This is the second and final post by our intern, James.
This is the first Christmas I have spent without my immediate family in 25 years of life. Snow covered mountains, fireside hot cocoa, and village carolers have always been some of the pavlovian cues to get me salivating about the holiday season. Strangely, without all these things, I have not felt the pangs of homesickness. Perhaps it is the sunny and lengthening days, or the warm and temperate weather. Maybe it is the bi-weekly beach trips and ocean view, or the constant distraction of farm work. No, I think it is much more than just a radical change of scenery that has relieved symptoms of nostalgia.
I have never been particularly drawn to children, nor they to me. I certainly do not dislike them, but am more or less indifferent to unknown children the same way one is indifferent to unknown adults—I try to be kind, but I have never been a socialite. Within a day of arriving at the farm, little Verti, a four-year-old girl, was pulling my hands out of my pockets just so she could hold them as I was being shown around the grounds. To feel the affection of a small child is heart-melting enough, but one that I had known for less than 24 hours? Despite her age, the immediate warmth from a total stranger took me aback. I spent the last 6 months in frequent contact with several similarly-aged children, but none seemed as readily-loving as Verti.
Manu, the family toddler, often tries to attract some of my attention with one of the few words he knows while hitting my thighs, or whatever other body part happens to be available to his height. Like his older sister, he too is readily physical and affectionate—my meditations and stretching are often interrupted by a slap on my belly coupled with his boisterous giggle. I open my eyes to his toothy and charismatic smile, begging for play.
On my first arrival I greeted Dani, mother of Manu and Verti, with a handshake. It was refused as I was told, “we are huggers.”
With my impending departure from the farm, Nelson, the father, has helped me acquire and modify items necessary to my next several months of living out of a mini-van.
I have known the fellow interns here for less than 2 months, and yet I can recall few occasions where I have laughed as often and as loudly. Sometimes the laughter is debilitating, temporarily rendering me useless for physical work. I am not complaining.
Conversation among interns, Nelson, or Dani is comfortable, can consist of nearly anything, and flows freely. Talks are inspired and of substance, rarely superficial in scope. As our backgrounds differ drastically, disagreements are common but not heated. I think this openness to one another and new ideas has opened each other’s perspectives to new ways of thinking and being in the world.
This is how I account for an absence of homesickness. The change of circumstances and lack of usual Christmas cues helps, I am sure. More potent though, is the camaraderie among interns and enveloping familial atmosphere that the farm exudes. Maybe it will be different when the actual date rolls around. I hope I am not misunderstood, as I deeply love my family. But for now, I could not feel more at home.