La cosecha

Susana’s shoves her third leg, a stick that she’s picked up on her way to and from the cocal or coca field, under the seat of the stripped down navy blue comvi. The engine shudders at each hill and idles patiently when we stop for passengers. She and another elderly woman whose mouth is crinkled at the seams from so much use:

Saboreando

Hablando

Acertando

piles in as well. Their voluminous polleras take up most of the middle seat and we bounce up and down the dirt road. The sweet smell of just-picked coca leaves mixes with the soft yet noticeable musky sweat of the women who have been picking coca all afternoon.

Our time in Tocaña has been spent visiting cocales where we have learned about the livelihoods of the Afro-Bolivians living in San Joaquin, Tocaña, Mururata, Santa Ana, and Chijchipa. The Afro-Bolivians were brought to the Yungas with the intention of having them work in haciendas in the sugar cane, coffee, and coca plantations. Previously they had slaved-away and all perished in the mines of Cerro Rico, Potosí and then the Spanish thought that they could get better “use” of the African labor by working in the Yungas, a couple hours northeast of La Paz. The climate here is more like the one they were used to in their African homeland. This is a history that many times goes forgotten and unrecognized. Sometimes even Bolivians have no idea that they have fellow country-folk  have once been enslaved.

Most of our Dragons crew (what we call our students from the courses I help lead) also got to try their hands in the coca fields. One day while in Tocaña the majority of the students went to pick coca in the cocales. For most it was a tiring and taxing day. All day under the hot sun trying to decipher which coca to pick, or weeding the coca bushes of the pesky maleza that grew up a los alrededores de esta planta sagrada. These kinds of experiences give us a window into the reality of many people’s day-to-day around the world. In fact over two-thirds of the people from the world’s developing countries work primarily in agricultura. Conversely, less than five percent of the population in rich countries break ground to plant crops. Working in the fields helps to build empathy, understanding, and recognizing the meaning of hard work.

***

Compro poesía en la calle como si fuera un diario. Y como un viejo amigo empiezo desde donde habíamos terminado nuestra última conversación. Y comenzamos de nuevo retomando hilos de telas de segunda y hasta tercera mano. Vamos deshilando hasta lo que nos queda es la esencia de todo—el capullo de algodón pizcado bajo el sol caliente del Chaco, Argentino.

Una camisa de mangas largas cubre sus brazos fuertes y un sombrero su tez, rostro sombrío pero sonriente. Un originario de las tierras del Sur, con manos morenas, más oscurecidas aún con tantos días en el sol. Pero la sonrisa parece ser la misma a través de los años, solo desgastada con el tiempo y un poquito más perdurable. El campo de algodón se asimila con el cielo y sus nubes. Un campo abierto e interminable que nos ayuda a volar y aterrizar a la vez.

***

A veces visitábamos las chacras del pastor Don Pedro. Él tenía un campo grande de algodón y a veces mientras nuestros padres cebaban y tomaban mate y comían pan casero al horno de barro, nosotros corríamos por el campo y veíamos cuanto algodón podíamos cosechar en los sacos de arpillera donde uno de nosotros se podía esconder sin problema pero que normalmente guardaba los capullos algodonosos. Nuestros manitos inexpertos dejaban una hilera cosechada a medias.

Nos cansábamos e íbamos a pesar en la báscula grandísima que quedaba a la entrada del galpón. Días de semana, los camiones se acercaban para poder cargar el algodón y luego hombres pisoteaban la nube blanca para abajo, abajo, tratando de llenar el camión lo más posible.

Pero nosotros jugábamos nomás.

Si cosechábamos un kilo estábamos chochos de haber tenido la experiencia nada más.

Luego corríamos a la casa para tomar agua—jalando el balde del pozo que estaba en el medio del patio y tomando hasta que nuestras bocas asemejaban las paredes de piedra del pozo profundo—fresco, oscuro y mojado con la humedad del agua.

Y luego regresábamos a nuestros juegos, esta vez en la sombra, aunque siempre parecía que nuestra energía era interminable.

***

Mi papá es un científico de suelos. Alguien que estudia la tierra—la Pachamama. Todo lo que nos sostiene. Yo sé que su perspectiva es una distinta de los quienes cosechan lo que nos sustenta. Pero también sé que él se une con ellos quienes son los dueños y dueñas de la tierra porque la trabajan—dejan respirar y florecer y siempre están empeñados a seguir este proceso, el proceso cíclico de la tierra.

Gracias por ser amigo—

hermano de la tierra—

cuidándola para las generaciones

que siempre vendrán después.

 

507735
Cocal-coca field
f2p2_verde.jpg_1264874701
Campo de algodón-cotton field
Advertisements

Metas de cumpleaños: Birthday goals

Peonies of May
These flowers were some that my friend Daniela gave me last year for my birthday.

¡Qué raro esto! De nuevo estoy dando la vuelta al sol y parece que el último cumpleaños ya fue hace una eternidad. Digo una eternidad porque han pasado muchas cosas de hace un año. Ayer recibí un mail de una estudiante del semestre pasado en Perú y Bolivia. Su cumpleaños es el 28 de mayo. Me dijo que había pensado en mí durante su santo porque yo cumplía años el día siguiente. Ella es muy buena pastelera y de hecho, este semestre que pasó estudió cocina con una boliviana y su experiencia, en sus palabras, le ayudó a darse cuenta de las cosas que le daban placer. Parece que se le había olvidado hasta que la oportunidad surgió de nuevo para poder hechar una mano, o dos, a la masa, por decir.  En estas transiciones de la vida creo que es importante echar un vistazo para atrás y también otro para el futuro para ver que nos pueda esperar. En esta forma, así como mi estudiante, la María Ren, podemos ver qué es lo que nos da placer. Al fin y al cabo, ¿qué intención tenemos para nuestras vidas? Y ¿Qué nos importa?

