I spent the entire day in the finca today. It was a wonderful day filled of sucking on cacao seeds (if you´ve never tried them you must, they are so sweet and delicious). We planted some seeds in my friend´s finca (tomatoes, basil, bell pepper, carrots, lettuce, and squash), none of which they grow here so we´re trying it out, to try and increase their vegetable intake. We also harvested some ñame, green bananas, and I carried a log to their home for the fagon (firewood stove). We came back to their home to talk about comarca politics and why the United States is always at war. All while eating boiled ñame with coconut soup and freshly killed duck. A truly fantastic day if you ask me.
It was one of those days where I question whether I really hope for much to change out here. It is such a beautiful, simple, and relaxed way of life. Every time that I go to the finca, sure it is partly hard work, but there is also a lot of time simply spent talking, laughing, and eating. There are many people who have left Playa Balsa to work in the city, especially for the United Fruit company, only to come back. They say it´s just so beautiful! There is always vegetables in the finca and fish in the sea, the only problem is clothes. That seems to be the only reason that people leave these days, to get enough money to buy new clothes, and then they´re back. I think that is especially true now that Red de Opportunidades (the welfare program sponsored by the World Bank) gives the women $100 every two months. That money covers sugar, salt, cooking oil, a little rice, and of course the occasional candy.
Sometimes I do have these epiphanies about the poverty here as I´m sitting in someone´s home. A baby might have just pooped on the floor and it is simply cleaned with a little wet rag and never soap. There are kids running around everywhere carrying machetes and other sharp objects, while the parents give a quick snap that I´m going to hit them if they don´t shut up. And parts of the house seem ready to fall at any moment. And other times, as mentioned above, I get the opposite epiphany, and think to myself, this life really is quite romantic. I think it is recognizing that duality that I have taken away most from being here: the natural beauty, the poor hygiene, the relaxed pace, and likewise, the lack of motivation. It might be the longest vacation I have ever endured, but at the same time, it has been truly eye opening to see another way of living and given me ample time for reflection. I remember before I left everybody would simply say, “It changed my life.” I would hear that and wonder to myself ´but how?´ I don´t know if I´m that much closer to answering that question. Perhaps that is supposed to be the great Peace Corps secret. But in all honesty, the Peace Corps is just the vehicle. Anybody who has ever put themselves into an entirely foreign and uncomfortable situation such as this I believe could relate. You learn about yourself, especially how to find happiness when all your lifelines are cut. You learn about another culture and the way they organize their lives, make decisions, and generally perceive the world. You learn how to try to instill motivation and inspire people to think about the future of their community. And perhaps most of all, you learn that life is a process and that any specific goals you might have started with necessitate adaptation.