For the past week, I’ve been living in Santiago and volunteering at “Tierra de Suenos” – literally translating to “Dreamland”. Dreamland is a permaculture project located near a small village called San Antonio Chacaya, which is about a 20 minute drive from where we live in Santiago. The project is mainly run by Aliix, a friendly, spiritual, Guatemalan with the hopes to show locals more sustainable methods to farm and provide predictable and fairer incomes. With these objectives in mind, he hires local farmers to work alongside us, sells produce at a reasonable price to local businesses, and provides workshops teaching environmentally and spiritually conscious practices every Friday.
The tasks of a Dreamland volunteer vary from day to day and from season to season, but the days widely follow a similar pattern. Dreamland works with the cycle of the moon, hence the tasks of the day vary depending on the phase of the moon. For example, just before a full moon I planted seeds in their nursery as available light and moisture are at their peak during a full moon.
Additionally, workshop days involve more interactive learning rather than work. In our last workshop, we had a guest speaker visit and teach us about Geomancia which basically looks at making structures according to underground and surface energy meridians.
That being said, here is a typical day in the life of a Dreamland volunteer…
I typically start my commute at 7am, when I walk towards the local market in Santiago where I wait for a public pickup. The wait for a pickup can vary from any time from 10 minutes to a whole hour be warned but Aliix is very understanding so long as you let him know! Today we waited 50 minutes for the pickup to leave, which was long, but at least it meant we had time to get a cheeky coconut from the market for breakfast.
A while later we finally set off. The drive in the pickup goes all around one far end of the lake and is honestly beautiful. After arriving in Chacaya, at the end of the pickup line, we walk a further 5-10 minutes onwards up a dirt path to Dreamland.
Today, our work consisted of mulching, for which we cleared the flowerbeds of weeds, collected “seaweed” from the lake, cut it up with machetes, and then laid this in a thick layer on the flower beds, being sure not to cover the plants as this could lead to rotting.
This helps retain moisture in the soil and provides more nutrients for the plants.
After around 4 hours of work, Lolita delivers a home cooked lunch for us all to eat together at the farm.
After a morning of work and a pickup ride back to Santiago, I usually visit the market to buy ingredients for dinner and treat myself to a pint in a nearby cafe. This evening we cooked a lovely Pad Thai and even cracked open a bottle of wine.
Overall, I feel that I’ve learnt a lot from working at Dreamland and that Aliix is always offering opportunities to learn even more. This is a great opportunity to volunteer if you want to learn more about not only permaculture, but also spiritual practices, and local culture, all while helping a good cause and giving back to the community.