Introducing guest blogger Adéla Štromajerová, a lovely volunteer who was at Heartland in Autumn 2017
Heartland in Italy 2017
In October we moved from Romania to Italy. The only thing we knew about our future volunteering place was that a couple lives there who wants to build there a yurt camp together with an events centre. And that they also make yurts. And that was all.
When we arrived, we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere, in the mountains in the National Park of Abruzzo, without electricity and running water and Radek and I also in a yurt without a stove (the second yurt had a stove) and insulation. Spartan conditions which in the end caused that it was an amazing experience. As always in such cases after all.
No electricity means that in the evening you can just sit by the fire all together, or stay in the girls’ yurt where there was a stove, again all of us together, or just go to sleep. So we spent all the time together in a meaningful way. No looking into our phones, no free time activities of the “Hey, I will show you a great video on youtube!” type or staying up late with artificial lights. We sat by the fire, played the ukulele, sang, drew, read, talked and went to sleep around 9 pm because there was simply no light, and all those calm activities just put you to sleep. There was always something to do also during the day, we were harvesting various crops, processing them or just went for a walk to the creek.
|The only source of electricity – solar chargers|
Exploring the surroundings was the best. For example, discovering a path to the river.
The first day it took us almost 2 hours, and after a few days just 5 minutes.
|Playing the ukulele in the evening. And Áďa’s hobbit feet.|
|Cooking the rosehip jam.|
|Dinner in the girls’ yurt (a headtorch is a must:))|
|Drying rosehips for tea|
|Evenings by the fire|
|Fooling around with headtorches.|
|Evening reading in the yurt.|
No running water means that you either wash yourself in a metal bucket (“bucket wash”,) or you can also have a great outdoor bath. You light a fire under it, pour water from the tank and it gets warm in a moment. You can add some fragrant herbs or light a candle, and the best bath of your life is ready. You have to put a piece of cloth on the bottom of the bath so that your ass doesn’t get burnt, and you also have to put out the fire in time, otherwise you will get cooked in the bath :).
|Do you fancy an outdoor bath?|
|Sleeping arrangement in our yurt|
|Women in action|
|The wheel of the yurt created by steam bending wood.|
|On the left is the handmade box for steam bending the wood|
|Wood for yurts|
|Everything works better with a smile|
|Going to clear the olive fields
(we gave up the crazy ride after a few metres, and decided to walk :))..
|The ramshackle room (BEFORE)|
|Me and my mate, the drill hammer|
|You can load the whole yurt on one truck..|
|Trying the frame of a new yurt.|
|Radek is holding on tight|
|The house under construction|
|It’s finished!! (AFTER)|
Our whole stay in Italy was incredibly enriching. The hosts are very interesting people who are able to “see” into the people so they know a lot of things about you which you haven’t maybe even realized yet. Plus the place itself is so remote that it makes even the most closed people open up and start talking about their feelings, problems, about things they may have never said to anyone. The energy of the whole place is so interesting that it just can’t be described. Simply Heartland…
How often do we do something and think about something else in the meantime? How often do we do something absent-mindedly? How often do we make careless mistakes? I think it is a frequent thing. Our hosts taught us that it is necessary to be present and to be aware of what we are doing. To put all our energy into it, be it a demanding job like making a massive wooden circle for a yurt’s roof or just a “simple” cooking of lunch. When we concentrate fully on what we do, there is a smaller chance that we will make mistakes or that the result will be different than what we imagined. It was a very important lesson for me, and I often remind myself of it.
Work as a team, not as a group of individuals.
When it is necessary to do a job together, it is not only about doing it all of us together, and that’s it. If people don’t talk to each other, don’t divide the work in a reasonable way and don’t tune into each other, it will not work. It will be confusing, slow, unproductive, simply weird. A few times we were instructed to stop and think about the work we are doing together. Does it make sense? Aren’t there more people doing a similar job, couldn’t we divide it better somehow? Also a very interesting lesson.
