Previous post: I am at a big farm, 20 kilometers away from Filadelfia, the capital of the Chaco. I met Marilyn previous year in the supermarket where she asked me whether I wanted to stay at her house. I wanted that, and we have kept contact. Now I can work on a Work Away basis for as long as I want.
The farm is built upon grounds where several kinds of different Indian bands could meet. Though they did not roam actively here, when one band would meet another they would fight. According the Canadian Mennonites it was unused terrain, enemy ground. The farm is bordering the territory of the Ayoreo Indians, with the Guidagosode and Totobigasode tribes nearby.
I had to get used to the big racial difference, to the obvious unequal quality of life between the Indians, Mennonites and Paraguayan. Fact is that the indigenous living in the modern world are the big opposite of the Mennonites, and things would simply never work if work opportunities were turned around.
Waking up with a sort of alarm-clock each day just after the sun has risen, the two curious faces of black birds watch me through the window. A Chaco rabbit skips around and I am grateful I don’t have to. Instead of preparing chai, breakfast, breaking up camp and cycling on, in a humidity which I did not even long for when I was in wintry Patagonia, I walk slowly to the kitchen of Elvira and Andreas, the couple managing the farm.
The mud upon which my feet land are hard, crackled and dusty. The grass is wet and I imagine Emma, the chained goat, likes wet grass as this is her only cooling sensation, unless it rains. Emma always greet me with a soft bleat, licking her lips when she sees I’m carrying the special plants she likes so much. I like Emma, and as a cat-woman would do, so do I to her.
Living on an estancia in the Mennonite community in the dry Chaco is what I wanted. The daily search for a place to sleep, a road to cycle on, food and water to find, shops to resupply a meager meal and all that in a very boring heavily fenced-off countryside for many months on end made me tired. Mentally I now want nothing more than having a base, to which to return to each day.
Relieved is how I feel, not to be battling against mosquitoes, not to feel light in the head because of the heat. To feel thankful that I do not have to fit in a society where one needs to work harder than the natural pace of its body. Happy that I do not need to score, to achieve, to reach a numerical target. I don’t make money, neither do I spend.
The kitchen might let out sounds of old-fashioned German songs, where the women do women’s work and the men work according their category. It’s fine for me, clarity and rules I can accept from a society built on righteousness.
The Mennonites and my hosts, pious people, are different from the overall mix in an average city where ever in the world. The people here dress decently, without overly taking care to cover. They are generally white as if they never go out for a walk or bike ride to the supermercado. In fact, they don’t (exception Marilyn who is a guide climbing the only hill in the Chaco). Neither do I wish for such idiotic things at the moment. The Mennonites don’t make use of decorations such as tattoos, piercings and unnatural beautification, it’s simply normal.
What a delight to feel the difference between a work week and the end of it. The weekend approaching means a free day. And a free day in a life where I suddenly work on a farm feels different, feels more free in fact.
Humid warmth built up near to 40 degrees, sweat slides along my cheeks, on to the depressions below my jaw line. All who are working baths in its own wetness, and those who works themselves wet, have the same sweaty smell openly carrying in their armpits.
The heat makes sleeping in a house uncomfortable as flies, bugs, mosquitoes, frogs, lizards, spiders and multiple other insects land on my skin.
‘A new guest from Germany arrives tomorrow,’ says Andreas, ‘he’s from Germany and he is like us,’ he continues. ‘So he is a Mennonite?’ I reply. ‘We are not Mennonites, we are Jews, and our new guest is a Jew too,’ is what Andreas tells me. I am curious to the new Jew arriving. Meanwhile, I prepare bread, Elvira makes pasta and soon I’ll learn how to make cheese too.
After a while the separation between indigenous Indians and others fades off. I start to see the mutual habits instead, that is; theirs and mine. I love my solitude and urgently need it, just as my neighbors love their privacy and separation. They don’t like attention, neither do I. When in the morning the new German Jewish guest has arrived and is heatedly in discussion about religious facts with Beri, a 25-year-old university student who has much theoretical knowledge, not always correct, I fled off. Silently I start sweeping the outdoor grounds with the Indian mom and her children, Milo the deer playing along.
Beri talks much. So much that I learned to just listen and not react. Soon, I actually rather prefer not to listen and so I’ve start doing jobs which requires only my own thoughts to listen to.
What is the use of trying to convince another of your personal knowledge about something as fluid as subjectivity? What is the importance about showing off your knowledge about subjects which are doubtful or which should be considered as such? Is it trying to blend in a group, to take the lead, shouldering a certain status or showing how wise you are?
With the coming of the new guest however, Beri and her hard-working partner Rico, leave and a calmer mist appears, a sort of crystal fresh dew spray. Changing of a group is changing of dynamics and this takes energy.
And so I observe, be quiet, don’t indulge, appear skeptical and stand-offish, after which I go off to my little house far from the main house, passing Emma, handing her wild fruits, when my 5 hour task is done. There I sit outside on the earth, inside having an air-conditioning unit (how a horrible mechanical thing). I embroider while the wind blows me a 40 degrees breeze, a donkey bleat swirling over.
Moments where too much talking are going on, where discussions about opinions endlessly unfold, where some do not want to peek into another portal, being narrow-minded while thinking being the exact opposite, I start to see the beauty of the road ahead again, of the self chosen loneliness.
But the heat is too harsh.
The bathing’s with Emma on my side too sweet.
The food and cookies often prepared by Elvira too delicious.
The feeling of rest too irresistible.
More patience is needed to settle in, the urge to run off when things are not as I wish them is evident once again.
When you think my art is worthwhile, check out my on-donation-shop : )
I can produce useful (and, may I say so, very beautiful) travel items too, see here, plumage and pelt-free ; )
I’ll send you the parcel quick, and with very much gladness.