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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

La Casa de Federico

GUATEMALA | Sunday, 19 February 2012 | Views [1154]

"La Casa de Federico" is what I said to the driver as I got on the sardine-packed bus toward San Jose (in Guatemala, not Costa Rica). He knew precisely how to get there! Driving seemingly in a circle around Lake Peten it was pouring down rain and I was luckily able to get my backpack off the roof before it got soaked. In San Jose I had no idea where I was, and in desperation I nearly walked in on an old lady in her bra as I asked for directions. Rain thundered from the darkened sky yet I wasn't exactly ready to pull a Gene Kelley as I was pointed in the right direction. Finally I got there, and there I met Federico. He wasn't expecting me; he holds his door open for the weary traveller. I was cold and soaked and I wanted a cup of tea; Federico replied "I'll make you a cup of really good orange tea." Sounded great to me as I changed into some dry clothes. There's no electricity, the stove is wood-fire, and there are no windows. You can hear the rain and see the stars. And after sometimes having to unlock an iron gate and then a door at most places I've stayed, there are no locks on the doors and the gate is always left open. It's astonishingly quiet, and as Federico puts it: it's the perfect place for yoga and meditation. "Totally rustic" is how I can describe the house of Federico. Sipping my delicious orange tea whilst listening to the thundering rain on a tin roof, Federico and I chat.

His goal is to live to be 120: not a bad goal considering he's 50. He's originally from El Salvador but grew up in Texas, therefore he speaks English fluently. The most interesting story is about a guy he knew who hitchhiked with truck drivers from El Salvador to the U.S. using only a Playboy magazine; he would show up at truck stops and offer the drivers a look in exchange for a ride. Mind you, this was back in the day when, if you weren't married or didn't have a girlfriend the only way to see a girl naked was in Playboy. These days that would never work (you can find anything you like online). If only travel were that easy; I'd keep a Playboy magazine in my backpack. Federico has lived in Guatemala for the past eight years, moving here to escape the capitalistic rat-race lifestyle of the U.S. and it sure seems he couldn't be happier!

Federico has a large garden with all kinds of flowers, organic vegetables, and a compost pile. The toilet is a dry pit toilet and the shower has no drainage system; the grey water flows into the garden and the "walls" are plastic tarp held up by poles.

Although there are a lot of houses nearby, Federico's house really seems "out there." It's not easily visible from the street as the entire fence is covered in vines and other plant material

Federico operates Tierra Nueva or The New Earth Project. Its mission is to prove that we can live on Earth without destroying the environment. Just about everything on the property is reused or recycled, and volunteers come and go to help Federico with various projects. Nora is one of his volunteers; she's here for three months learning the art of sustainable living through Tierra Nueva. Whilst I must admit I spend too much time with comparisons, Federico and his house are like the farm in Whitianga. However, unlike in Whitianga, Federico eats meat, drinks alcohol, and smokes pot. He even shared with me some of his home-brewed pineapple wine. It was tasty and not highly potent but enough to give you a bit of a laugh and a bit of a kick. 

Federico is a fantastic cook! And he sure makes a mean pot of pasta sauce. After giving a little boy 10 quetzales to get me some tomatoes I was amazed that he brought so many he couldn't even carry all of them in his shirt!

In California, the equivalent of 10 quetzales would buy you maybe two or three tomatoes. As he whipped up his tasty concoction of tomatoes, I was busy popping cloves of garlic like pills because the mosquitoes have sure had their way with me and that lump on my arm still hasn't gone away. After getting some tortillas to have on the side, dinner was tasty!

San Jose is the quintessential Guatemalan town. If a tourist comes here they're likely staying at "la casa de Federico." The people are very poor; going to get tortillas I see dirt floors, bare mattresses, no window screens, an old TV, and little else. Even with how little they have, you're treated like one of the family (even though my Spanish may not be so good). 

Federico and his house are fantastic! For five days I stayed here and I could have stayed much, much longer! His property is beautiful and he has a heart bigger than Tikal. If you'd like to stay with Federico and learn about his project, please visit http://tierranuevaproject.blogspot.com/ for more info! Federico's home is open to anyone who's willing to take part in his project so even if you don't call he'll welcome you like a brother!

Tags: nature, organics, people

 

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