Friday, 27 November 2009

at 09:46 Labels: Posted by WanderingFamily 0 comments

We were dropped off at the train station in Perpignan, not really sure where we were going next. We had a few options marked in our guide book and we tried to call the ones that were somehow on our way.

"Why not today..", a guy named Dodos or something, replied, and gave us directions on how to get from the train station at Robiac to their place by foot.

We said goodbye to Nolwenn and Wayne who went to check out a different community, and took the next train. After a few transfers, through Ales (the closest city), we were in deep French countryside.

And so we marched in the sun, loaded with our backpacks, from one small village to the other, following the sketchy directions. After some time and a picnic, a car pulled next to us and the driver asked us something in French with "La Valette" in it. He dropped us off at a car and truck graveyard, and after a few minute walk on a gravel road and a sign with France crossed out as in 'exiting-France', a whole village of ruins was revealed.

This is where we're staying - built from a box of a truck, old windows, and bottles. A family lives there some part of the year, so Omo eis enjoying some underground comics and things to play with.

The natural abundance of this place is overwhelming. This is not just a flat-share, it is a real village! With real streets and stone buildings, and fig trees everywhere growing out of the walls. They produce their own electricity via photovoltaics and have their own spring. Food comes from the gardens and from the waste of the local produce market. Main crops were potatoes, peas, beans, tomatoes, and greens, mostly very well mulched, and many are watered just by rainfall. They also have goats, sheep, geese, chickens and one pig for various non-vegan practices.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

at 08:32 Labels: Posted by WanderingFamily 0 comments

"... You will have a great time here because the house is situated in countryside of breathtaking beauty and the people are lovely and everything is so tranquil and peaceful. ..."

This passage is from an email sent to us by a WOOFer who was staying in a Vegan commune in the mountains. We decided to make it our first stop in France, on our way north.

The name of the commune translates to 'Friends of Gentleness and Harmony', and though it was never a problem being vegan in other situations, we were happy to be in a place which is vegan by definition, where we never have to ask questions and verify ingredients, and where the usual diet related conversations and jokes could be skipped.

After a few hours ride from Barcelona, we got off the train at Perpignan. Waiting for someone to pick us up, we spotted a man carrying in a self-made sling (from two rings and a piece of cloth, similar to ours) a diaperless child and a cloth shopping bag... Hmm.. he must be going where we are going... and indeed once a truck painted with doves showed up, we all approached it.

We found many things in common with Wayne, who with his family is in search for a suitable community to settle. He was very progressive in his ideas of how he wanted to raise his daughter and live his life, and many things we talked about were new and eye-opening for us. He was also vegan and his daughter was born at home, just the three of them.

After a stop at an organic produce distributor, getting wholesale organic fruits and vegetables(!), we started the ascent to the Pyrenees mountains. El-Faitg (pronounced El-Fatch), the name of this farmstead, is 850m above sea-level, 60km north from the coast. It was indeed breath-taking to stand there, and look around - snowy mountains, huge forest, no neighbors to be seen or heard, just birds, singing all day long.

The house was huge and we've probably only seen half of it. There were many rooms and levels, each one painted differently, usually with bright colors, doves, long-haired people holding hands, and words of virtue such as compassion, order, humor, honesty, etc. The house even came with its own chapel which they converted into a Christ-free spiritual place.

It's been quite comfortable in our room because we could leave Omo locked in the closet for the whole day (we don't carry a play-pen) and she was such a happy girl once we opened the doors!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

at 08:08 Labels: Posted by WanderingFamily 0 comments

Tonight is our last night at Falkon Blanco. Here are some phots from the last few weeks. Next stop - France!

Sunday, 15 November 2009

at 08:04 Labels: Posted by WanderingFamily 0 comments

This time we used virgin olive-oil that expired in 1998. The recipe is pretty simple as you can see.
First we opened 178 bottles of olive-oil into a barrel, and with mirrors heated the barrel up to 60 degrees C. We added a little caustic soda (lye, which Ramon ground with a mask) and little methanol and it is all mixed together for a while.
Then you let it sit overnight, and the next day it is ready to fill up the van and forklift.
There are many websites and email groups about how to make your own fuel and gas (alcohol, hydrogen gas, wood gas, etc.) saving a lot of money, often reducing pollution and using renewable resources, and of course, playing with explosive stuff!!

Friday, 13 November 2009

at 07:58 Labels: Posted by WanderingFamily 0 comments

We've been enjoying life at Falkon Blanco for two weeks now.

