Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Projects and Field Based Training in Coban

So, over the last 2 weeks I've been busy with marketing work and field based training up in Coban.

Marketing work
Just after the last post, I got extremely busy with my project work and preparation for my first "charla" or talk given to the family I've been staying with here in Santo Tomas. The charla was on the Five P's of Marketing, so hopefully the family can apply it to their farming business. I also had to turn in my project proposal to my tech trainer. All of the Ag. Marketing trainees have to take on a project with their families that can improve their income. I have chosen to "add value" to their tomato patch by making salsa. By the end of training, I have to give my family a post-harvest manual for how they can make more money by processing the tomatoes and selling it as salsa instead of selling it at the market as plain tomatoes. Needless to say, training has been hands on.
FBT in Coban

We drove four hours north to Coban in the Alta Verapaz department. Coban used to be a German settlement until the US preassured Guatemala to expell them at the beggining of WWII. Before the Germans were "asked to leave," they had extremely succesfull coffee and tea plantations all over Coban. So, we went there to learn about the coffee and tea process. We stayed at the Chirrepec Tea Coop for five days with Q'Eqchi families.

The accomadations were pretty rustic. My room had no door, a bed, a wooden chair, and a wooden shelf. The house had four 10 x 10 rooms. The bare bulb in the middle of the house hanging from the corragated tin roof could be seen from every room. In the mornings I would wake up and take a bucket bath in the corner of the cement kitchen. The corner had a little hole for drainage and was "covered" by a doubled over nylon tarp. I thought the nylon tarp provided some sort of barrier between my naked body and my host mom smacking tortillas every morning; however, I quickly learned otherwise after my host mom started bathing while I was eating my bean and tortilla breakfast. Lets just say the next day I faced the other way.

I was one of the only one of the trainees with a matress, which I thought was extremely fortunate until I got flees. Out of the training group of 33, about 20 have fallen victim to "pulgas." Bummer. However, the experience at the Tea Coop was amazing and I wouldn't have traded it for a five day stint at the Ritz. It is one of the possible sites for an Ag. marketing volunteer, so we'll see what happens.

Besides the tea coop at Chirrepec (Q'Eqchi word for cave of stone), we visited the Asociacion Nacional de Cafe Demonstration plantation. We learned about the coffee plant and processing.

We also met with a womans waevings group in Carcha, which is one hour away from Coban. I gave a talk on steps to obtain new clients and contacts. Unfortunately, the waevings market is completely saturated and these groups often don't cover costs.

After 5 nights at the coop, we moved to a hostal in Coban with running water, comfy beds, and a tv with dvd's. So, Coban is an very cool place, and its a jumping off point for all of the sites up in the Peten region like Tikal.

In summary, I saw coffee and tea plantations, a mayan woman saw me naked, and I got flees.


Megan said...

Hey Mike!! I am so excited for you and cannot wait to read about your adventures. I am insanely jealous of you and hope you are doing wonderfully. I miss you!!

Tom said...

San Miguel: So, you travel all the way to Gwatamallah to catch some flees; you could have stayed home and got them from Lucie and/or Pepper. But they must be circus flees since you're having so much fun. OK, now you know that old farts read your blog, too. Keep up what sounds like, fun, good work and enjoy the experience of a lifetime. Your man in Pasadena is thinking of you. My next cerveza will be four ewe (spelling errors for your Pappa!). Cheers lad, Senor Grappa

Shagali said...

Hi Michael,

I'm Andy, an RPCV from Niger, West Africa (2002-2005). I'm working on a natural resource management/decentralization group project for grad school on Guatemala and wanted to try to get some "insider" insight...from the front lines (as opposed to all the academic articles). If you'd be willing to share, I'd greatly appreciate it. My email is ajd349@nyu.edu--drop a line and I can respond with more specific question, etc.

Hope your service is going well.