Friday, August 26, 2011

Beans, beans, the magical fruit

Friday, 8-26-11

Today we ventured to the city of San Miguel to buy beans…a ton of beans. To explain the reason behind our visit I’m going to refer to part of a report written by Kathy:

“A little back ground: when the Heartland Presbyterian Church delegation was here a few weeks ago, we visited 3 different communities. We heard the same thing in each place: it is bean planting time and most people don’t have beans to plant. The last two year’s harvests were pretty bad due to the climate issues (too wet at the wrong time). So basically people didn’t have enough to eat last year let alone enough to set the best beans aside for the following planting season.

There was a government ‘give-away’ of beans for planting a couple of weeks prior to our community visits. But we learned that the majority of folks in the cantons did not receive the beans. Their names were not on the lists. These lists were initially made correctly by each community’s Directiva – the village’s ‘City Council’ – but by the time the lists got in the hands of the governmental agency doing the disbursal, many, many names were crossed off. We’re not entirely sure why.

The Pastoral Team and the delegation members talked about it and came up with a plan. Without telling any of the communities what we had in mind, we sent out an all call. An all call for funds. This message went to Compañeros members who then sent the request for assistance to their mission committees, congregations and friends. The word spread. And funds began to come in.

Only when we knew for sure funds were coming, we made calls to the communities. We asked for a list of names of the families who did not receive the governmental beans. If a partner church donated funds, their community got called for their list. For the random funds that came in – from individuals, or excess partner funds, we started calling the un-partnered communities for their list of names. Since the fund amount is uncertain, we only called when we had a quantity sufficient to cover that community. And the Team started with the poorest of the communities – and some of the smaller ones. The hope was (is) to get beans for planting to all those farmers who did not receive the government beans.

We hear that funds are still being raised. But today, we bought beans with the funds we had in hand.”

Okay, back to today. Around 7:30am Antonio from El Tablón showed up with his three sons, Raul, Vidal, and Cruz, along with Oscar from Santa Cruz, in a big truck so we could all drive to San Miguel to get the beans. Kathy and I climbed aboard and sat out back with the guys. I always like to ride outside when I can. We got to the big grain distribution place around 9:00am. When we arrived someone brought out beans for everyone to look at. Oscar, Raul, and Cecilia all looked at the beans and commented on how good they were. Oscar even opened up one of the beans to show us to “ojito” (little eye) inside which is the place where the bean begins to grow. It kind of reminded me of what you see when you open up a peanut.
While Cecilia and Kathy went to make the payment I went back to see where they processed the beans. The beans were dumped out of the bags into a big hole in the ground that had a grate over it. The beans were then pulled from where they were by what seemed to be some kind of small grain elevator. At this point the beans are “cleaned” somehow and all the dust from them is removed. Oscar told me this makes the beans better quality and that’s why they look redder than other beans. The machine then spits out beans into bags which are sewn shut.
Soon Cecilia and Kathy had finished paying so it was time to begin the loading process. Each bag weighed 100 pounds and there were 166 bags to be loaded on the truck. That’s 16,600 pounds of beans. At first there was only one guy loading up the truck. He looked really skinny but amazingly he was able to carry 2 bags at a time on his back up onto the truck. But then other people began to help out and there were several people loading.
At this point I went across the street with Kathy to a little pupusería. She said she was going to buy pupusas for everyone. Yay! I was hungry and I imagine everyone else was too. It takes a while to make 24 pupusas so I’m glad we went over soon after they started loading the truck. Eventually all the pupusas were made and people began gobbling them up. I admit, I ate three. By the time we’d finished eating all of the bags of beans had been loaded onto the truck.
We waved goodbye as we left at 11:00am. The guys had put a huge black tarp over the top of the entire truck to cover the beans in case of rain. Great idea! However, it was slippery and got hot quickly in the heat of the sun. We didn’t have to worry about that for too long because after we got through San Miguel the guys pointed toward some dark clouds. And sure enough, it began to rain. We had another tarp to pull over ourselves so we rode under that for about 10 minutes until the rain stopped. We still ended up getting wet since the rain dripped onto the tarp we were sitting on and then onto our pants. But it apparently didn’t bother me very much because I soon fell asleep and stayed asleep until we were back in Berlín.

Driving to San Miguel

There's Antonio

Surfing in the back of the truck

Hola Ceci

I saw a Ferris Wheel but we didn't stop

The grain distribution place

The empty truck

Checking out the beans

Everyone gives their opinion

Beautiful and red

Oscar showing us the "ojito"

Payment time

Where the beans are processed


All bagged up

Beans dumped into the hole

The cleaning machine

How many pounds are there?

Beans that spilled will be swept up later

Starting to load

A slow process

Up the board

Lots of work

The guys

Across the street

Pupusas please!

The cat wants one too!

All loaded


Covering up the truck with the tarp

Tying the tarp in place

Getting up was not easy

On the road again

A one minute nap

It's starting to rain!

Under the tarp

Hope we stay dry

Vidal taking a nap

I was out like a light

We were back at the house at 12:30pm. Now it was time to unload the bags and put them in the chapel. Everyone joined in. Most of the guys were carrying two 100-pound bags on their backs. Idalia was able to carry one bag on her head and Cecilia could carry one on her back. At this point Kathy thought it’d be a good idea to try to carry a bag. Antonio got the bag onto her back but that was about as far as she made it. Blanca came over and told her she was not going to be carrying bags. She told Kathy that their job was to watch everyone.

After seeing Cecilia carry the bags I decided that I wanted to try. So I went over to the truck and Antonio laid a bag on my upper back. I hoisted it off the truck and carried it up the stairs to the chapel. I have to admit, I was pretty impressed that I was able to carry a 100-pound bag of beans. We all took turns carrying bags of beans up to the chapel. I carried at least 10 bags up there myself. And with all of us working together we got the truck unloaded within 30 minutes. Everyone gulped down water after that. Then we said thanks to the guys for all their help and sat down to rest. It was a long morning.

Tomorrow we’ll begin the process of re-bagging into smaller sacks. It’s going to be a fun week! On Sunday we’re going to Media Agua and San Lorenzo. Wednesday we’ll visit El Tablón Centro, El Tablón Cerna, and Santa Cruz in the morning then El Recreo in the afternoon. Thursday is Casa de Zacate, Casa de Zinc, and San Isidro. Friday we’ll be going to La Llanes and San Felipe. Then Saturday is Corozal and Río de los Bueyes. At least, that’s what the schedule is right now; it could change. We’ll be delivering 16,600 pounds of beans for 473 families in 13 communities.

Idalia testing the beans

They backed the truck part way into the garage

Uncovering the beans

Where to start

Idalia carrying a bag on her head

Oscar carries two

One to start for Ismael

Mauricio helping out

A heavy load

Maybe not

Go Ceci!

I can do it!

There goes Cruz

That's got to be hard on the neck

Hard on the upper back too

Waiting in line

There I go

Antonio lifts it onto her head

The bags just keeping coming

Trying to lay it down gently

Stacking them inside the chapel

He's up to the ceiling

Here come more bags

Trying to smile for the camera

Raul carries the bags with ease

Vidal does as well

Sweeping up beans that fell on the ground

There's one right there

Antonio and his sons

Taking a rest


Matt said...

Wow that is a lot of beans. Way to go for carrying so many bags. I'm glad that the people of the cantons will be able to get at least some of the beans they need.

Anonymous said...

Hi, may I ask: do you still go to the school Doctor Alonso Reyes Guerra to teach kids some english ?