Saturday in the Campo
5:30 A.M. – Ruido Awakening
A false cognate – the word ruido does not translate to rude, but to noise. Roosters, guinea hens, geese, dogs, kids cranky for having been roused to milk the cows. My doña’s in the outdoor kitchen, to which my only window opens, shouting out largely unheeded orders. And then my turn comes, “Vamanos, Juan.”
6:00 A.M. Camino y Cafecito
During a recent visit to el medico, my doña was told that she could stand to get more exercise. Hence, at 6:00 every morning I accompany her on a walk to the river. Now, my doña’s on her feet from waking to sleeping, and I’ve wondered how many miles she covers during the average day, but I still think our early morning constitutionals do her some good. She carries a knife, with which she cuts bushes to make a broom to sweep leaves, fruit pits and peels, and other less-organic basura in the yard. The only other persons we encounter on the road are Haitian farmhands on their way to work. On our return trip, we stop at a neighbor’s house for a cafecito, a shot of strong, sugary coffee. And the folks here take it almost like a shot, chugging it down in a matter of seconds. As for me, I like to hold the warm cup in my hands, as it’s surprisingly cool here this time of year. Not one to waste a minute of the day, my doña begins removing guandules from their pods, a gift from another neighbor.
7:00 A.M. Agua, Agua Everywhere
My host family, like many others in the community, has running water at the house, thanks to an electric bombita ladrona, literally translating to “little thief pump”, and PVC pipe running to the river. Power outages here are more common than power innages, so when la luz se va and the small reserve tank has been depleted, no hay agua tampoco. A couple of weeks ago, during prolonged power outages and several days of heavy rains that stirred up sediment and also left the community stranded by flooding the “bridges” at the entrada and the salida. It was something like some rime from some ancient mariner – hay mucha agua pero no hay nada para beber.
Anyway, it was endearing when my doña sent me to the rió to buscar agua… maybe now I’ll now be treated as just another muchacho in the family, and not as the special guest. I climbed on the ass end of a half-ass (back of a mule) behind one of the other muchachos, with 5 gallon jugs in tow.
In dry climates, laying flat stones like tiles is a resource-efficient way to beautify you yard. In wet climates, laying flat stones like tiles is a way to avoid walking in the mud. But this isn’t the only use for rock tiling here – they can also serve to cover a makeshift landfill. In a place where there is no service to suddenly make your garbage disappear to somewhere else, there are few options: burn it, bury it, or chuck it in the river, as some do. Now, because garbage doesn’t just get whisked away, people seem to be more conscientious about reusing “disposable” products. Also, overly-packaged processed foods are less ubiquitous than I’ve seen elsewhere. Nevertheless, non-biodegradable solid waste builds up over time, and so I spend the morning carting piedras – 3rd world xeriscaping.
9:30 A.M. Desayuno
10:00 A.M. More
1:00 P.M. Almuerzo
Moro – a pilaf of rice and beans. Also, espaghetti, piled on top. It’s typical to eat both at the same meal.
2:00 P.M. More
This time with help from one of the Haitian farmhands who’d been planting yuca in the morning. Hunched over, he balances a large rock on his back as he dances.
3:30 P.M. Al Rió Para Bañarme
Still no water in the llave, so I go to the river to bathe.
4:00 P.M. Finally Make My Rounds
I head out on the calle to saludar the peeps. This is how things will slowly get going on the water project.
5:00 P.M. Dominoes
My walk takes me to a game of dominoes, as it typical does around this time of day.
6:30 P.M. More Dominoes, This Time With the Kids
7:30 P.M. Cena
Galletas, a word translating to “cookies” or “crackers”, but these are neither cookies nor crackers. They’re made from flour, but aren’t really bread either. They’re just galletas.
8:00 P.M. Todo el mundo shows up at my house
Kids yell and scream and play marbles outside my door. Others converse in the kitchen, to which my only window opens. So much for a few short moments of tranquility before bed.
It finally quiets down a bit as everybody heads to bed. Except for the barnyard animals and the 5-year old whaling in the room next to me.