Her Juggling Feet

everybody's a nobody. and nobody's perfect.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Today, I feel grateful--smooth, flowing waves of it, combining with the rain that drapes me in a hazy veil when I walk between buildings at Lost Valley. I feel grateful to be supported like I have been, to reconnect with friends first in the Bay Area and then in Eugene and to receive their graciousness and friendship.

Beate and I arrived at Lost Valley a few weeks ago. I feel like I never left. Participating in the Heart of Now workshops, being in the kitchen, keeping my feet dry by the fire, enjoying the creek, and seeing Cody, the community golden retriever who pushed his nose in my lap my first night back in impatient recognition, of "come on, let's go for a walk already!"... it is nice to be welcomed, and remembered.

I am traveling with Beate for the next few months--exploring different eco-villages and permaculture sites throughout the US, while giving presentations (illustrative story-telling, we call it) about our time in the Caravan. We are both on a search for home, though in different ways. Beate has the intention of creating an eco-village in Brasil when she returns at the end of April. Me, I am still searching inside myself. I notice that home, or the concept of it, feels more important to me now than it has in the past. I feel that it might be okay to have roots for awhile. I want to be able to plant seeds come spring.

I've come back to the US with big dreams, intimidation, fear, joy... I feel overwhelmed by all the possibilities of where I could go and what I could do. I think about going back to school again. I consider what it would be like to stay in Eugene, with the world's first bio-diesel gas station that sells organic Blue Sky soda and local soft-serve coconut ice cream (vegan). If this is an indicator of progressiveness, have I reached my eco-topia?

I am staying present with what is happening at Lost Valley and what might happen in my travels with Beate. In every transitional place in my life, doors have opened and I have had some incredible help in choosing which step to take next. If anything, I feel so passionate about this planet, this life, and being part of the transformation. I want to cook, garden, dance, write, explore, teach, organize, create, perform, and re-write the home-ec recipes in all the middle school curriculum so they won't include anything that calls for a microwave or something that comes out of a box.

I take the train home for Christmas, pulling into St. Cloud's little depot on December 20th. Back to the West Coast come January to continue the expedition to Washington and that's as far as the Plan goes. Well, the Plan actually has us going all over the country, from Montana to Missouri, to North Carolina to New Hampshire, all in a matter of months, but I remain open to what (and who) shows up along the way.

Maybe you?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

If You`re Going to San Fran-cis-co...

(I have had this song in my head all day.)

So it is 5 hours to go and then I am enroute to the US, with a final arrival point in San Francisco.

My juggling feet...they have served me well. May they travel connected to the earth and sky, may they dance with purpose and precision and adventurous spirit. May they continue to guide me towards precious places and may they acquire a new pair of Chaco sandals for Christmas because the strap broke and walking just isn`t what it used to be...

: )

Be well. Lots of love, may our feet cross paths in the near future!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Countdown Begins

I remember writing that title almost 8 months ago when I first began my countdown to leave for Brasil. Now the countdown is reversed, and it is one week until I fly back to the United States (via the airports of Peru, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and ultimately San Francisco).

I arrived this morning in El Bolsòn, in the Patagonia region of southern Argentina, after a 13-hour overnight bus ride. The trip to Patagonia started in Buenos Aires, with a group of Caravaneros: Heriberto from Puerto Rico, Romina from Chile, and Jenny from Italy. Our intention: let`s see the whales in Patagonia! And that was basically all that we had planned--no tour books, no bus tickets, nothing. We ended up on an overnight train to Bahia Blanca, which was probably the most uncomfortable hours of sleep that I have endured. Our seats were right next to the bathroom, which consisted of a hole in the floor and a place to put your feet and squat--within a few hours, this `system` overflowed and was no longer functional, and everytime someone opened the door, the four of us were treated to some indescribable perfumes.

The four of us ended up sleeping together like a jigsaw puzzle: one person supine on our hiking backpacks in between the two bench seats, and the remaining three curled in whatever position would fit, which usually included legs over legs, feet nestled in stomach, heads on shoulders. A human pretzel.

After arriving in Bahia Blanca, we hitchhiked. This was my first time hitchhiking in South America, and I felt pretty safe, especially travelling with 3 others. We asked around the truck stop, to the truck drivers of where they were headed, and from this we were able to get a sense of their character. So please don`t worry (Mom) and keep on breathing (Dad). We found a ride with an Italian eco-tour company and commenced another 10-hour journey to Puerto Madryn, a small port city, arriving at midnight.

