Friday, February 21, 2014

Of Cabbages and Men

Fields in Almolonga
Wednesday, February 19, 2014  Today a group of us went to Almolonga.  The town is fairly close to Xela and only required a short bus ride.  One of Almolonga's claims to fame is it's agriculture.  The volcanic land is quite fertile with a very high water table.  The combination makes farming fruitful.  The land is worked by families for the most part who live in the town and walk (in a few instances drive) to their plot of land.  The area raises cole, zanahorias, perejil, cilantro, lechuga, rábanos, cebollino, y cebolla (cabbage, carrots, parsley, cilantro, lettuce, radishes, chives, y onions) The people are able to get about 3-4 crops a year out of the soil - each vegetable taking about 3 months or so to mature.  

This is not organic farming.  Pesticides and fertilizers are used and not under the most controlled circumstances.  Each area does have a well to water the soil in the dry season.  I saw everything from a formal irrigation system, to a well with "plumbing" for a hose, to trenches flowing with water.  Farmers would get into the trenches and with a wooden "scoop" fling water where it needed to go.  

We passed a polluted and trashed creek/spring where many men were washing carrots.  These  were enormous carrots which were able to be sorted by size and stacked in huge bags.  Before sorting and stacking, the carrots were washed in great enclosed nets.  Two men would hold the net and in a surely back breaking effort, swung it back and forth vigorously in the polluted water to wash off the dirt.  Likewise they rinsed their bags in which they harvested the crop.  The trash that was everywhere, much of it plastics, was incredibly saddening.  There are no systems for trash pick-up or recycling in the country.  The whole carrot-washing process emphasized to me the need to wash your "fresh" vegetables really well before consumption.

Carrot washing
We walked for a couple of miles until we came to one of the 15 or so hot spring baths in Almolonga. Volcanically heated, the baths were popular among the locals as well as a few of us visitors.  The baths are known for their healing powers.  Since I did not have a traje de baño (swimsuit) and forgot a toalla (towel), I sat with two others in the waiting area.  There were at least 32 private bath areas.  If I had remembered the toalla, I could have enjoyed one of those baths a natural, especially since I had fallen the night before tripping over a hole in the sidewalk.

It was an interesting and exhausting afternoon, however, no matter how tired I was, I couldn't be more tired than these gracious people (we were greeted repeatedly during our walk) who do back breaking work just to subsist.  Lord make us truly grateful for the food we are about to eat. 

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