Sunday, I went to visit Maira’s family’s coffee/sugar farm the next “town” over. After walking down the mountain, halfway up the side of the next mountain, crossing several streams, one river, and dodging pecking chickens, I arrived in front of their house. Her older brother Geraldo was to be my tour guide, and we started up the hillside where the coffee was planted. He pointed out the ripening berries, and answered all my gringa questions. He kept saying things to the effect of, “well, I don’t really know what else to tell you. It’s just…coffee. There’s not that much to it… you just plant it, move it when it gets bigger, prune it when it gets too big, harvest it when it’s ripe… and spray for bugs and coffee rust (infection). You just have to watch it and take care of it.” He was having a hard time understanding why I wanted to know about something as normal and boring as coffee and was worried that he hadn’t shown me anything interesting enough to be worth my time.
[at this point in writing this post, the two kids from the house across the street from us, Stephen and Michelle (here Ticos have gringo names, and Indians have Spanish names…) came running into the house. They start shouting to the other two volunteers how their house is infested with giant ants, so they’ll have to have Spanish class here. (The other two volunteers usually go across the street every afternoon for informal Spanish practice with Stephen and Michelle’s mom, Carol. Their dad is Freddy, one of the farm employees- and fearless plaque hangers).
Carol follows not far behind them, and as soon as she and Claire and Ethan start in on the day’s vocab, Stephen runs into the kitchen. He sticks his grubby 12 year old boy face in mine and asks, “que hace?” When I reply, “working, ”he plops himself in the chair next to me, leans into the screen and shouts, “coffee! That means café, right?” Clearly I’m not working. I close the file. 5 year old Michelle runs in (half eaten fresh cacao in hand, slimy with giant seeds) and jumps into the chair next to me. She points to the butterfly picture (see Awkward post) on my desktop and squeals, “fotos! Enseñenos fotos! Fotos de tu familia! Pictures! Show us pictures! Pictures of your family!
Other than pictures of coffee plants, sugarcane, and flowers from next to our house- all of which they’ve literally seen every day of their lives- the only pictures I have on my computer are the 251 pictures I’d accumulated on my iphone from the past 7 months. “Um, bueno…”
The second picture was of me in February- wearing a bid red wool pea coat with lots of make up and my hair down, probably before going to the ballet. Michelle yells! “It’s Raquel! So pretty! But you look so pretty there, and now you look so… different.” Apparentl,y my color-coordinated bandanas are not glamorous enough. (or she just doesn’t appreciate the nuances of nomad chic). They were pretty fascinated by the pictures of snowy New Hampshire and liked seeing pictures of my friends. Anytime ones came up with people they’d seen before, they’d shout “amigo! Amigos!” They also thought the ones of my dad standing next to a fighter plane on the deck of the Intrepid were pretty cool. Their eyes widened at the ones from the Pride Parade. You don’t need a language to translate the look of, “why are all those men wearing glitter and rainbow bathing suits?” I explained it by saying it was a big fiesta, like Carnival in Brazil. I left it at, “en Nueva York, it’s always a fiesta.” They were pretty excited by the ones of the Hamptons beach too. Even though they live in a country with Pacific and Atlantic coasts, they’ve never been to the beach. This is a pocket of the country where people don’t go far.
When the slide show ended, Stephen noticed that some video files had opened on the desktop and insisted that I showed them those too. We watched clips of 4th of July fireworks from my friend’s Midtown rooftop, my best friend’s parents cutting the cake at their wedding anniversary, and my friend from high school’s entrance with her husband at their wedding reception.
Ethan wanted to show Stephen how to use the ‘new’ electric juicer the farm owner gave from out of a back closet, so we all began the communal process of picking, chopping, and juicing oranges for fresh juice. Stephen loved it; he had a great time making a mess while Michelle and I played Snakes and Ladders and Carol and Claire gossiped about the weird guy at the end of the street.
So instead of spending my afternoon writing about my second jungle adventure, I spent it entertaining children with my iphone contents. Their favorite video? The Flaggots.]