Life on the farm

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So from our first workaway experience to our first experience Wwoofing in Argentina. We arrived at Granja Tia Nora on Dia del nino, Argentina’s national celebration of all things children (like a fair return on mothers and fathers day I think) and were greeted by a farm full of life- there were people everywhere making asado, looking at animals, playing on the swings. One of the other volunteers Jean Chris from France explained how the farm is for volunteers and introduced us to the owners, Pedro and Lucia. They have had over 250 volunteers here in two years!

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When we arrive there are four others, Jean Chris and Sophie and Nina and Claude, from Switzerland. I know much more about Switzerland now, including that you have to pay for insurance and there is national service.
With Nina and Claude we live in an adobe house constructed by previous volunteers, I love it lots. Unfortunately it is really dusty here so everything we own is covered in dust. And my hands are those of an old lady, very nice.
Here they have chickens, cows, horses, goats, rabbits, geese, ducks, quail and a peacock and a tortuga, as well as three dogs and one cat and many kittens so in the morning and evening the first and last job is feeding the amimals.
What with spring rapidly approaching here, we have lots of baby animals and more on the way.IMG_20130831_184326 Even as I wrote that last sentence we discovered 7 new born bunnies (who were unfortunately abandoned by their mother and will probably be cat food, but that’s farm life!). Every morning and evening we have to move the 40 day old goats from one place to another, which sometimes means goat cuddles and other times means being headbutted and your hair eaten. There were also some escapologist ducklings, which meant duck cuddles.

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I love a kitten called Mimi, called Mimi by me -none of the cats have real names. She is super lovely but egg won’t let me keep her even though Nina gets to keep Milo. (Update- I now wander around saying you know who would like this? Mimi. As if cats like running along supermarket conveyer belts).

I milked a cow for the first time here, not as easy as it looks but easier than I thought. It is really exciting drinking milk you milked and eating eggs that you collected. If not exciting then satisfying. And if not satisfying then at least queasy making.

So day to day work for me is planting seeds, weeding, checking eggs in the incubator, talking to visiting school children about seeds in hesitant spanish, digging stuff up. For egg there is manlier work that mainly consists of digging, his hands hurt. Men look after big animals, and women the small ones, I love argentina.IMG_20130829_182015

I think my Spanish has improved, all the volunteers are fluent in english, give or take, so sometimes I’m very lazy, but I force myself to have Spanish only days, where my talking time is reduced by 80%. But I normally manage it. Farm vocab is greatly improved, unsurprisingly. Egg is going for a a stealth approach to learning Spanish, by which I mean he is going to suddenly surprise us with his fluency but for now he is largely silent.

We eat a lot of the vegetables grown here, there is a lot of salad and acelga, like spinach, and broccoli. Ooh and incredible black olives. Later there will be tomatoes, pac choi, lettuce and a lot more, we have been busy planting. And food is washed down with wine made from the farm’s grapes. Safe to say it is a good life.IMG_20130831_185622_1

Excitingly the farm provided extracurricular activities of a sort, a cynical person would say when they wanted the farm to themselves. Never the less a trip to Pedro and Lucia ‘s friend Luis’s house/studio was interesting, and another friend’s bodega tour and tasting was great. All in heavily accented Spanish but I’m picking up more and more. My favourite was a sunday outing to the near desert, where we chilled and cooked risotto over a fire and paddled in the river. Ideally this sentence would be punctuated by the group photo we took from the top of the eagle head, alas I have not yet extracted one from Nina or Sophie. (Update- photo now received, thanks Nina!).

NWP_2820The highlight of the trip was the very old decrepit van we travelled in. On the way there it broke down so many times I lost count, but it has personality and we made it.

Also this post- I found out I still rule on monkey bars but suck at table football, egg and I did a daily tortuga check (it doesn’t do much), I tried gf cake baking with moderate success (1 OK, 1 awful- 8 very polite and hungry people assured me they were good though!), egg and I learnt the Spanish word for blister, I discovered an unhealthy love of flan thanks to Sophie and I learnt two new games. Also, more mentions of “whimsical”, “wibbly wobbly” and “kerfuffle” than I had anticipated.

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Workaway in Mina Clavero

So next we were on to a town called Mina Clavero in Cordoba province. Up until two days before we had thought that we were going to Cordoba city, so it was a shock to discover that MC is 4 hours away by bus and is more of a village in the mountains than anything else.

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None the less we were excited, deciding to make the most of it we realised that going to the country would be refreshing after over a month in cities.

We had multiple issues on pur journey there though, this was Egg’s least organised moment so far; we started by nearly missing our bus from Rosario, due to Egg thinking it was 50 mins later than it in fact was, and when we got off in Cordoba we left behind my notebook with all my spanish vocab etc. I was very sad about this but I’m slowly getting over it. The bus was over an hour late getting into Cordoba, so we missed our connection to Mena Clavero and had to spend the night. Then there was nowhere gluten free to eat so I had a bowl of olives sand a bowl of ham, yum.

