Random Thought Purge

8 Febrero 2011

Craaaaaaaaaziness

Jose Carlos arrived on Monday, yay!!!!  He is the new volunteer from Caracas, such a great surprise!!!  He studied in UWC-SEA (Singapore), and is back in Venezuela for a gap year.  This is sooo awesome to have someone else here who knows what a “real” UWC is…Sorry, that was somewhat rude and a teeny bit inaccurate.  Simón Bolivar is definitely a UWC, just in it´s own way.  Anyways, we have lots of cool plans, and I think we will be able to collaborate well and really make some progress towards helping this place.

The new director arrived exactly a week ago.  But now he is finally getting into the swing of things – starting to meet students, he already had a ton of meetings with the teachers and gerencia, he´s really cool, and gives me some hope!  No, serious, I think this was just the thing this school needs.  We (the volunteers) met with him yesterday to present ourselves and he seemed to be really supportive of the ideas.  Best of all, though, what not his attention, not his professionalism, not even his reassuring manner of being like a father and friend.  It was something so small, that I imagine many people didn´t even see… It has to do with his dress.  He always wears a nice suit, yes, but when you look very closely you see something somewhat shiney and chiquitititito pinned on the folded collar.  The UWC symbol!

This may seem benign, but when not even the students know what UWC is, and they are attending a United World College, little details like the director´s small pin can have more of an impact.

Here´s what we discussed:

Well, the times they are a changin´….

Or so I thought.

7 Febrero 2011

First the good things:

El nuevo director llegó.

No, no era el nuevo sino el primer!  Antes no había director.  Profesor Francisco era tecnicamente sub-director, pero servió como director.  Supuestamente no se graduó de la universidad, pero como voy a averiguar eso????  No importa, si no tiene título no se importa, pero tiene que y debe hacer sus trabajos .  Él no hacía nada.  Nunca lo vi entrando en una clase para evaluar a los profesores.  Una vez lo vi pasando por la finca, pero no habló con los estudiantes.  Bueno, si hiciera su trabajo y fuese como sea un director, me imagino que no habría clases sin aprendizaje, sin enseñanza.  Estoy arrecha cuando veo las clases aquí en Fundacea.  Profesor Mary les dio una guía de filosofía a sus estudiantes (algo del internet, estoy casi segura) y para el examen tenían que escribir palabra por palabra como fue escrito en la guía.  No se permitía resumir.  Los estudiantes aquí no aprenden sino memorizan.  El problema es que no recuerdan después del tiempo.  No quiero juzgar, pero en este momento – se nota que estoy sintiendo un poco frustración, no – yo creo que la mayoría de los profesores no enseñan bien porque no saben enseñar.  Y aunque me siento mal decir eso, a veces no estoy segura si algunos profesores sí saben y entienden bien bueno sus materias.  Pero eso es la falta de buena educación de Venezuela, espero…

Hay unas muy buenas profesoras.

Por lo menos, relativamente.  Trabajo bastante con la profesora Carmen quien siempre tiene buen humor y yo sé porque lo veo y lo siento que ella sí quiere de su corazón que sus estudiantes aprendan y que todos estén bien de cualquiera manera.  Ella enseña bien, y también me ayuda a acomodar la dificultad del castellano.  Tiene muy buenas ideas y un gran interés de formas más sostenibles de cultivar, solamente necesita el apoyo.  Entonces, espero que con las diferencias que vengan con el nuevo director, viene mas apoyo para la sostenibilidad.

Hoy fui buscándola a la profesora Carmen porque mañana vamos a darles una charla de lombricultura a unos alumnos del liceo de Banco Alto y necesitábamos prepararnos.  No estaba en la oficina de la finca (donde trabajan los profesores de hortaliza, cultivo, especies menores, porcinos, y bovinos) entonces aproveché platicar un ratico con los otros profesores que estaban.  Era las dos y pico de la tarde, hora de clase o oficina.  Y qué veía?  El profesor de cultivo estaba jugando solitario en la computadora, con la novia (que es estudiante) sentada al otro lado de la mesa, no hacían nada.  El profesor de bovino estaba chateando en facebook.  Yo le pregunté, profe, ¿porque no viniste a la clase de ingles para profesores? Tu me pediste clases para ustedes!  Me dijo que fue al cine porque esa noche misma había “Noche de película” presentando “Virgen a los 40”.  “Ajaaa,” dije medio jugando pero de mi mente seria, “usted piensa que el cine es mas importante que el ingles!!”  Pero él pensó rápido y me dijo que estaba practicando ingles escuchando la película en ingles y viendo los sutitulos en español.  Ooookay, ganó…                          Y el tercer profesor estaba viendo una película, pero por lo menos era una película de la finca, algún exposición de caballos.  Ayyyy, pero la única profesora con quien no hablé era profesora leydis, la inginiera.  No le molesté porque ella estaba trabajando!  Ahhhh, gracias a dios, que hay esperanza.

