Hola from Baños!
Last week we stayed at a plaintain farm (finca) on the coast of Ecuador. The finca is owned by Juan Carlos, a very nice man with a great personality, and his family. Our mornings were spent learning Spanish from the entire family, split into various groups to study at various places (mostly outside!) at the farm. In the afternoons we did various activities, including visiting a beautiful untouched area of the jungle and playing games with the kids at the local school. This was the first stop on our trip after visiting the capital city of Quito, so much of the time was spent getting to know one another and playing games together.
For all of last Wednesday we helped to bring in a huge harvest of plantains. This was easily our most most tiresome and rewarding day spent at the finca. Some of our group members helped to actually harvest the plantains with the family, strapping the bunches to each end of long branches of bamboo, hoisting them over their shoulders and bringing them to the treatment station, where each plantain is treated in chemicals that allow them to ship the plantains over large distances to many different countries. My day began by helping to glue together the boxes which all of the plantains would be placed in. After that, I moved to the treatment station (which was in the middle of a giant plantain forest) to help them sort and prepare all of the plantains. Much of my day was spent hoisting huge bunches of plantains onto ropes hung from bamboo stalks, where we would then pick off the ends. This prepared them to be cut off the branches with a machete by uncle Eulogio (or ‘Tío’ for short) and then sorted in the chemicals and packed up in boxes for shipping.
This day was extremely interesting, involving an encounter with a fairly large banana spider (don’t worry, we had Tío with us!) and the fairly annoying banana goo, which stains clothes permanently! Some of us were lucky enough to borrow well-used harvesting shirts from the family, while others have some great banana battle scars on our t-shirts. The day was very rewarding though, since we were helping with the livelihood of a family whose way of life in some ways is very different from ours, but who still have a great sense of family, and took in an entire group of 14 gringos they had never met before. This was our way of saying thanks for all their hospitality. We ended up tired with stained clothes and dirty hands, but made great friends with people from another side of the world. Juan Carlos and his family traveled with us to Baños, where they are continuing to help teach us Spanish (and we’re teaching English to local kids!) We’ve been very fortunate to meet these people, and to spend time with them, eat their amazing food, sleep in their hammocks, and learn their way of life.
Written by Tom Foley, currently watching the sun go down over the mountains of Baños