Monday, January 09, 2006

Christmas, New Year´s and stuff

Wow, it´s been a long time. Chalk it up to about one part negligence and three parts away-from-civilization.

First, mail report.... I got a letter from Daya, a letter from Grandma, a postcard from Dad, and two packages from him also. I had not received any package as of last week, but I haven´t checked my mail yet today.

After I got back from the last time in Tegucigalpa (man, how long ago was that?) I got back to work on this central american bank project thingy and also hanging out and doing very little, as is the custom around here for the days between Christmas and New Year´s. I worked a few days collecting coffee samples to send out to a potential buyers for the cooperative´s coffee, which was almost all harvested and ready to go at that point. I got back on the 17th I think and to be honest I´m not sure exactly how I filled in all the days between then and Christmas. Man that was awhile ago. :P

On Christmas, I hung out in my community, didn´t go anywhere, and attended a service in the Evangelical church. It sucked. We sang like two Christmas songs and some members performed a skit, but it had nothing to do with Christmas. The best part was Don Genio (this guy kicks ass) throwing a firecracker into the aisle in the middle of it. I should mention here that he is a Christian and member of the church, but from what they tell me Christmas used to be a lot crazier around here with tons of firecrackers (but they were banned, too many fingers blown off) and I think he was feeling nostalgic for the good ol´ days. Isaí, my counterpart, stayed home alone and worked in his tomatoes. The relavence of this will be discussed later when we get to what I did for New Year´s. I guess I forgot, also on Christmas afternoon I went and played soccer in a nearby field in a caserío (this is like, so small it´s not even an aldea... just a group of houses) called Tiscagua. The field was like pure rocks. I felt and took a chunk out of my hand in the first few minutes, then wised up and played more carefully. It was fun, and everyone was psyched that the gringo came to their community to play soccer with them. My team, from Agua Fría, was supposed to come but I was the only one who showed up so I played with Tiscagua. We lost, 7-6 I think.

In the following week, I was pretty inactive.... nobody in the community does anything at that time, so there wasn´t much work for me. I came down to Choluteca to buy a bottle of rum for New Year´s and picked up my packages from Dad, then headed back. I attended a meeting with some people that were working on executing a different project of this Central American Bank of Economic Integration thing (a ¨bovine repopulation¨ project, which always struck me as a wierd idea), which I guess was supposed to be a consulting session on how the project was going. I thought we were going to talk about the Natural Resources project that I´ve been working on, but that didn´t happen. Instead they spent a couple hours bitching nonstop about the requirements for the proposal and the Costa Ricans running the project. They also told me our tree nursery project would never pass because the trees will have to be planted on private land (there is literally no public land in the protected area I live in). So I left that meeting a bit discouraged, but we resolved to keep working on the proposal and do our darndest until the bank officially told us it was accepted or rejected.

For New Year´s, I played soccer again in the morning at the good field we normally play at. This time, I wasn´t the only one from the Agua Fría team.... there were two of us! Me and Alex, a young guy who lives very close to me (the two volunteers before me both lived with his mom). We played with a team from a nearby aldea called Zapotal, which is more organized than our Agua Fría team when it comes to finding games and getting players to show up. We´ve already played with them several times before, and they are also a good bunch. Team loyalty really doesn´t exist much, because in order to get a game going you usually just have to throw together whoever shows up. This game in particular, on New Year´s, was a really good one. There were just barely enough people for two teams, but a ton of good players showed up and we were very evenly matched. I fell in the first half and peeled off the scab that was just beginning to heal up from the last game, but someone lent me a wrapping cloth and I was good to go. In the second half, I scored a goal which brings my grand career total up to three. It was a pretty nice one too, I headed it in from a corner kick. The game ended tied 4-4, and I think everyone was pretty satisfied with the result because we didn´t have a shootout. We probably should have won 3-4, but the first half we had a goalie who absolutely sucked. Their goalie scored a goal on us. He kicked it all the way across the field and our goalie ran up to catch it out of the air, then changed his mind, and the ball bounced over his head. Pro.

In the evening of New Year´s, there was supposed to be a big party at Don Genio´s house (he lives very close to me up on the mountain), and all his kids and grandkids and his one great-grandkid were going to come, but a newphew of his got shot in the head by thieves on a bus in Choluteca and he had to go visit him in the hospital. So instead I went and visited Isaí, and he was up working by himself in his tomato patch. The dude sure likes to work. He obviously wasn´t going anywhere so we made some excellent drinks out of rum and fresh-squeezed orange juice and sat around visiting until about 11:30 when we decided it was plenty late enough and gave up. I had told Alex and his older brother who was up visiting from Choluteca I was going to meet them, but I just felt bad for Isaí drinkin´ alone on New Year´s. He doesn´t have an alcohol problem or anything but he definitely needs to socialize once in awhile.