Everyday, the yellow van, running on bio-diesel (fuel based on vegetable oil), goes into town to collect wood pallets from supermarkets and food distributors, keeping and eye open on trash bins and waste spots for anything usable. A business can not just throw the pallets with the rest of it's garbage, it is in fact taxed for every pallets thrown away.

The FB Van therefore provides a service for these businesses and in exchange, they give all of the wood pallets (including ones that do not require a repair), and they put aside any product they would throw to the trash - this includes expired food products, produce that is rotten or which only has a few days to go, damaged packaged food and cleaning products (i.e. one broken jar in a box, and they give the whole box).

It is amazing how much food goes into waste, some days the van comes with boxes and boxes of cereals, perfect bananas, hard red tomatoes, chocolate, jars and cans... Once the van returns, we sort the pallets and later process the broken ones, we sort the food, whatever is bad goes to the compost (where else can you see compost full of chocolate bars and gelatin powder??) and the rest is for the community (humans and animals) or sold to people who are looking for a bargain.

Oil is used to make bio-diesel. Alcoholic and sugary drinks (a lot of these come in), are waiting to be distilled into ethanol to replace the methanol in the bio-diesel process. We found ourselves using all kinds of products we would never buy, suddenly since a product would go to waste anyhow, it doesn't really matter that an oppressive multi-national corporation such as Nestle has it's name on it, though we did draw are lines and did our best to choose the most ethical and healthy choices.

Here you can really understand how affluent society is, so affluent, that with little effort you can live at no cost off the waste of others and have everything you wish for, even make a good income.

Here is Omo in her new highchair...

And us building our new ineepee...

Thursday, 29 October 2009

at 07:52 Labels: Posted by WanderingFamily 0 comments

An overnight ferry from Barcelona has shipped us to Ibiza, an island 120km away from the mainland of Spain and about the same distance from Africa.
We arrived a week ago and have since been experiencing an ecovillage named Falcon Blanco.
Laura greeted us at the port of Eivissa City and drove us through the somewhat familiar scenery. Pines, Oaks, Fig, Carob, Loquat (shesek) trees, very similar to Palestine's hilly areas, yet farm houses are scattered around and it is less populated (70,000 locals and 12,000 foreigners).

We ended up in one of the farm estates somewhere in the middle of the island - our new home for the next few weeks.

Prior to our arrival, Ramon, the founder said that all the rooms were full of volunteers/guests, but then recalled that he has all the parts for an Ineepee (Teepee is a cone and an Ineepee is more like a dome) and we can build it in no-time. Until the Ineepee is up, we had the choice between the meditation dome - a big sky lighted dome where every word you say echoes all around for some time (quite fun to sing, clap, and play a recorder all at the same time), or a big tent.
We chose the tent and went with Laura to find a spot for it in the woods while she gave us a small tour of the place.

Over the years, the people at FB collected an amazing amount of stuff that was destined, mostly without much thought, to landfills. By bringing it here, it might end up somewhere else. Piles of broken wood pallets are everywhere, thousands of them, most waiting to be repaired, or cut into firewood. Refrigerators and other big appliances, ceramic tiles, old cars, windows and mirrors, scrap metal, furniture, the list goes on and on. It is quite overwhelming. There are also big compost heaps and several unfinished projects in various locations.

There's also a swimming pool that seems to always be partly filled and mainly used by nude female mosquitoes and their many descendants who later party in our room. And last, a sweat lodge that we never used.

Friday, 23 October 2009

at 07:38 Labels: Posted by WanderingFamily 0 comments

After 3 days of walking up and down five flights of stairs it was time to move on to new accommodation.

We found a cheaper 'hostal,' on only the third floor, above a small shopping mall. The lady of the house always greeted us in a high-pitch shrill voice, "Hola, Moma, hola!". Below us, in the mall, there were many stores for babies, and every time we went in and out, Omo would see the toy stores and start to jump up and down with joy, and force us to stop and look through the windows. But it is the whole display window, or toy store she likes, since she gets tired of individual toys after a few minutes.

Over the next week we did a very slow and thorough tour of Barcelona. It was such a wonderful city full of pedestrian-only areas.
The metro system was spectacular, so clean and quiet, stations everywhere, very clear smart signs telling you when to get off, a live timer that tells you when the next train is, butt-seats to lean on while standing and we never had to wait for more than 4 minutes.

First on our walking tour we did the Modernism Route and saw all of Gaudi's buildings. They gave us great inspiration for our future plans. And of course, each day, we had to set aside a couple hours that had to be spent in a grassy park in order for Omo to get her crawling and cigarette-butt-eating time.

