Work-Away at a Paraguayan farm: I am going back in time with this story, being at the end of my 5 year cycling trip, in 2019. I was tired. I needed a stop from cycling and constant moving. I did not know that the farm I halted would bring me a husband.
This post is also about a piece of fabric, since I always embroider at my camp spots. This particular piece is made long after this story started to begin. I wanted this piece of fabric to be made up out of straight lines. I prepared the fabric with stitches and bleached lines so I would stay neatly between them. But even something so simple as a piece of fabric is not to be dictated. A bit like life itself.
Without getting too philosophical, this piece truly represents where the material stitched with comes from. Paraguay. Ranch Iparoma.
I was not at all planning on getting married (who does?) but life took me by surprise and gave me what I quietly wanted, all I had to do was getting my thoughts a bit from the track I felt I needed to be on.
I’d cycled for 5 years straight. The last year and a bit I sought solitude and found it plentiful in South America. It perhaps was an overdose of solitude because I ended up, willingly, at a farm with an owner whom I befriended a year prior. So now, I needed people to be with, I wanted to work and I was going to figure out a new way of living without moving constantly. Meet Gerd and his wife Marilyn, who became my friend.
I met Bärbel. I had a natural adversity when we first met but we befriended and she inspired me with a new sort of lifestyle. She’d stay at Work-Away farms, would travel from one farm to another and would get a paid job on a farm in Europe which enabled her to continue travel and work. Avelino, the gaucho of Indian origin, became my neighbor.
The third occurrence which went against my natural ways was to stay at a farm with too many people, especially Europeans. Too much noise, too much talking, too harsh sounds and too much things going on. Naturally, fleeing this scene would be easiest. Just pedal away from all this clatter and cluster. But, like a river flowing over pebbles, past boulders and creating a pleasant swirl in a landscape, so I did. Just like this piece of fabric in front of me while writing this.
I decided to stay at Iparoma, a ranch in a Mennonite society. In the heart of Filadelfia, once dry bushes in an arid sandy desert alike nature with roaming Indians, now the heartland of cattle and diary produce for the whole of Paraguay, and beyond. Iparoma a farm with 600 hectare and 300 cows, had me working in the kitchen.
I worked together with Elvira, coming from a strict Christian Russian family. She and her husband ran the farm which doubled as a hotel. They had a son, Alan, of whom I was mildly fond. Alan was a 7 years old boy who seemed a bit lonely. So he decided to join me when I would take a walk with Emma the goat. We would go to the pond together, where he was not allowed to swim in. He was a cheeky boy, who thought knew very much, if not everything. He would attach to me in a way I found too much. I mean, after working a shift of 5 hours filled with clatter, noise, sounds and talks I could do without, it certainly was not my wish to entertain a child.
Authority is not my strongest point and I was not able to tell Alan when he was welcome and when he was not. When I tried, in a fit of frustration, it seemed Alan got the message and would simply walk back home when I wanted him to walk back home. Except for that time when I cleaned a tremendous dirty toilet block and Alan annoyance went overboard. He started to spray expensive bottles of cleaning stuff excessively all over, he tried locking me in and thought was super smart with his crafty answers and replies.
But I also remember the good stuff: when he started to talk to me quietly when he sensed I was fed up with all the Germans talking German. Alan liked to pose for a photo and enjoyed the time we spend closely together in creating these little togetherness. He liked cycling beside Emma and me when we were walking and he presented me with the spiderweb I am embroidering with.
I would have never come up with this idea. It is so creative, perhaps only a child can come up with such a thought? Or perhaps I had too much eye for Geo, with whom I was walking the Chaco for the first time. Alan knew I was on the look out for original material to embroider with and it was his fresh thinking to collect some cobweb and hand it over to me in a big ball.
Working with the web of a Paraguayan spider is remarkably wondrous! It is incredible strong and acts like wool of a sheep. I have not done any research but it would not surprise me that with spiderweb one could spin ‘wool’ and produce fabric. Now, I feel a big tug to go back to Paraguay, to Iparoma, meet Marilyn, Elvira and Alan, all three of whom were saying: ‘Why don’t you marry Geo?’
And marrying Geo is what I did indeed.
The flows of a river are not predictable, like cow webs are neither.
Thank you to Alan to hand me the ball of web.
Thank you to Marilyn, to befriend me. I wrote many posts about my stay at Iparoma, one is ‘Meet the Mennonites’ and another one is where Geo and I start traveling the Andes on a small motorbike.