PACHAMAMA, NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE
I waited a full month after leaving Pachamama Spiritual Community before writing this post. There was a lot to digest and appreciate in hindsight before I felt completely honest in my recollections of my experiences there.
It took me the first two months to balance physically and emotionally in this challenging community that I visited last in my 27 months of continuous travel, and which was by far the most difficult of communities that I visited. I won’t return to Pachamama because it is too expensive for me to visit without working, and the work initially, until I was able to achieve the balance for which I was looking, was too difficult for a person of my age.
Pachamama is not a community for elders. I was one of the very few elderly folks and was by far the oldest worker. Walking through the jungle, falling an average of once a week for the first two months, being far from a toilet, living in a tent half the time when I hadn’t slept in a tent since 1978, was very exhausting and frustrating, especially when my first tent had a massive ant infestation. I couldn’t afford a different mode of transportation besides my feet. The residents own electric bikes, quads and cars, which they understandably use to move around the five hundred acres of their home.
The work was difficult, yes, but the most difficult thing was the loneliness of a nomad, after traveling the world alone for 24 months. I made an assumption, which was erroneous, that I would have a lot of people to talk to at this community and have a social life. I did make some sweet friends among the younger workers and hope to keep in touch with them and see that their futures are happy. But the young workers, although very loving to me, should not have to include a woman the age of their parents or their grandparents in their energetic social lives.
I understand that the residents, although many of them were amazing people, and I admire them for their 17 years of hard work and the efforts in achieving the status of Pachamama, were detached from me. The majority of them, especially at my main time of interaction with them, which was at the Veggie Market, were kind and warm and and pleasant. However, unless you are someone they knew previously or possess characteristics that were very beneficial to themselves and Pachamama, extended no invitations of any sort or took a real interest in one as a human being. To truly enjoy my time at Pachamama, I would have had to be younger, richer, and had time and money to attend all the workshops and the classes and the events and had the freedom that money brought to have a lack of need of other people’s help or interest.
I understand the much-discussed reasons for this detachment. The residents have very busy lives. They realistically, intimately socialize among themselves because there are many of them, and they know each other very well after many years of working and striving together. Also, I can understand that they wouldn’t want to make friends who would soon be leaving and perhaps never be seen again. However, I didn’t achieve the stage of feeling of being at Home or being part of the Family.
These are the negative aspects of the community for me but there were definitely positive ones too.
I enjoyed immensely working in the Organic Veggie Market once I had realized I don’t have to prove myself by lifting the heaviest crates of produce. A lesson I learned was to leave that to the younger men, who were very happy to help me. The Veggie Market was actually my main social life. I loved working with the produce and the people and even implemented some changes during the time I was there that I hope will remain in place and be beneficial to the market.
I didn’t have money to attend most of the workshops but did get great benefit from the Six-Day cleanse in which I participated. I not only cleansed my body, including my liver, but had the time to relax and get to know the people a bit, with whom I participated in the cleanse. I vastly enjoyed the warmth and intimacy of these exchanges with others. I especially enjoyed living for a few weeks in the Casita of a resident who was gone to Europe. I was able to have a small party while I was living there. I adored having the opportunity to cook for myself and for others. I even house and pet sat for a couple of days for a lovely resident. I had company for three meals in the two days that I was there.
I loved dancing all night by the river, taking medicine provided by the community.
The last month of my three month stay was stressful for the first two weeks because the people with whom I was closest had left, all of them feeling under a cloud from various unpleasantries that happened to them at Pachamama. It was good for me to be alone and to think and meditate. I was a bit afraid that I had regressed in my personal growth achieved in the years of travel and change, because of resulting feelings of unhappiness and resentment. I felt devalued because Pachamama is a patriarchal community. There are some very strong women but in my experience I didn’t see them as the real leaders of the community.
My last few weeks were reassuring in the leave-takings and admiration that was expressed to me by people at the community. Although I won’t return, I do wish them all the best. The most positive outcome of my three month stay was, because of the massive amount of exercise and the vegan diet, much better health.
PORTLAND, A PERFECT FIT
Now I am in my new home of Portland, Oregon. It seems like nearly a perfect fit for me, although it is very difficult adjusting to the constant cold rainy weather, which I am assured, is very unusual. Yes, Skippy, global warming does exist.
Joy! The dance scene here is what I would imagine Austin, Texas was like in the seventies and eighties. There are many neighborhood bars and pubs, where there is good live music being played, without a cover charge. People dance to the Blues! I am dancing several times a week and aiming for daily dancing in the summer. Also I joined a community center, $50 a month for seniors, where I take yoga several times a week, so will stay in shape and maybe get in even better condition over the summer, with much walking, and using my new bike, which I received free from a local website which was recommended to me.
People are warm and friendly. I am being very proactive and organized, and I’m getting everything done to make a home of Portland. My son is living here and took me out for my birthday on April 13. This was amazing and delightful since we hadn’t seen each other for years. What, did you have any doubt that I am an Aries!?
The political scene is very Progressive, which is a great relief after Texas. I am participating in rallies and marches, which helps me feel that I am making a small difference, which is the only thing I or anyone else can do in this horrendous political climate.
I am in a Spanish conversation group to get ready for house and pet sitting in Spanish speaking countries for a couple of months every winter. I know I won’t be able to stand the grey and icy sleet of Portland five-six months of the year.
I am enjoying the marvelous public transportation system, which, as an elder, costs me $28 a month for unlimited bus and train transportation through the metropolitan area. It is the best public transportation system in the United States, which is extremely important. This is one of the main reasons that I didn’t stay in Austin, Texas. It is not friendly to people without cars. I intend to never own a car again.
Although the weather has been nasty, the rain resulted in many gorgeous flowers, which will continue blooming now for months and months. I’m already planning an excursion to the international test rose gardens, where I visited last summer when I was here in Portland, checking it out for residential possibilities.
I’m enjoying Northeast Portland, where I’m living. Soon I will be attending the many farmers markets and buying organic produce that is readily available in my new home. I am also having the opportunity to garden in the 6 raised beds in the backyard and have planted three kinds of heirloom lettuce, heirloom spinach, two cloves of certified organic garlic from Wisconsin and turmeric from Costa Rica. The gardening is done in the brief time that we have sunshine. It’s hard to imagine that soon we will have sun almost all the time, and it will be warm, and I will be able to wear all my clothes, which are 99% suitable for temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
For more information on Pachamama and on Portland, please see earlier posts. I will keep in touch and let you know how it all works out. If anyone has a suggestion for a place for me this winter for two or three months, especially for house-sitting, especially in a Spanish speaking country, please let me know. See you there…