Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I notice how they write of largess,
the poets, the writers.
I notice this and think of how small I am.
Full, but small.
The world I write from is a hallway
full of things I am beginning to understand.
Things like my own body,
how kitchens are important,
the smell of mint bushes in the rain
and the endless length of my wife's white thighs.
These little things I can tuck into,
can carry with me and know that wherever I am
there is enough room.

Jake Kuliju

Monday, November 2, 2009

maiz y frijol y corn y bean

two rows - in the clouds and way down there in the valley


change for a living

In desperate attempts to extract information about what I actually do despite a stunning talent for one word answers left to the imaginative “stuff”, my inbox rattles with the shiny Señor Lincoln query:

tell me about your day.

I’ve thought on this question more seriously lately and appreciate the interest.

The way I build a story is Father Wood in process of an idea: context - - more context - - the actual point.

The way I entertain is decisively Mother Theresa: food - - love - - food.

[There’s never one without the other, they don’t keep a tally but I don’t lean off the world because if I think about one/talk to one/laugh at one’s joke, then there’s always the other. Look world I do not lie! I am my father’s daughter, chronicling my beginning to tell a progressing end.]

Back to one day. Last week I thought that the “one day” could fit into “Wednesday through Sunday.” File my life anywhere under “expected abnormalities.” Start at 6:00am with my dirty clothes in a backpack, 40 bean packets and waiting for a jalon [ride/hitchhike]. Then 25 kilometers to drop off the beans, 17 more kilometers to not wash the clothes in a broken machine. Get locked in the library, the clothes go missing for five days, run down the Pan-American highway in a skirt, attend a farmer’s festival near north coast, weep openly during presentations on organic compost and environmental stewardship, genetics and biological diversity lesson from the preeminent expert in Latin America on subject during car ride, dance and sing into the dawn with the resistencia, drive 9 hours to the north coast (again), rupture remaining emotional molecules watching Honduran national soccer team lose to the US, back to Tegucigalpa, farewell dinner for clown troop from Mexico, find the clothes. Wednesday through Sunday.

But that’s fun stuff.

19 octubre, is heart-open~mind-growing living.

6:30am Leave on bus, catch a second one and wait for coworker [Abraham] who arrives on motorcycle. Total cost: 50 cents, 25 kilometers and reggaton [spanish rap] before my mind settles into being awake.

7:30 Quick debrief on our weekends – his wife needs arm surgery, not sure how they’ll afford the pin. His old man’s soccer team lost, wouldn’t know it by his grin that reveals the joy in chasing a soccer ball. I relate.

7:35 Helmets on we bump over a washed out road, spilling once (no injuries, very minor mother). He sings old love songs and is disappointed (again) that I’m not harmonizing.

8:10 Reach Tabla Grande. Don Exequiel just left on his horse. We dash down the path lined with coffee and banana trees. As we approach he’s talking on the cell phone and makes a detour to buy fresco [soda/Coca Cola] to celebrate the planting. Abraham and I walk ahead.

8:30 Stop and wait for Don Exequiel as it begins to rain; the weather’s turning colder and kids playing nearby have no shoes but heavy sweaters. Abraham has shoes but no sweater. We concur he's worse off this morning.

9:15 Walk 30 minutes to arrive at fields; beautiful coffee trees line the path, and a pataste [local squash variety] trellis that protects baby coffee plants. Maiz [corn] is dry and stiffly bends with the wind. Someone is singing off tune. The bright green coffee beans don’t seem to mind, just waiting for december to be plucked, dried, roasted, poured.

9:45 The soil where we plant is beautiful. It’s dark and there are worms! and small black ants, and the color paints our hands earthy. The hill opens to a “v” that frames the Yeguare valley below and the massive fields of Zamorano that are tractored straight and long. I stand in 5 long rows cleared with picks called bueyes de colachos; two of the rows disappear into drying corn.

10:00 The CIAL group of seven farmers, one facilitator (Abraham) and one gringa (Katerin) huddle. There’s banter about Mel and talk about local methods of planting. After row length and seed calculations everyone find s a job – some cut stakes with machetes, others plant and a few keep track of the experiment’s design in notebooks. I let my heart sing (harmonizing with life).

