Oct 28, 2008

Adios, For Now!

In the end we became the ultimate surf sacrifices. We took one for the team as we left pumping surf to jump in the taxi and head to the airport for home. Yet it was time for us to go, and we were sent off with a magnificent bang!

Our last few weeks in Barra were bursting with activities. We had projects to finish, travel plans to arrange, catching up with friends to do, and had some great parties to attend.

October 12th marked Barra’s 43th anniversary commemorating the formation of the Collectivo, a formal agreement between the residents of Barra to work together and share resources.

photo by Kale Gray

The festivities begin with the Convite de Flores, which consists of a parade of ladies, or tejuanas, dressed in their finest regional wardrobe of intricately embroidered velvet blouses walking through town accompanied by a marching band.

Kemi, Aubrey, and Julieta had the honor to be chosen to participate in the parade. They had made so many friends with the local women that they dressed them up in the gowns and treated them like family. Aubrey looked so beautiful in the velvet blouse!

photo by Kale Gray

The women carry baskets of fruit and snacks on their heads, and circle the town ending up at the church to make offerings. Then they descend the hill upon which the church stands and hurl the fruit at a crowd of hungry and ecstatic children. The kids scramble for the fruit as it flies through the air, trying not to get banana slapped. The parade ends with everyone dancing in the streets to live music, amidst the smell of fresh peeled mandarins.

But this was just the beginning. The next day firecrackers start at 5:30 a.m. to wake the town for morning mass. We were tempted to go, as they serve fresh hot chocolate and homemade bread following the service. We opted to sleep off the cervesas from the night before.

Mid-day mass is followed by more food, and evening mass starts the real party at the Agencia Municipal, or community center. The entire town, including all guests and travelers are treated to a fabulous meal of birria (stewed beef) and tamales.

The beer flowed like water, and the little Coronitas went down fast. Multiple bands lit up the stages with high energy to get the people moving. The grandmas are the ones who take over the dance floor!

Lo enjoying some Tamales!

photos by Kale Gray

The party goes on all night, with many people taking breaks to shower and then come back until the wee hours. We danced until Aubrey wore holes in her sandals!

Later that week we were surprised by the arrival to Barra of my cousin Jeremy Sherwin and his dad, Louie. Jeremy rides for Reef and absolutely rips. He tore the little Barra zippers to shreds.

photo by Louie Sherwin

Jeremy is working with the Reef Redemption Program, which has as one goal to use more environmentally friendly materials in the manufacture of their products. They are also reducing waste during production, and using salvaged building materials in the construction of their stores and factories.

photo by Louie Sherwin

After finishing the Slow Sand Filter we moved on to build a Composting Toilet for Pepe’s Cabanas. Pepe is planning on expanding his business by adding more Cabanas. He is excited to try new ways of dealing with human waste that keeps it out of the ground water. Worms present in the toilet consume the human waste and convert it to fertilizer. The whole setup cost around US$50 to build. (Download plans for Composting Toilet)

The last night of our stay, Pepe and his sister Novy treated us and a special crew of our traveling compadres to a fine home cooked traditional meal of mole, which is basically chocolate chicken.

Kale Gray from Oregon, and his partner Pepa from Australia, were a part of the crew. They rocked up to Barra a few weeks after we did and parked up along side us, becoming our faithful and fun neighbors for the rest of the trip. Kale is an amazing photographer (note photo credits) and Pepa is a super creative artist who helped me get crazy with the spray paint (check their blog).

There were also the Canadians, aka “Canooks”, who graciously swept into town and literally swept it up! They were an amazing energetic crew who lead beach clean-ups and are even planning to start fundraising to get “Books for Barra”, a Library for the town.

It was so incredible to meet so many inspired and motivated people who are all uniquely sharing their gifts and taking positive action.

Aubs taking a late one

The next morning, the day of our departure, we hit the dawn session on the point. It was absolutely firing! It was the best day we had seen since the day we arrived two months earlier. It was definitely a bittersweet goodbye, as we peeled ourselves out of the ocean so we could catch a cab to the airport. It was a good way to leave, though, and we will have the memory of those waves in our minds when we return in four months!

photos by Louie Sherwin

We left our truck Ellie in Barra. She is sleeping peacefully under the shade of the tamarind tree. We will return in late February after visiting our families for the holidays and working a bit. We plan on continuing on south, to Panama.

photo by Kale Gray

Team SWoBs are now home, enjoying the wonderful Santa Barbara sunshine. We made it in time for Grammies 76th Birthday, Cousin Noals Wedding, and caught the tail end of Internatinal Natural Building Colloquium at the Orella Ranch. We feel so blessed to have an ever expanding amazing group of family and friends!

