A Community Experience in Portugal: Our 5th Workaway
SO…..I’ve been pooping in a bucket for the last two weeks!! It sounds really awful but it’s not as bad as it seems.
Number 1: There’s a toilet seat on the bucket. Number 2: There’s walls around the bucket and Number 3: The view from the bucket is amazing!!
Technically, it’s called a composting toilet and when it gets emptied (which IS as terrible as it sounds), our poop gets composted and is used to fertilize the trees (not the vegetable garden….thank God for that!). Basically we’re helping Mother Earth with each shit we take! I’m not going to lie, it feels good in more ways than one!
Before we began this Workaway experience (our 5th one), Karl and I were apprehensive. Prior to arriving, we thought our biggest challenges were going to be eating vegetarian and sleeping on the ground in a tent for 2 weeks. Surprisingly, the composting toilet was not something that crossed our minds.
When we first showed up at Keela Yoga Farm, I was pretty upset. As I exited the train in Fundão, I realized I left my yoga mat in the overhead bin. My mom bought me that mat roughly 15 years ago when I was in college. That yoga mat had traveled with me to six different countries and had been very faithful to me over the years. It was the only mat I’ve ever used (unless I forgot it at home and had to borrow a mat from the studio) and now it was gone. FOREVER.
Bruno, our driver and the neighbor of the farm, picked us up in Fundão. As we drove to Keela all I could do was ruminate about my yoga mat. We drove through the arid landscape of Eastern Portugal seeing nothing but empty farm land with small patches of pine and eucalyptus trees. We would see an occasional sheep farm and drive through a little village which looked like a ghost town. It was forty-five minutes of winding, twisting and hilly roads into nothingness.
The landscape was stunning but I had a hard time concentrating on the beauty of it all. As we were driving, I started to feel sick to my stomach and not because of my yoga mat. Assuming it was the motion sickness, which I suffer from time to time, I sniffed and rubbed my Digist essential oil all over myself and prayed that we would make it to the farm very soon.
Once we arrived, I still wasn’t feeling very well but I was glad to get out of the car. We introduced ourselves and my first question was, “Where should I pee?” Laurence, the owner of the farm, answered, “anywhere you would like.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize this place is rugged and this was going to be an interesting experience.
Our previous two Workaway experiences in Spain were wonderful. I was finally, for the first time my whole life letting myself be happy and I found so much joy in Spain. Then, just like that, I felt my happiness waning.
I ended up being wrong about the motion sickness. I spent the whole first night vomiting from apparent food poisoning. At this point I don’t think I will ever be able to eat cod and chickpeas (a thing in Lisbon) ever again. I won’t spare you any more details about that experience.
On a positive note, as we arrived, Laurence told us that he upgraded us from a tent to his old RV. So things were looking up.
It was an older RV with faded paneling on the outside, probably from the early 70’s. It had velvet off-white curtains with huge tan flowers and a linoleum floor with chunks missing from the middle. The door had to be jammed into place just right for it to close but at least I didn’t have to pick my sick, decrepit body up off the ground in attempt to make a quick escape into the woods. It was definitely not “glamping” but we weren’t complaining because it was way better than a tent.
Before we arrived, we didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into. Karl’s task was to help build a building out of straw and mud and mine was to keep people coming to yoga in the morning and in the evening. I had been itching to teach yoga since I hadn’t really taught a real class since I left the States 80 days prior.
A few days into our stay we seemed to have an ant infestation (even in our beds) within the RV. At first I just thought it was because we had kept food inside the RV. We were hoarding Spanish ham sensing the vegetables would cause us to starve. We tried to kill the ants the organic way with vinegar and essential oils but that didn’t really work so we had to go the toxic route and then the ants disappeared. Back to loving our R.V. again!!
Our stay was off to an interesting start.
On the farm, we were living with Kimbo and Laurence, the owners, as well as eight other volunteers.
Everyone was incredible. It was hard to believe the amount of volunteers giving up their free time and money to help fulfill someone else dream. Or maybe this was their dream too; living vicariously through Kimbo and Laurence and learning a bit about themselves along the way. It was inspiring.
What exactly is the dream at Keela Yoga Farm? The ambition, which is in full bloom, is to build community around sustainability and spirituality. What a great idea. They used solar power to heat everything and we ate food from the garden for every meal. They recycled everything and every ounce of water was accounted for.
In life, everyone wants to feel a part of something. Laurence and Kimbo did a great job of making us all feel like we are one unit working and functioning together. At the same time, through the practice of yoga, remembering we are all part of something bigger than ourselves and bigger than the work we were doing.
Despite the minor incidents and ruggedness I can honestly say I’ve never seen strangers from four different countries come together to live as a community in this way before. It was truly an extraordinary event. We never knew places like this existed. People came from all over the world to live as one and to help complete Laurence’s and Kimbo’s dream.
What I thought would be our biggest challenges ended up being our favorite experiences. The bed in the R.V. was very comfortable and peaceful. We were able to gaze at the stars at night and we felt great eating mostly vegetables for two weeks. Now, Karl eats ANY and ALL vegetables, which if you knew him before this trip you would know that he was only a meat eater!
Also, I learned a variety of ways to cook vegetables. I wouldn’t say we’re vegetarians but we now know we feel better eating less meat. This experience was totally worth it.
We had our challenges at Keela Yoga Farm, but we would never trade this experience for anything. We don’t regret a moment. Experienced a bit of bad luck at the beginning but when you’re in the midst of a community of kind souls, it’s impossible to stay negative for too long. Like most of our Workaway experiences, they always end with a lot of opportunities to learn and grow. Keela Yoga Farm was no different.
Thanks Laurence and Kimbo!! Now, on to India!!