Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Composting Toilet Lady and her Doggies!

For a cheap flight via Spirit Airlines to Cancun Mexico, I lived and worked with Dinah Drago in Puerto Morelos and learned all about the important work she is doing to protect the water table and coral reef in Mexico.

Dinah is a care-giver of the highest order. Shes a biologist who builds composting toilets in the Yucatan. Of course as soon as one thinks of 'composting toilets' our noses crinkle up and we think smelly. But no. On the contrary. Dinah has several on her property and not only are they aesthetically pleasing little structures, they are also fragrance free. She chooses to design the interior floors and sinks with an artisanal treatment of mosaic tile art.

Dinah was a bit of a maverick 2o or so years ago when she started all this. As a cave diver and environmentalist, Dinah's been a champion of many initiatives to protect the earth, over the years. Composting toilets caught on and are being seen as a super alternative waste system, highly regarded now in many countries around the world.

Dinah's also a dog lover and rescues and rehabilitates street dogs in Mexico, which is how I came to know her.

And, she's an indigenous plant rescuer. The little town of Puerto Morales, just 30 minutes from Cancun, is being encroached on by big resort corporations. Dinah finds herself rescuing indigenous palm trees and such from construction sites. She's set up a little arboretum on her property to protect these plants.

When we met, we hit it off instantly. I had another month to spend in Mexico and she thought she could use a hand with the dogs. Before we knew it I was making their daily midday stew (chicken and vegetables and other things...); walking them individually on the beach daily(tough job but somebody's gotta do it); helping with meds or trips to the vet and bonus... I got to spend time with the dog trainers in helping rehabiliate these loving doggies so they can trust humans. I had worked on a documentary series about working dogs for television and was pretty savvy in knowing what was possible. But it was hugely gratifying to get some solid training and one on one experience with two of my favourite little buddies -- Tio Juaro and Miss Pesca.

Dinah's Breakfast Juice
many mandarin oranges (10 - 15)
1-2 limes
2 stalks celery
1 clove garlic
several chaya leaves
This makes 2 - 4 nice glassfuls

Juice the oranges and limes and throw that and everything else in a blender. Whir it up and enjoy. It is luscious yet light and a great start to Dinah's day.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Experience the world on a dime

Whenever I talk about my travel adventures to friends and folks, I am always met with a dramatic reaction. "Wow! How do you do all that?"

Over the past 5 years I have lived these amazing adventures:
-Making fresh and aged goat cheese at a wilderness goat farm near St Tropez, Provence, France (a 3 week adventure)
-Harvesting rice at a macrobiotic farm and health retreat on East coast of Japan for 2 months
-student of an in depth Tai Chi course in Chiang Mei, Thailand for 2 weeks
-Cooking 2 French feasts daily for 15- 40 people at an artists colony in Angouleme, France for 3 weeks
-Nanny for a small compound of 5 rescued dogs on the beach in Puerto Morelos, Yucatan
-Chief cook for an eco tourist group,that included baking bread with hand ground whole wheat flour, in a wood fired outdoor oven at a northern wilderness log cabin camp in British Columbia -- oh yeah. I had to FLY IN to get to the camp in a floater plane, as the closest road is a 2 day hike through the bush!

Yes I do all that and no I am not rich. I make an average living in television producton and have chunks of time off in between my gigs. But I have found a way to incorporate fabulous travel adventures into my budget! And now, there's no turning back.

Why do I do it? Simple. I get to live the life and become a part of the family of the folks of an unknown place for me. I see the world under a different kind of microscope. And it's not always easy to change your ways or adapt to someones life and schedule. But that is part of the excitement of it.

It's true. How can a person actually live in Japan for 2 months for the price of a plane ticket? Or how can a person live in a beautiful home on the beach just south of Cancun for a month, for the price of a plane ticket! Or fly into a northern BC wilderness eco camp to live in my own log cabin for 2 weeks? It's called Wwoofing: World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.

I've talked briefly about how to be a WWOOFer in past posts but here is the whole enchilada.

The organization was founded in the early 70's aimed to foster partnerships between curious volunteers and folks with small holding type farms. It's grown world wide to include eco-tourist hospitality ventures, health retreats and the like. It is a place where like-minded folks can come together. Hosts need workers and are willing to provide room and board. Workers want an experience of a lifetime and find their own transport there, work for an agreed upon amount of time and get to really live that culture, that life. Nothing beats this for a travel experience that I know of so far.

Peruse the various WWOOF websites online. www.wwoof.org has links to all the associations around the world. Pretty much any country in the world has a wwoof org. Each website offers a listing of profiles of their hosts looking for workers, and once you pay memberships dues (around $30 CAN/year) you get more detailed information including contact emails for the hosts. Then you can select the Host that suits your needs and begin emailing them to see if you are a good fit. The work required at each host is different, but often there is gardening, cooking or handyman type work required. Most hosts ask for about a 6 hour workday, with some asking for more or less. It's all laid out in their profile, and details can be ironed out when you begin corresponding with them.

Hosts often have bedrooms (either private or shared) as well as camping facilities.

IN my first WWOOFING experience I stayed at an old restored stone farmhouse in my own room overlooking a man made lake. I rose early, made goat cheese in the fromagerie,(training was provided) then made an elaborate vegetarian lunch for the farm hands,my host and me -- a gang of 8. AFter lunch my time was my own to wander, read, write and explore. This place was atop a little mountain near St Tropez France, and it was heaven! My host and I became good friends and on days off she would take me on drives to little villages in the south of France.

Want to go pick olives in Italy? Help with winemaking or cheesemaking in the Auvergne region in France? Work in the kitchen at a yoga retreat in India (and do yoga in your spare time...)? It's all out there for the taking.