti-tumor, for nausea, for earaches, for anemia, for coughs, and also to add shine and volume to your hair…for burns, to lose weight, to purify the blood, and more than one to calm your nerves. Seidy could tell me more than one use for every one of her plants, and exactly how to use them. Some are eaten, some you soak to make tea, whether it be the branches, or the leaves, or the fruit. She is a veritable encyclopedia of information.

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Lemongrass–one of the many medicinal plants found in this garden

These two very different experiences were very connected for me. They both demonstrate a closeness with agriculture that’s been lost in America. I’m not saying that all of Costa Rica is like this, but I have learned so much from people who design and maintain giant greenhouses of so many sweet peppers, from a mother who brews teas for her family to take away stomach pains and coughs, and from the old man who visits the garden and told us which plants attract which pests. This international experience has shown me more than I could’ve imagined when I embarked on my journey, and maybe some of it is uninteresting, technical plant stuff, but I can also cure your bladder infection with a handful of herbs.

In other news, things in the garden have been going extremely well. We’ve sold radishes, lettuce, culantro, and green beans. Soon we’ll have cabbage and celery to add to the mix, as well as new varieties of lettuce. The community is supportive and excited. I can’t walk down the street without people shouting from their houses, “Let me know when you have culantro/radish/lettuce/beans!” The biggest problem we’re still facing is the attack of the ants. When we see them, we follow them back to their anthills and kill them. Some of them have homes high up on the hill, and we are rewarded with a gorgeous view of our hard work at the top:

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The whole process has been going so well. I feel grateful to work every day.

Typical Morning

This is a day in the life.

I woke up at 6. There was a lot a lot of rain and so I didn’t go to the garden this morning. It’s not good to touch the soil too much when it’s wet—it would be super hard to dig more drainage even as it was pouring on our heads in the meantime. Additionally, everyone talks about how lovely it is to sleep while it’s raining. Here the rain drums loud on the metal roof, making such a noise that you can’t forget about it.

Even so, I got up and ate cheese empanadas for breakfast, with coffee from right here in Aquiares. As I was eating, I turned to look at the cat and Seidy said to me, Don’t look behind you. Naturally, I looked behind me.

No! she said. There’s a spider. She knows I’m terrified of spiders. But I thought she meant there was one on the wall or something, heading right toward me. I twisted around in my seat again, and there in a big plastic jar was a giant, giant spider. Like the size of my hand (almost) if all its legs had been stretched out. For the lovely people of Costa Rica, that’s not so huge, but here I am from New York and holy crow. It is called a picacaballos, like horse biter. Titi emerged from her room and examined it only to say how beautiful it was.

They found this spider under the sink when they’d gone to adjust something with the water. In other words, it could have been lurking down there next to my legs as I washed the dishes, and was sitting next to my very hands as I searched for the blender yesterday, and they only encountered it today, this morning.

All this led to a long discussion of various poisonous animals. Snakes are a veritable danger here, and there is always a lot of talk about terciopelos (this word also means velvet in Spanish). They cause the majority of deaths by snakebite here in Costa Rica. I haven’t seen one, but I have seen other snakes. One day while Toño was picking coffee, he found a poisonous snake and trapped it in a bottle with holes punched in it so he could set it free far away later. Titi was talking on the phone with her mom as she looked for frogs, and suddenly there was a snake poised to attack right in front of her. She’s fine, because she didn’t panic, just backed away, and Seidy explained to me that these snakes are territorial, so it would rather guard its domain than go chasing after some random scientist in the rainforest.

So here we were talking about all these poisonous, dangerous animals, when Seidy’s brother-in-law (Titi’s uncle) enters the house with a hummingbird nestled in his hand. It had fallen from the sky onto his shoe and hadn’t been able to fly away again, so there it was squeaking in his hand with its long, skinny beak protruding from between his fingers. It was deep blue with green tinting its feathers, and had tiny beady black eyes. Titi fed it some sugar and they watched it fly away. Then she set off for the supermarket as if nothing special had happened.

It’s been a morning full of nature, with a piece of it still sitting in that plastic jar behind me.

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Walking, working, and EARTH

“Naty. I’m not trying to scare you, there’s just something I want you to see.” I knew it would be a spider when my host brother, Antony, said that, but I looked anyway. “A tarantula lives here,” Toño pointed the beam from the flashlight toward a large leaf, where a giant spider perched. Ew. “Another one here.” He shone the beam on a huge spiderweb woven between some crisscrossing branches. “And another one here.” He pointed the flashlight directly at my foot. Haha, NOT FUNNY. We were walking together in the night with another friend to look for animals, seeing what there was to see.

On this night we saw a tiny snake weaving itself through leaves on the ground, along with toads that blended in so well that they were almost impossible to see. It was hard to spot them in the light from the flashlights while also maneuvering through the branches hanging in the path, and being careful not to trip over rocks. The best part was that next to a creek, where plants grew thick around the bridge, we saw tiny pale green frogs called ranas de vidrio—glass frogs. Their thick toes gripped the big leaves, and their eyes were watery and intelligent. They sat next to eggs that they’d laid on the undersides of the huge, smooth leaves. When Toño shone the light on the eggs, we could see the tiny babies wriggling around inside them. It was amazing and fascinating. My new brothers talk to me often about the different animals that live here. They know a vast amount about the plants, the birds, the snakes, and everything that lives here. They are passionate about protecting every part of it, and I am fortunate to be able to walk with them and see their world.

