We were all sad to leave our latest Workaway with Esteban and Tom on the Buena Finca. I think everyone was sad to see us go as well – and not only because I was the one who brought the beer and rum each night.
When we arrived almost two weeks ago we thought we had signed up to provide manual labor on Tom’s farm but it turned out we spent most of our days at the ferreteria (hardware store) run by Tom’s family – brothers, uncles, sisters, and cousins.
Each morning while Esteban and Tom discussed construction of the “Buena Casa” – the first of several floating structures they hope to build for their ecotourism project – we used Wifi and did math homework. I don’t think the family knew what to make of us at first – a bunch of gringos sitting around their garage with electronics and notebooks – but our daily appearance combined with my inability to sit still helped us connect. It wasn’t long before I was helping deliver cinder blocks to construction sites, unloading a new inventory of metal piping, and washing the lunch dishes.
When Esteban and Tom finally decided what they wanted to do, we would spend a few hours cutting, painting, drilling, and screwing together pieces of wood gathered from here and there around the yard and slowly these parts began to take the form of a house; a square, one-room house, but a house nevertheless. Then we would eat lunch and go swim in the river.
During our almost two-week stay, additional volunteers trickled in – Gaele from Montreal, who is traveling for the first time on her own; Joe and Fanny, from London and Sweden, respectively, who have been on the road for five months of a one year tour; Selene from France, who lives half of each year in Brazil. The two-bedroom house where we stayed got a bit crowded around dinner and breakfast, but we slept comfortably in Wesley.
It was really a great group of people - everyone was easy going and willing to work together. And they were all great with Coconut and J - playing cards, giving advice on how to deal with embarrassing parents, and even indulging them on two screenings during the week of our favorite movie - The Princess Bride.
Tom and Esteban are good hosts who kept things fun and complement each other well. Tom has the resources (his family owns the farm, the house where we stayed, and the ferreteria) and is amazingly positive about everything. It was always, “buena cocinera” about R’s cooking. “buen canción” about the song on the iPod. “Buena vida” about the time we were having. And, of course, “buena casa” about the floating house we were building. Esteban has the vision and the skills to bring it together. He speaks fluent English, has experience in the tourism industry, knows a lot about the birds, trees, and natural resources of his country through his previous work as a nature guide, so is always pointing interesting things out, and can use social media to bring people from different countries and cultures to aid with the project. Tom and his family were more amazed at this than anything - that gringos would come to their farm to work for some rice and beans. They thought Esteban was brilliant.
On Friday night, my birthday, Tom’s family threw me a party at the finca where they served various cuts of meat (I got to try chicharrones – fried pork skin - for the first time) and sang “Feliz Cumpleanos.” We all took a walk to the lake where we had floated the buena casa that day and Esteban gave a speech that was complimentary of us as the first volunteer family on the farm and explained his and Tom’s vision for the farm, which was in Spanish so I didn’t catch all of it -something about more free labor and good times. After everyone clapped politely, we took one of the nephews for a paddle on the house but the boy started to cry so we turned back.
Later, Esteban got a guitar that he borrowed from a neighbor and sang a bunch of what I can only guess are Costa Rican standards (they were in Spanish) and some American pop. At one point he dedicated a song to me and I was afraid he was going to ask me to get up and sing with him but he didn’t. I sang along anyway, much to the dismay of Coconut and J, who went and hid in Wesley.