It is now February 11th and I arrived at the Rio Muchacho Organic Farm on the coast of Ecuador one month ago.  I have learned a ton, experienced things I never could have imagined, met incredible people, got soaked through torrential downpours of rain and sweated through the powerful heat of the sun so close to the equator.

        Each morning I wake up at 615 AM and help with the morning chores which include:
Cleaning all the pens of the pigs, cows, and horses.  Feeding all the animals including chickens and guinea pigs, and harvesting fresh crops from the garden to be used in the lunch that afternoon.  We place all the manure into compost piles to decompose and later be used in the garden.  In the morning after breakfast we usually go to the garden to weed, cultivate, compost, plant, or harvest crops.  It is a massive garden and needs maintenance all the time.  After lunch we usually work on projects around the farm from basic maintenance of the farm, like fixing roofs, re-stocking bathrooms, cleaning areas, etc.  For me I

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am one of the long term volunteers so I give tours, help tourists get settled, and train new volunteers by helping learn about how the farm works and what needs done to make everything run smoothly.  Each Wednesday afternoon is a cultural time where we participate in “Bano Negro” otherwise known as a local therapeutic clay that you wipe on your face then afterwards put aloe vera on, picked from the garden.  Or go shrimp fishing in the river, visit an enormous tree, walk to the waterfall, or make rings from a local seed, along with cups and spoons from a local plant called “Mate.”
        At 4 we take a break, shower, do what you need to do, and then dinner at 6.  All the food is so fresh and always very delicious made by the local Ecuadorian cooks.
        Now you must understand, the above is what a normal day is supposed to look like.  I have had many scenarios from chasing pigs into their pens, herding cows from one grazing ground to another, hauling food up hills through the foot deep mud, shoveling manure in the pouring rain, helping tourists up slippery slopes, scrambling to fix beds for unexpected newcomers, digging a small canal in the middle of the night to prevent a massive flood into the main house, and of course hitching rides on the back of a pick up truck with 8-9 other villagers crammed together, driving over rivers wondering if we are going to make it across.  Each day is full of excitement in it’s own unique way.

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But then there are the days when you can just relax and go for a swim in the river under the shining sun and a gorgeous blue sky, reading a book in the garden and grabbing a couple juicy tomatoes, or tangy mandarinas as a quick snack.  Or just laying in a hammock near the river and taking a nap listening to the birds chirping all around.  Or going for a hike to the top of the hill to look out over the beautiful landscape with endless green everywhere.  And then there are the great times cooking with the owners, locals, and other volunteers, making fresh food picked that day and learning all kinds of unique recipes from all parts of the world.  I have met people from Germany, Indonesia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Russia, Canada, Argentina, United States, and of course many from different parts of Ecuador.
        So far it has been an adventure and each day is unique in it’s own way, just two days ago there was an Earthquake… Hope everybody is well near the Columbia/Ecuador border (the epicenter).
Wish everybody good luck on their journeys all over the globe especially my two SE Asia buddies in Senegal and Ghana.  Hope all is well Madison and Chris.  And Ryan I’ll see you soon…

 

From Rio Muchacho, Ecuador
Derek Newhof