Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Hey hey, I’m not supposed to be here today (in Gracias) but here I am so I figured I’d be productive and catch everyone up on the goings on. On Monday my classes finished up their tests for the environmental section of the program. Everyone brought their money to buy the next round of books. I talked to one of the other teachers and he said all we had to do was bring the money to Margarita, our promoter, in La Campa (my closest town, an hour walk away) and she would give us the books. Margarita told me twice this month that the books were already in La Campa and when we were ready all we had to do was pick them up. So I hiked down yesterday, pisto (money) in hand, ready to buy the books. I show up at Margarita’s house and she gives me a “fijise que” (a Honduran phrase that pretty much means “I’m sorry but…” it usually means that someone is about to lie to you). So…

Margarita: “fijise que the books aren’t here”
Your noble narrator and faithful champion of “sustainable” international development: you told me the books were here
Margarita: No I didn’t, the books are in Gracias, you have to go to Gracias
*note* Last time I went straight to Gracias and picked up the books myself and she got pretty angry at me for going over her head
Your noble narrator and faithful champion of “sustainable” international development: it’s getting late, I’m not sure I can make it to Gracias and back (It was afternoon, the buses had all passed, and I’d have to hitchhike).
Margarita: sure you can, and can you do my job for me by picking up the eighth graders’ books as well.
YNNFC”S”ID: absolutely, I don’t mind doing your job for you while you sit here and do nothing, living of your USAID stipend that pays for your husband’s bar tab. Its only another 25 pounds (not exaggerating) that I have to carry up my hill. I’ll just leave my week’s worth of food, hike down and pick it up tomorrow.

So I waited on the dirt road for an hour and a half for a ride to Gracias, the main office was closed when I got there so I had to wait around for another hour for it to open, stand in line at the bank for another hour (to deposit the money for the books), and bring the deposit slips back to the office and pick up the books. By the time all this was done there was absolutely no way for me to get back to Cruz Alta in time for me to teach classes that night. So I took it easy, bought a couple of cans of beer and mooched some chicken curry off of a couple of my friends that teach English in Gracias (Thanks Jordan and Mad Dog). I have no worries and everything is good and as it should be. The problem is that if I had waited and gone through the proper channels for the books (the sweet bureaucracy of progress) we would get our books in two weeks or so, and my students would have two weeks of no class, lose their motivation, and fall even farther behind. My ninth graders all plan on going on to colegio (basically high school) and need to finish by mid December so they can submit their applications, and we are exactly half way through the program (we started in March you do the math). So we can’t afford to lose days let alone weeks. But my classes are still a ton of fun, we’re pluggin right along at our own pace. My students are awesome, my best friends for sure.

The coffee stuff is really coming along as well. Our cooperative (COCAMITEL) is really getting organized and we’re working on becoming certified. It is a huge process and there is a ton of work to be done. Right now I’m spending my time going to meetings and visiting fincas (coffee farms) of friends. Two weeks ago I went to Don Pedro Rivera’s finca right after a meeting. It was a pretty good hike out (45 minutes or so outside of town) to his place, and his finca was another half an hour past his house, down a muddy trail, across a river and through some serious forest, a very beautiful hike. His finca is incredible; his practices are above and beyond what people are doing here. He maintained a ton of the original canopy and has some huge pines, cedars, and fruit trees growing. A good coffee should have about forty percent shade and it looks like Pedro is spot on. His practices are also very good, instead of weeding out the growth around each plant with a hoe (this creates a problem with erosion and top soil loss) he uses a machete (the root structure of the plants holds the soil together). A machete is a ton of work and much more time consuming than an asadon (hoe). He’s also experimenting with planting species of plants between the rows that don’t require any maintenance. All in all he is a very progressive minded coffee producer, the problem is that there isn’t much of a system of rewarding that kind of practice. Pedro’s coffee will get thrown in with everyone else’s and he’ll receive the same price. We’re working on this, which is pretty much the goal of any cooperative; to reward good practice with a higher price. Here in Cruz Alta we’re all dreaming of Starbucks (it is still mentioned at every meeting).

