I stand at the doorstep, caked in mud nearly up to my knees. My doña shakes her head, not amused. It’s about 10:00 at night. Before I know it, my doña’s going to work with an old hairbrush and a bucket of water. “Yo puedo…”, I contend, but my words fade into the ambiente tranquillo of the campo night and my doña will not relinquish the brush. These awkward moments occur frequently.
I only comprehend isolated words in the campo Spanish, where half the syllables and especially any containing the letter s are omitted, and l’s and r’s are switched. So when I heard something about “gravilla”, “camion”, and “Felix”, I thought, bueno, our mason and all-around handy man Felix had arrived at the latrine worksite with the gravel we’d been expecting and needed help unloading. Nope. The truck was stuck in the mud miles down the road to the pueblo. The road had only become passable a couple of days previous after the continual rains from tropical storms lettered F thru I had caused flooding, landslides, road collapse, ect, ect. A crowd had gathered as three pickups chained together in series attempted to pull the truck out. No dice. Tempers in the crowd began to rise like mud over ankles as tires spun and buried themselves deeper. A line of trucks accumulated behind the incident, loaded with freshly-picked produce on its way to market. Men removed their shoes and rolled up their pant legs as the hauled crates on their shoulders to meet trucks arriving on the other side to carry the produce the remainder of the way to town. The truck was finally pulled out of the mud, but only after transferring some of the gravel to other vessels and, unfortunately, dumping some of the remainder on the ground.
My first week in the campo can be described by a series of still-frames. The sight of mist-shrouded mountains that rise from behind the house when I go out to the latrine first thing every morning. Four generations of a family huddled together on the veranda, all removing guandules from their pods. Conversely, a family who´s only had electricity for 3 months watching four Chuck Norris movies in one night. An abuelita, physically frail, but still full of piss and vinegar, lighting up a pipe loaded with locally-grown tobacco. A man washing a motorcycle at a river ford, spinning the rear wheel, splashing up water like a garden sprinkler to the delight of the kids there bathing. The play, sloping upwards from home plate to the outfield, where passionate games of pelota happen every Sunday, and the peloteros argue about whether a ball landing at the outfield boundary with the neighboring finca on the mountain is a jonron or a ground-ruled double, while in the background, farmers tote tanks of pesticides on their backs to spray their tomatoes. A chicken strung up by its feet, flailing its wings one last time as it bleeds from the neck. The face of a campesino illumined by the faint flicker of a light bulb outside of the banca (not a bank, but a lottery ticket vendor) as he contemplates his next move in a domino game.
I haven’t been here long enough to have the confianza I’d like to have to be able to snap the actual photographs. And I almost lost the opportunity to snap any photos at all when my camera fell out of its case on the way to view the local aguaducto – broken zipper. When I returned to look for it later, I came upon a campesina riding a burro down from the tomato fields. She pulled it from her saddlebag and gave it to me, an act that seems to me to exemplify the gente de confianza in this campo.