Amazing cyclist

Amazing cyclist
Originally uploaded by metacke
Walter, on the left, lead Lana and Derek (the other workers on Finca Ogawa) for about 10 miles uphill as fast as he could go on his bike. Lana and Derek were in a car and followed him. When he finally made it to the Finca he said he was just sweater than normal, but other than that, he was pretty used to the ride! Lana told me she'll never forget his eyes. I won't either after talking to him.

He's a friend of Pepe's (Pepe is the son of Tito who lives on Finca Ogawa). This is my favorite picture I've taken this whole year... They're such great kids, and I'll never forget them!



Eating Thanksgiving  dinner at Finca Ogawa
     One year ago, the day before Thanksgiving, I found out one of my closest friends from college had passed away. She was delightful in every way, and although we hadn’t been in the closest contact, I always knew we’d be good friends during our lifetimes. I remember saying to myself, you only live once, and her death proves that life can be way shorter than you expected… This past year, I’ve wanted to live life in a way that I took on all the opportunities that come to me with open arms.
     I don’t really know where to start except to say that I truly am thankful for being brought up the way I was. Mom and dad, you always pushed me into independence, and taught me so much about finishing what I’ve started and working hard. I am so thankful to have such stable parents, and have had such a stable childhood. I know you guys are always going to be there for me, no matter what I do or decide!
     Sure, I do miss our traditions at home, and being with the family, but mom… you also taught me how to be friendly, and everybody in the world just wants a reason to celebrate, so, naturally I’ve introduced these Argentineans to (and made the Canadians Derek and Lana re-celebrate) Thanksgiving!
     Reflecting back on the year, I remembered telling everyone in lovely, quiet, peaceful, and comfortable McCall, Idaho that I’m going to quit my job and pack my bags for South America. I remember thinking, wow, I must be crazy, should I really do this? I’m leaving a perfectly good job, with great healthcare and benefits for who knows what! I got all sorts of reactions from everyone, but a couple stand out in my mind. Mary and Barb (my lovely coworkers at McCall Memorial Hospital) absolutely encouraged me to embark on the adventure. I know they were worried about me, but I always felt they thought it was a perfect opportunity for me, and have been behind me every step of the way. Also, talking with my dad’s farming partner Tim… he told me, If he could do it all over again, that he’d have left to learn and take advantage his youth in a heartbeat. I’m so thankful for these guys and many many more who encouraged me to take this opportunity. It gave me confidence and courage to actually go through with it.
     When I arrived, I was absolutely lost in the language… It was the hardest part of moving. But so many people here, slowed down, broke it up, and had the patience to go over and over the language with me. I couldn’t be more thankful for all the Spanish speakers who did that for me. They’re wonderful!
     When the earthquake hit… and I saw all of the outpouring love and support spilling into every part of the struggle, I realized, what amazing people there are out there… and it made me thankful that I’m still here and we all lived through it and people do truly care for one another. Thanks to anyone who said a prayer, sent me positive thoughts, or wrote me an email. I am very blessed and thankful to have such amazing support from my friends and family.
     Not only that, looking back on the year… I realize how much Rodrigo’s family has helped me this year. Rodrigo’s mom and dad went through a lot just to make me feel comfortable and safe in this cultural transition. This last year would have been a lot harder if they weren’t so open to the idea of Rodrigo and I being together. I lived with Rodrigo’s grandmother for some time. She was so open and willing to host me, I can’t imagine the struggles I would have had without her… same with the rest of his family. They’re all wonderful, and I think it’s such an honor to get to know such kind hearted, giving people.
Rodrigo pretending like he doesn't
like my kisses!
     And lastly, when I really think about this year… and who I should thank, it’s definitely Rodrigo. He has been by my side through the absolute thickest of things as well as the most amazing moments of my life. I can’t thank him enough for how much he has taught me and how much I have grown. I’ve learned everything from politics to South American history to Spanish (he’s really the person to thank for my progress) to culture. What an amazing journey he’s taken me on… and I couldn’t be more thankful to have found him. Actually, maybe I should just be thankful for Chad Johnson from New Meadows, Idaho… for going to study abroad in Argentina and finding Rodrigo and his friends a job at Brundage.
     Chad, I don’t know you… but you’ve really made this past year an absolute wonder! Just keep being you…
     Here’s what we did to celebrate Thanksgiving on Finca Ogawa!
Roxanna making loafs of bread.
Roxanna getting ready to put the dough in the oven.

