Nearly a year earlier: ending up at a farm in Paraguay I met another traveler, Geo, whom I have married. Very unexpected we decided to move away from the farm, somewhere else in Paraguay. But we kept a promise: to replace the workers at the farm when their mom from Germany would visit them, so they could go on a little holiday
I was impressed by the map of Paraguay. It shows a grid of squares. On Google Earth it shows tracks lined by green. For hundreds of kilometer there’s nothing. And this got my attention. Here I wanted to be. And here I am again. Only farms. The map of Paraguay shows the names of these hundreds of hectares ownership’s. The route we found through Maps.Me meanders through those farm-grounds, if only the gates would áll be open. In the end we ride between cows in fields counting thousands of hectares, without a single track.
10 kilometer onward, 10 gates later, we end in front of a closed one. I am tired of climbing on and off the back of the motorbike and open and close gates. We turn, ask for directions and fuel up for double the price in a forgotten settlement at the end of Ruta 12.
Unbeknownst to ourselves, we cross National Park Tinfunqua, bordering Argentina, and drive into the night, everything to avoid the rain coming the next day. We know that with rain we lose this adventurous battle. Driving around 270 kilometer on this very day can be called a struggle because my bottom bones hurt tremendously. I flip my hip bones back and forth, let my legs hang loose and even sit in amazon position on the back seat until we slip in the mud and I’m almost propelled into the bushes.
The utterly quiet silence surrounding us is only to be heard by tired ears buzzing with the sound of the motorbike when we stop. That silence slings me right back to my recent cycling days and I miss that quietness which seems to be only in reach when one walks or cycles and camps out.
Geo can drive all night, but I can’t take it any longer to sit in the back, almost falling asleep. Driving through the night is seeing nothing, a shame as we are deep in jungle-farmland, and a bit risky as wires are strung across the road to keep cattle in. Arriving late evening in Cacique Sapo, the end -or start- of General Diaz road, we sleep at a police station. We have self-made breakfast along the road, and get stuck some time later.
As we are trying to outrun the predicted afternoon rain, Geo barges through the calf deep mud pool. A few other motor cyclists are weighing their options, some try, others leave. We all help each other push and pull.
To our surprise we are asked again whether we are believers? Carrying a guitar is reason for the locals to assume we are traveling ministers.
Passing Indian villages is seeing the good intentions of Mennonites and perhaps government, as each family has a neat heap of baked stones to build their house anew. Mennonites built them churches and plant them trees, all greatly perfect. The contrast with the seemingly senseless or different wired Indians could not be bigger.
Arriving back in Mennonite community I notice the abstract coolness of the old-fashioned looking Mennonites. Although I know they are warm and welcoming, nothing implies they are. Grim faces hang above stiff bodies, mingled with the orderliness of Filadelfia, a neat business orientated town.
It are the personal encounters with people we start to learn that are warmhearted. The Indians keep to themselves, the Paraguayans adjust, the Mennonites are distant, unless you get to learn them.
Arriving back at the farm, coming from adventurous Ruta 12, we are plunged into a household which I find messy, and where each Work Away person has something to say, whether useful or not.
Once we are back at farm Iparoma, we both dread to be with others, I frightfully avoid the kitchen full with sounds too harsh to my ear, rattling cutlery, high-pitched voices, slamming doors. It is our shortcoming, we know, and we both feel guilty.
The little red house I sleep in is awfully close to the main house, with no silence surrounding me whatsoever. Yet I am grateful that the little red house is given to me as my refuge in a muddy, glib Chaco. It was reserved for us, how sweet, kind and loving. Now, I feel even more guilty: people who are so kind to me and I who wants to be alone.
Alan, in need for attention, feels to me like a buzzing fly on an open wound. I feel bad that I can not act as the close-knit friend of his mom, Elvira, as all I wish for is quietness. I can be a friend, but not on a daily base. Being surrounded by imaginary trumpets and horns, by non-existence of order, and an absence of regularity is doing me no good.
Chaotic and enthusiastic Elvira and Andreas are the example of a shiny couple brimming with zest for life and eager to work. They are living the biblical example of hospitality and doing good, and this clashes with my consciousness. I want to be as warm-hearted, welcoming and not feeling irritated so often.
I want to be spend more time with them, jog with Elvira, bake chapati’s with Alan, listen to German schlager music but I feel my cup is overflowing.
