Living on the coop has been a cool experience. The community has embraced the Q´an Is, qeqchi for gringo or yellow hair. I have been invited to graduations, baptisms, and weddings. I´m currently living with the president and his family, which is a stones throw away from the office. This is my view when I shave in the morning.
I´ll be living there until the middle of January. After that, I´m moving to a two room apt in Coban. I´m slowly accumulating furniture for it. The food out in the coop is ¨different.¨ I haven´t ¨become adjusted¨ to cow stomach in salty broth or kidney soup; however, I tried them. Lets just say I´m looking forward to cooking my own food. The cooperative currently does not have running water, so in periods without rain I have been praying for downpours, so I can continue pooping inside. They tested the pump which will take water from a natural spring the other day. 20 men dragged a generator down a hill. They test was succesfull, but they realized their error when they had to bring the generator back up the hill. The solution: 2 oxen. This is me and the oxen.
The coop is also scheduled to get internet soon, so it will be amusing to see which service they get first: water or internet. As a result of always being around qeqchi speakers and classes several times a week, my qeqchi is coming along. I know its about as useful as learning German; however, it has really helped me intergrate into the community. And I now know if they are talking about me.
To use internet, I have to go into Coban and use an internet cafe. My intention was to post last Saturday, but Coban had no power...so it goes. I played on a YMCA-like baseball team for the day instead. I hope that becomes a routine saturday thing for me becasue it was a blast. But in terms of internet and posting, its not as easy as getting on the computer back home. Its slow, far way, and the guys who work at the internet cafes blair horrible music.
In terms of work, I has sent samples of tea home in the hopes of making some contacts for exporting with the help of my dad. I took pictures for their calenday/poster, which looks pretty good. I´ll try to bring home a bunch in March. I have begun trainings in Agricultural Best Practices for pruning and harvesting tea plants for the associates on the coop. How do I know how to prune and harvest tea plants? A previous volunteer left a text book on tea, so I have been studying up. Since Chirrepec is the only black tea farm in Guatemala, there aren´t alot of technicians around like the coffee industry. So, they appreciate all of the training they can get. There are about 300 associates, so training all of the pruners and pluckers will take some time. But, a group I trained last week has already implemented the new pruning technique and others are catching on. Since a powepoint presentation is kind of out of the question, I painted the proper pruning technique on wood boards to show the associates. I like to call it my Guatemala powerpoint slide. The idea behind pruning and harvesting trainings is improving the overall quality of their product. I´m also trying to organize their commercialization commitee. They don´t really have a sales team, so their is alot of room for improvement. The only hiccup regarding work was during a session in the field, I stepped on an ant hill and failed to realize it for a few minutes. I spent the next ten minutes getting the biting ants off of me as the guys I was with were laughing and saying that the ants only wanted the imported meat.
I got to meet a bunch of volunteers from Alta Verapaz two weeks ago, which was a nice break from life at the coop. My plans for Christmas/New years includes hanging out with some buddies in Coban for Christmas, hiking in Qiche, and New years at Lake Atitlan. Its been weird being here for the Christmas season. The plastic snowmen just don´t have the same meaning. But, I have been able to hear spanish christmas songs I haven´t heard since I was little. I hope everyone is doing well. My plan is to come home the first week in March for a week. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.