The next day we found out that Don Genio´s newphew had miraculously survived, and his whole big annoying citified family showed up in two cars which we spent a couple hours getting up the road to his house. They all invited me to hang out, and to be fair, they were a very good, if remarkably mouthy bunch. We ate and played ´futbolito´ in his coffee patio with everyone going nuts when the girls scored goals, and generally chilled and had a good time. Don Genio has what I would say is one of the most successful families in the area, with all his kids professionally successful in the cities except for one, and that guy is a the secretary of the coffee cooperative and runs the biggest puplería (general store) in town. That guy (Nerys) and his family here are definitely some of the people that have showed me the most welcome and friendship from the beginning. His son Osmaris was the guy that originally got me to go play football and his wife gives me food pretty much anytime I end up at there place around a meal. It was a great time visiting with his family and also a little sad because it reminded me so much of our family reunions, which of course got me to thinking about all the people I miss back in the states. Still it´s been wonderful having friends like them in the community even if they do have some wierd names (I swear everyone in Don Genio´s family has has a wierd name; one of Osmari´s cousins is named Lesbia and her mom is called Floriselva).

After New Year´s, we sat down and hit it. The cooperative had found a buyer for their coffee, and was in a state of frantically arranging things to get it all gathered together and weighed and sent off. Also, we were somewhat behind on work for the Central American Bank project and at a point where it was becoming difficult to do because everyone was busy with other things and due to the professional nature of the work, it was difficult to accomplish in Agua Fría. So the cooperative bought themselves a computer. They spent 9000 lempiras on it, which is like $500, and sent me down to Choluteca to pick it up (the husband of the cooperative´s president sent it via bus from Tegucigalpa). I also had to buy a surge protecter and a voltage regulator because the electricity around these parts isn´t the most reliable, but we got ´er set up and installed the next day. This is absolutely awesome for me in terms of making my life easier, but I already know it will be necessary to do some classes because almost nobody up here knows how to use the darn thing and obviously I can´t leave the community a year and a half from now with a computer and nobody else that knows how to use it.

I edited what we had of our Central American Bank project proposal that very day and we came down to Corpus to show it to someone from the Bank. She told us that what we heard from those other guys was incorrect; that no proposal would be dismissed out of hand but we needed to demonstrate why the benefit to it was public. So that´s good to hear, but we also found out a crapload of information in it is lacking and we need to work twice as hard between now and when we submit it. We get to show another rough draft the 15th and then the final is due the 25th (this date got pushed back, I guess because enough projects weren´t going to be ready yet on the 15th).

After that, we had to set the tree nursery project aside for a little bit because the cooperative was ready to sell its coffee, which is kind of the most important event of the year for them and requires a week or more of dedicated organizing and planning and physical labor, moving the coffee around. Last Friday, people started bringing it to Agua Fría and we were there weighing the bags, writing receipts for the producers, and getting it ready to send off. That very night two trucks came and I ended up sticking around and helping load it. These are like 125 lb bags (because the coffee still has its inner husk and they will lose about 25 lbs per bag in processing). There were three officially hired workers, one truck driver, and myself loading. Also present were a couple cooperative staff, but not in physical condition to help. It was hard. Various complications ensued and we worked until 1 am and still didn´t get all the coffee loaded, because one of the trucks broke down. I ended up staying with the coffee that was outside, unloaded, to guard it and froze my ass off until 6 am Saturday morning when I finally went home and slept. Let me mention here that the people getting paid for this work make five lempiras per hour. That´s about 20 cents. The next day I got to thinking about the fact that these guys (who I would all consider friends of mine in the community) sometimes buy me sodas and stuff at the pulpería, which cost the equivalent of about 40 cents. I´m going to start buying them sodas I think. For me, buying Coca-Cola is a waste of money but I think it´s considered something of importance socially.

So I pretty much spent Saturday resting, on Sunday I got together with the cooperative president Juana María (¨Juanita¨) and we decided that in order to be able to do this proposal (and indeed, to be able to do the project as well) we needed to shave down its focus. Now we are going to concentrate on a few of the most important watersheds. Today I am in town looking up a lot of the information that we´re missing.


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