These last couple weeks have really been wet as hell. It was foggy and drizzly for like four days at a stretch once, and for the last little while it's been sunny for awhile in the day, but it seems like the more sun we get during the day the bigger the thunderstorm that rolls in at 3-4 pm every single afternoon. Everyone says it's been an "invierno muy copioso" in terms of water, which is a good thing. There have been some dry years lately and this is much better. Still it's kind of annoying when drying your clothes out becomes impossible. I keep thinking "The south.... is supposed to be hot. And dry." Wait til the summer I guess.
Work continues to develop. Tim, the nearest Volunteer to me who lives in La Fortuna, had to go to Tegucigalpa to retake a Spanish test because he didn't do well in training. He took another week of classes and is back now. But his counterpart hasn't been around and community integration is giving him troubles so we're going to spend a couple days together next week checkin out his community and mine, talking to people, etc. Tim's probably one of the best agricultural techs we've got in my PAM group (he's a whiz at hydroponics and wants to try introducing it to people who produce small plots of vegetables for sale).
Spanish classes continue to roll along. We're doing plurals, and the Am and Are forms of To Be in my high school classes. With the elementary kids we're learning how to say please and sorry and sing "Head and Shoulders." :) Despite my best efforts, the high schoolers seem to be learning a thing or two. I guess I need to try harder.
We also had another meeting with USAID/MIRA where they did a survey of the conditions of water systems in the communities around the San Juan micro-watershed with the community representatives present. Also, a North American named Luke was there to talk with the coffee cooperative and try to figure out the situation with fruit growing in the area. He seems to be pushing an organic fruit project for the growers more than coffee, because of the constraints the project places on him to produce certain results.... He's already working with a lot of coffee cooperatives in other watersheds that can produce at higher elevations and have a better chance of getting real prices for their coffee. According to taste tests, the coffee that COCAGUAL produces is as good or better than coffee grown at higher elevations, but the way the industry is it is pretty much impossible to get a really good price or market for lower elevation coffee.
So anyways, Luke talked about the possibility of drying fruit for use of some of the things (especially mangos) that just lie around rotting mostly and getting them to a different market. Also what COCAGUAL has wanted to do, and I'm going to start working on later today, is a study of the market here in Choluteca for organic produce. The eventual strategy is to get all the organic coffee producers certified organic for their fruit production also, set up their own transportation system, and get their own special booth or section here in town to sell their organic produce. They sell stuff to coyotes up in Agua Fria for literally half (or less) than what they could get down here, and that's at the price for normal non-organic stuff. They want to set up here and get market awareness by selling their stuff (which really is high quality) for normal prices and then gradually trying to get some better prices out of the people who have a real interest in organic food specifically.
I had been sort of wondering how I was going to work directly with COCAGUAL, and as I find out more about their operation it is becoming more clear to me. First, I will have to spend some time learning a lot more about coffee production and organic farming, but eventually I will be training new producers, inspecting fincas, doing talks, and lots of things like that. It isn't that there aren't people in the cooperative trained to do this, but they are all producers as well and nobody has much time. Also I will be trying to reach other communities and generally spread the word.
Today I'm going to ask around and find the prices for all kinds of different fruit that is produced and sold commercially in my area, and see also what it costs to find and set up your own spot to sell here in the Choluteca market. Then I'm going to spend the night with Jon Youngman, a Water and Sanitation volunteer here in town, and go to a meeting with what I guess you could call the school board here tomorrow.
So that's news and stuff. I've been having fun lately paying attention to the different kinds of voices that people use in different situations. The language here is very emotionally expressive. They are less articulate and specific than we are, but they communicate lots more with hand gestures, expressions, tones, etc... many of which are comically exaggerated.
For example, the mothers' "I'm yelling at my kids or the dog" voice. It's like The Voice that the Harkonnen women (is that right?) from the Dune book used. It's so commanding you do the order without even realizing it. When we yell, our level of seriousness/anger is generally expressed by two things... volume and tone. They add a third dimension, which is speed. The faster they talk, the more trouble you're in. When you hear things like
"VAYAFUERATIGRE!!!" (the dog)
That's when things are getting serious.
The younger guys, especially in the 17-25 range, have this way of conversing between themselves that is very unique. I can't understand them for the life of me either. It consists of putting a ridiculous amount of emphasis on every third or fourth word. Like a description of something that happened in a soccer match:
"... y PUCHica era una patada TAN dura que no puede CREER! Se FUE la pelota en la esquina y el portero se quedo PARADO!" This would be more realistic if I understood any of the slang they typically use, but that is not the case.
Older guys when they're recounting stories do this thing where the tone of their voice varies fluidly between high and low like a sine wave as they talk. There is no possible way I can do it in text. Mom probably knows what I'm talking about.
They have this one gesture I really like that looks like somebody packing a can of snuff. They hold their thumb and middle finger together and snap their hand, smacking the pointer finger on down. It adds emphasis to whatever's being said or can be a sign that hurrying up is needed, like the way we snap our fingers.
But my favorite, oh my absolute favorite is pointing with lips. Instead of going to all the trouble to raise the hand and then a finger and point, they turn their head in whatever direction and purse their lips like a monkey once quickly. I still try not to laugh when I see it.
I gotta get moving here. Really nice talking with you on IM, Sam. Dad, see the email I sent you. Stay safe and don't do drugs kids!!
check yall later,