Monday, August 27, 2012

Don Arturo is one of my favorite guys in Cahuasqui, and his sister Guadalupe is one of my favorite gals. Guadalupe is married to Juan, another favorite, and they have 2 young daughters. The little one, Angela, is mentally and physically handicapped. I pass by their house frequently because they sell 15 cent homemade chocolate ice cream on a stick, and to spend a few minutes chatting with them all is always a very pleasant diversion. Juan dotes on both of his daughters, but especially little Angela. Every morning he throws her up on his shoulders for the hike into town to buy huevos y pan. He used to take his daughters around town on his moto until he saw a TV news story about a terrible accident where a little girl fell off her father’s moto and was run over and killed by a car following behind. He says he will never take them again, at least not until they are big enough to hold on by themselves.

Juan’s brother in law Arturo is a slightly built man who spends much of his time hiking in the mountains and picking up odd jobs in farming and masonry whenever he needs plata. He also raises “finos” (fighting cocks) and if he is lucky sometimes he will make a little money from their efforts in the ring. Of course sometimes he and especially the chicken are not so lucky . . .

A few weeks ago Arturo came by my place to say hello and to see how I was coming along. He had a huge fighting chicken in his arms, and 2 of his dogs were trailing along. I invited him inside, he made the dogs stay out but carried the big chicken in with him. We looked around and chatted, and after a while it was time for Arturo to go. As we headed to the front door the chicken grunted and then let go of an unbelievable amount of loose and wet chicken shit all over the concrete floor, which I had just painted about 2 weeks prior . . . I made some remark in Spanish about not knowing that a chicken could shit so much all at one time. Arturo, in all his magnificent innocence and naivete simply said “y ahora?” which in this case meant, “and now what?” It never in a million years would have occurred to him to put the chicken down and offer to clean up. Nor would I have wanted him to, because it would have compounded the mess by a factor of at least 10, probably 20. I told Arturo, “no se preocupe,” I’ll take care of it. Arturo tipped his cap, called his dogs and said “ bueno, Don Roger, entonces que tenga un buen dia” - - “well then Don Roger, have a great day” - - and he was off. I sighed, shook my head and chuckled, then got out a bag of sawdust and soaked up the worst of it, and rinsed and cleaned the rest the best I could.

The floor is still stained, but it makes for a good story to explain why when visitors come a calling.

- - -

This summer has been long and dry, much more so than last year. We have had no measurable rain since April, and the locals believe it will be late September or even into October before we see it. Nevertheless, we all watch clouds gather in the distance and make small wagers, those betting against rain always winning.

Like everywhere else in the world, local small farmers are suffering. Don Lucho came by last weekend to pay a visit, and I have never seen him looking more down. “6 months of work down the drain,” he says. “Our bean harvest will not even cover expenses, let alone put food on the table.”

Lucho had been working in Spain making good money as a carpenter for almost 10 years when the “crisis” hit Europe and the construction market tanked. He regularly sent money home to Ecuador to support the family he had left behind. As the work dried up in Spain, he decided to move back to Cahuasqui and to start farming the family land with his 2 brothers. He has lost at least 20 pounds since coming back, and now appears downright gaunt. Even during the relatively good harvest of last year he and his brothers, after splitting the profits 3 ways, had hardly two nickels to rub together.

“One, or all of you, have to go to Ibarra and get a job,” I tell Lucho. “For the small farmer anywhere in the world it is almost impossible to make a living these days from farming alone.” Lucho agrees, but admits that he is spoiled by the good things here in the pueblo and hates the idea of working all day in a store or office. I understand him perfectly.

My own garden has suffered from the lack of rain, and I’ve decided it makes no sense to plant anew until the drops begin to fall. Between the wind and the sun it is a two to three times a day battle to keep young seedlings alive, and I am worn out from it! I have planted a few new trees, limes and oranges and a few more avocados, but they and their much larger root ball have at least a fighting chance, if I pay attention.

When I first thought about staying in Ecuador and buying land here I had considered buying several or more hectares and making a go at farming of some kind or another. How glad I am that I settled on my little hilltop half hectare, just enough room to have a little fun with and as well with enough space to have planted half in avocados which will provide a small income beginning in another year or two. Sometimes we get lucky and a make the right decisions . . .