Dave and I made it to Eco Hostel Medellin today. After an hour-long ride on a short bus over some seriously bumpy terrain, followed by a safari jeep ride we arrived at Paola’s… “hippie commune” comes to mind. As the rest of the volunteers filtered in we started to explore our surroundings a bit. The main building houses an open dining area plus a small kitchen, and several dorm rooms are connected by an outdoor patio. It’s built into the side of a mountain, so the sloping backyard gives way to several vegetable gardens, stuck in among guava trees. The front looks out onto a jutting hill where about two dozen cows were grazing.

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Once everyone visited their designated rooms – this setup will be like sleep-away camp because Dave and I are in separate bunks – and dropped off our packs, Paola gave us a rundown. Here’s how this place works: Every morning a woman will come wake everyone up around 6 a.m., and we’ll all join in a short meditation together. After that is breakfast, followed by working in the garden, teaching English and learning Spanish, and toward the end of the day we all practice yoga together. Paola cooks lunch for everyone and then we take turns making dinner. She doesn’t like messes and operates at just about zero-waste. Apparently a Canadian woman once visited the hostel and made Paola a believer in permaculture practices and sustainability. She proudly showed us her collection of plastic scraps shoved into bottles that will be reused as “bricks” in the construction of…I’m not quite sure.

Continuing the tour, Paola showed us her compost pile, appropriately adjacent to the composting toilet. Noting her soil was short on nitrogen, Paola begged us to pee in this outdoor bowl – as opposed to the porcelain one that flushes.

Our first day wrapped up with a vegetarian dinner, jointly prepared and eaten together at large wooden dining table. Paola led a “spiritual” version of grace, saying she was appreciative for our food and smiles…something like that. Both Dave and I haven’t had much in the way of vegetables since we arrived in Colombia so we had no problem feasting on potatoes, avocados, mangoes and plantains.

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January 12, 2014