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A Sacred Brewery

Last weekend was the new moon.  And Friday the 13th.  And the attacks on Paris. And the first day of my period.

All this, and also my last day on the mushroom farm.

It was certainly a time full of emotion and a feeling of massive shifts going on in the world and within myself.

Despite all this, I was prepared to leave behind the “known” and the comforts of the farm, ready for new adventure.  Next stop:  a hostel/brewery called “The Holy Water Ale,” run by a German man named Stefan.



Holy Water Ale is in a town called Buga, a city made famous by a Basilica that attracts 3 million religious pilgrims each year.  This town is in a valley amidst the mountains of the coffee region, and during one of our hikes this week we could see from the top of a mountain miles and miles of farmland amidst the distant mountain ranges.

The hostel and the “cerveceria”–aka, a bar/restaurant– are on the second floor of a Spanish-colonial style building.  Three blocks away is where the owner lives, and in his house, there is the brewery.

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Joel and I are WorkAway volunteers, so we stay with Stefan in his house.  In other words, I’ll be sleeping in a brewery for the rest of the month. (Muy interesante!)

Don’t worry, it’s not like I have to sleep on beer crates or anything.  But right outside my bedroom door are 100-gallon steel vats filled with fermenting beer.  (And also this amazing book sitting on a table.)

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(a non-politically-correct book, thankfully)

So it makes for a unique experience!

As with most WorkAway experiences, the volunteer work you do depends on your skills.  So Joel has been putting his handy-work to use, fixing broken tables and building a new work-desk area inside the brewery.  I’ve spent my time editing english translations for the “Buga Hostel” information packet, making artistic signs to show pricing of beer, and helping to promote events at the hostel through CouchSurfing and advertising.

I feel a little spoiled, because part of our job last week was to accompany the hostel’s Spanish-speaking tour guide on all the tours with the guests.  (So if the tour guide for some reason can’t come to a scheduled tour, we know where to take people.  And we also can promote the tours through word-of-mouth and online reviews.)  So, we basically got to go on two amazing nature hikes through the mountains, canyons, and waterfalls, spending full days in the jungle-mountains and never coming across any other people… for free.

(A Canadian couple who write a travel blog documented our hike to a waterfall here.)

Amidst all this new adventure, I’ve been able to ground myself through a daily yoga practice. Waking up with the sun (a practice advised by Shiva Rea in “Tending the Heart Fire” as a way to tune in to the natural rhythms of life) for an ashtanga-inspired flow practice, and then finding stillness around sunset with a heart-opening meditation… through these consistent practices, I’ve been able to gain a sense of balance amidst all the changes and uncertainty happening around me. (I almost called them “simple practices,” but sometimes consistency and discipline are anything but simple!  But the more you do it, the more natural and effortless it becomes.)

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(exploring depths of heart-opening underneath a colorful image of the ultimate free-spirit, Jimi Hendrix.)

Being around new people has lifted my spirits.  On the farm, Joel and I were quite isolated.  The other people there were full-time, Spanish-speaking employees– who were open and friendly, yet language barriers and our own self-consciousness of interrupting their work to try and speak with them kept us in our shells.

Here, I find more opportunity to use Spanish, and feel more playful and carefree.  My extroversion perhaps was sparked during our first night at the brewery, when Stefan offered us beer after beer of this delicious home-brewed crafty delight that he keeps in mini-kegs in a fridge next to the kitchen. We talked through the sunset (sorry, meditation time! Plus, it was Sunday… day of rest and freedom from obligation), and as the stars came out, Stefan made us hamburgers from a local butcher, served with roasted garlic, German mustard, Colombian peppers, piled on the artesenal bread they make for the restaurant (not typical for Colombia, to have delicious sourdough bread… the recipe came from a visiting Italian when the restaurant first opened.)

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Again, I feel spoiled.  (This is one of those moments when all I can say is, GRATITUDE.  …Truly, expressing gratitude attracts abundance.  It’s the law.)

Now, its our first full weekend here.  This Saturday we have a language-practice meet-up at the hostel, where locals can practice English, and foreigners can practice Spanish.  And drink beer together, of course.  (My favorite is the Ginger Honey… anything “honey” is usually at the top of my list.)

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As we near Thanksgiving time, I feel grateful that I will be here, surrounded by friendship and delicious food.



Interesting travelers we’ve met here:

Dominic, a 30-year-old German, who came to South America to travel with a young girl who was his neighbor back in Germany and with whom he fell in love.  After a few days here, it became clear she wanted to be free, so they parted ways, and he found himself traveling alone.  Back in Berlin, he spent the past year planning parties… aka, illegal underground raves.  After he travels here for 2 months, he will go home and bartend to save up money to start an outdoor cafe where people are served in beds, and it will be called “Bedtime Stories.”  While here in Buga, he met another German guy, Robert, who lives here now as an architect and promoter of sustainable bamboo forests.  Perhaps he will work with Robert in the future to construct the cafe’s beds out of bamboo.

Stefan, Robert, and Dominic, hearing from the farm's tour guide about how bamboo grows

Stefan, Robert, and Dominic, hearing about how bamboo grows from the farm’s tour guide


Olivia & Austin– a couple from Salt Lake City.  Olivia and I bonded over talking about yoga, hula-hooping, fire dancing, and dreams of living in the northwest USA.  She did AmeriCorps for a year, so they will pay for her to get any sort of certification she wants… and she’s thinking of doing yoga.  When they finish traveling in December, they will go home and build “tiny houses,” which she says “is all the rage in the USA” now.  These houses can be moved on flatbeds, and the big appeal? They don’t require building permits or passing any building codes to make and live in them.  They’ve built one before– invested $20,000, and sold it for $40,000.  They will make one for themselves this time, and perhaps will take it to live in Washington.  Olivia and I hope to meet again, in an off-the-grid community in the mountains.


A Mexican guy, in his 20s perhaps, never caught his name… but he travels around with 10 marionette puppets, and does performances in parks to earn money.

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