Monday, November 5, 2007

Packing plants, fender-benders, boots, and site assignment

Ok. So, its been a while since I posted, but this last week has been quite busy. Time is flying by. So...intro....I met other ag marketing volunteers, visited San Martin Hilotepquez, watched South Africa win the rugby world cup, went to a soccer game, met the US Embassador to Guatemala, worked in a packing plant, bought some awesome boots, took a field trip to Guate for ag marketing stuff, got my site assignment...Coban at the tea coop....holatchboi, got in a camioneta fender-bender, went to Santiago to watch 30ft. diameter kites fly in the air on All Saints Day, starting learning learning the mayan language Q'Eqchi' let me explain some of this nonsense.

Ag MKT Volunteer meet and greet:
All 12 current ag mkt volunteers came into the training center to discuss what they've learned over their time here, what they would do differently, etc. It was also really nice to meet all of the volunteers in our program to be able to network, etc.

San Martin:
We visited a volunteer who lived at the bottom of a hill from San Martin. She showed us the green been packing plant that she worked at and basically gave us a tutorial on better busines practices (structure requirements, cleanliness requirements, etc.) needed to obtain sanitary licenses in plants. There is only one road in and out (the road being dirt) so the security officer came and did a land survey to be able to land a helicopter in the soccer field if needed. The volunteer there was able to reduce the plant transport costs by $68,000/year because she read the fine print in english on the existing contract. And she got them $100,000 in retroactive taxes becasue she heard of a change in the tax law for exporting non-traditional goods(tea, beans, basically anything besides coffee, sugar, and a few others.) Thats awesome.

South Africa:
SA won the rugby world cup. I was able to catch the game in Antigua.

Santa Lucia vs. Chimaltenango U-22 soccer game:
I went to go see my host cousins team play. It was awesome soccer. For having such a shitty national team and league, these guys were pretty good. It was a close game full of fireworks after goals, yellow cards, guatemalan trash talking. But, they lost.

US Embassador to Guatemala Q & A:
The embassador came to talk with us last week. He is a career foreign service officer, an spoke to us about the elections (Colom ended up winning:he has been accused of corruption and narco trafficking), narco trafficking, and US /Guatemalan adoption, etc. Our swaearing in ceremony will be at his residence on the 16th in guate.

4 Pinos Packing Plant:
After visiting the smaller packing plant in San Martin, we went to go visit the varsity coop packing plant called 4 Pinos. These guys export a ridiculous amount of veggies a month and have Costco on their client list. We visited the fields, then sported the white lab coats and hair nets required to enter the packing plant. i was extremely impressed with the setup they have. the plant included packing areas, cleaning stations, labs, cargo platforms, etc. The point of the visit was to see that our small coops have the potential to turn into a well oiled machine with time, hardwork and dedication. After the tour, we got our hands dirty and helped the employees peal carrots, dehusk beans, pack, etc. Its really hard work. We left after an hour and the employees still has a long shift left.

Pastores Boots:
So I ordered some handmade leather boots. Think halfway between rockstar and cowboy boots. After trying to convert the size into a 40 something, the guy said,"Put your foot and the paper. I'll draw an imprint and fit it to that. " Sounds good. A week later and $40 US I had a baddass pair of boots.

Guate Ag MKT Trip:
We took another trip to Guate to find out about obtaining bar coades for products, visited the main tax office(SAT), and visited the country legalization inspector for the ministry of agriculture (a nice contact to have considering nearly all of our assignments could potentially involve this guy. In fact, my site (read on for site info) will be inspected by this guys this week. The following day we also visited La Terminal (really crappy dangerous market) and CENMA (the really clean and organized market none of the vendors like. Change can be a long road here)

Site Assignment:
I got assigned to the site I requested: The Chirrepec tea coop in Coban. Basically i am helping them increase sales, reduce production costs, in order for them to make more profits. According to guate law, profits from a coop have to be invested into the coop like infrastructure and services (electricity, water, schools, etc.) Five years ago they didn't have electricity, but they now have it because of the gains from selling tea. They have piping for water and are waiting for the pump to be installed. So, I might have water by January. So, by helping the coop make more money by selling tea, the quality of life of the coop is directly improving. I'm really pumped. i also have to learn Q'Eqchi', which is spoken by everyone. Most of the men speak spanish, but not all. More on Q'Eqchi to come in future postings.

Camioneta Fender Bender:
My camioneta got in a wreck last week. The bus driver hit the gas and the car in front of him did not. We waited for a few minutes and someone ran on the bus and told everybody to switch buses. So, I got on a bus with 600lb of tomatoes in the aisles. Each wooden box is 50lbs. The 1st had camioneta busted out the tail light of the car.

Todos Santos:
On all saints day, we got the day off and visited the town of Santiago, known for their humongous kites in order to communicate with the dead. Picture the number of people at a concert looking up at the sky and in front at 60ft stationary kites and smaller flying one, in the middle of a cemetary overlooking a huge valley. I forgot my camera like an idiot, but i'll try and get some from other peeps. A buddy of mine got his wallet stolen...bummer.

So, I finish training and move up to Coban on the 16th of November. I'm going to visit to find housing this wednesday-sunday. When I get back, I wrap up training, swear in, and become a PCV. Hope everyone is doing well.

1 comment:

Tom said...

San Miguel:
Life sounds mighty good and active. Does all of this meet your expectations? I'll bet you look forward to settling in to your "position" for the duration, no?
Your faithful follower,
Senor Grappa