Day 4 & 5: Dirt and Art

Sorry for the lack of a post yesterday – both of us bloggers were beat from a long day of construction working and it just happen to slip both of their tired minds.

On day four, we spent all of our day building a roasting patio and a fermentation tank for a family in the coffee co-op through De La Gente. Roasting patios are used to dry coffee beans from their “honey” coat once they are shelled from their fruit over-coat – the families literally lay out the beans in a single layer on a flat, concrete ground, and let it dry and roast in the hot Guatemalan sun (fun fact: which is typically at a UV index of 10/12). The fermentation tanks, which are still somewhat a mystery to our group, are used in the process of processing coffee beans – it makes the process easier and quicker.

As for construction, we did it all – sifted rock and sand, mixed concrete by hand (well, on the ground in a large pile and using shovels), dug trenches, laid cement and bricks, cut cement blocks in half with a machete… you name it, we most likely did it during one of the two days of construction working.

It is amazing to see the hard work and dedication that these coffee growers put into their lives – what tired us out in a matter of hours, are what these people do everyday… sometimes for more than 10 hours a day at a time. As a group, we reflected on how their lives and work ethics beat ours tenfold. We typically see “work” as simply being busy with many major or minor tasks, but here, their work is physically driven and demanding, and can often be seen as tedious by us (ie. sorting coffee beans for size and shape, mixing many loads of concrete, sifting through a wheel-barrel or two worth of rock/sand with hand sifters…).

Reflecting back on day four and the physical hard labor that it demanded, here are some words we used to describe our experience for far in Guatemala: Familia (family), opportunity, humble, exciting, grateful, commitment, eye-opening, smile, salsa (dancing), journey. These words continue to follow us throughout this trip, and we will continuously use these ideas to reflect upon coming back to the States.

On day five, we started the morning out finishing up the construction projects that we started the day before. Although tired and sore, we finished with flying colors, and the second day seemed all the easier (and quicker) because we now knew how to do things on our own.

We got to spend a lot of time (two days!) with this one family, and it was so great getting to know them, and so much more about the Guatemalan culture. Although broken translation at times, we have two individuals on our trip who are able to speak Spanish and help keep conversation. Also, in this family there are two sons that are learning English, so conversing with them was easier – these people in either group tended to be the ‘middle man’ for many questions and answers. We sang “Happy Birthday” to one of the sons, Julio, who turned 21 today (3/23/2016); he was so excited :)

After lunch, our group split up in two three groups to go work with local artisans around San Miguel. Half of the group went to work with artisans who did wood and metal work, and the other half worked with traditional textiles to make purses/bags. In a later post, we will further elaborate on these workshops – as of right now, not everyone in home, and both us bloggers went to the same artisan workshop.

Overall, the past two days have been physically intensive, interactive, culturally immersive, and exhausting. Everyone has burnt skin in one place or another, and we have found out that getting cement off of your skin is incredibly hard (and that it turns GREEN on your skin because it reacts with the chemicals in sun screen).

Stay tuned for our post about the artisan workshops and what they had to offer each group! The next post with be of photos from the last two days of construction work.

Best,

ASB Guatemala :)

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