Pumpkin (squash) pie!

Lana and Derek watching Roxanna bake the bread.

Baking Bread!

Love this one, this was when we took the chickens
out of the oven.  It was dark, so I just left the shutter
open for about a minute, and this is how it turned
Roasting the Thanksgiving Chickens (Roasted French Chicken)


Garden Signs and Canadians

Last week, I finally got to make the signs I'd been wanting to make. I asked Martha if I could make some signs for the garden using some scrap wood in the shop and if she could bring me some paints or something to do the lettering. I was given 2 markers, and I just went with what we had. I wanted to make them all fancy with stencils and things... even do some carving, but I couldn't scrounge up the supplies, so I just went with my handwriting. I'm not positive if I translated everything correctly, or if I planted the signs where they're supposed to go exactly... only time will tell!
Lana and Derek from Stratford, Ontario, Canada came on Saturday afternoon. Sadly, I was unable to visit much, because Rodrigo came to visit me and we were leaving for Mendoza... I was able to show them around a little and then leave them in peace.
They're such fun people with a passion for travel! I'm fairly certain they've seen most of the world or certainly most of the places I dream to go. Derek has lived in Slovakia and Malta with Lana, they've been to Egypt, Holland, Cuba, US, Dominican... Lana has lived in Australia, done a 6 month tour around Europe, and traveled to Indonesia. What a dream!
Apart from their travels, they love to cook. They gave me a lesson today on left overs, and how not to use the microwave!
We're going to do a Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday... I'm looking forward to any helpful tips they might have for me!

Lana and Derek


Rural Argentina, Empanadas and Animals

I haven't really talked much about how everything works here in rural Argentina. The owners on any farm (huge plantations or small little fincas) are typically not the people who work the farm. It is all completely hired out.
Some of my closest friends that live in Córdoba come from a family of large soy farmers. I've asked them several questions about their farms (i.e. when they harvest their soy/wheat/barley), and they haven't got a clue. They may not even know what a combine looks like! The reason they don't know is because all of the work is hired out, and quite often, the farmers don't live on the farm land. It's more common that they live in town. As far as I know, Argentina doesn't have minimum wage laws, so you can easily get away with hiring the work to be done for a reasonable price. The poor people here need the work anyway, so both parties benefit by this system in some ways.
Here, on Finca Ogawa, there are two men in charge. One guy, Javier, runs the tractor on this Finca as well as other little Fincas nearby... while the other guy, Tito, is in charge of overseeing the Finca and being in charge of crews that come in to work.
Tito and his family live here. His family includes Roxanna (wife), Gabriel (son), Pepe (son), and Laura (daughter). They live in the cutest little brick house connected to the shop. The whole family is involved in the chores around the farm, as well as living here to make sure everything is safe.
I hadn't ever gone to visit them at their house (even though it's meters away) until Monday evening this week. We drank yerba mate and Roxana showed me how to make some amazingly tasty empanadas!! It was so educational and fun, I would just love to learn how to make them just right... but I think the secret is the use of a concrete oven to get them to taste just right. Maybe someday I'll talk Rodrigo into building me one! Empanadas are something like apple strudle, but are made of
meats or vegetables or cheeses (even dulce de leche!). What you do is cook what you're going to put inside the empanadas and put about a spoonful of the filling over a thin circle of dough. You fold the dough over and crease the ends, then bake it. It's a very common Argentinean delicacy.
On Tuesday, Roxanna, Tito, Laura and I all went to visit Roxanna's parents. Roxanna has 13 nieces and nephews. I only met about 6 of them, and they were so cute! There's nothing cuter for me than listening to little kids speak Spanish. Roxanna's mom has geese, horses, a wild bore, many pigs, and about a million chickens. It was almost like visiting the petting zoo... I loved it! After Roxanna's parent's house... we went to visit Tito's parents. They were so nice and it really gave me such a good feeling to visit there.
Living here has been so wonderful. It's so fun to see how other cultures farm... and other families live!


Where are the smoke jumpers when ya need ‘em?

