Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My apartment and work at the coop

Sometimes the weeks move at a leisurely pace and sometimes weeks only seem to have two or three days. Sorry its taken me so long to post something. I moved into an apartment in Coban about 3 weeks ago. Most of my furniture is made up of pine brought in on the heads of carpenters from the rural areas. There is an abundance of pine in my area, so its all pretty cheap. My living room has a bench, 2 chairs, a kitchen table, shelves, a stuff table, a fridge, an old bed which i use as a couch type thing. The one window in the living room lets in a decent amount of light, but I can flood the room with light when I open the the wooden double doors leading to the courtyard of my host family. My bedroom, which is off of the living room without a door, has a full bed, two shelves connected by a pole to hang clothes, a desk, and a bedside table. The bathroom is off of the bedroom to the front of the apartment, and it has running water, a sink, a toilet, shower with an electric heater that trips after 5-10 minuts of hot shower. My kitchen is outside in a shed - like structure towards the front and has a pila (look on first post for a picture of pila), 4 - burner stove powered by a butane tank, and a prep table. I really like the setup, and my host family is really great. They have four of the most well behaved kids I have met here in Guatemala.
Check out a video of my place.

A few things that annoy me:
Fleas: The host family has two dogs, which had fleas at some point/still do. So, I got fleas. I no longer pet the dogs, and Im looking forward to hanging out with my dog Pepper at home who has seemed like a prince since I got down here. I used a whole can of raid, sprinkled baking soda all over my apartment (not sure if that works but was willing to look foolish), and have resorted to appllying bug repellant before going to bed. Basically, I wanted to turn my apt into a bug - unfriendly place. Any tips from home are much appreciated.

Noise: I live next door to the only place in Alta Verapaz with beer on tap. This is a blessing and a curse. While the taps have taunted me because I cant have more than two beers, it is nice two have 1 or 2 frosty Mozas, the local dark beer. However, they blast all your fave 80s hitz Monday through Saturday until well past midnight.

So, I need to get flea bombs and ear plugs when I get home.

Work is really picking up. Ive come up with my work plan for the next year.

1)Help with Pruning and Harvesting Techniques. Ive already given a series of trainings on both and have painted signs that I strategically placed around the coop to remind associates of the proper harvest and post harvest techniques. For example, "Dont shove too many leaves into a sack because you will break up the tea leaves and the final result will have a lower quality." I call them my Guatemalan powerpoints. This will help them have bigger tea yields and have a better handle on quality control from the field. One of the previous volunteers left a book on tea which I have read cover to cover, which has aided me in my tea education.

2) Help improve Manufacturing Best Practices in the Warehouse. For example, the packers need to be wearing closed toes shoes, have hair nets, pennies, and should not be wearing jewelry. All windows should have mesh nets so bugs and rodents dont get in the warehouse. Doors should automatically close so dogs and rodents dont get in, etc. It is a slow process and will probably take the full two years+.

3) Develop the Sales team and adding distributors. This involves making the sales team work a little more efficiently and organized. Scheduled transportation pickups, recorded orders, regular sales calls in town, etc. Currently Chirrepec tea is distributed to Xela, Huehuetenango, Quiche, etc. Basically, out west. Ive been helping them find more distributors in other parts of the country including Guatemala City.

4)Help expand into foreign markets. Exporting The coop has 30,000 lbs of tea surplus a year. Im currently trying to find some clients state side that would like to buy some quality tea at a cheap price with a great story. Also promoting tea to smaller importers of tea. Let me know if you have any ideas.

Hope that sheds a little light on the , "Mike what exactly do you do?" questions.

Ive had the chance to check out some of Alta Verapaz. The waterfall at Sachichaj, lagoons at SetaƱa, an old coffee finca that has become the town of Campur, Lanquin, etc. Alta Verapaz is beautifull and Im extremely lucky to have been placed here. Let me know when you want to plan a visit down.


Tom said...

San Miguel:

Thanks for the video! Some of us now have more of a sense of being with you on your great adventure. Look forward to seeing you during your visit home. Ciao for now, Uncle Grappa

Mike Meshak said...

Michael, I was a PCV '89-91 in Chamelco.
I have a connection for your tea in Spring Green Wisconsin, just West of Madison. I hope maybe they can be a buyer of your tea.
LCFM@verizon.net and their website at www.localchoicefarmmarket.com

Goodluck and if you run into Bob / Jeronimo Makransky, say Hi
Mike Meshak