{21.6.14} ~ WWOOFing with Danny ~ [aka] National Take Your Gringos to Work Day

ample compensations for a jerky ascent and much inhaled

bus quesadilla, only the best quesadilla

the 10 km total a Las Pilas takes 45 minutes to trundle
in the bus (up and down, because up is hard to go fast
and down if you do go fast, you crash)

Danny let us come to the farm today! On Tuesday when we went to Entre Pinos (the hotel) he told us about his organic farm, so we were quite excited to see it. I asked last night if we could come with him today, and he looked at us a little funny, gave a wry smile and said sure, the bus leaves at 7. So there we were, at 7 this morning, hopping onto a bus (surprise! Danny owns it… so we don’t have to pay) covered in praying hands decals with ‘San Ignacio, Las Pilas’ writ large in schmancy graffiti-like script on the front. The bus itself is a revamped school bus of the kind you see all over latin america: large colorful lettering with either a reference to God, their mother or the destination of the bus on the front, large dangly things hanging from the horn (tootled with much frequency and aplomb to known passersby), well-loved manual transmission inserted post-purchase (because if you don’t engine brake down the mountains you’ll busting break through a guardrail), “no bullying zone” stickers up front (vestiges of the bus’s schoolgirl days), a radio with psychedelic lights display blaring either mariachi music or salvadoran rap, a bus driver with way-too-cool sunglasses and some gold teeth and finally The Guy Who Takes Your Fare who is even way too cooler than the driver, smacking his gum, swaggering about collecting fares and whistling for the driver to start up again as he runs and dangles oh-so-casually from the door handle as the bus labors onward. That’ll have to do in place of a picture, I hope.

Anyways, after a gorgeous, lumbering 45-minute ascent, we were at the farm. The task was to plant 35,000 cabbage seeds. Danny has to buy them from Guatemala because no one in this country produces them, and each pack of 5,000 costs about $27, so we treat them like gold. We started with some dirt massaging (to get out the lumps and mix different kinds together). This could also be known as a farmer’s pedicure, because the fingernails fill with dirt, the rough stuff exfoliates and the water moisturizes. Or dirt cake making, because we started by sifting, and then mixing and then added water and pressed into pans. On Tuesday, Danny told us about the Costa Rican organic farmers who had evangelized organic farming and healthy living to him about 6 years ago. They taught him to sort of ferment his dirt with good fungus in order to kill the bad and many other techniques to make pesticides unnecessary. He does use them sometimes (and showed us a picture of Danny Jr spraying plants), but actually, a bigger problem than bugs is wind. The plastic coverings on his greenhouses have been ripped off in many places by strong wind, so his production has been curtailed significantly or moved since that happened. One greenhouse they had to take down completely because it got so bad.

just a party of Danny’s greenhouses full of cabbage babies

‘substrato’ aka special dirt

massaging the dirt
(to get out chunks and make it pero suavisimo)

all the pretty dirt

While the rest of El Salvador isn’t willing to pay extra for organic stuff, Danny has pretty enough produce that he does just fine. He’ll be ahead of the curve, too, as more watershed protection measures go into effect. People are starting to realize just how bad pesticides are, here, and the government is starting to regulate their use in the upper mountain areas.

happy cabbagelets

9200 later…. booya!
(Danny, so proud! 🙂

Together, Laura and I planted 9,200 seeds, the same amount that one of Danny’s workers could do in the same amount of time with much less concentration, but hey, we were noobs, and Danny was still fairly impressed. After the planting, we got a plastic bag and went on an avocado hunt. He’s got a bunch of trees that he’ll start harvesting for real next year. I got to climb the tree and get the ones that the poachers couldn’t reach.

I stop at nothing for avocados
(orientation of picture is correct)
tossing my catch

15 total!

On the way back, we walked the last 4 kilometers into San Ignacio, a welcome relief from the jerky engine breaking in the bus. The whole way down, friends of Danny kept asking if we wanted a ride, incredulous that we would want to walk, even though Danny told us that when he lived up there, he would walk down the mountain to San Ignacio in the morning, play soccer, and then walk all the way back up, a round trip of 20 kilometers. Now there are buses, a good rode and nobody walks. The road’s not all good, though. About every mile or so, Danny would point out a place that someone had gone off the edge, sometimes to their death, sometimes just to much fright and renewed thanks for their life, including a famous Salvadoran cantante.

the workers and their princess/fairy/elven queen
(daughter of the guy on the left)

I love sinks here, especially when they give you back
a little bit of sky

escarabajo cara abajo

In the evening we went to the weekly youth gathering where 45 or so high schoolers, middle schoolers and young adults came together for some ‘dynamics’ (activities), songs and a sermon. The dinamica involved much religious symbolism (about taking care of sinners) and much water balloon breaking. The sermon involved much diagraming of the Rapture and much talking by Emma’s husband. Overall, I was really impressed with how many people were in leadership positions and also with how many people were there just from San Ignacio and the itsy bitsy towns surrounding it. The youth leadership team meets and plans the activities, and they did a really good job putting together a cohesive program and leading the group in prayer, song and activity alike. While pretty much everyone kind of gave up on listening to the sermon by the end (it was quite long) it was obviously important to the people there to spend time together. From what I’ve seen at this house, pretty much the only time people hang out with anyone other than their families is at church activities. Everything seems to revolve around the church, the school and the family which, for a lot of people at least, seem pretty inseparable (and two happen in the same place). 

Oh, one last thing. So my height is still an object of many comments and exclamations here. One thing led to another last night at Pupuseria Lucy and comparing heights turned into comparing flexibility (how high will your foot go up on the wall) to me doing the splits to many pull-ups and much pipe climbing. Don’t ask. Welcome to Circus Savannah. Admission: 2 pupusas. Come one, come all to watch tall white girl do yoga.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ruby says:

    Well, glad to hear you're making an impression! ha ha ha


  2. Soren Hauge says:

    Blogging's mighty good for a noob, too. I feel like I was there with you, even without pictures, thanks to perceptive observations conveyed in panavision prose.


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