I spent a little less than a month volunteering at Project Bona Fide on the finca in the town of Balgue on Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua. I was supposed to go home a few months ago in April once my volunteer time in Costa Rica came to an end, but I felt like Nicaragua was calling my name and I had to go seek out an opportunity where I could learn more about permaculture and farming. I scoped out a few places in Nicaragua scouring the web looking at sites like WWOF, workaway, helpX and the Wikipedia list of permaculture sites around the world. I had checked out two of the three on my shortlist once I got to Nicaragua and wasn’t really feeling it. I came to Bona Fide and spoke with some of the people that were there volunteering like Raquel and Danae and with Mitch, the guy that runs the volunteer program. I instantly felt connected and thought it would be a good place for me to spend some time. I’ve learned that people are the most important thing about a place or an organization or anything for that matter and I felt really good vibes at this place.
The key difference I saw between here and Rancho Margot was that this place had a much stronger focus on the experimental permaculture farm and the community, whereas Rancho Margot was an eco-lodge first and the farm was something that supported the lodge. I would usually wake up around 5:30 or 6am every day, do yoga or something with Danae and then we’d have a morning meeting at 6:45 with everyone on the farm. Everyone was expected to work here and there was a very strong sense of community. We’d do bucket watering from 7am to 8am, or until the pila was empty and then have breakfast around 8am. You could count on there being rice, beans, eggs and fruit and we’d even get sorghum pancakes now and then. We’d have another little meeting after breakfast laying out the tasks for the day and divvying up whose going where and doing what and then around 9am we’d all be off on our respective teams tending to the farm. The work varied with the needs of the farm at the time and there was a range of possibilities like harvesting gandul (snow peas), harvesting mangoes, repairing roofs, building ladders, building things with cob, cleaning and organizing common areas, helping in the kitchen, collecting and chopping wood, food processing, etc. There were also a few ‘quorests’ which included vivero (nursery), jardin (garden), and animals. Everyone was trained on each of these areas for a day and one or two people would be assigned to work on each one every day. Vivero and Jardin was mostly all about watering delicately and animals was tending to the chickens and harvesting termite nests for them to eat. There would be a community meeting every Friday as well where everyone would sign up in groups of two-three people to cook dinner for everyone and we’d discuss any issues, comments or workshop ideas for the following week. This was another really great tool for instilling a strong sense of community. On Thursdays, we had ‘Farm Thursdays’ where the entire meal was cooked exclusively from ingredients found on the farm and everyone would help out. This was a neat challenge and really showed me the whole process of food from farm to table and it’s a lot more involved than one might imagine. It helps you appreciate food a lot more. There were also a few workshops while I was there, one about biochar and the other about ecological footprinting, both of which were extremely informative and eye-opening. I learned a lot from the work I did on the farm and tried many things for the first time. In the afternoons after work, I would spend time doing more work on the farm, reading or exploring Balgue. I read a lot while I was at the farm, probably more than I’ve ever read in such a short period of time. I finished five different books while I was there including The Icarus Deception, Mutant Message Down Under, Siddhartha, One Straw Revolution and an Introduction to Permaculture, which read like a textbook. I even completed a version of the master cleanse with Danae while I was here where my only alimentation was a mixture of lemon juice, pure honey and water for ten days, no food whatsoever. There was also a salt water flush I would do every morning and night to get the bowels moving. I didn’t think it was physically possible, but I was amazed when I had more energy than normal and was feeling excellent the vast majority of the time. The first day and the last two were especially difficult, but spirits were high the whole time regardless. There is so much I learned here from working and reading that I want to take home and apply. It’s one of the first times traveling when I’ve really felt excited to go home because I want to use everything I’ve learned to turn our lawn into a vegetable garden, build a greenhouse, make biochar and all kinds of other ideas that have sparked from this experience.
The most impressionable part of this experience for me has been feeling like the best version of myself. Being in this environment on a volcanic island, living so close to nature and in harmony with the natural order of things, serving as an active participant in a vibrant community full of kindred spirits who appreciate the good in people and are all doing their own little part of making the world a better place – all of these things and so much more have brought out the best in me and helped me see the best in others. I was continually impressed by the inspiring people I’ve met at Bona Fide and I’ve felt truly happy here. This is what it’s all about, I am so blessed. Thanks.