All this and it sounds like I haven’t been doing any work at all! No, there have been lots of projects going on at Kaleuche during the week. I have mainly been working on making the volunteers’ house habitable and cozy. The house is small, four by six meters, and made entirely of mud, branches, and recycled bottles. They covered mud-stick-bottle structure with a plaster, but left two walls full of windows composed of different designs of glass bottles. The third wall has a round window surrounded by triangular pieces of mirrors to create a sun design. The house also serves as a greenhouse, so one corner overflows with squash, wheat, bean, and tomato plants. When I arrived, the windows were covered with black plastic, an orange tarp divided the bedroom area from the greenhouse, the furniture was makeshift at best, and the floor was made of roofing material covered in plastic, which suppressed the beauty of the house. However, we are now pouring the mud floor with a mix that I learned from Villa Sobrante that will be thick, strong, and level. I made a bamboo curtain to take the place of the orange tarp. Many other projects will hopefully be completed in the next couple of days, before I leave: a piece of furniture to store food and clothing made of first-cut wood, a round mosaic table for mate with tree stumps as stools, and the framing and glasswork for the windows. I would also like to write a list of the next projects here in Kaleuche on a blackboard in the house for future volunteers to pick and choose what interests them most. Finally, I am making signs for the composting toilet, the organic garden, the natural building in the volunteers’ house, and other aspects of the farm that talk about why things are done the way they are done here for the health of the people who live here and for the environment.
There’s a lot to do before I leave on Saturday, but it’s exciting to have found a niche here in the projects that I have done. Whereas I came to Kaleuche feeling lost and overwhelmed with the lack of organization and the town in general, I am leaving with the feeling of accomplishing something and of finding a quirky sort of home in Cholila. On Saturday morning, I am heading north with Alejandra and Gabriela to spend the weekend in Bariloche, and then heading to Santiago de Chile for my Wilderness First Responder course on Tuesday. I cannot believe I am more than halfway done with my time in Argentina… I have a feeling that, although winter will be creeping in, I might want to extend my trip through May, too. We’ll see how that works out!