Report #2: Fanca Produce

Lisa Kundrat, Field Assistant

A week of storms and heat, of transition, of visiting, walking, listening. Been raining nearly every night, every morning, sweat dripping hot in between. There were nights when no one slept, thunder that made us crouch in our beds, lightning we could see with our eyes closed. Tried to plant in the beginning of the week, were caught as the storm broke, rain filling and overflowing the holes we dug as we turned our backs to retrieve the plants. Finally relinquishing our tools to twirl soaked kids in the rain, teasing to toss them in the rivers of rain flowing along the road. 

But amazing the way things grow through this daily rain and sun. The other day walked up to Maria Auxiladora, thought I would check on the state of the staircases I had helped Darci repair last month, see how the paja macho we had planted was doing. Amazed as I found myself pushing through the jungle; before had wondered if trail markers were really necessary, but now questioned if I was even on the trail. New brush up to my knees where before there was none, trees crossing over the trail, the limp and sparse paja macho we planted now thriving. Ran, pushing myself through, and finally emerged, branches in my hair, leaves sticking to my pants, fresh mosquito bites covering my legs. Jungle princess, I laugh and descend to the ocean, promising to be back with shovel and machete. 

Growth like I have never known, but good to imagine the fruit trees we have been planting tall and bent with papayas within the next couple of years. Standing imagining this after planting at the school in Fanca with several enthusiastic girls (an enthusiasm that led to the demise of a couple of papayas, but more importantly, the planting of 24 beautiful fruit trees). The trees surround the area where Linda, the head teacher of the school, plans to start a garden with the kids next month. 

But despite rain and fast rate of growth now, the future lack of water at the end of the rainy season is the definitive problem preventing vegetable gardens in Fanca. So much water at times, and yet, non-existent. 

Continues to amaze me, how the details of life here amaze me less and less. A little voice in my head sometimes nudges my consciousness as I stare out at the dark waves of the ocean, sliver of a moon, and says, “This…this is where I live.” But more and more, life here seems natural, the way it has always been, and now it is the people that stick out 

Many afternoons we have been going to Fanca without maps and wheelbarrows, without an agenda. One night brought cards to the house where we had been given papayas, played games with the kids, ate fruits I don’t know the name of; later ate rice with cheese, drank coffee as we talked, watched the sunset over bamboo roofs and papaya trees. Thought to myself how incredible I would find that night when I first arrived here, the house, the fruits, the food, the view off the balcony. But now, after these two months, the background seemed natural. It was the conversation with Paola and Soyla, with the kids that stuck out more, talking about the hours Paola works as a nurse, the difficulty of getting a visa, their farm in the country, where they lived before the earthquake and 1998’s El Niño, laughing at the antics of their crazy boys, planning lunch for this Sunday. 

Last night began thinking consciously about the beautiful way that food is grown, sold, eaten he re. I had been asked what I eat in the U.S. and if it is expensive or cheap, and surprised myself by launching into one of my greatest frustrations and passions. In Spanish. Hard enough to approach in English with friends who share similar experiential bases. But here, trying to explain vast fields of corn meant only for cows, chickens and cows packed into buildings for systematic production, the amount of processing that goes into so much of what people in the U.S. eat is met with furrowed brows and polite nods. 

We talked a block from the market, where every morning there are local eggs, fresh milk and cheese, freshly crushed peanut butter, pineapples, papayas, watermelons, bananas and vegetables from the surrounding countryside, chickens walking around, fish and shrimp freshly caught, and flowers are sold. El Mercado, where everyone comes to buy food, where kids are sent for supplies for each day’s lunch , a huge two hour meal that whole families eat together. This week we will continue to plant. For the next three days I have the privilege to be the home work for Cheo’s high school students at the end of their vacation. And Friday, in the heart of Semana Santa (Holy Week), fifty high school students will be come from Quito to help with projects, but more to learn and converse while planting in order to return to their city to write and paint and spread the ideas of the people here. Overall, this week of Easter promises to be filled with papayas, palms, working teenagers and fiestas. 

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