Monday, August 24, 2009

mas manchego, que bueno!

As soon as I stepped out of the bus and into the sweltering mountainous village of Lanjarón, I heard my name being called, "Connie, Connie!" in an upbeat British accent. Surely, enough, this must be Ann, I thought. She pulled up in her speedy little motor of a car, I hopped in, and off we were to La Casa del Viento, House of the Wind, my home, workplace and unexpectedly, a tucked away paradise in southern Spain.
First, I want to tell you more about Ann and La Casa del Viento. House of the wind, as is the English translation, is Ann's home and work, which she's created with the help of HelpX-ers over the past nine years and counting. It's stunning and so obvious that so much work and love has gone behind it. Ann is about sixty or so, but with her energy, physique and charm, you'd think she was much, much younger. She's one to welcome with open arms, is so sweet, full of life, great recipes and plenty of stories. The kind of woman I aspire to be.
As a HelpXer, I've been nurturing the plant life here. And on this massive land, there's plenty of sweat and love to go around. It's only been two days, but a lot of hard, rewarding and humbling work. There are trees, and trees galore of olives, almonds, figs, lemons, avocados, apples, pears, grapes, blackberries, cranberries, pomegranates, oh I can go on and then there are tomatoes, squash, greenbeans, cuccumbers, aubergine (eggplant) and (and that's just what's in season now!) -- and there's mint, thyme, rosemary, and my favorite, oh so favorite, jasmine, the scent just takes me this place of wonder-- all of this growing for our pleasurable consumption.
What I love about being here, among many things, is being able to cook with the very own foods grown right in my eyesight. Above is what an almond tree looks like, who would've thunk? Yesterday, I dehusked a bucket of almonds and lost my nutroast virginity.
Below was my first dinner--oven-roasted spaghetti squash with stuffed vegetables in a tomatoe sauce, potatoes roasted to a golden crisp and my very own nut roasted (I even hand-blended the almonds and fresh bread rolls myself!), complimented with a light Spanish white wine. A deliciuosly wholesome experience.
I met Orfhlaith (the f and t are silent, pronounced Orla), such a sweet and open-minded recent high school grad from Dublin, Ireland. I fancy working with her. We've been pruning grapes, and might I say, they are quite the sticky mess. As they hang from their vines, some of them, when they're really ripe, drip and ooze this syrup that's sticky like sap. And nonetheless, they are ever so gorgeous. I've frozen a bunch just like at home when my sibs and I would freeze grapes during the summer and snack on them like candy by the pool.
After a morning's work from 8am to 2pm with a coffee break at 11am and a scrumptious lunch made of various seasoned salads and cheeses, swimming and siestaing usually ensue.
Yesterday, Orfhlaith and I headed into town for some tinto de verano and vermouth, popular Spanish summer drinks and of course, tapas. It was a hot and hilly trek full of rocks, but luckily, with the sweetness of picking fresh figs off the trees. I love the leathery texture of figs and their rich sweetness. They also remind me of two really dear friends. Tammy who's now studying and practicing yoga and learning Hindi in India, introduced me to fresh figs last year (fig newtons just don't count), and whenever I eat them, I think of her and of Natalie, where at her New Year's Eve Party made the most decadent goat-cheese and almond stuffed and baked figs. I attempted to replicate such an hor'dourve at lunch today, but it didn't come out quite as nice.
In the town of Lanjarón, shops close around typical American dinner time and later open for a night full of tapas and fiestas. After all, hard work comes with hard play, only after proper rest.
During closed hours, I noticed a fond separation of the sexes--old men sitting on benches while women sat in circles chatting. The old men and women, in their weathered looks of wisdom, quiet in passing and quite off-putting, are handsome and real in a beautiful way.

 With the breathtaking sights, fresh and mouthwatering foods and sweet Ann and Orfhlaith who are like family, I don't think I can ask for more. This is my first HelpX experience, and thus far, it has been specatcular. While I am so grateful to be here, I am constantly thinking and in the little-ist things, am reminded of home, my loving family and friends, the food, comfort and warmth-- to balance it all and keep perspective is such a blessing.

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