The next morning, we set out to find the whales. We ended up walking about 12 kilometers (6 miles, more or less?) or the equivalent of 3 hours out of town with our packs on our backs. Someone finally picked us up, and we rode in the rear of a pick-up truck, in quiet, sweaty bliss for the final 5 kilometers.

I swear the effort was worth it because the beach that we arrived at was absolutely breathtaking. Not a soul on the shore, just stretches of sand and sea along tall craggs of rock lining each end. Our home for the next two days, of orange rations for breakfast, stir-fries of tofu for lunch, and wheat bulgur mixed with seaweed and garlic in my Nalgene bottle for dinner. We used Romina`s little gas burner stove to boil water for tea, and on our final day, we even made chapatis.

I digress.

We saw the whales. Our first morning, we look up from our orange peels and there they are--black glistening bodies, rising and submerging so slowly, so gracefully, it seems like a ballet, and they are spraying water and heaving their mammoth tails against the plane of water. The four of us begin to walk north along the shore, parallel to them (we counted three), and each time they emerged, they were more brave and revealing. My breath was caught in my chest the whole time, my heart in solemn, celebratory silence. They were so beautiful, these giant mothers of the sea.

They stayed with us the entire day--they are lovely company.

We returned to Puerto Madryn the following afternoon, and the four of us parted ways soon after: Romina and Jenny to the north, Heri to the east, and me, to the west, to El Bolson and the Andes. Though I ended up reading my bus ticket incorrectly (silly military time!) and missed my bus and had to wait another day. But all is well, I am here, flying solo again and really appreciating it.

And El Bolsòn is exactly what I have been wanting, ever since I read about it at the very beginning of my travel research in Minnesota. It is a pueblo of about 15,000 people, the first town in South America to declare itself a `nuclear-free´zone and has a strong presence of environmental protection and social justice. It is surrounded by mountains, and the park is filled with artisans selling hand-carved wooden spoons and woolen socks and organic quince jams, among other things.

Tomorrow I am going to stay at Proyecto CIESA, a biodynamic farm and teaching center a few kilometers outside of town. They offer courses and workshops throughout the year on sustainable agriculture, and if I happen to find myself in Patagonia again (I hope so!), I think I might like to participate.

So for now, blessings, and crisp mountain air, and hope all is well.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Limelight is Bright

Gaia is good to me.

My mornings are spent in the gardens. Strange that it is spring here--it is in the scent of the acacia blossoms and the subtle vibration of bee song, in my hands as I transplant little kale seedlings and tomato starts into the ground.

I have appreciated the peacefulness of this place. After 6 months of mobility, it is nice to have some moments of permanence. Of knowing that there is a place to do yoga, to walk, to make tea, to write. To think!!!

Last night, I led my first performance/circus workshop for the community, in Spanish no less. I did a little juggling to start and then we moved into some theater and movement exercises. I am noticing that the work ethic at Gaia is super strong, and that there is an even stronger necessity to play to offset that energy. It was refreshing to dust off my clown nose and be silly and connect with everyone in a non-conventional way. We played!

Today, we have been surrounded by cameras--three different Argentinian television channels have come to visit, to film `Pequeños Mundos` or Small Worlds, a special weekly series, apparently. So this dashing Argentinian newscaster, Juan, with his cableknit sweaters and dark eyes, sweeps into the gardens with his camera crew, walking directly on top of a recently seeded bed of quinoa, and there is me in my knee-high rubber boots and soil-smeared cheeks with palms out in the International Gesture of PleaseStopRightNow! After that incident, things were okay--I gave an interview about my experience at Gaia and was even able to get the point across of biodiversity and soil life in my broken Spanish.

The plan is to be at Gaia until the end of October, just in time to take a global dance workshop...and then...I think it is back to the United States. I say `i think` because I am in the midst of organizing my plane ticket with my friend and now travel partner, Beate, who will be accompanying me. So, should the stars align themselves, and I hope they do, I will be on the West Coast until Christmas time, when I will go back to Minnesota for the holidays.

More to come on the project Beate and I will be doing in the next installation! Until then, lots of love and dirt under your fingernails...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

There`s Room at the Inn

Well, I am trying not to think of today as anything related to awful, but maybe just unfortunate and challenging. And the day isn`t over yet, so my eyes are watching hopefully for the silver lining.

