Archive for August, 2012

Interning at Finca Luna Nueva: Day 10

I’m lounging up in a tower right now, some 60 feet high, well above the surrounding jungle canopy at Finca Luna Nueva, a sustainable rainforest eco-tour lodge and organic, biodynamic farm. Volcano Arenal lies to the West, dense jungle to the North, rainbows and lavender sunsets to the East, and the lounge area and pool to the South :) Cicada’s rattle, countless birds call, thunder shreds the skies, and the rhythm of the jungle breathes on in concert. Not a bad panoramic.

 

East facing rainbow from the tower

I’m one of the new interns at Finca Luna Nueva. This farm and eco-lodge offers 3-month internships where young adults can experience life on a biodynamic organic farm within a sustainable rainforest eco-lodge — it’s a good life. The internship program can be focused in areas such as biodynamics, farm work, construction, culinary, and even business. From what I understand, most interns have a hand in at least a few of these areas, blending the experiences together.

 

As for myself, I’ll be focusing on all tea-related aspects of the farm, from planting, harvesting, and processing, to pruning, propagating, and serving in casual ceremony. In just my first 10 days here, I’m already designing a new tea garden to be installed, spraying biodynamic preps on the existing tea garden, I’ve set date for a black-tea workshop in October that I’ll be conducting, and I recently had a skype conversation with my good tea friends in Hawaii which will help me to implement a sustainable harvesting and pruning schedule that lines up with the biodynamic calendar. And that’s not even accounting for all the time I enjoyed putting into the cob-oven project that intern, Kyle, has been spearheading for the last month (which still requires a few weeks of satisfying work).

 

Of course, it’s strange to call this “work” considering were given the opportunity to do something we really want to be doing, in returns for food and shelter. There hasn’t been a day when I felt like I was going to work, in the typical sense of the word. Not only will I do this work completely free of charge, but I’ll gladly do it with a smile on my face giving as much gratititude as I can for being given this opportunity to do what I love. Work-trading/WWOOFing should always at least be mutually beneficial but ideally should end in great friendship. The trick isn’t so much finding what it is you love to do, but cultivating the ability to choose to love whatever it is you find yourself doing. Whether I’m working with tea, or working on a cob-oven, it’s more so a choice to love doing it rather than doing it to see if you love it. In that sense, it’s going to be easy to enjoy any project here at la finca, which also has a lot do with the farm itself; all of the projects are a reflection of the sustainable, organic, eco-friendly, and caring nature of the farm.

 

I’ve traveled to a lot of places now, and had a lot of different work-trade experiences – all of which I’ve loved and learned volumes from — and already I can tell that this internship at Finca Luna Nueva is going to be a very notable experience. As far as internships go, I can’t think of a more conducive environment to learn and thrive in; one without micromanagement, one with an emphasis on self-directed projects, one with easily available resources for a wide variety of jobs, one within the realm of Nature, one with great food and caring staff, one that sets you up within a framework of success and allows for flexibility of content. The list could go on.

 
I still have a lot to cover, from the amazing tea garden that already exists here, to the cob-oven project in more detail, and a day in the life of an intern. But I’ll save those for future posts. For now, I might go enjoy the sunset again and take a dip in the pool before dinner…

 

Can you see Volcano Arenal?

Pura Vida

TLC

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Finca Luna Nueva

My travels, adventures, and pursuit and personal development continue, this time at Finca Luna Nueva in Costa Rica: a sustainable rainforest Eco-Lodge with a certified Organic Biodynamic farm. The farm, as part of the slow food movement, attempts to grow as much of their food for staff and guests as possible. They grow an array of fruits and vegetables, raise some animals, make their own chocolate, pepper, coffee, tea, and also grow turmeric and ginger, among many other things. The farm and eco-lodge are host to a number of other opportunities and activities that can all be found on  their website by clicking the link above.

I’ll be taking part in a 3-month farming internship. I plan to learn all about growing food, raising animals, medicinal plants, the world of Biodynamics, organics, sustainability, and self-sufficiency. I will also continue my own self-directed study of Permaculture design, Natural Farming, and Biointensive Farming as a complement to this internship program. To add to that, I hope to help manage all areas pertaining to tea on the farm, from planting, propagating, and harvesting, to pruning, processing, and serving.

I’m really excited to return to Costa Rica, which is where my farming adventures all began well over a year ago. Not only do I get to learn even more about sustainable farming practices and lifestyles, but I get to work with Camellia Sinensis and continue acting as  a student of the Leaf (all of which will prove syncronistically practical for my adventures post-Costa Rica, but that’s for another post well into the future). Anyway, I’ll be updating my blog regularly about live on la finca. My internship doesn’t start until next week, but look forward to some exciting new posts.

