This is a guest blog by Maya Madjar from the Green Riders.
— On June 3, 2019, the Green Riders arrived to our very first project location near Grezille, France. After being received and treated so well by our first two hosts, we were all in good spirits for our third day of riding. I was in the group of the first Green Riders to arrive thanks to a sneaky shortcut we scoped out after lunch. Manoocha, a woman of boundless energy, welcomed us warmly and gave us a tour of the community that would soon catch everyone by surprise; the entire commune consisted of caves. Each varied in its color, shape, and size, yet they all carried the central theme of a dreamy and eclectic multi-cave house. Included in the layout was a library, communal kitchen, shower, and several hostel-like sleeping rooms alongside a private room with a greenhouse at the top. This may seem like a first-draft introduction to a fantasy book about a family living in caves with stained glass windows surrounded by fields of poppies. However, I am not here to fool you, and this is an actual place called “Troglobal.”
Manoocha and Zazou are key members of Troglobal. Zazou lived in an artistic squat in Paris and planned to make it into a collective open space. Unfortunately, it burned down, and the government started cracking down on living in abandoned spaces. From there, and with the help of a friend, they used their savings to buy the property and build it up into what it is now: a welcoming international space where you may “come as you are” and leave as friends. Many festivals, dance, theater shows, and music events have been hosted here. That’s how Zazou and Manoocha met as she performed as a traveling musician just passing through, but couldn’t help but stay. It has been described as a “microsociety.” All problems that arise in society become heightened in community. Manoocha said living here is a constant lesson in psychology and she has learned a great deal about herself and others, especially how to hold space and care for others. Manoocha wanted to be sure to recognize this as a communal creation as opposed to her and Zazou taking individual credit.
“Troglobal is created by everyone who comes through whether it be for a visit, a helping hand, or even a home.” -Manoocha
Our day of volunteering was relaxed yet productive; paradoxical, yet possible. In the morning, many Green Riders came together to make communal breakfast. The afternoon was spent on moving large logs and many heavy stones to more useful locations, gardening, and sorting clothes for their impromptu communal clothes swap. We had a break for communal lunch of rice and curry with a side of great conversation. Zazou generously offered to make dinner for everyone that evening (which was more than twenty), so naturally a handful of Green Riders and community members banded together to help in the kitchen. All of the vegetable cutting, washing, and prepping paid off as we gathered around several tables pushed together to commune and feast. The image of that dinner will likely be imprinted in memories forever.
The morning upon leaving was bittersweet. While eating French toast (or “pain perdu” in French), Manoocha and Zazou played us a show in their cave dedicated to performances. Manoocha told a spoken word story accompanied by her Shruti box and Zazou’s long clarinet tones. The lazy coil of incense danced through the cave as we all enjoyed their gift, fully captivated. Although sad to leave such an energetic and invigorating space, we were proud of the work we had done at Troglobal and grateful for the relationships created while there. The music wafted out of the cave as we packed our bikes that would carry us onward to continue making each place better than we found it. The music slowly faded and was replaced with the sound of bike tires against the open road.