I am in Navarro, a town outside of Buenos Aires, in the Pampas region of Argentina. I arrived in Buenos Aires last week, and stayed with Mana, the sister of one woman and mother to another young woman that are both in the Caravan. Heriberto was also staying with Mana, taking advantage of the arts scene in the city, with juggling classes, acrobatics, didgeridoo practices, and contact dance improv. Mana cooks macrobiotic meals for a handful of folks, and I helped on two days, making seaweed and daikon soup and rolling sushi. Overall, it was lovely to have a real bed (okay, futon) and a place to put my toothbrush. Mana`s apartment is old and charming, with hardwood floors, black and white tiles in the kitchen, and a bathtub with clawed feet (and hot water!). I entertained myself in Chinese grocery stores, antique fairs, vegetarian restaurants, and an indie short film-combined with a circus-acrobatic performance. I drank cup after cup of oolong tea.

And now I am in Gaia eco-village, volunteering for the next few weeks in the kitchen, the gardens, and with the children. The site used to be home to an old dairy operation, so there are several ancient buildings on the property, though they are charming, too. Save the gas stove, all the energy is produced onsite due to solar panels and wind turbines. The toilets are ´dry´or ´no flush´, the showers are heated by solar or by fire. All the the new buildings are constructed out of cob, and they are absolutely lovely. We are surrounded by 150-year old eucalptys trees. The kumquats are abundantly sweet and sour.

There are 7 community members, so our numbers are small. The two children, Cecilia and Tobias, are beautiful and brimming with imagination. Cecilia recounted the entire story of the March of the Penguins to me, and then whispered that she and Tobias will be going to Antarctica shortly with penguin suits. The nearest neighbors don`t speak Spanish--they moo, and you can only see pasture, more cows, and the occasional tree for miles. It is flat as a pancake here, and as someone in the Caravan told me, very Zen-like. It is tranquil.

Except for today, where I found myself in a taxi headed for the doctor in Navarro, due to some very intense back pain. All turned out to be okay--nothing is wrong with my bone structure, but the muscles in my lower back are quite in a knot. I ended up speaking more with the doctor about my experiences these several months, and he then proposed that I live at his home in exchange for English lessons. He has a wife and two children, so I don`t think it was that kind of proposal. Anyway, I declined, though who knows. Before leaving, he offered a hospital bed for the night, in case I needed someplace to sleep. No, I told him, I intend to go back to Gaia today. Thanks though.

I leave and find the sky bruised and blue, and within minutes, it starts to rain. I have no jacket, no umbrella, no anything, just sandals, a t-shirt, and shorts. Rain means that the last two kilometers of dirt road to Gaia, will be almost impassable, and since it downpoured yesterday, the roads are still a mess of fudge, basically. Every taxi station that I spoke with told me that in no way they could get through without getting stuck.

Then I meet Carlos, a man in his 50s, I imagine, with a few teeth missing, who offers to take me there, take me anywhere, he says, so he takes me to a coffee shop. I sip tea and he smokes, and he tells me (or at least I think he tells me--my Spanish translation isn`t top notch yet) about seizing the moment and etc. etc. etc. and I fabricate stories of my long-term boyfriend coming to meet me in Gaia at the end of the week, hoping that he´ll get the picture that I am not interested At All.

A lot was said in jest, and it was funny until all of a sudden, it wasn`t. So I left. Now I have nowhere to go in the pouring rain, and the Internet cafe`s computers are disconnected. So I begin a poncho pursuit. Five stores, circles of blocks later, I am outfitted in a blue plastic kids poncho. And then the sun comes out.

All of this with two pieces of thick wholemeal bread and honey in my stomach.

And I forgot to say--I am taking the doctor up on his offer, and will be sleeping in the hospital wing tonight. I have my own double room with a bed that moves up and down. A toilet that flushes. It will do.

I have slept in more random places, but I can`t, in the moment, remember where. This experience is certainly clouding my memory.

So for now, sweet dreams for tonight, and stay dry.

Lots of love from the intensive care unit... Amanda

Sunday, September 17, 2006

To Argentina I go

Well, that´s pretty much it. I know it´s been awhile since I have posted, but access to a computer has been scanty lately, and so I´ve been doing my best.

I´m off to Argentina to wait for my new visa, off to explore Gaia eco-village, off to practice Spanish and put my hands in the soil again.

Will write again soon.

For now, much love.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Cast

In completely random and disassembled order (true to Caravan form), here's presenting
La Caravana Arcoiris...por...la...paz!

There's Alberto. He founded the Caravan in Mexico some 10 years ago, and before that, led other caravans through the United States and India. He is our elder, the mover and shaker, the man that continues to carry the vision of the Caravan after all of these years. His shoulders never slump. His eyes are bright as the moon.