While home we are working on raising funds for the continuation of our journey and work. We will keep you all posted on upcoming fundraising events, which are sure to be great parties!

Photo by Kale Gray

Many, many blessing and thanks to all who have supported us along the way!

Oct 14, 2008

Relating, Creating, and Integrating!

A lot has happened in these last 2 weeks. On a global scale, it appears that there have been huge changes. For a tiny pueblito on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, watching the rest of the world’s frantic struggle over the economy and politics seems like just another dramatic soap opera on the talking box.

Still, small rural towns like these have their share of drama. Everywhere there is human culture there is almost always the common theme of the “struggle for power”.

To deal with this recurring dilemma of “who’s right, who’s wrong”, Barra de La Cruz has created a democracy of the people. As an indigenous town they are left mostly alone, free from most government financial support. This means a small health clinic and no federales.

The community makes all the rules; and if you don’t like them you can leave. If you break the rules, the “banda” may come to escort you out of town with sticks and machetes by their sides. Unruly people are banned from town. They recently constructed a new gate on the road into town, which is locked promptly at 9 p.m. and doesn’t open again until 5 or 6 a.m. If you’re in you’re in; if you’re out, you’re out.

A President and a Vice President are appointed each year, then the positions rotate to another member of the town. Each person in the community gets a turn at public service, be it being the police or serving food at the restaurant at the beach. Community meetings held bi-monthly, where up to 200 member of the town gather for a shouting match. We hear that it gets so heated that at least one person is hauled off to the town jail for being too rowdy. But for any significant changes to occur with in the town, the whole community must agree on it, which can often take months, even years.

The fact that we decided to park up at Pepe’s Cabanas, almost 2 months ago now was no coincidence. This was the spot we needed to be, and Pepe was the man we needed to meet!

It takes time to build relationships and to really get to know a place, especially in tight knight communities where one’s family heritage marks one’s standing, and it can takes generations to earn respect. Things are changing however, and old worlds are merging with the new.

The town of Barra is doing its best to protect its heritage, the sacredness of the land, and the interest of the people. Gringos, or “hueros” are not particularly popular here amongst some elderly locals. It is no surprise why, when most of what they see are fancy cars speeding through town, preoccupied with getting to the surf. There is little quality interaction between the two cultures.

Pepe is Vice President this year, and is a prominent figure in the community. He is well respected and educated. It has been a dream of his to make a way for foreigners to interact more within the community, sharing knowledge and experiences, and creating projects that benefit everyone. Perfect! He has been super stoked on our ideas, and gladly gave us the permission to proceed with them. His place was the first in town to implement the Water Bottle Refill Program, and the positive effects are already evident. Now the restaurant at the beach is doing the same.

Water Bottle Refill program in effect!

Our next sustainability project was to build a Slow Sand Filter for making the town water supply potable. The filter consists of a 50 gal (200 liter) plastic drum filled with rocks, gravel, charcoal, and sand. The sand acts much the same as a river-bank, and active bacteria and algae present in the sand remove up to 99% of disease causing pathogens like Giardia and Cryptosporidium cysts. (Click here for a link to our website with plans and more info)

View inside filter of outlet pipe
and first layer of rocks

Aubrey crushing charcoal for a layer
after gravel and rocks

Loren filling the drum with sand to complete the filter media

We heard that the local school does not have an art program. We have been really excited to do some art projects with more kids, so this was a great opportunity for us to work with them in further expressing their creative sides.

We had no idea what to expect coming to the school to “teach” an art class, and were a bit nervous. Our Spanish is decent to good, but kids always seem to catch every word that is not used correctly.

It was overwhelming to think these kids may never have played with colors. They were so incredibly excited when we pulled out the pads of blank paper and the packets of oil pastels. We had their full attention, all 20 of them!

The only thing I really wanted to show them was how to mix and make colors using the 3 primaries: yellow, red, and blue. With these three colors you can make the whole rainbow (arcoiris).

We did not want to give too much instruction, so as to not limit them with their own imaginations. I demonstrated how to draw a few flowers and how to make a star, and after that we set them loose! For a group of 9-10 year olds, their natural ability to make beautiful pictures was incredible. They really went for it!

After they were able to have some time experiencing drawing, we moved on to painting. Loren’s mom Linda donated us two large canvases and a bunch of acrylic paints and brushes. We laid them out in the middle of the school campus, and prayed that it would not rain. The kids attacked the canvases, covering them with mounds of color.

We spent three afternoons at the school with the kids. Their enthusiasm for trying new things was so refreshing. It was such a joy to watch them having so much fun. It was an amazing opportunity to connect with the community in such a simple way.

All the while the barra has been providing us something to ride. It has not been as good as it was, but still a great way to refresh and enjoy our Mother Ocean.

Thanks for sharing the journey!