As my last post as a teenager, this post will discuss the realities of working on a farm and expound upon the excessive hammocking I have been doing since arriving in Ecuador last month.
Life Tips From a Chill Expert
I have learned that life is kind of like sitting in a hammock you didn’t set up yourself.
Some people just revel in the moment, knowing it’ll probably be awhile before another hammock opportunity presents itself. Others are typing away or reading, forgetting their setting so effectively that they might as well be in someone’s musty basement. Others are laying there apprehensively, waiting for the darn thing to drop while jumping at every creak of the floorboards. Now me, I fall into the last category.
Never before have I had the chance to revel in such quality hammock as I have in Ecuador. Luckily, I’ve basically become an expert on hammocks, so here are some need-to-know hammock things: flashlights balanced against the chest will light up a book or keyboard with surprising proficiency, though you will attract bugs; if it gets cold, wrap the bunched-up parts of the hammock around you as a temporary blanket while you’re too lazy to get up. But prepare to defend you hammock rights, because everyone else will want a piece of that action.
Farm Detail Can be Shitty
Especially on this farm, the hammock is a prime chill spot because sometimes our jobs suck. One of our tasks last week was “shitstop,” a game which I didn’t know we were playing, so I put honey on my face (used to clean it, not just for fun). But the “game” was basically exactly what it sounds like. Matheiu had Olga & Manuel & I scoop cow shit into buckets so that we can make fertilizer. At least he gave us shovels.
We had a bit of a break the next couple of days, working in the garden, building garden beds out of bamboo and planting corn & yuca. After all that, I enjoyed an afternoon cooking Indian curry. My lovely parents had even brought me coconut milk for the occasion. Since I grew up making curries, it was a nice quiet attempt at calming my mind. Then I read a book in my hammock. Thursday was a coffee-picking day, but afterwards we built a tiny house for the tomatoes in the garden and I cleaned the new chocolate processing machine. But it seems like no matter what, there’s always another task on a farm.
Great things about living on the farm include fresh Ecuadorian lemonade & cuisine, staggering views, close-by cacao, practicing Spanish, my hammock, and my crew boss Olga. Things I will not miss include fire ants & their biting stings, surprise spiders, cold showers, rice with every meal, crap internet access, sitting on thorns, and doing jobs I was not told I would have to do.
Tree to Bar Chocolate Making in Ecuador
On the occasional morning, we pick cacao, and spend the afternoon we making chocolate. Friday was one of those days. It was perfect, and all the cacao pods were beautiful… fresh cacao tastes sweet, but acidic and floral as well. It is undoubtedly complex, and always makes me appreciate the flavor of chocolate just a bit more. After work, the owner’s family arrive at the farm and I made curry once again, though this time of the Thai variety. The curry I made wasn’t quite like that you would find in a Thai restaurant, however.
I was missing some ingredients, as usual, and the ones I subbed in weren’t of the best quality, but they were passable. It was kind of like someone was whispering in my ear about all the flavors of Panang Curry, while they delicately placed forkfuls of a creamy & spicy rice dish into my confused mouth. I was nodding along the whole time, but more to please them than anything else. Damn, I was hungry. Either way, I got some echoes of the flavours of home, and that’ll have to do for now.
After a disaster with the cacao grinder, involving honey and clumpy chocolate, plus a day without internet, we were craving the weekend. We wanted bustling days in the nearby town of Pacto, food we didn’t cook ourselves, cheeky bites of chocolate from the machine, a visit to a mountaintop pool. Thankfully, come Sunday we once again had the ability to explore each corner of the world without leaving our beds. What’s more, Marie discovered a tiny bird! And then the next day the cat ate it.
Is This a Coffee Farm or a Citrus Farm?
For nearly the next two weeks straight, our job on the farm was painting citrus trees. When I got some of the paint in my eye, Olga asked me if I was trying to change the color of my eyes. Luckily the paint came out, and the many bites I have all over are from red ants and mosquitoes rather than that huge spider. My visiting friend, Jillian, really only did this in her time on the farm. Outside of work, we went to visit Olga’s neighborhood of Guanábana, from where we went on an informal guided tour of the local flora & fauna while Olga’s niece walked us to the waterfalls.
It took awhile to get there, illustrating to me once again that the journey is often more important than the destination. Bright flowers bloomed above our heads and the smell of nearby fires drifted in and out. We were gone for nearly four hours, but only about fifteen minutes were spent at the waterfall. Later in the week, we visited Olga’s panela-making operation in her village.
Both journey and destination are important, but the view from that mountain is incomparable, and I wouldn’t have seen that specific view had I just appeared at my destination. To repeat this point, today Jillian & I made it off the farm. We took a couple of buses from the entrance of the finca to the entrance to Mindo, from which we then walked six kilometers into the town proper.
We saw much more than we would have otherwise, and it only took an hour and a half! Also, we went salsa dancing for a few hours afterwards. We are currently waiting in a hostel that is very nice and relatively cheap. We’ll see what this weekend brings, other than my birthday. Because I am finally here, awaiting another adventure at midnight, when I turn twenty. Buh-bye adolescence. It’s been real.