Of course one of our favorite joys of traveling is checking out the restaurant options. Because we had no kitchen we ate out everyday and it turned out actually cheaper to eat organically out than buy organic produce. Our favorite restaurant was BioCenter, an organic vegetarian restaurant where we could get an entree and all-you-can-eat salad bar for less than $5. And on top of that, they had a baby chair that fit right onto our table! Our strategy was to eat there at 4pm and then we would be full until bedtime. Our other favorite was Juicy Jones. Though it was not organic, it was all vegan and very inventive and tasty. We were definitely one of their frequent customers.

We also found a few good natural food stores where we could load up on produce and a few goodies. There was a huge market where we could get cheap avocados, mangoes, and bananas.

One day we visited a modern art museum. The exhibit was very 'modern' (ie. I never 'get it') made almost entirely from recycled materials and slide projectors with lesbian/feminist messages. Omo practiced her stair climbing and avant-garde listening skills.

We also went to a museum of musical instruments. Each floor had a different family of instruments, some very old and unique. We really wanted to try out all the different shaped keyboard instruments, but this was one of those look-don't-touch museums, so had a go when the warden wasn't looking...
We found a playground inside the big city park designed for young children, though we may have enjoyed it more than omo as we pushed her super-fast on the 4 wheeler entertaining all the mothers with scared look on their faces.

Monday, 12 October 2009

at 07:29 Labels: Posted by WanderingFamily 0 comments

We pulled into port and went straight off to hunt for a room. It was Saturday, and we had some difficulty finding a vacant hotel. Finally we just went to a no-name pension that was closest to us, on the fifth floor (no elevator), and got a decent room with recycled newspaper in our trash basket, pictured below.

This is a good idea for guesthouse owners that would eliminate the need for bags for trash baskets and while shopping. We relaxed for the rest of the night.

Today we were out on the town. We went up Mont Juic by funicular and cable car took in the view of Barcelona and the sea below and soaked up the sun we had missed for so long. Momo got a chance to play with her Dad's spring-smelling sandals.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

at 07:22 Labels: Posted by WanderingFamily 0 comments

Arriving in Genova, we tried a few of the lodging options in our book.

While waiting to find a place to stay in a semi-residential area, off in a corner, we watched Omo crawl along the sidewalk when a police car pulled up and two policemen approached us.
They asked 'where are you from?' and 'what are you doing?' and then they got down to the real point of why they stopped:
"You should not put baby on ground here."
"Oh it's okay," We said
"No it's not," they replied with serious faces.

We stayed for a day and decided that this is just another city designed for cars, not people and went to the port to see if there were any boats to Spain.
There was one leaving that night so we made the instant decision to leave and took a few buses across the city to the natural food store to buy some supplies for the 19-hour-long ride.

We found ourselves on a quite fancy ferry to Barcelona which even had a children's room full of plastic kid furniture, and Omo played for a while with 16 month old Mara.

Monday, 5 October 2009

at 07:14 Labels: Posted by WanderingFamily 0 comments

We ended our Italian travels in Cinque Terre, a string of 5 villages along the beautiful rocky northern coast. Though usually packed with tourists, it was still off-season so it was nice and quiet.

While in Sienna there were still resident's cars that were making noise and polluting the air, here, 4 of the villages (the nicest, too) were completely without automobiles, only connected by a train and foot trails and there you could sense the overwhelming quality of life not too long ago.

It was clean and silent, just hearing the train every once in a while. We were impressed with the amazing vineyards and gardens along the steep mountainside terraces, the way the houses blend with each other, and how we were still able to see an old lady sorting potatoes next door to a touristy hotel.

The visit was enhanced with vegan foccacia, and a good off-season deal for a room with a view. It rained the last day, so we only did the walk between the last 2 villages (the hardest according to the book), but it was a great experience, seeing the gardens from close, getting lost for a while, and observing some really great property, too bad the owners weren't wwoof hosts...

Out of the 5 villages, we chose the only one who had a hostel, Manarola and while we were waiting for it to open Omo entertained 3 local ladies.

It turned out that the rooms were single-sex,so the manager referred us to a bed-breakfast just across the way.

There, the cross-eyed manager and architect gave the vegan couple waiting in line next to us a good deal for 3 nights in a room with just a bunk-bed. Out our door we had a view of the sea. After seeing the rest of the villages (which are quite similar except the one with cars - Monterosso), we decided that Manarola was our favorite.