1:00 52 seed packets are empty and the universal risk of farming is in charge. Will it please rain? Will it please not rain too much? Good bugs eat the bad bugs. Bad bugs don’t eat a single darn plant because with our fingers we tucked those seeds into the earth exhaling hope into the ground. My notebook is scribbled with 7 interviews sketching lives tended by the earth, cursing the earth, depending on the earth. On average, each farmer’s household spends L1700 or $90 a month. Total. Everything. We drink the fresco from plastic bags and then walk down the mountain.

1:45 Back at the motorcycle parked at a house two little girls are waiting with their jump rope. Last time I indulged the adults in a laugh. Why not twice.

2:15Ok we’re going” [Well, if you’re going to feed us now’s the time]. A huge bowl of soup is ladled that overspills with even bigger vegetables and a hospitable hunk of beef. Four tortillas from corn ground that morning. The corn hasn’t disappeared but surfaces in the rough texture; these round, life-sourcillas are darker than others. In the bowl the spoon cuts through yucca, pataste, potatoes, camote and cabbage. I’m concentrating on taking deep breaths to fit it all in until distracted by the radio. Not 80’s music (surprised) but “Eres Tu”, my parent’s wedding song.

3:30 It’s late for buses, take my chance waiting for one to Zamorano knowing the risk is that I’ll arrive and everyone’s left. Yesterday left my computer with the Department’s director so I could study for the GRE in the evening. Plan is to stay with my Zamorano family and get a good 3 hours of middle school math in. Yelp.

3:40 Bus comes and it happens to be from Yuscaran. Two of my neighbors are drivers; this one never smiles and wins the award for blind-curve passing with straight face as he almost kills us.

3:55 Zamorano - there are still folks at their post, but the person with the key to the room where the computer is being held hostage waves to me from her jalon. Means I’m headed back to Yuscaran at 4:40 to study with a book.

4:20 Buying vegetables in the University’s co-op. Run into Doña Maria who’s worked in Organics at Zamorano for 15 years. Her 9 year old son goes with her to the fields now that school’s ended, and her two boys my age make the labor team 4 strong. She has a second grade education but attends courses (example: microbiology) offered to Zamorano employees on Wednesdays. Her smile is that moment of happiness you don’t pull out of life, a gift to receive.

4:50 The bus is late; my bus buddy is convinced it’s not coming and starts waving down a jalon. But it comes. Down the steps as I go up is Carlos with crutches. We ran together in February when I was living alone and didn’t mind wheezing before dawn on the highway. It was company. We both busted our knees in April and he’s done it to the other one this weekend in a soccer game. Last words I see from his mouth through the window: todo bien!

5:30 Indania is 10 and nannies for a family where her mother cooks. She loves reading. They get on the bus mid-journey distributing news there’s no electricity. Dark clouds tethered to conversations about the lack of rain wait expectantly for us to believe. As we wind down the road towards Yuscaran their cover makes the unlit little city feel liable to forces bigger than ladrillos [bricks] and locks [cerraduras].

6:00 My rechargeable batteries aren’t re-charged and I fumble for the candles we hide under the sink. Neighbors are cooking on a fagon [wood stove] but I’m without and settle for cold rice cooked by Ana days before. Positive encouragement (if you let your drops fall we’ll call you the prettiest clouds we’ve ever seen) is outright not working: it’s not raining but the wind is fierce (sorry wind, your beauty is elusive). Dark house and noisy palm trees twist my waiting into the seven days Hurricane Mitch lingered until tiring back into the sea. People believed in rain those seven days.

7:00 GRE by candlelight. Unadulterated Romance. Yelp.

8:30 Because I live part-time in communities where the fagon is a dragon-force that ate the quiet strings of electricity before reality came to be, I know that I’m allowed to go to bed now. There’s no car battery to charge the television to watch novelas [soap operas] because we have no television. Instead, I’ll listen to Democracy Now! in Spanish and a novela I’ve recorded on the ipod. Isa (the very vocal kitten) is happy to hide under the covers. I pull my gratefulness from under my heart and give it to the night. I hope it shares with the rest of living things of my 19th of octubre.