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When we left and arrived in Mina Clavero, Egg had not told Christian (whose family we were working for) what time we were arriving, so we only just caught them before they went out. Egg also then realised he had left his phone in the taxi. After an excruciating phone call to the taxi company in very poor Spanish (and a call by Christian) we were lucky enough to get it back- very honest folk in MC.

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After an eventful journey we settled into life in MC. Like many places here, nothing is open between 1 and 5 for the siesta, so during this time we usually eat and shower (there’s only hot water here at the hottest time of day). Egg paints the house from 10 til 2, and I watch the children, Santiago 9 and Candela 7, from 7 til 11. Sometimes I watch them for a but at lunch to depending on the schedules of Noelia and Christian. They are they busiest, and maybe a bit disorganised, people I have ever met with multiple jobs teaching English, running holiday cabins studying to become certified English teachers and dropping children off at many extracurricular activities.

Still, they made us feel welcome and a couple of times we drank mate with them over some scones (which we made) and fig jam (which they made). They were studying English literature while we were there, so we also talked a bit about hamlet. 

As they teach in a private English school, egg and I went to some classes so they students (from children to OAPs) could talk to native speakers, and earned a teeny bit of money from doing some extra classes.

I also went to a primary school in a nearby town Palohoma, to give a dramatic reading of Winnie the Witch. Obviously it went down very well.

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One weekend we went to villa Las Rosas for the Saturday food market, I tried my first locro (basically lots of corn) and egg ate everything he could find.

Mina Clavero is principally a summer tourist resort for Argentinians and it is very beautiful so we went for lots of walks along the river. There are two dogs in this house, Aragon and Briza, and both are quite sweet, but bark a lot and have a tendency to push me out of hammocks. Almost every house here has a lot if dogs, all guarding their territory, so until we learnt how to say “stay” in Spanish (“cucha” or literally doghouse) we had some scary walks to town when Aragon followed us and incurred the wrath of all the other dogs.

Also here, egg ate ice cream, we tried gluten free baking, egg ate lots of empanadas, we started hand washing clothes in earnest, I learnt how to talk to children in Spanish, I skipped and we scared a horse. Or more accurately, the dogs did.

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Next up, a farm in San Juan.

3 weeks in Rosario

Before I start to describe our time in Rosario I need to mention something that has happened in Rosario since we left (Due to patchy internet I have fallen behind in these posts). A residential  building in Rosario exploded last week, I think due to a gas leak, and 21 people have lost their lives and many more are injured. This tragedy has affected friends we made in Rosario and this post is tinged with sadness for those people and the city.

We settled in Rosario to learn Spanish mainly, it sounded like a good city to spend a few weeks in and classes were cheaper than BA. Pete initially contacted Global Idiomas as they did very intensive classes (30 hours a week) however when we tried to find it it didn’t seem to exist and they never replied to our email. So by chance really we ended up with Spanish in Rosario, which maybe was fate, as we had an amazing time there.

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Owned by Stephanie and Claudio an American-Argentinian couple the school is really friendly and personal. We took group classes, and due to quiet season,this meant 2 people per class usually,so very good teacher pupil ratio! Classes are three hours, an hour and a half with one teacher, then another. There are only 4 Spanish teachers, so we got to know each other quite well and really enjoyed lessons. We also appreciated how flexible they were; when Egg wanted one on one lessons they rearranged us really quickly.

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There was also an emphasis on social stuff; drinks every Wednesday, and a wine tasting (with amazing specially prepared coeliac food), a football match and an asado planned while we were there. Once a month there’s also Barlingual, a sort of language speed dating which I was upset to miss.

So with three hours of class a day,and an hour stroll to the school and back, and homework, that’s most of what we did in Rosario. We also went to a language event that’s weekly in another bar, which I did enjoy, but was mainly to learn English, not Spanish.

We also had our first couch surfing experience here, which was as good as we could have hoped for. Our hosts were so friendly and fun, and made us feel welcome and a part of their lives for that time. We hope to see them again.

So any thing I may have missed: went to some bars, got a bit poorly after drinking too much Fernet (a good strong local spirit), went to less restaurants,  went to the river, went to the beach, played on a pedalo for my birthday along with a picnic in the park, had our first Argentinian thunderstorm, learned how to drink mate properly, went to sushi club as an expensive joint birthday treat (the freshest salmon!), danced in an Almodovar themed club, went to a jazz night and just met good people.

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We couldn’t squeeze in everything we wanted to do and never managed a proper asado despite some very kind people trying to arrange it, it will have to be next time!