There are the women from Ecuador: Veronica and her two daughters, Carolina and Sofia, 15 and 13, respectively. The girls are into lots of sugar, boys, and hip-hop. Veronica is Alberto's partner, and the family lives together in the Masorca (Spanish for corn cob), the blue bus with paintings of cornfields growing on both sides.

Beate is my favorite. She's German, but has lived in Brasil for the past 4 years. We sip mate together in the mornings, we plan well-being meetings, we go on adventures to find açai, a Brasilian super-anti-oxidant fruit that is blended with banana and guarana syrup. She knows how to build solar ovens from scrap materials, she carries a bag filled with plastic photo canisters of seeds she has saved from her garden, she bakes thick loaves of wholewheat flax bread. She is my permaculture mentor and good friend. She is a wonderful clown.

Fernanda is our Brasilian gaucha (cowgirl) from the southern part of country. She arrived in the Caravan with two 25-lb bags of organic dried bananas that she harvested and processed herself, and declared herself open for business. I still have a $20 debt to pay her. She is completely connected to earth, she knows her way in the kitchen the way her hands know how to strum a guitar.

The tribe of Argentinians: Alejandra, Ana, and Lucia. Ale is a woman in her 50s and lives with the spirit of a child in her body. She is a delight. She is a story-teller, a dancer, a mother to us all. She is the aunt of cousins Ana and Lucia, 21 and 18 respectively. Ana is an acrobat, a musician, and a problem-solver. Lucia weighs a bit more than Tinkerbell--she's the tiniest thing--but can really pound the crap out of a drum.

The tribe of Chileans: there's Manuel, who never stops performing. He is known for his ability to scour every used clothing store for The Perfect Costume. He is meticulous, energetic, charismatic. His body is an art form--acrobatics, capoeira, dance, you name it. He is Talented. There is Cata and her son , Lucas. Cata is quiet and can almost always be found handing out little squares of dark chocolate. She plays the didgeridoo. Lucas is the most charming little boy with eyes the color of the chocolate his mother shares. Precocious and completely affectionate, he will press kisses into your neck if you give him piggy-back-rides.

Marisel, another Argentinian woman, avid and passionate recycler, crooner of Brasilian lullabyes, fantastic with face-painting. She hugs you with her whole heart.

Colores. Uruguay. The grand performer who can't seem to get enough attention from his audiences. He is always pulling something out of his goodie bag, be it a unicycle, accordian, or a diablo. He is a one-man show, really, which makes it difficult for me to work with him.

Juliano. Physically, he is a cross between an Amazon warrior and a teddy bear. The thing I like about Juli is that he will try anything, and he will do it with complete presence. He has no fear. His skills cover every area--he is my kitchen handyman, he is the group's leading musician. He'll cut bamboo with a machete one minute, and lead a group of 5-year-olds in song the next.

Mauro, our Italian finance man, and Romina, exotic Chilean beauty. She is our herbalist, our can-you-treat-this-ailment ally, and has a wry, warm sense of humor. Mauro likes to pinch.

Jessica and Estrella. Gringas! Jessica hails from Indiana and has been with the Caravan for several years. Her primary role is mother to Estrella, the first baby to be born in the Caravan. Jessica and I sing old 80s songs when we do dishes. She is pragmatic and playful at the same time.

Pablo, long time Caravanero, from Spain, and partner to Beate. He leads dance circles, he swims in much of the organizational paperwork of the Caravan that no one else wants to do, he is a consensus-decision making guru and gives workshops on the issue. Whenever he hugs you, he will give your back a light massage.

Ima, Angelica, and Calu. Another family from the Basque region of Spain and Argentina. Ima plays the wooden flute at night, Angelica has the calm, powerful presence of a queen. She is the most regal hippie that I have met. We go food shopping together, treating ourselves to coconuts afterwards. Calu is her son, rambunctious and prone to whining, though sweet when he is asleep.

Jason and Penelope, American and Colombian, respectively. They just left today to return to Montana, and already their absence feels wide and gaping. Jason formed the Caravan with Alberto from the beginning, and met and married Penelope when the Caravan traveled through Colombia. They are pregnant with their first baby, have lots of wisdom, lots of jokes, lots of compassion. They came to the Caravan this time to film a documentary of the project, and Jason was almost always with a camera in hand.

And you all know me.

So here is our every-color-of-the-rainbow Caravan family. We are certainly unique, certainly alternative. But there is much power and magic and safety when we are all together, and this is something that you will just have to see to believe.

So come! Get lost, get crazy, get creative with your clown self.