19 Jul 7 days in Nashira Ecovillage
Here, summarized by one of our group members, is what we’ve been up to in rural Colombia for the past week:
Nashira is a matriarchal society, meaning the women are the heads of their households, and only women sit on the committees making the decisions for the village. There are 40 families, which make up 8 productive units. Each unit is responsible for one aspect of daily village life and economy, for example: chickens, solar kitchen, growing vegetables etc. The first day we were there, Nashira got running water for the first time!
Our first few days were spent enjoying the locally grown food cooked up by the incredible kitchen staff, learning the arts of paper-making and pottery, getting used to the relaxed pace of rural Colombian life, and exploring the village, which is full of fruit trees, organic vegetable gardens, exotic flowers, chickens, quails, and beautiful tile mosaics. Some of the things that make this village ¨eco¨ and unique is the composting toilet, the ¨lombri compost¨ -worm composting area, and a bicycle-powered shower.
What made our stay so awesome though was, undoubtedly, the people. Melissa and Dan warned us that Colombians were so nice and friendly Colombians that we wouldn´t even know how to respond, and they were so right. Our wonderful host families opened their homes to us, cooked us traditional breakfasts, and put up with our lack of Spanish skills with the biggest hearts and smiles. They couldn´t have been more entertaining, helpful and warm.
The village is full of happy children, who played with us on the playground, the futbol field and everywhere in between, and many of us Spanish-beginners credit the children with helping us learn (and laughing at our attempts at) the language.
After getting the building supplies a few days into our stay, we began our main project, a recycling centre for the village. First, Dan and Melissa made super sure that it was something that the village really wanted and needed, and turns out that everyone was very much on board and excited about the project. Under the guidance of the very skilled and patient Don Jaime, the team began digging holes, cutting bamboo, wielding machetes, painting metal boxes, mixing/pouring concrete, assembling receptacles, climbing scaffolding, ¨pruning¨ trees, assembling the roof etc. etc. until on the last day, right before we left, we got to see the building in its final state, ready for the first recyclables!! It was a rewarding experience, and the Mujeres of Nashira surprised us at the end with a sign they made, featuring the Operation Groundswell logo. There was so much support and physical help from the village, that we were able to build it from the ground up in just four days! We had an incredible amount of help from everyone in the village, but special shoutouts need to be made to Don Jaime, the brawns and a lot of the brains of the project, English David for constantly solving our problems, Barbara for organizing women, and supplies, and everything, and laughing the entire time, and Angela, for setting up such an amazing community and welcoming us so warmly into it.
As we left the village for the bus stop, we were given the most incredible sendoff, with so many hugs and kisses, waving and singing, and honking horns and banging drums and an entourage the followed us all the way to the Cali busstop.
In the words of our group:
“Kids!! So many, so energetic, and so keen to play. I was having a nap after a play session…never a good idea after befriending children. All I heard for the next hour was ¨amiga?! amiga?!¨ and later, having learned my name, tentative calls for ¨clara?¨ – very endearing, less good for sleeping.”
“Things Katie has learned: 1) if you pick up a child, 7 more will immediately jump on to you. CONSTANT VIGILANCE! 2) If Dan has one thing to say, he actually has three. 3) If you sing or dance, someone will sing or dance with you. 4) If you plan on being anywhere on time, be sure to leave ten minutes so that you may properly exchange pleasantries and greetings with EVERYONE you meet along the way. 5) if you carry 50 kgs of concrete by yourself, halfway across the village, everyone will be your friend”
“Things Anissa has learned: 1) If you speak and feel like a child when trying to speak spansih, it´s best to have the children teach you.2) Alambre means wire. We learned that when Dan ran into one (he was so excited that the bamboo for construction had arrived that he ran off in a fit of joy, forgetting about the low-strung clotheslines all over the village, and now looks like a pirate) then repeated as we discovered that alambres are used for tressling tomatoes, and also for constructing ladders out of bamboo. Learning through doing! It´s awesome. 3) Colombian children never go to bed. We don´t know if they go to school either. 4) ALWAYS more ¨frutas.¨”
And a miscellaneous collection of important observations and points worth remembering:
- Colombians are chevere (awesome).
- Bugs in Colombia love gringos.
- Every kid in Colombia is a futbol (soccer) player
- Barbara´s awesome amazing, fantastic ,the most inspiring woman in the world, and possibly my biggest idol. Superwoman!!
- Getting clotheslined (on an actual clothesline)* (*Due to bamboo excitement)
- Fresh sugarcane munchin´, and starfruit pickin´.
- Playing Ninja
- Little children hanging off of us everywhere we go
- Eating so many mandarins off the trees that I have turned into one
- The joy of finding scorpions in my room first thing in the morning
- Slow start to work, but GETTING THINGS DONE
Now salsa dancing in Cali and exploring in the south before heading to our second eco-village!
Colombia (and the Canadians/American/Brit that love it)