Sunday, July 18, 2010

Woah, What Just Happened?

In the past two weeks, I got to the konooko (farms here are called konookos, not the Spanish word granja as one might have thought; it is a nominal Taino vestigial remain from some 500 years ago. The Taino people were the aboriginal natives who were wiped out by Columbus’ Spanish descendants a 150 years after they conquered the island). My first week I spent working muscles either never used or long forgotten and was incredibly sore and covered in heat and sweat rashes. Then after my first full week, Little Guy died. A day later Cindy’s husband, Jose, left the house at 11pm in a drunken rage with a small duffel and drove off into the night on his motorcycle. Cindy thinks this time he might have left for good. And so my second week was spent bonding with the 27 year old neighbor and day laborer Amaury by day, and helping Cindy cope with her mess of a situation by evening and night. Amaury is a hilarious slacker who is an incredibly skilled and effective worker (when he wants to be). No matter how hard I work in the month that I’m here, I will never be as good at any one farm skill Amaury has, save maybe using a rake. Like all Dominican men, he loves to sing, and we often switch off singing songs while working in the fields. Much to Cindy’s annoyance, he also likes to whistle. His whistling often sets the dogs off barking which drives Cindy mad, causing her to yell at Amaury for all of the things he was supposed to be doing, at which point he will either sulk, destroy something, or just leave. Usually the devil is name-dropped a couple of times, too (on both sides of the arguing). This cycle repeats itself throughout the week and usually the two have reconciled within a day. After all, Amaury needs work and Cindy needs help. For my end of things, I just stand and play shuttle mediator between the two as best I can because I am neither completely a worker nor the employer. As a volunteer on the farm, I even pay a minimal fee to help cover food costs. But because of my situation, sometimes the frustrations of both are unleashed on me—Amaury by cursing incomprehensibly and Cindy by venting what I must admit are a myriad number of difficult and serious problems. By the way, in the past seven minutes that I’ve been writing this, the weather has very quickly turned from hot n hazy to very dark and gray with 40+ mph gusts of wind blowing everywhere and the temperature dropping 20 degrees, oh chill.

Anyways, a bunch of Week Dos was spent clearing parts of the hilly terraces for roads and planting by bettering my machete and macheton (the difference being the rounded and wide edge on the macheton—think Alladin’s little sword), pick, and axe skills. Let me say that using the tripartite combo of pick, axe, and macheton to take out a tree and its much harder to get out root system is f’ing awesome. Weather update: joining the wind is the heavy sleeting rain now, it’s white outside! And my view of the ocean for the first time here looks like the Atlantic Ocean I know: cold, wavy and dark blue, not the light blue and green Caribbean stuff I’ve been looking at for so long. It’s rained hard since I’ve been on the konooko, but never this loud or for this long. Cindy just shouted from the room next door, “Well it’s more than 40mph now!” Shit yeah it is. This past week, I also worked in the pineapple area and got nicked up real good by the plants there, and had an adventure walking through the village to Amaury’s father’s konooko so we could get some banana saplings and plant em on the farm. In high school, Toby, Creight, other people at different times, and I would often sit in corners of the school and just shoot the breeze in peace and quiet. Kup called this The Lime. Walking through that village I immediately thought of the Maimo boys because I saw several generations of Limers chilling together outside their houses with nothing on their minds. [The pessimist and realist in me interposed here and yelled that they are sitting there because they have no work because there is no work. This is the sad and simple truth of the matter, but I was in a good mood so I chose to think happy thoughts of high school instead.] Nothing else significant to report on the farm end except that I am improving daily the necessary skill of opening coconuts with a machete or macheton. When the locals stop laughing at my attempts to open them then I’ll know I’ve really gotten somewhere.

Two weeks in was supposed to be my halfway point, but an internship opportunity back on campus was thrown my way and to apply and take it, I’d have to come back earlier than my original flight in order to attend a training institute at WashU. Then to change the flight would be pretty expensive at the dates I would have wanted to come home, so now I am coming home even earlier on July 29th at only a relatively exorbitant price change fee. Instead of staying here a little over a month, in the end it will be a little under a month, and thus all of a sudden I only have ten days left on the farm. Just as I’m getting into the groove of many things that have happened on the konooko so far, it’s kinda like, ‘Woah, what just happened?’

I am alright with it because it will allow me to live a little more comfortably as the trip winds down. That is to say, I will be able to buy a couple things in town and go out once, mayyybe twice and mayyybe return home with $40 or $50 bucks to my name instead of $5. The storm has passed (Cindy said that this is just the beginning of hurricane season and what just came through was nothing), and though it is still lightly raining, a beautiful rainbow just appeared on the water. And with that I’m out.

Shavuah tov, Jonah

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