My plan that I am going to spend my whole winter break working at a date farm in the middle of the Mojave Desert could have ended up being disastrous. I did not have any knowledge about growing dates whatsoever, I don’t think I’d ever eaten a date before going there for that matter. Everyone who knew about my plan was pretty much convinced that I was borderline crazy for doing it, and I – I’m not going to lie – had doubts myself. But I’m pretty much convinced that one should put herself into unusual situations from time to time, so I went through with it, and I loved all of it.
The China Ranch Date Farm is near to Death Valley but far from everything else. The Mojave Desert is the land of small towns with less than a hundred inhabitants, people living in trailers in the middle of nothing and huge trucks cruising on the endless roads. The farm is basically an oasis with hundreds of date palms, a reservoir and a bakery, but once you leave it on one of the hiking trails, you find yourself in a setting only familiar from Western movies and Karl May novels (if you love Winnetou as much as I do).
There are about four or five people who live and work at the farm, all the others are travelers, volunteers and all sorts of drifters who spend more or less time there and in exchange for food and a roof over their heads work at the farm five hours a day, five days a week. We harvested dates, sorted dates, boxed dates, put dates in cookies and shakes, dreamed about dates, we were basically breathing dates. After doing the work from seven to twelve, we were free to do whatever we wanted.
Lacking of internet and cell phone reception and surrounded by Nature, we were both, children running around at night with flashlights, hunting coyotes, and old, retired couples, who were sitting next to the fireplace for hours, reading books, not saying a word. Our biggest worries were not being able to decide what to cook for dinner, which awful move to watch (and whether the DVDs were scratched or not) and which hiking trail to do after work. We were living in this exciting, but at the same time extremely tranquil environment, our little bubble with its own dynamics and rules.
Getting back to school was like a shock therapy after this. Overwhelmed by things like heating and Internet, I had only one day to get myself together, to wash the desert dust out of my clothes, and to get ready to go to classes. It’s not been easy. Spending a month at China Ranch was like a smaller, surreal dream within the bigger, American dream I’m living right now (yes, just like Inception, yes, I know it’s cheesy). After everything, my real life in Hungary awaits, but until then I’ll still have to do some exciting things, so that these blogposts don’t bore everyone to death.