Geo and I are back on the farm, to help the family out with spending time together with their mom. She’s a 75-year-old lady with rusty morals dating back to the era where Russian soldiers wanted to prosecute them. A woman wanting to have everyone, me too, of course, to work. Working at all times because 5 hours a day 5 days a week is for losers, in her ethic. The reason that Geo and I are here for her, so that they can spend a holiday together as a family, is unbeknownst to the old lady. All the while she’s trying to have Alan in a straitjacket, unsuccessfully.
Honestly, my work ethic is lost, gone somewhere between Indepedencia and Ruta 12. It feels as if the farm has done it’s work on me; inspiring me after mental tiredness. It even gave me something unexpected: a husband. Now that I am back to pay my promise, it feels redundant. Work Away newcomers act frantically enthusiastic, bordering maniacal responsibilities. I work according the Work Away regulations, discovering that I am in no way made to be part of community life!
Once Andreas, Elvira and Alan are gone, off for a holiday with their mom, and every other volunteer traveled on, Geo and I erupt from our hiding den. It becomes clear that the community life I thought would be for me, isn’t. I need solitude and quietness, not unexpected knocks on my door, or slamming with whatever door. I do not need young newcomers telling me how to do things better, not because I am stiff and proud but not overly fond of their senseless approach. I do not need discussions on how to run the farm better without connecting with the owners of the farm. Actually, Geo and I both long for a place of our own.
And the farm with Gert’s tranquility and Marilyn’s sweetness feels like that. Gert and Marilyn are the owners, knowing how to run a South American dry climate business. So, we take advantage of our ‘very own’ farm now, which we run with much pleasure and quite a lot hours of work poured in.
Geo does laundry, repairs around the house and cash the money from guests. I start to milk the cows, a long wished practice I wanted to learn. I happily wake up at 6.15 to be the apprentice of Lino, the neighbor, who milks fast: 6 liter against my 1 liter.
After half a week I find out milking cows is not for me. I can deal with missing out on watching the sunrise but to be in a full flow of household tasks right after milking is not my desired start of a day.
Doing dishes after at least 2 hours preparing and cooking I feel behind bars, not being able to spend time in a void of a pressure free frame. Being the two of us, on a 300 hectare farm cum hotel, there is always something to do.
We like herding chickens together.
Ushering the cows and bull is not easy, but we manage with a lot of fun.
We shovel shit.
Baking cakes, pressing cheese and kneading breads is easier. Feeling responsible for the cleanliness, I’m cleaning, until the little scab a little above my ankle turned into a painful pulsating flowing wound.
It hurts, and the vein in my thigh is painful.
We need to visit a doctor. Arriving covered in mud, as we made a soft crash with the motorbike on the slippery mud-roads towards the private Mennonite hospital, I meet with doctor Martinez. He tend to my bacterial infection, where each spray of antiseptic and each gaze need to be paid. With a bag full of material and antibiotics we drive back. The 20 kilometer road has turned into a mud pool where several trucks have come to a halt, others got stuck in the ditch and we fall, time after time.
Geo has taken of his slippers to have a better grip on the glib mud yet the wheels simply turn around in circles; we crash as easily as a peppercorn under a mortar. The 5th fall has my beautifully dressed-up wound getting stuck between two motor-vehicle parts and I lay there like a bug on its back. Unable to move, crying out in pain, Geo needs to release me, and says: ‘Now, walk on, I meet you at the farm.’ Walking goes much easier than collapsing so I happily limp on, the obligated (according Filadelfia laws) helmet on my head, crying with real tears out of frustration and pain but also laughing because the situation is so funny. In the fallen darkness I am offered a lift, crawl in the back with Indian farm-workers and call myself a lucky fella. After all, way better than a recent guest at Iparoma, who has disappeared in the dry jungle of North Chaco. A week of Austrian rescue teams, air crafts search, military forces and Ayoreyo bush people only found his mobile home and… spears!
After the short holiday of our returning hosts, Geo says: ‘Shall we make another trip?’ Delighted with this spontaneous escape-plan we set off again. We both feel the need to move on. My ears can do without slamming doors, disturbed morning quietness and shrieks of a kid. Running the farm with the two of us was truly heavenly, quiet and in sink with Marilyn and Gert, the owners of the farm. Gert does not interfere with the Work Away people, and Marilyn is always grateful and complimentary.
Though, I am happily delighted to have been close to Elvira and Andreas too, as they are truly pleasant, warm and hospitable people. It is really my own shortcoming that I can not handle unexpectedness. Or as C.S. Lewis says it: ‘…the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am.
It becomes evident that Geo and I need our own space. Away from a farm full with people. We are going on one more motorbike tour before we both return to Germany.