I spend most of my day barefoot, stepping over dogs and cats and books in five languages and scattered bodies from four continents. I wake to a stunning white glow as the early morning sun seeps through the cloth walls of the yurt I call home. I make bread in a wood burning oven and eat lentls at least three times a week. I collect donkey poo and dig holes and pull weeds. I read books by candlelight and play the guitar for hours. I lie in cornfields to play hide and seek. I am learning to juggle.
I am living at Comuna Rhiannon, a small community in northern Ecuador, in the rural bits of the sierra, an hour and a half north of Quito. It´s a big house and the surrounding in-development land owned by a couple from England, Helen and Nicole, with the goal of being a sustainable community. (At barely a year old, they've got a great start, but still have a ways to go.) Volunteers come in and out, sharing the work from designing the gray water system to cooking meals to cleaning the bathroom. I came her for an education in organic farming, but am finding an experiment in communal living--the possibilities and problems of peaceful, sustainable coexistence for a random group of strangers. That's consenting adults, not a dorm building or frat house.
One of the best parts is that we aren´t strangers for long--we come from all over, everyone with a different story and different skills, but with like mind and like goals. An architect from Argentina, a finance man from England who lost his job in the economic downturn, a couple who wants to build their own sustainable farm in Puerto Rico, a physics grad student/actor from Germany. Everyone with their own beautiful way of seeing the world, of living and feeling and doing and being. Everyone has something to bring to the community and something to teach me. Everyday I have a new amazing conversation, a new insight into someone, a new way of making fun of the fact that I don't speak proper English (as if anyone can understand British people).
Nicky and Helen do a very good job at keeping the community democratic and open, and it is very free and group oriented. However, it is always clear that they are in charge. I often joke about the value of communism, and I'm never joking when I talk about the problems and general unsustainability of capitalism, but pure communism on a large scale cannot work. Even with only 20 people, there are clear leaders and rules and group organization. That is in no way a criticism. It is a beautiful way to live--eating together, sleeping together, working together, joking together. And it works. There are meetings once a week to work out the inevitable problems and discover who has the skills to fix what. Work is delegated, responsibilities shared, and the community keeps ticking.
Between composting toilets and using human pee to nurish trees, between mixing languages and customs and habits and jokes, between the tough and so equisitly fulfilling work of growing your own food, living at this community has been incredible and eye opening. This is as close as I have ever come to living an ideal life--one of learning, of fun, of actively improving the world around me, and leaving the least negative impact possible. But I have also learned that this life isn't enough for me--at least not now. I can try to live the best life I can--producing my own food, buying only socially conscious products, treating the world, myself, and others as positively as possible. But I can do more. I can try to lessen the inequality around us. I can try to bring the opportunities I have been so fortunate to have in my life to others. I need to work outside myself, as well on myself. I don´t know quite what that will look like, but I am confident I will figure is out. That is part of my ideal.
My time here has been a spiritual education as well--I've experimented with sweat lodges and shamanic ceremonies, yoga, meditation, and reiki. I've talked to pagans and witches and aethiests and everything in between. (Well, everything 6 miles left of center, that is.) This fits perfectly into my education of alternative living. It doesn't have to be high school, college, grad school, 9 to 5, white picket fence in a good neighborhood, 2.5 children and 3.5 bathrooms. It can, but it doesn't have to be. There are so many options, so many possibilities for my life. I just need to be constantly self-reflecting to know what it is I want. And right now, I want to build a garden, live with a fantastic group of people, and take advantage of every moment. Only four weeks until I get home to take off on the last leg of my adventure. What do I have waiting for me? The answer can only be spectacular. I can only describe life as curiosity, learning, joy, and adventure. It may not always be like this, but as long as I'm happy, I'll take what comes and go looking for it, too.
Photos of frolicking barefoot through corn fields: