I have always been interested in community building and sustainable settlements. I think we all have a link to this life, we all dream of a “good” and open society which considers you as a person full of creative potential and not just as a consumer. I like the idea of living close to other people, sharing values and develop the community according to a common worldview. Sharing responsibilities, daily life but also special and unique moments. I believe we need to bring back this to our culture, at different levels maybe, but I feel the urgency to shift our focus from a competitive system to a collaborative one.
Let´s start fresh.
How do we want to live?
In 30 years I never asked myself this question.
It is unbelievable.
Surely I am not the smartest person in the world otherwise I would have done it long ago.
Well, many things did not fit me either, so I questioned a lot, I struggled.
But I always ended up with a “what am I going to do”?
There is a big difference between these two questions.
And they seem so obvious, so simple, that we do not understand how much influence they have on us.
A place where people truly ask and asked themselves how they want to live is an ecovillage.
I always wanted to get in touch with these realities, I read some things about it but I never had the courage or the time to visit one and see how they look like.
Well, this time I planned a bit ahead. I looked for them, searched for numbers, emails, addresses and most important I was open.
Sometimes people have prejudices and consider these places just as a meeting point for old fashioned hippies.
Those hippies well described by some movies, stoned, naked, willing to do nothing except of wild sex against human decor.
But who is familiar with it (not wild sex, I mean eco settlements) knows that actually this is just American bullshit (sorry guys).
I chose Lakabe just because I found it on the GEN (Global Ecovillage network Europe) map and it happened to be on my way, close to Pamplona.
Sometimes you get numbers or addresses but I only managed to send an email which never got any answer.
#Rule number 7: Never give up.
If you do not know something, just ask.
And so I did.
I brought my bike for a check at the Bigarren Eskua a bike shop close to the hostel I stayed in Pamplona and there I simply asked if they knew the ecovillage. Normally, passionate cyclists get naturally interested in these kind of things. I was right.
They called Lakabe at the only available phone number.
Well, I told you that this trip was signed by an incredible number of coincidences which made my rational side vacillate, right?
Here we go again.
A. from Lakabe tells me that the open week (when they invite people to know the Pueblo) was about to end in a couple of days, so I could join them.
Another perfect match, another coincidence I do not know how to call it.
The next day I rode up to the Pyrenees followed by inconsistent weather, rain, crazy face wind which made me get off the bike and finally sun again.
You can not see Lakabe from the street but there is a sign and a bus stop.
I entered the silent village welcomed first by a horse. Yes a horse.
Lakabe is a small, self organized as well as almost self sufficient and sustainable village.
It counts 45 people of different age, there are young guys, adults, elders and children.
Most of them are Spanish or basques but when I was there I met a Greek, an Italian and a french couple.
The village is organized in “private” houses which belong just to the village itself (none owns anything at Lakabe ) but where families, couples and single individuals live, and public spaces, like a big kitchen (but they all have their own), a dining room used as well as meeting room, a recreational space, rooms for guests (where I stayed), workshops and mechanical lab. All surrounded by forests, fields and gardens.
Ah, I just forgot to mention that when I was there they were building a sauna.
Sustainable life does not need to be uncomfortable ;-).
The electricity is self produced thanks to solar panels and windmills, heating and cooking is powered by a wood stove and they use compost toilets. All done applying a closed loop system, avoiding useless trash and respecting nature.
They share bio fuel powered cars and rely on a workshop they run, in case something needs to be fixed.
When it comes to food production you will see fields dedicated to vegetables farming, as well as animals for those who eat meat and for dairy products. Still, many things like coffee, chickpea and others can not be produced internally so they have to buy them.
Here it comes the big question. Do they produce money?
Yes. They do.
The only activity which has this function is the bakery, that serves the village as well as small towns around Lakabe.
The point is that no-one owns the money earned. They belong to everybody and if they need something, they are responsible for evaluating it in relation to the community needs.
It sounds science fiction right?
and yet, it works.
They even have to unanimously take any community related decision.
Even more science fiction.
I mean, sometimes my boyfriend and I are not even able to decide something together, I can not imagine what would it mean to do it in a group of 45 people.
A carnage? maybe, or maybe we are just too negative and we should trust more each other instead. More trust, we really need that.
I arrived right before lunch, a moment they share all together.
Everyday in turn, one person dedicate the entire morning cooking for everyone.
I was invited to join them and the people who came visiting and working with the pueblo in the morning. A. explained me that this village was abandoned and during the 60´s a group of university students occupied and restructured it on their own. Some of them are still living there and others left to build new ecovillages. Some people stay many years, some were even born here, became adults and decided to stay or to live in the city.
I really admire what this people have created. It is not easy to form a group, share a vision and act accordingly in a flexible and democratic way. I tried many times and always failed.
A. told me that he moved there many years ago because he and his wife wanted a different life for their daughter.
“El coche Francesca, el coche cambió todo.”
I never really thought about a car in this way because it brought me a lot of freedom in the past. I could move, I could travel, be independent, meet friends, new people, new cultures and ideas.
This is all true, we can not deny it, a car made all of us communicate not just faster but also to many different people. But at the same time it locks us up inside a machine which is pretending to protect us from everything, it turned us defensive, ironically more isolated and disconnected from nature and people.
And much more, we created a machine which is dangerous for us, for our children who can not feel safe when playing on the street or close to home. So we also lock ourselves and our kids inside a house.
I do not know about you, but I get mad when I stay too long inside my apartment.
And I can see a forest from my balcony.
I loved Lakabe and the values it carries. They just live with a different rhythm, valuing what is important for the community without denying technology. But at the same time it does not mean I can not be critic and simply say that I felt a certain closure. Despite their background, high education and way of living, slow, in respect of people and nature, they were not so open to visitors. A. and other people I spent time with were great, very generous and communicative but in general we could perceive the feeling of closure and/or indifference.
Do not get me wrong, I had great moments and their hospitality was more than amazing but they were not prepared to share themselves to strangers.
Strangers come and go and surely it takes a lot of energy to give a bit of yourself to others.
The night before leaving the pueblo was magic. A., Rita ( a Spanish director who was filming a documentary about Lakabe) and I had a superb dinner, great talks and music.
I was just about going to bed when I heard a guitar playing in the darkness.
The sound brought me in the middle of the field where something ancient was taking place.
All together, beneath a starry vault of heaven we sit down in front of a campfire where people played and sang songs in a language I could not recognize.