We have had many exciting things happen recently here on Finca Ogawa. Friday, Nati and I went to the hospital to make sure we were healthy! Ha, we're so far from healthcare and we had some alarming symptoms, so we went to get checked out (we're healthy as horses). To continue, Sunday was the worst wind storm I have ever witnessed in the history of my being, Nati found a giant spider (luckily I was snoozing), sparks flew from electrical wires in our home last night, and this morning “the smoke.”
I awoke early this morning, because I’m absolutely feeling wonderful back in my element. In the entire year I’ve been in South America, I haven’t enjoyed a single place more than I’m loving the finca. I love the work, I love the dryness, I love the smells, I love the wild birds, the baby chickens… and the georgous Andes singing in the background. If I were to settle anywhere in Argentina, it would definitely be some little finca right near Finca Ogawa. I’ve never felt so at home, so far away.
As I was saying, I awoke early to jog before sunrise. I could see that it was foggy, and quite cold, but that didn’t stop me. I freaked myself out a little bit because there was a neighbor guy named “Daniel” (I only know that because we had a nice long chat one time while Nati and I were crazily singing and peddling the Finca bikes) creepily walking around in the fog… I envisioned him running after me. As my dad would say, I have quite the imagination! I continued jogging and turned on a road to the left. Pretty soon, I noticed it wasn’t quite so foggy anymore. When I finally turned around, I noticed that the “fog” was completely black… and thought, “hmmm, could that be smoke?” I was thinking of all the reasons there would be smoke. A house fire, perhaps? No, that wouldn’t be that black and that big of a sea… the whole town? Not likely, I thought I’d be able to see flames, and we would be working on putting it out. Then I remembered that yesterday I asked how they get rid of their garbage. They told me that the whole community here puts in into a big pile and when it’s large enough, they burn it. I was almost sure that’s what it was…
When I made it home, I looked down at my newly washed, bright white shirt… which had turned black from the smoke. I looked in the mirror and had black soot all over my face. I showed Nati, and she became worried that the fire was drawing nearer. I was sure it wasn't since I didn't see a single flame... but I said "Darn, where are those smoke jumpers when ya need 'em?" We both had a laugh.
When it was 7, starting time, I asked Tito what was going on with all the smoke. He explained that because it had frosted last night, the vineyard managers had to burn some type of oil to keep the ground from freezing where the newly planted vines were. Ha, I guess it’s true, ya learn somethin new every day!


HDR Shots

I've recently studied this new technique with Photoshop called HDR merging. What you do is take 3 of the exact same pictures with different exposures (that means overexposed would be a really light picture and underexposed would be a really dark picture). You merge the 3 pictures together and it turns out to be marvelous picture. I recently did a bunch of these around Córdoba to practice... the only problem is and HDR file is HUGE! About 120 megabytes, so I had to change the files to jpegs... so they don't look the same, but you get the idea kind of!

Montevideo, Uruguay (my first one, I didn't use a tripod!)

This isn't an HDR shot, just left the shutter open a while.

La Cañada Córdoba, Argentina

My favorite building in Córdoba
Parque Sarmiento Córdoba, Argentina

Iglesia Capachino Córdoba, Argentina
La Cañada

Parque Sarmiento Córdoba, Argentina


La Finca

So, my friend Natalie from Germany and I have recently made some big changes in our lackadaisical, touristy, non working lifestyles... we have moved to a Finca in Tunuyán, Mendoza Argentina, where manual labor is required. I must say, the air is cleaner, the bugs are a little friendlier, lovesickness has struck us, we're a little sweatier, and our backs hurt a little more since we've moved to Finca Ogawa! Life couldn't be better.

Our first project on the Finca is to make starter Malbec (a type of grape) plants. Here's
the process... The first thing we do is unbury the buried bundles of Malbec (they have been buried since winter time, July, to keep them moist). The second step in the process is to soak the bundles in water for one day. After a day's soak, we take them out, and plant them in nice neat rows (that's the part that hurts our backs). We asked some of the other laborers if they also hurt, and they told us that they did the first 2 days as
well... so hopefully it's just a 2 day deal, and tomorrow we'll be good as new! They water these little twigs, and magically (I say magically because John, a co-owner, says the soil here is out of this world and grows anything) starter grape vines grow. They are unplanted in July, some plants are sold and others make new bundles and are buried... where the process starts all over again!

We've been having a blast. Yesterday I really wanted to make hamburgers with scrambled eggs on top. We were starving, and while the burgers were frying, I ran out to the chicken coup to grab some eggs. I just LOVE being back on a farm! Thanks Jerry and John, you guys are so great!

fincaogawa.com (check out their website!)