What A Beautiful Day It Is
Written by Peter DeWald:
Day 5: We began our day after waking up to yet another beautiful symphony of roosters crowing, dogs barking and birds singing. I think we all slept quite well after working all day yesterday. Breakfast consisted of fried eggs that were coated in a bland red sauce (probably just crushed up tomatoes, salt, pepper, and oil/water but I have no clue), black beans, and of course the always present rolls, peanut butter and jelly. I for one made a delectable fried egg sandwich with some of the spicy green sauce (muy picante??). After breakfast, which we didn’t have to serve this time, we loaded into the back of a truck and headed out to pick coffee. Our group consisted of the 8 Spirit Lakers from St. Mary’s, Don, Donna, and Debbie, and also joining us was Hannah. Hannah is a long term volunteer from Chippewa Falls Wisconsin who is here for 6 months but doesn’t not have an end date for her stay set. We set off from the Mission around 915am and winded our way to the streets to the Misson’s coffee processing facility about 5 minutes away. We picked up our guide Mitch, a Guatemalan who has been working for the mission since he was 15. It was another 20 minutes until we got to a dirt road that was incredibly rocky and bumpy and lead to the base of a mountain covered in thick forest. I feared that we would pop the tires in the little Toyota truck that we were piled into, but after a 10 minute journey through a narrow road that was lined with overhanging branches (Mikia got whipped several times and took the blow for me, thanks Mikia), we arrived at the base of the hill/mountain. We unloaded and began our “20 minute” trek up the mountain to the coffee fields. After about 5 minutes, Don and Donna, the 80 year old couple who were joining us, quickly realized that this was not the job for them. The path that did them in was quite steep and over a dry waterfall which made for very slippery footing from the years of water flowing over its rocks. Mitch called the mission and had the truck return to come get the couple because it was too dangerous for them to wait on the side of the mountain while we hiked further up to pick coffee. While we waited on the rocks, we chatted, shared pictures and abused the sunscreen/bug spray. Men carrying loads of wood on their back that were twice as heavy as themselves, mothers and their children, and various other people climbed past us on their way to the coffee fields high in the mountains. After about 40 minutes waiting, Mitch returned and we continued our hike for another 20-25 minutes up the mountain. I had no idea how coffee beans grew prior to coming to this county. They grow on these flexible trees/bushes and they were EVERYWHERE once we got to about a half-three quarters up the mountain. Mitch hauled up baskets for everyone, but most of the group just shared the baskets with one another while we picked. A pick-able/ripe beans/fruits looked almost identical to a ripe cranberry. Each fruit contained two white, slimy, beans, and the beans were covered in a sweet (yes I ate one), slippery, honey like substance. It wasn’t difficult to find the ripe ones and we all looooved the experience. We only got to pick the beans for about 45 mins since we had to wait for the elderly couple to return back to San Lucas since they couldn’t make the hike. Everyone agreed that we would have loved to have stayed out there all afternoon to pick coffee. However, we had to end our work at 11:55am to head back down the mountain to catch the truck back to San Lucas for lunch at 12:30pm. Lunch consisted of “chili” (beans, saucy chilish soup, and beans) and rice and fresh papaya. As, always, rolls with PB and J and fresh tortillas to go with the meal. We all had a brief siesta from 1:20-1:55 before heading to the school for our afternoon of work. We arrived at the school which had 2 square yards of volcanic sand and about 1 square yard of rock (only asked about the type of sand so I don’t know the type of rock. We moved all of this material by HAND! I was on sand duty while Jordyn was on rock duty. We had a good system of work and knocked it out by 3:45pm. Jordyn and I scooped while the others held their old coffee sacks open and carried them into the school where the construction was taking place. My back is definitely feeling it right now, and I am sure that I will be super sore in the morning. We finished work around 4:05pm and headed back to the hotel after cleaning up around the worksite at the school. I feel like there was a sense of accomplishment amongst the group, and I am quite impressed with all the girls. They commented how this was the “grossest they have ever felt,” but I didn’t hear one complaint out of the group, and we all contributed in our own ways. After a brief respite, which consisted of a beer, conversation, and a view that will never get old between Mary, Renee, Dolly, and myself, we returned to the mission for supper. We ate a creamy soup, along side a mix of peas, carrots, green beans, and asparagus, and a delectable bread pudding bar. Didn’t have to do dish duty, so that was quite nice. After dinner, the St. Thomas group and our group loaded into trucks and went to a man named Andres to listen to his history, experiences, and wisdom. He shared with us his history of being basically a slave to rich landowners while the country underwent a civil war. He said that “speaking is his sport” and that all he wishes is to share his experiences with us so that we may understand a bit more why his country is the way it is. Heather translated for him while his granddaughter traversed through the room that 20-25 of us were packed into. I could have sat there and listened to him all night. Speaking was truly his sport, and he had an amazing way with words. He spoke about how his friends were killed in the civil war. He spoke about how 18 families control the power, not only politically but also socially, in Guatemala. He truly moved all of us, and I could not help but feel the pain and continuing suffering that him and his people have experienced. You would think that a man like this would be bitter, crabby, resentful, and angry at a God that would put him through this. Quite the opposite. He expressed how grateful he was, how thankful he was for Fr. Greg, who quite frankly saved his life with the purchase of the fincas, and how happy he is that he was able to be married for 28 years, have 2 children (boy and a girl) and have 4 grandchildren (ugh they were as cute as could be). After we asked some questions about the politics of modern day Guatemala, the existing slavery/plantation like system of farming/exonomics, we all piled back into the trucks and headed back to San Lucas. A new group from St. Augustines has joined us and there must be about 24 girls and 1 guy in their group. A few of us went into town and bought some ice cream (38Q for 5 of us to get ice cream which is about $5.25). I am getting up, not only with a full heart, but a contemplative heart, at 4:15am to go on a sunrise hike with a few of our compatriots. More to come from day 6. Wish us luck!!