I also spent a few days in Elias’ finca. He is still my best friend here, and I run every idea I have by him. He’ll give me an honest answer every time. I have mentioned him quite a bit on this blog. Elias is one of my ninth graders, he has a wife and two sons (Javier, and Moises) and a decent sized coffee farm. Since I got to Cruz Alta Elias has been talking about dreams of going to the states. This is so common down here, young, intelligent, and motivated young men leaving families behind with dreams of streets of gold and free trucks given away at the border. Elias is an extremely motivated and progressively minded young man, his opinions are already respected and sought at meetings, he is on his way to becoming a community leader and a huge resource for Cruz Alta. The only problem was that he was thinking of leaving. And it takes a lot to get there, coyotes are charging about 5,000 to 10,000 US dollars to get someone from Honduras to the US, that is an impossible sum of money and it takes a lot of motivation and hard work to come up with it. The reason Elias wanted to go so bad is so that his sons could have an education, he wants Javier and Moises to become engineers. I’ve talked to him about this quite a bit. I think his sons need a father much more than an education, and there really isn’t any reason they can’t have both. I’ve gotten into this with Elias a little bit, but it is a touchy subject. Well, last week we were doing a little machete work between his coffee plants and he told me that he no longer wanted to go to the states, he still wants to go but just to see it, and with his family not to work there. He said that he couldn’t leave his two sons behind (I’ve seen him around his boys so much and they are his life, I couldn’t imagine him leaving them behind). I told him that what he had was all anyone really wanted in the world; a loving family and a laid back life. Sure he could use a little more scratch, maybe a little more comfort but he’s certain that will come. There are opportunities here for education and work. They’re a little harder to come by than in the states but he won’t have to leave his family. This was my most defining moment as a PCV so far. My jaw dropped as he was telling me this. It was such a huge step. So for you guys out there thinking that fences, stricter penalties, and the National Guard are going to stop immigration better think again. The desire to get to the “promised land” is huge down here and coyotes are smart. This is all about supply and demand; by making it more difficult (it will never be impossible) to cross you’re just enabling the coyotes to charge more. So embrace it with migrant worker programs (most immigrants just want to go to the states, make a little money and come back to where they’re from, and our agricultural system depends on it anyway, look at fruit farmers in California or Apple growers in Washington) or work on the corruption and distribution of wealth and opportunity down here. I think a little of both would go a long way. But that is just me (oh yeah, none of these opinions represent the Peace Corps or US government yada yada yada).

Ok, time for the interesting bug story of the week. So I was showering last Tuesday (I do that occasionally) got out, and dried off. It was cold and I had to get ready for class so I grabbed a long sleeve shirt that I hadn’t worn in a while. As I was getting ready to throw the shirt on I noticed something brown on the sleeve. At first I thought it was just a cobweb or piece of dirt or something and nearly brushed it off. It turned out to be a pretty good-sized scorpion. As mentioned in earlier posts, scorpions are pretty much the only critter down here that really freak me out. So I took the shirt outside and tried to get a picture of the scorpion and while I was doing that it took off and crawled inside the shirt. I spent 10 minutes digging around with a machete just trying to find it; I didn’t want to use my hands and risk getting stung (it isn’t lethal or anything but I’ve heard that it hurts really bad). Finally I coaxed it out long enough to be able to dispatch it with my sandaled foot. So now I freak out anytime I have to put clothes on. Ahhhhhhhhhh all part of the experience I guess. Ok gotta cut this off for now, more later to be sure. Hope this finds everyone healthy and well----Joe


Blogger pineconeboy said...

Man, I really need to visit your site. Should have taken a couple more days off last week.

Wanted to say thanks for that hilarious recreation of dealing with uninterested people in project work... now the people at the net cafe are lookin at me funny heh.



7:11 AM  

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