As for the garden, things are moving steadily forward. After our first harvest and sale last week, we have two more products that will be available this week: radishes and culantro. Both crops are healthy and strong, and also delicious (we have been sampling). This week we’ve been working hard to extend drainage channels and clear more earth for sowing. We have peppers, cucumbers, and lettuce to transplant, and just today finished putting in a crop of broccoli. The weeds grow rapidly with the abundant sun and rain that exist here, so it’s been a battle to clear them off the earth we haven’t sown yet. People are in and out every day to ask us questions about sales and what crops we’re growing. It’s encouraging to have the interest of a tight-knit community. Elders offer their input and youngsters learn what radishes look like when they’re still in the ground. I learn the Spanish names of my favorite vegetables, and work among great friends who bring good music.

We went to Costa Rica’s EARTH University on Saturday. Each Saturday, the students do the practical part of their studies and are involved with research about cultivation, compost, hydroponics, aquaponics, urban ag, organic production, integrated animal systems…so many things. It was inspiring to see such a diverse student body all involved in these important projects. My favorite part was the organic production area, where they have a round garden with curving beds in the form of a mandala. It is built around the Hindu ideal that an energy source is at the center of an entity that radiates outward, so there was a pond with geese and tilapia in the middle. The water is enriched with tilapia feces and can provide water and nourishment to the plants, along with geese that fertilize the beds. They apply compost when they plant to protect the soil and rotate the crops to ensure plant and soil health. They talked about the same principles I learn about at Cornell: soil health, plant health, sustainability. Seeing their dedication, hard work, and optimism made it even easier to go to the garden and dig for hours to make more drainage. I feel newly inspired to keep working hard! The harvests have been rewarding because of the excitement and satisfaction that they bring. I’m so grateful to be learning and working here in Aquiares

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Periurban agriculture at EARTH–recycling!


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Radish harvest with horses in the background

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Hanging hydroponics at EARTH

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Nela helps with the harvest!

First Harvest

October 18, 2014

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I’m officially halfway through my time here, and today was our first harvest. I can’t believe it came so fast. I can’t believe how insanely fulfilling this is—it’s already everything I wanted my international experience to be. I’ve been a part of good things before, but this is so much more real and personal. It’s not about how much money we make, or what work there will be to do tomorrow, because today I washed head after head of lush, green lettuce and practically cried tears of joy when I saw that huge pile of our first harvest. We started work in the morning, hacking lettuces out of the ground with machetes, which is the most enjoyable harvest method, I think. Laura’s adorable 4 year old daughter was here to help. She patted down the newly bare earth and rode in the wheelbarrow, and looked for bugs in the dirt. We even saw a tiny, intelligent-seeming lizard darting among the plants that were still wet from last night’s rain.

Next, we had to wash the lettuce, which gave us plenty of time to talk about what this project will become. Such as an entire marketplace, just like Ithaca’s Farmers’ Market, with people who can make things like jewelry and clothes, or prepare food, or play music. This farmers’ market would have a backdrop of horses galloping through their hilly pasture, and an organic produce garden that sits next to a pond full of carp and tilapia. It would work, too. Even before we really started selling lettuce, we had 50 orders (some for 3 or 4 heads) for lettuce, and people stopping in all morning as we washed our product. I’m writing this in the shade next to a table stacked with lettuce on lettuce, and the majority of it is already sold, sitting patiently in labeled plastic bags.

I can’t believe that for so many people, this has the potential to become a whole market and community experience, and one that wouldn’t stop for winter. I’m a strong believer in destiny, and even more now, after I’ve ended up part of a project that could bring one of the best parts of my hometown to such a distant place. One thing has led to another, and it’s all leading towards good. I had a lot of time to think while I washed 80 gazillion heads of lettuce (slight exaggeration), so maybe I’m getting carried away here. But in this moment of accomplishment, I am feeling very thankful. So everybody, trust your path! Despite your human doubts. Let life take you where it will, and be a part of something good, because this truly feels even better than graduating high school or getting into college or getting a driver’s license and finally being able to play the music as loud as you want. This garden is going to last for longer than I will be here, and for that reason, it feels more important, more special, more real. I want everyone to have the privilege of feeling like they’ve helped to do something that matters. I think the world would feel better if everyone could have this opportunity, not to feel like they matter because of their individual selves, but that they’ve been a part of something that will surpass them in time and space, and still be important.

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The ants. They bite so hard and itch so much and their bites swell so big, and the worst thing is that they are everywhere. I have never seen anthills so huge, with little soldiers spewing in and out at a constant, rapid pace. There were brown ants in the garden who could cut huge chunks off leaves and march with them into their ever-growing fortress. They formed long lines, holding leaves carefully above their heads, and we followed them to the anthills to dump coffee grounds on their heads. And poison, outside the garden. Then there are the black ants, who don’t seem to do so much damage to the plants, but they bite any human that comes near.

