One of my jobs here is to meet on Friday afternoons with the couple who works here with me on the farm, to plan next weeks’ work and to discuss the situation in general. They are employed by the cooperative that owns this place and, with their 3 kids, have been here for 5 or 6 years. Although this farm is supposed to be a demonstration project (alternative crops, organic methods, IPM, etc.) neither Gilberto or Susanna seem to be interested in doing anything much differently than how they have always done it – which means throwing household trash out into the fields, burning plastic chemical bottles and grocery bags, piling manure from the cuyes far away from the gardens where it never gets used, and the like. Nevertheless, they are buena gente and lots of fun to be around.
Today, being Friday, we were to meet, but it is also the first of the month and both G. and S. were hot to run into town (.18 centavos by bus) to collect their monthly salary, so we agreed to meet tomorrow instead. G. receives around 160.00 monthly for his work on the farm, S. receives 60.00 monthly for her work with the cuyes. (Guinea pigs) Their housing, such as it is, is gratis and includes utilities which more often than not seem to work. As a comparison, my Peace Corps “stipend, not a salary” is 7.67 daily, or 230.00 mensual, and my housing (such as it is) is paid for as well. Anyway, for campesinos, their pay and housing perks are the talk of the barrio – most people here in the campo can only dream of a sweet deal like that.Today was also the day I aimed to begin a little tradition, hopefully to continue for the duration of my stay. First Friday of the month, I buy, or prepare, dinner for myself and the family, and then we play ping pong and listen to really loud bomba music. Since they were going to Ibarra, G. and S. suggested we try some comida from the restaurant where his sister works. 6 dinners, at 1.25 apiece, not bad. They were to return around six.
Meanwhile, I go upstairs to my cuartos to study Spanish, drink a little rum, and perhaps play some chess or scrabble on the computer a friend has loaned me. Ten minutes later, I hear a ruckus at the gate, and me and the kids walk up to check it out. A gigantic truck, with what looks to be 30 or 40 ton of chicken shit in the bed is trying to negotiate the sharp turn into the farm. He was supposed to be here about 8 hours ago, when there was a full workforce available to unload (dumptruck? Yeah, right) So we get him thru the gate, and with darkness coming fast me and the 2 boys guide him down the camino to the first offload where, using shovels and rakes, we dump about 1/3 of the load. On the way to the second offload we forget all about the irrigation ditch and the guy puts his right front tire into it. Our meager complement of 1 man and 2 boys was not enough to help the driver free his rig. I offered him my sympathies, and he set off on foot to walk the 45 minutes home. We will have to hire a tractor to come pull him out, probably at 7 AM tomorrow.
By now it’s fully dark, and a misty fog has crept in. Where are S. and G. with our dinners, we all wonder. Since it’s past 7 PM there are no more buses, so they will have to take a cab from Ibarra (2.00) and walk in from the main road, no fun in the dark, and S. in her town shoes. An hour later, with cold food, they arrive, S. a little bummed about her muddy shoes. We all cram into the front room of the family’s casa which has more furniture than space, including the biggest boombox I have ever seen. The eldest son accidentally opens the food container upside down and spills it all over the floor. He gets a swat on the ass from Gilberto, but the 3 dogs and the cat are in hog heaven. There are 11 billion flies in the room. Dinner is chuleta, a pork cutlet. I am wary of eating pork, since the PC nurses always tell us horrific stories of all the worms and parasites in undercooked pork – but damn, it’s always so good. There are side dishes as well – potatos (surprise) and mote, a kind of corn that is, well, kind of bland. There are 2 fundas, one is full of aji, a kind of salsa picante, and the other is mayonesa, which is really watery mayonnaise. It’s delicious, and really dresses up the mote. Since it’s a special occasion, Gilberto breaks out the chi-cha, which I suspect is leftover from the past Sunday’s confirmation fiesta. We are all starving, so we eat and drink mostly in silence, occassionally recounting the events of the day, and wondering how it will go tomorrow when we try to pull the truck out of the ditch.