Day three in Guatemala has been one of the best so far! Last night we ate dinner with a farmer for the second time, but this time we were able to converse much more. We did not have a translator with us so it was up to us to combine our broken Spanglish to communicate. The farmer we ate with, Friolan, was very talkative and interested in what we had to say. We told him of our day in Antigua and he told us tons about a volunteer hospital in the area that helps people get the medical attention they need for no cost. It was the first time we really got to share stories with one of the Guatemalan people and we all had a great time. I really enjoy when we don’t have a translator because, not only is it good practice for us to learn new words but it also allows for hilarious stories when we get words wrong. After dinner we played some bonding games before we wrapped it up and went to sleep.
This morning we woke up around 7am to prepare for breakfast at 7:30. A few of us went to our roof earlier to see the sunrise, but ended up getting to see Volcano Fuego erupt instead. This eruption was not a dangerous one, it is very typical for Volcano Fuego to spew smoke each morning and it was so awesome to see. Some of the farmer’s wives came to make us breakfast this morning and it was delicious. They made us french toast and fruit and it was very good. We then got ready before departing for a day of coffee picking with some farmers. We hiked for about 20 minutes up the volcano ( the not active one) before entering Miguel’s ( our farmer escort for the day) plot of trees. Because this is the end of the harvest there were not many berries on the branches, but we were told we were very helpful because this time of year the picking is more tedious to get the good berries off the branches. We picked berries for a few hours and got to speak with the farmers and hear lots of information from our translator, Jane. The farmers were very receptive to answering our questions and were very excited about teaching us the coffee process. Picking berries was very fun it was very cool to get to experience what the farmers do each day. Around 12pm we headed back down the volcano to town for lunch. We ate with our other escort, Gabriel. They served us a rice and chicken dish that was really good. We have yet to have bad food here. After lunch, we returned to Miguel’s house, where we learned about the coffee processing. After farmers pick the berries, all of the processing occurs in their houses. Since many of the farmers are related, they will often either live in the same home, or gather in one to do the processing.
It was particularly interesting because they had each stage of the coffee processing ( takes about 2 weeks after being picked) for us to see. We each got to try using the Punpero, or this bicycle machine that ground the beans out of the berries. The farmers then walked us through the many steps that it takes to turn the beans into coffee. In the final stages of the lesson we got to roast actual beans, which Miguel’s wife did on the stove and then grind the beans by hand. We were each able to physically try the various steps of the process and it was such a unique experience. Once the beans were roasted and ground, they put the coffee into boiling water and we were able to try a cup of the coffee. Oh my goodness, that was hands down the best cup of coffee many of us have ever had. I truly don’t know if any others will ever compare. The entire experience of getting to see the coffee from berries to the cup was so incredibly fascinating, we may never look at a cup of coffee the same way again. The farmers then gave us some coffee to keep and we were able to purchase some from them if we chose. This was particularly interesting because all of the money we gave them, went straight to their pockets. After learning yesterday how little profit typically goes to the farmers, this was especially rewarding.
We then went back to our house and got to sit down and speak with the executive director of De La Gente, Andy. He is one of the founders of De La Gente and was fascinating to speak to and listen to his experiences, advice and wisdom. After that we had some down time before another dinner with a farmer.
Tonight Hermando and his family hosted us for dinner. He walked us to his house with a few of his children. I got the chance to speak to him the whole way and learn a lot about his life. He had seven children, which is pretty typical for families around here. He learned to speak some English through a program that De La Gente supplied the farmers with so it was very exciting that he got to practice his English, while we practiced Spanish. There was a lot of Spanglish going on and we had some great conversations. This dinner was particularly special for Anna and Carly because they are very passionate about their Catholic religion and tonight we had a religious surprise. During dinner Hermando’s wife walked outside with a candle and we asked what she was doing. He told us that they were performing the Stations of the Cross. There were many groups of families and they set up the various stations around the streets. People sang and prayed in groups by these altars. IT was very powerful to see and such privileged to be a part of. Even for those of us who aren’t Catholic, it was fascinating to experience. After we watched some of the groups come by we returned inside. Carly and Anna got to learn the Sign of the Cross in Spanish and they taught Hermando and his family it in English as well. This was one of my favorite things to see because bridging the cultures together is one of the best experiences ever. Both our group and the family really got to bond over this and even the children enjoyed this experience. As we walked back to our house we got to pass by more of these ceremonies and soak up more culture.
We are really coming together more as group and really getting to know one another. I have attached some photos of the coffee process and our experiences today.
More quotes from our group members about their favorite things so far:
Chau: ” I really enjoyed the authentic breakfast yesterday morning at the hotel. It was very good!”
Carly : ” I loved getting to see Volcano Fuego erupt this morning!”
Nikki: ” Being able to able to experience this from a leadership perspective and to get to see the group experience this as well. I love that we have a really open and communicative group” ( she went on this trip last year and returned with us as our student leader)