Posted by: Matthew | July 18, 2010

Long Overdue

Oops.  Sorry guys.  It’s been a while since I posted, so I’ll try to make this one a whopper lest you mistake this blog as Lydia’s alone.  Given the time elapsed, I suppose that I should have a lot to share.  In my defense, I tried to post this last week, but the file was corrupted or something so I had to wait to until this week to put it up.  Therefore, some of the info below might be a little out of date.

We are getting used to life here, which certainly couldn’t be described as unpleasant.  The temperature hovers between 75 and 90 at all times.  Hottest during midday and coolest in the early hours just before dawn.  I estimate, of course, as there are no thermometers here.  A needless luxury those.  Who needs to know when you can just feel?

 Lydia and I have found a house to move into and have been spending many of our free hours turning the yard into something very pleasant.  I have become proficient with the machete having cut back the encroaching wilds to clean the yard and harvest sticks for construction.  I am convinced there is not a problem this tool can’t solve, a lesson I suspect is best learned early.  We dug two modest garden beds with pick and shovel.  After laboring 6 long hours on the first, we put the local youth to work on the other; teaching them the “double-dig method” in the process.  We have built a tall anti-chicken fence around the garden with wood scavenged from an abandoned kitchen and the walls of our house.  Not to worry!  A carpenter is hard(ly) at work on our new abode, repairing the wall (hehe) and building us an outdoor shower stall and a little house for the poop hole.  Apparently the previous owners were not so bashful as yours truly.  (As of the time of posting this blog, the shower stall has been completed and we are cleared to move into the house.)

We have a bunch of fruit trees too.  Every day we find a few new chinolas (passionfuit) on the ground with which to make juice, and the other day we picked up a grapefruit which provided an experience superior to all previous grapefruit experiences.  Also, we have, not one, but three tamarind trees along with a few orange and cacao trees.   Tamarind in particular excites us, as it makes a superb juice and provides fruit year round and it will help with those long campo siestas.

All in all, it’s a great location.  The house is just above the river and fresh air rises up from below all day.  In fact, it’s the last house before the river; guaranteeing us some peace and quiet.  I still have to cut back some more of the growth along the east wall and fresh air should pass freely through our new home.

Our work progresses slowly, with the occasional leap or bound.  Lydia and I have decided that we’ll bow to gender division and I’ll lead up the work with the agricultural groups (which are mostly men and therefore tend to approach me for advice).  Of course, our beliefs are rather more egalitarian than this, but this is certainly more expedient and we both prefer the groups we’ve taken.  I have the two agricultural associations and Lydia has the Brigada Verde (Green Brigade, a Peace Corps sponsored environmentalist youth group) and leads our work with the two Clubes de Madres (Mother’s Clubs); though in general we both put in a lot of time with every group this helps maximize our efforts. 

One of the Agricultural Associations and our busiest group, the Grupo Solidario de Gestión Comunitario, has just begun planting cacao trees in our nursery and we’ve spent a lot of time shoveling dirt and manure, and filling bags for tree sprouts.  As we’ve been putting a lot of time into this sort of work, we haven’t been having many formal meetings (these guys have farms to run, too and juice ain’t gonna drink itself).

The other agro group is in our other project site an hour’s walk up the mountain.  Although I’ve met some of the guys, we are yet to have a formal meeting.  These are scheduled for 5pm every Wednesday, which means that there is a 95% chance that any given meeting will be rained out.  A few weeks ago I decided to give it a go, despite looming thunderheads, and climbed the mountain to visit the group.  I arrived 15 minutes early and waited at a familiar house chatting.  Alas, it started to rain at 4:57, exactly three minutes before the scheduled meeting  (which was, of course, cancelled).  I waited around up there for about half an hour, but the rain only intensified and dusk was approaching, so I decided to turn down my hosts’ gracious invitation to spend the night and descend the mountain.  Although I returned home unharmed (and soaked through), it was a harrowing walk; with profligate lightning striking nearby every minute or so.  This is an experience I do not wish to repeat, and have thus been a bit more cautious in risking my life for mere meetings.  Needless to say this has all been a considerable obstacle to working up there, but I recently scheduled a meeting for earlier in the day this Saturday (tomorrow), so maybe we’ll finally get things going.

This weekend Lydia and I went down South to visit other volunteers for the fourth of July.  We had fun, frolicking around at another PCV’s ecotourism project, but there was no water (and hence no showers) for three days and it did get a bit old for me.  Then again I am a notorious party pooper.  It took us a full ten hours to get back home on Monday and I can honestly say I’m really happy to be here and don’t want to travel again for a while.

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