TLC

Reflecting on Taiwan – Drinking Intention

In retrospect, I never gave my Taiwan travels a proper closing blog entry. After all, I was literally chased out of the tea village I had come to know so well by a great force of nature: the Typhoon! I actually had to scurry up to the mountainside tea factory, pack all my belongings in about 15 minutes, and flee back down into the valley – 5 days before my date of departure. This was all due to the heavy typhoon passing over Taiwan, of course, and had I not evacuated then, I very well may have been stranded due to road damage and landslides. It was difficult as it was what with vehicle sized boulders blocking sections of road and a 100-foot section of road was already washed away by the time I returned to the village. Luckily, an alternate gravel road had been opened up that connected back to the main road. Also luckily for me, I was welcomed with open arms at the Tea Sage Hut for the duration of my stay in Taiwan until returning to Canada.

 

In case you don’t already know, essentially I went to Taiwan as a student of the Leaf to learn about where my tea comes from, how it’s grown and processed, and who’s making it…and I wanted to gain that knowledge through first hand experience and community involvement. I offered my support in a tea factory and farm in a small tea village in returns for food, accommodation, and the experience to learn about the industry that is Taiwanese Oolong Tea.

 

This short documentary gives you an idea about what I was doing. In all my excitement in the first week (which is when the video was shot) I fumbled with words, but you get the idea. In particular I like my goofy comment on the smell of tea (which really is the greatest aroma I can think of), and my corny motto at the very end. Even though this video was shot only a few months ago, my outlook on tea has changed drastically. Much thanks to Wendy Wang who directed and edited the film, along with her crew.

 

 

This experience, as exhilarating and thrilling as it was, was actually quite challenging and draining. It wasn’t so much the long work hours, the extreme language barrier, or the complicated processing techniques that made things difficult; it was experiencing, first hand, farming practices that were in direct conflict with my love of tea as a natural product, a spiritual medium, and a connection with Nature. I was defining tea for myself by learning about what it didn’t mean to me. I was searching in the dark for the true light of tea. I really struggled at times, and wanted to make people aware of what I was learning about, but at the same time, I didn’t want to tarnish the image of tea, the image of any individuals, or the image of a country for that matter. As you can tell, I’m still being quite ambiguous about it all. I found there was no one to blame, not the farmers, not the salesmen, not the entity that is the chemical industry – it all came to no avail.  In fact, it is the farmers who are the first victim.

 

I now ask myself, is it more important to let people know that the tea they’re drinking probably isn’t raised in the spiritual  or natural manner to which they drink it (thus raising awareness), or to let them go on drinking it with such genuine spiritual intention, reaping the benefits inherent in their belief about the beverage they’re consuming. Either way, I feel damned if I do or damned if I don’t.

 

In some respects, I think people deserve to know what goes on behind the scenes of a large tea industry, behind the labels that vendors use to sell a product. And, I believe this can be done in a balanced and constructive manner. In another respect, I think certain information should be withheld because it’s the “knowing” about it that can exacerbate the “problem.” I’m not to say that ignorance is bliss, or that, what they don’t know won’t hurt them.  I’m kind of saying that, but from a very different angle, one that places great significance on the intention behind an action. In this respect, we’re no longer talking about drinking tea, but drinking intention.

 

The worst tea served with the best of intention is better than the best tea served with the worst of intention.

I once asked my teacher, what is the most respectful way to use conventionally grown tea. I didn’t want to throw it out, but I wasn’t sure if I should serve it to others? He told me that tea served from the heart and received in the same manner will transform the tea. This is drinking your own intention. If you receive this tea with your heart and fully intend for it to be a joyful, nourishing, meditative occasion, then your physical experience will follow accordingly, and that alone will generate a therapeutic energy of well-being. I believe the benefit in approaching (any) tea in this manner is of more importance than raising awareness about what’s going on behind the scenes. This is a form of empowerment. Approaching a conventionally grown tea with this intentional manner is of more use than not drinking it because you became aware of the conventional practices employed in raising it. Of course, there is a fine balance between some level of awareness and cultivating a mindful intention with respect to consuming tea.

 

I’m not to say you should just forget all about farming practices and their role in society and carelessly sip away with fairytale intentions. Nor am I saying you have to spend 3 months in the mountains of Taiwan getting to know the factory laborers or field workers on a personal level, or to witness the livelihoods behind the thousands of hands involved in the process of bringing tea from the soil to your cup. That’s not practical or necessary – or sufficient. While it might not be practical to source a farmer who’s tea is raised in a spiritually-like manner to which you drink it, it is practical to suggest that you source and buy Organic and environmentally friendly tea, which is the next best option – and a good one at that (like the Global Tea Hut’s Tea of the Month, for example). Then you can be confident that the tea you are drinking is not only inherently healthy for you, but healthy for the environment, and the manner in which you drink it is more closely aligned with the manner in which it was raised. Your intention in this case will even further the therapeutic benefits of a tea drinking occasion.

 

So in reflecting on my time in Taiwan I learned that tea can be perceived in many different ways; as a commodity, a beverage, a ceremony, a science, a cuisine, a livelihood, a spiritual medium, a garden, a monoculture, an art, a culture, an evergreen, a medicine, etc, and all of them have their place within certain boundaries. My perception is constantly shifting and changing to accommodate a blend of those ideas about tea. For now, tea is for me, prominently: a social art, a connection with Nature, an opportunity of transformation, and a Way. This is what I really learned about tea in Taiwan.

 

An old Tea Sage with Great Intention

 

TLC