Workaway at Finca Ixobel: how we became carpenters in Guatemala

We dab through the mud under a starry night when our tree house comes into sight. Soon, we can fall down onto our bed. And soon, we will enjoy the relaxing evening cabin life. Soon, yes, but not quite yet. Because all of a sudden, Anete says: “Damn, we forgot to fill our water bottles.”

Thus, we have to postpone our repose for half an hour and hike back to the main building in search of the necessary hydration. It is our reality at Finco Ixobel, as ours is the furthest tree house of the lot. Mundo Perdido, quite literally the lost world. Continue Reading →

Notes from Lake Izabal — end

“The captain is out to lunch and the sailors have taken over the ship.” (Charles Bukowski)

Day 7-8-9 on Lake Izabal: Tom

Remember the subtitle of the first part of this mini-series, ‘A Million Ways to Die on a Boat’? I wonder if there’s a world record for hitting your head against the boom, the pole attached horizontally to the mast? If so, for four days Mario and I were in heavy competition to break it and improve it so vastly that surely it would stand for a couple of decades. But now, Mario had left our sloop on Lake Izabal and I was the sole number one, the uncrowned king of head bumps. Continue Reading →

Notes from the Lake — part two

“The captain is out to lunch and the sailors have taken over the ship.” (Charles Bukowski)

Day 3: Tom

Sleeping on the boat was not easy for me. I’m quite a troubled sleeper in general, and the boat didn’t help. Cramped spaces, fair enough. It’s no fun, but hard to avoid if you want to stay on a ship. But my body didn’t seem to be able to adapt to the rocking and swinging of the boat. Or at least not quick enough. The lake itself was flat as a pancake, but passing traffic caused waves, sometimes so strong that they could knock over your cup of coffee. Or keep you from your sleep. It was Friday morning and I was twisting and turning – early morning sunshine falling onto my face – in a vain attempt to still steal five minutes of sleep from an already expired night. My body had, however, accepted the harsh truth. No sleep tonight, it was a brand new morning. Continue Reading →

Notes From Lake Izabal (a.k.a. A Million Ways to Die on A Boat) — part one

“The captain is out to lunch and the sailors have taken over the ship.” (Charles Bukowski)

Day 1: Tom

It sounded too good to be true. In the mornings, we’d be scrubbing decks for two hours and in the afternoons, we’d go sailing and exploring the area. Hiking trails, caves, waterfalls, the possibilities were limitless. Oo, the wonders of WorkAway, the website we’ve been using to find accommodation in exchange for a couple of hours of honest work. And so we embarked on not one, but two boats, both belonging to Daeli, a French adventurer with a beard so scruffy and long it was probably eagerly eyed by birds with nest-making ambitions far and wide. Continue Reading →

Blood, sweat and weeds: a day in the life on the Stardust Sanctuary Farm

I ignore the blisters on my rugged hands as I tear a vine with a seemingly never-ending root from the soil. Yes, those hands that are routinely darting over the keyboard and performing other delicate tasks. After all, we become writers because we’re afraid of hard physical work, the heavy lifting and the spine-breaking labour in construction or on the field. I twist out yet another turf of grass, toss it on the ever-growing pile and decapitate a thorny weed with a hoe. I won’t make the mistake again of pulling it until my hands bleed. The dark clay stains my fingers, stains I’ll not manage to get off of my hands with even the most generous helping of soap. Continue Reading →