My first experience with them was a few weeks ago, when I put my hand right into an anthill that was covered by dirt because we’d been raking the area to transplant. There were five to ten bites on my hand and wrist, and they swelled up that night, so Seidy made me soak them in hot salt water to take out the venom. These ants can climb onto my shoes and up my legs faster than I can believe, and today my fellow workers had a laugh as I stripped off my shoes and socks and ran away through the mud after stepping in another hidden anthill. I shook off the ants and rinsed off my feet and legs to make sure they’d all gone, but the bites were already there and swollen. I changed into different boots, and these only helped the ants to find new places on my legs to bite when I returned to the garden. While the ants are a nuisance, they aren’t as terrible as our mortal enemy in the garden, which takes the form of a worm called the cortador.

This worm lives underground, but near the soil surface near a plant. It can singlehandedly kill as many plants as it wants as it moves down a row, cutting plants one by one. All that remains are wilting leaves scattered on the ground next to a bare stem. These worms can do some serious damage, and they eat everything. For this reason, whenever we see any sign of them, we dig to find the culprit still hiding somewhere belowground. We take them outside the garden to kill them so that their eggs don’t disperse among the plants.

There were shiny blue beetles that infected the beans but didn’t do much damage, and there are giant, giant dark purple grasshoppers that live here but thankfully haven’t caused problems so far. Besides insects, there are a number of nice weeds that come to stay.

Purslane, which I recognized from New York, is an edible succulent that likes the conditions of the garden a lot—it’s almost everywhere. Sorel, or tartweed, is another edible weed that has shown up. My favorite weed here is dormolina, which is a plant that has the ability to close its leaves when touched. I touch every specimen I see, to watch the plant “sleep” (its name comes from the Spanish word dormir, the verb to sleep).

In another pest category, there is a white fungus on the cabbage, which is not so fun. It was produced by organic matter in the soil that hadn’t finished decomposing, but after organic spray treatments, the new leaves look healthy and strong.

In fact, despite all the pests that we’ve encountered and battled, the plants are healthier and stronger than ever. The zucchini and beans are both flowering, the lettuce is ready for harvest, the radishes have formed babies, everything is thriving. More transplants will be ready soon, as we’ve sown peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers in flats. It’s all been going so fast, and it feels good to know we’ll have baby plants to put in the ground as we harvest for the first time.

I am now about halfway through my time here, and I still have so much to look forward to.

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La moto en la lluvia

I have decided that I’m going to learn to drive a motorcycle. Today we went to Seidy’s parents’ house in Verbena, a shortish walk through the mountains. Seidy opted to walk home with her son, meaning that I would be taking the moto home with her husband. A storm soon blew in, and there was some seriously bright lightning followed closely by that loud, sudden kind of thunder that always makes me jump.

The family bundled me up in a sweatshirt and rain jacket with a clear trash bag over the top to keep dry. I put on the helmet and the reflective strip that drapes like a strap diagonally across the body. Off we went, and wow it was so, so good. Qué rico, Robert was saying to me as we zoomed through the rainy night, and he was so right.

The rain was pelting my face and I could taste water on my lips, and when I closed my eyes, I knew what it was to fly. We drove through the winding, hilly streets that don’t have streetlights, so all I could see were the dark shadows of trees stretching their arms into the sky above us, and raindrops that glittered in the moto’s light as they fell onto us.

We got home and my knees were the wettest part of me. Seidy gave us a towel for our faces and we hung our wet jackets on the clotheslines in the indoor laundry room. I went to change, and Jovi Patricio, family dog, had crawled into a drawer where I keep my clothes, curled up in the dark because he has a great fear of thunderstorms. I put on dry pants that were already warm from the dog, and hung the rest of my wet clothes on the line. It’s very peaceful to watch soccer as the rain softly taps the metal roof. There is a canary in the cage hanging from the ceiling, and a fish tank where they breed guppies, and Ruby the cat curled up on Seidy’s lap. It all feels very homey. My face is cold but my hands are warm.

This photo shows a basil plant among the lettuce. The basil has flourished here, and helped reduce pest pressure with its aroma.

This photo shows a basil plant among the rows of lettuce. The basil has flourished here, and has helped reduce pest pressure with its strong aroma.

On a different note, the lettuce is the garden is almost ready to harvest! It is huge and lush and green and so beautiful. Everyone who passes tells us how good the garden looks, and asks questions or congratulates us on having worked hard. It’s excited to see how engaged the community is, even before any product has reached their tables. There is even a Facebook page where everyone can see our progress in pictures, and leave comments and messages if they choose. ( https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alimentos-Org%C3%A1nicos-de-Aquiares/814046035314019 ). The connection within this town is inspiring, and I can only expect good things for us when the vegetables begin to sell.


The zucchini is flowering! Photo from the Facebook page.