Open up, express emotions, talk.
When there is a group of people who are together for most of the time, it is important (and not only then) to talk about everything. How do I feel now? Why do I feel that way? How can the others help me? What needs to be done, and who can do it? Why am I reacting in this way? Nothing can be solved without talking about our feelings and without expressing our emotions in a way. How can the others know how we feel if we don’t tell them? How can we expect that they will listen to us or help us if they have no idea we need it now? In Italy there was a lot of talking, sometimes crying, a lot of listening and also thinking about stuff. We were there together, and when somebody didn’t feel good, everybody knew it. It was necessary to talk about it so that the everybody knew if it was somehow connected to them, or if they could help the person somehow. One of the most important lessons ever. For the whole life.
People can do more than they think.
A cliché, but very true. Girls who are not used to hiking went with us for a weekend trip to the mountains. They went through it without problems, and they were very happy about it. We were sleeping in a yurt without a stove. We were bathing in a cold mountain creek. I enjoyed a sweat lodge a lot, although I normally suffer in saunas. We were all fasting before the sweat lodge, which was a thing the girls were really afraid of, but in the end it was a piece of cake for all of us. We were all working hard, and we were doing things which we couldn’t have even thought of before. It’s just us, people, who like to set borders for ourselves, and we persuade ourselves that we will not make it. Bullshit.
|Some views are totally worth the panting and sweating|
|Girls are a bit cold|
|The team goes hiking|
|In a village under the mountain|
|The wind was blowing hard in those mountains|
Don’t be afraid of trying new things. It is totally worth it.
Before Italy I wouldn’t even think about going for a sweat lodge. I was not so interested in esoteric stuff, I am a person close to the ground, I believe in a lot of things, but I don’t simply need to go for meditations, family constellations, ceremonies, etc. However, when I found out that we will have a sweat lodge there before leaving the place, I started to look forward to it a lot. We will sit in a small tent, in absolute darkness, we will sweat and sing sweat lodge songs? A month ago I would say “no, thank you”, and that would be it. However, it was something totally different in Italy. We all went for it together, we knew each other, we were preparing the sweat lodge together, we were learning and singing the songs, fasting, thinking about what it will bring us, and reflecting on how it was afterwards. In the end it was simply amazing, and it welded us together even more. However, as I said, a month ago I wouldn’t go for something like that. It would seem too esoteric for me, strange, it simply wouldn’t be my thing to do. And look what happened in the end. Although some things may seem strange to us, it is worth trying them. After all, how can we know that we won’t like it if we haven’t tried it yet?
The best is to act locally. Buy food from the locals, get the services from the local people, not from multinational companies, take care of the place where we live, contribute to the prosperity of the place. To grow local crops or old crops which are tried and tested, although they are maybe a bit forgotten now. Our hosts started to grow a local variety of wheat, they cooperate with local farmers and inhabitants, and they try to attract the “slow tourism”, when people don’t come just for a few hours to see this and that sight, but they are really interested in the place. They have a lot of projects at hand, for example an organic farm where young school dropouts will work, etc. It is worth caring about the place where we live. We help not only others by this, but mainly ourselves.
|Local food at the sea view|
|Half-abandoned villages. Can one bring the life back in there?|
|A village under the mountain|
|Torricella Peligna – a village about 4 km from Heartland|
And one note from Radek:
Nothing happens by accident.
If you let the life guide you, and you don’t try to force the future, it (universal consciousness, life, God… who knows how to call it) will always lead you to a place where you should be, to people with whom you should share something. Most of the time it will hit you in some way, and it can hurt quite a lot sometimes. If you, however, go through it consciously, it will strengthen you and make you more balanced. In Heartland there were a few things which happened “by accident” :).
Some things just can’t be described. Therefore there will be a lot of things left unsaid. But it will always be like that. Italy was simply a very strong experience with people with whom we probably became friends for life. A great experience and an amazing place with incredible people to which we have to come back some time. Thanks, bye-bye and see you.