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How NOT to Visit a Cacao Plantation

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This memory makes me cringe more than most “promposals” do. It’s one of my biggest regrets, actually, which I suppose is an accomplishment of its own.

Setting The Scene

Ocassionally, I think of the past, and the embarrassing or thoughtful things I’ve done in it. I try to live a life without regrets, but have learned that all of us carry them, some larger than others.

One of the few I have is from when I was 19, abroad on my own for the first time. I was working for a chocolate maker in Guatemala City, and he graciously set up a long weekend away for me, visiting the cacao plantation of a friend of his. I spent two or three days with my lovely and generous host, Jorge, and I was downright rude. I was a bad guest, although I was oblivious to it at the time.

Visiting the Farm

I sat by myself, reading a book during the hottest periods of the day; I didn’t make much chitchat, and I had so very few questions (despite his perfect English). Everything that I should’ve been doing— asking questions, asking how I could help him, asking him about his life before then— I neglected in favor of my book and some relaxation. Although I made some conversation and enjoyed my tour of his cacao plantation, I honestly had no idea what to ask him. On top of that, I was struggling with my internship with his friend at a chocolate company in the capital city. We parted on fine, but strained terms.

Jorge seemed to have had a nice weekend. I honestly thought that he would be doing his daily work while I took some pictures and quietly relaxed. But looking back on it 3 years later, I realize how little I contributed to his experience. If he looks back at it at all, it’s probably as a bad one. Just thinking of it leaves a crummy taste in my mouth, especially because nowadays I would probably be able to make conversation all day. Though to be fair, there’s only so much you can talk about regarding cacao before it turns to the farmer’s life and dreams.

But I didn’t ask about any of that. I feel like I failed. I wish I had a way to reach out to him again, though I wrote him a WhatsApp message a few months after my visit, apologizing for being so distant. He had expected more enthusiasm from me, and I was clueless. He gave me some books on cacao and chocolate and I read them while there, but don’t recall asking his opinions. I just didn’t know enough to form any relevant questions.

The Reflection

The only reason I really realized my mistake was because it came in a laundry list of complaints from my boss, ranging from not seeming appreciative enough to putting myself in dangerous situations that I didn’t even realize I was in. Guatemala City is still one of the most dangerous places I’ve ever visited, much less lived in. I apologized profusely, but it was definitely the wake up call I needed, so in many ways I’m immensely grateful to him for opening my eyes so harshly.

So if you every get such an amazing opportunity in the future, please take advantage of it. Don’t waste it away, as I did.

I’ve written letters to both of them, but it feels self-serving and like something I’d regret if I shared them here. Suffice it to say that time and travel are the two things I see completely changing teenagers from young adults into big contributors to society. I grow every day, and I hope to one day show that to my former boss & his friend. But then again, I think the day I’ve truly become an adult is the day that that desire for universal approval goes away, and I realize that some regrets will live on in cringe-worthy infamy, and that all I can do is apologize from the bottom of my heart, and move on. Also, never act like that again.

A germinated cacao seed slowly becoming a cacao tree at a nursery in rural Guatemala, June 2015.


If you find my experience humbling, please share it. Save it for later. Ruminate on it.

What's your biggest regret in life? One of mine is from when I was a teenager, and I visited a cacao plantation for the first time... | #cacao #cocoa #travel #chocolate #chocolat #guatemala #central #america #foodie #foods #must #try #unique #plantation #farm #how #made #biggest #regrets #long #term What's your biggest regret in life? One of mine is from when I was a teenager, and I visited a cacao plantation for the first time... | #cacao #cocoa #travel #chocolate #chocolat #guatemala #central #america #foodie #foods #must #try #unique #plantation #farm #how #made #biggest #regrets #long #term

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