This is a strange thing. I am once again at the tail end of my trip around the sun and it seems like the last birthday I had was an eternity ago. I say an eternity because many things have happened during this past year. Yesterday I received an email from a student that I worked with during the Spring semester in Peru and Bolivia. Her birthday was the 28th of May. She told me that she had thought of me during her special day because I was going to be turning a year older the following day. She is a really good baker and in fact this past semester she studied cooking with a bolivian and her experience, in her own words, helped her to remember and revive the activities that she most enjoyed in life. It seems like she had forgotten about these things until an opportunity arose again to put her hand, or two, in the dough. During these transitions in our life I think it’s important to look into our past and keep an eye to the future to see what we can look forward to. In this way, just like my student, María Ren, we can see what it is that gives us pleasure. At the end of the day–what intention do we have for our lives and what really matters to us?

Time to check in and see how things are going.

Currently, I am in Panama visiting a friend and I was lucky enough to have my sister and her roommate Miguel come visit me for a week right before my birthday.

Una pegajosa y húmeda noche de viernes, como suelen ser las noches en general en la Ciudad de Panamá, Hannah, Román, Miguel y yo salimos a tomar algo y hacerme un brindis para la vuelta que iba a cumplir unos días más tarde.

A sticky and humid Friday evening, like the nights in Panama City tend to be, Hannah, Román, Miguel, and I went out for a drink to celebrate my almost completed trajectory around the sun.

I asked folks what their goals had been when they turned a year older on their last birthday and each one had a very different answer that ranged from professional to personal from cultural to enlightening. For me, if I remember correctly my wish for the past year was for community. This came from a desire to connect with myself more intentionally and also develop a community around me of loved ones. I think I even wrote a blog post that I will go back to and read and cite here if it applies. On a more professional note, I was embarking on a new job–something that was totally outside my comfort zone and I knew it was going to be challenging in and of itself so no need to put too many goals on that side of things. I did have, though, specific goals for each of my semesters (during a Peru 6-week course I was focused on learning the tricks of the trade and trying to be as helpful as possible in terms of working with my two other much more experienced colleagues, during the Peru/Bolivia semesters I had a couple different goals: I wanted to be able to connect more with my student groups and learn to be more patient and work harmoniously in a collaborative environment).

En fin, yesterday was my birthday and I want to be able to clearly articulate what my goals are and what I would like to accomplish this year until May rolls around again. Sharing it with you all is an exercise in accountability, but more so in creating a culture of understanding and solidarity around what it is that drives us forward, al ritmo de cada uno, at the rhythm of each of our drums.

First of all I’d like to carry on my intention from the beginning of this year which was simply to love. To love myself and others more and in general to seek out love as much as possible.

Secondly, I know I am a person that is highly adaptable but sometimes this adaptability comes at high costs for those around me because I like to do things a mi manera or my way. That said I would like to be more flexible and see more perspectives and practice not only seeing but exercising different ways of doing. This also comes in the way of tolerance and acknowledging that I might have a way of doing something and it may be very effective for me but not necessarily for someone else. Live and let be and be more fluid in the process is I think what it boils down to.

Thirdly, I don’t know what this goal looks like yet entirely but developing community is still something I am striving for with every step I take. I don’t know what this looks like more concretely but I think my previous year’s goal still stands of connecting to myself and others in intentional ways–not just casually and this goes for work and play alike.

Very important to me is my writing…Maybe this is not entirely evident on this platform because I am not posting as regularly as I would like, but I am writing for myself and it helps me to process and reflect on very important things. I would love to be able to publish something. During the summer and maybe even fall (if I decide to lead another semester group) I would like to implement much more of a writing component in our itinerary and curricular flow. This could take the form of writing simple haikus to experience the simplicity yet powerfulness of nature. Guided meditations and some yoga accompanied by writing about specific experiences, identity, place, spirituality, etc. There are infinite directions this particular goal could take and I would like to think about it a bit more.

Professionally, I’ve identified, with my boss and co-workers this past year, some goals as well. I would like to give other people (colleagues, students, local contacts) space and trust that they will get the job done. This goes hand-in-hand with my second goal listed above, but is a little different because it is in a professional environment and focuses on the other and not myself. Additionally, most people see me as an organized person. This organization sometimes translates very well into work contexts but with my particular work leading travel abroad courses, this has been something that I would like to lay down further in working with my colleagues and with students. This is something that I would also like to adapt to my goal of creating an income in part by contracting out my services. I am pretty sure this has a lot to do with organizing my time, ideas, and contacts in order to get something off the ground. Lastly, I would like to get to better at the personal versus professional balance that is sometimes really hard to figure out given this line of work (education abroad and being in the field). I think one thing that will help significantly with this is maintaining friendships and support systems outside of my work circle.

In conclusion, I’m laying out my goals as the following:

  1. Love
  2. Live and let be (an exercise in becoming more fluid)
  3. Inter(connectivity): focus on community
  4. Writing (maybe publishing and definitely using this passion as a teaching tool)
  5. Room for Accomplishment and Failure  (giving space to others to do things for themselves)
  6. Share ideas for organization and structure
  7. Balance work and play

These are purposefully not very clear because I am trying to live by the quote by Wendell Berry that situates doubt and uncertainty front and center in the song of life:

It may be that when we no longer know which way to go that we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.

There’s my lucky seven that will hopefully keep me singing this year. What do you like to do on your birthday? Any rituals or goals that you practice?