Today I went with the delegation to the canton of Virginia. The delegation was going to be walking door to door to do a census and give each of the 120 families a hammock. And indeed, using Spanish pronunciation, the canton is pronounced: veer-hee-nee-ah. This would be my first trip to Virginia. I was excited because I’ve had the opportunity to visit so many other cantons in the area but hadn’t made it yet to this one.
When we arrived in the canton the Directiva of the community had arranged a small welcome celebration for the delegation in the church. The president of the said thanks to the delegation for visiting and the delegate of the word also thanked the group and led us in prayer. Then the small choir sang a couple songs for us accompanied by a guitar and bass.
In the truck en route to Virginia
The church in Virginia
Here it's known as "Pascua"
Talking to the delegation and community
Afterward we were ready to begin the census. We split into two groups with CJ, Maria, and Cindy walking with Cecilia (Pastoral Team), Pedro (translator), and some members of the Directiva and Mitch and Michelle walking with Blanca (Pastoral Team) Kathy (translator), other members of the Directiva, and me.
At each house we were going to verify the names and ages of the people who lived in the house according to an older census. If they had children, we asked if their children went to school and, if so, what grade they were in. We asked if they owned the land their home was on, if they had a milpa, and if they owned the land their milpa was on.
Kathy started out as the translator for our group but then Blanca said that I should give it a try. Later on Kathy would have to be driving the truck while the group walked and it would be good practice for me. I wasn’t translating anything too difficult. Mainly I was asking the families the questions the delegation had and translating when the group presented their gift.
But translating is harder than just having a conversation with someone in a different language. Just because you can speak another language does not mean you’d be a good translator. And, like everything else, practice makes perfect. So I definitely have a lot of respect for people who do translating. The good ones always make it look so easy, when in fact I think it’s difficult.
Also, being the translator means you have to be paying attention and can’t be busy looking at your surroundings or having small, side conversations with people. This was hard for me since I like to chit chat with people at the houses and look around at the homes. But that’s okay, because the reason for the census was for the delegation to get to know the community better.
The first house
Outside wooden washing area
One of the first families we visited
I thought she was adorable
We saw many interesting things as we walked house to house. At one of the houses the family had a small tree/scrub outside their home. On it was growing some sort of spiny seed pods. I’d never seem them before so I asked what they were. They were called, “achiote.” The man who owned the tree opened one of the pods and showed me the small seeds inside. When the seeds are opened there is a reddish powder inside. People use the powder to give color to certain foods. I’ve seen people at the market selling bags of this stuff. Back at the house I looked it up and realized it was one of the best known sources for annatto. Pretty cool.
We also came upon a very organized home today, one of the most organized homes I’ve ever seen in the cantons. When I say organized, I mean organized according to US standards. Now, I’m not saying that people who live in the cantons are disorganized, but as a general rule they have different priorities. For example, when you’re worried about whether or not you’re going to have enough corn and beans to get you through the next year, you typically don’t worry about whether or not the handles of your coffee cups are all facing the same direction. But that was the case in this house. You could tell that everything had its place, and that all was in that correct place.
Soon we came upon Elida’s home. She is the delegate of the word for Virginia and is often at the Pastoral House. Inside, her daughter Lorena was working on making tortillas. Lorena has come to a couple of my English classes and I’ve helped her on homework before. She is a sweet girl. We waited around at the house for a while until Elida came with the other group so we could say hi to her. Then it was off to do the census again.
Achiote, not quite ripe
Inside the seed
Internet photo of an achiote
Happy for her hammock
I love her posture
Corn for tortillas
Walking to the next house
Inside a house with an oven in the background
Cross painted on their door
He accompanied us
A Barbie next to a Christmas tree
These girls are beautiful
Picture with mom
Lorena making tortillas
A tool used to shuck corn
Showing me how to use the tool
When it was getting close to lunchtime we headed back toward the church. I’d heard that there was a house that had a pet squirrel close to the church. So Michelle and I decided we needed to make a visit. Inside the house in a big cage were two little squirrels. They were adorable!! The man who owned them took them out of the cage so we could hold them. Michelle, CJ, and I all held the squirrel. He was a little scared at first but calmed down after a while. I was glad we were able to make the stop.
Back at the church we ate lunch. The community had made us soup full of vegetables and chicken. It was delicious and filled us up after all the walking. There were also lots of tortillas on the table for us. We had enough time for a leisurely lunch and then it was time to start working again on the census.
Walking back toward the church
A beautiful day
He got some lettuce
Can I have one?!
Michelle wants one too
Not sure if CJ wants one
Eating lunch- the women's table
The men's table- I ended up here
At one of the houses in the afternoon there was only a young woman at home. After talking to her we were going to get her picture, just like we did at all the other homes. She requested that Mitch be in the picture with her and she also put on a hat for the picture. I’ve seen people change clothes before having their picture taken but I’ve never seen anyone put on a hat before.
At another house we went to the family had two young children as well as two 6-month old babies. The babies were pretty chunky. Kathy wanted to hold them both and I got some good pictures of her. Then one of the babies started to slide. She didn’t drop him but I thought it was a close call. She says she had him and he wasn’t going to fall. I guess we’ll never know.
Holding a fake, homemade gun
This man's mother died recently
She wanted her picture taken with Mitch
Beans outside drying
The valley below is beautiful
Holding the two chubby babies
It's Mitch's turn
He's too cute
The turkey patrol
A wonderful family
He was thirsty
Explaining the gift of the hammock
An armadillo shell
Not long after that both groups went for a long walk through the fields of corn and beans to get to the last house of the day. Sadly, the bean and corn crops both suffered badly this year due to the heavy October rains. But the community said thanks to the bean donations, they are at least able to harvest a little bit. It was wonderful to be able to see the beans growing in the fields and the ones people have already harvested. Hopefully next year will be better.
Helping out Michelle
Corn and beans
Doubled over corn with beans growing up the stalks
A peek inside
Holding up beans that are ready to be dried
Finding someone's name on the census
The last family we visited
Ajonjoli plant, where sesame seeds come from
I like the purple flowers
Two scraped elbows
Walking back to the truck
Do the limbo under the barbed wire!!
Not even sure what to say about this photo