Llegaron los haitianos!!

Ellos son del primer año pero no llegaron al primer de octubre con el resto de los primer años.  Había una problema con los documentos para retirar sus visas, algo así.  Puede ser por la parte del gobierno loco de Venezuela, o que en Caracas (donde está la oficina de Fundacea) no hay tantos empleados para hacer lo necesario, solamente Izamar, Reina, Johanna, Dr. Marcano, y una voluntaria estudiantil para contestar el teléfono.  Así no sirve, pero es complicada y no debo concluir de mis pocas observaciones….

Beceros

Diciembre 2010

One of my favorite departments of Fundacea is Desarrollo Rural.  Aside from the positive changes they are bringing to las comunidades aledañas, the rural development team is also one of the most effective and busy departments of the college.  They have multiple projects, a few of which I am about to explain, and all are seemingly successful.

On the first of December, about 20 guests were invited to Fundacea for a celebration.  Ten children from families around the area were selected to receive un becero (calf) as part of a micro-credit development project.  The idea is that Fundacea gifts them one of our baby calves, the children take care of the cows, feed them, wash them, keep them healthy, and of course the family helps with maintaining them.  Then when the calf is grown (five to ten years later) and the children are older and more responsible, they sell it.  The full-grown cow or bull is worth much more as it is bigger.  With the money they earn from the sale, they repay the original price of the calf back to Fundacea, and they keep the rest as their first personal earnings.  It could go towards food, school supplies, whatever…

Teaching English in Mijaguas

3 noviembre 2010

Oiiy!!  Nearly complete chaos!  A pesar de que todavía me cuesta un poco entender el español, me siento más confundida que antes!  Yeeeks, from what I have seen at least, the school is majorly disorganized.  Kids are running from place to place, entering and exiting classes, teachers leaving and coming, major disruption.  I would like to see how the teachers actually teach.  (They always leave when I come for English classes.)  And apparently one English class and one sports activity (with the other Fundacea CADS activity) is enough learning for one day.  The students leave after the class.  And the lady who appears to be the director or main teacher, what the heck??  What does she actually do?  Why does she select certain kids each time to leave for other activities?

Ahh, I didn´t even know what to ask, there was so much going wrong.  Ligia, I think that´s her name, the purported director, had to come into the class to lecture the 6th graders about behaving.  One of the girls – who was really getting on my nerves – went to Ligia to tattle-tale on some other kid who was out of his seat at one moment.  (He had actually behaved better than the tattle-tale girl…  He was one of the few who was actually spending more time in his seat than out, but apparently he is on the bad side of the tattle-tale girl.)  Anyways, they were somewhat silenced and calmed by the embarrassment that I suppose she imposed.

But I felt bad; if the students are used to following the normas the Venezuelan way (meaning not following them), I cannot suddenly expect them to follow them the American way.  The rules are pretty much the same – don´t talk when others are speaking, listen carefully to the teacher, etc. – just like my own second grade rules at Rama Road Elementary School.  The difference is the manner in which the rules are respected.  What I didn´t know was whether or not the kids were behaving so chaotically because they were accustomed to that way – shouting out, leaving and entering class as desired, getting up to talk to kids from other grades who are interrupting, there was even some boy who came in to sell ice creams! – or if they just didn´t realize that I would enforce the rules.  So, I took a moment to lay down the basics, the things they already knew.  There, ya saben, muchachos.  Now you know.  Then the next time they disrespected their classmates I pointed it out to them. ¿Qué les dije? They needed to see that I was serious and that I wasn´t going to forget the rules.

Then, when I asked for a volunteer to teach the numbers and two of the kids practically ran into the chalkboard before I finished the question (en serio), I made them sit back down and chose another student.  I was pleased to see that they were so eager to participate, but at this point, learning to behave was more important than learning to count in English.  I had to repeat the activity so that I could ask for another volunteer.  I wanted to give those guys a chance to volunteer, but they had to earn it.  The second time they at least put their hand in the air, but they were still running towards the board.  Luckily the class needed a lot of number practice, because the education here in Barinas does not seem to include the concept of raising a hand (nor for the students here in Fundacea).  And it was not until the fourth and fifth tries that those two over-zealots finally got it.

Anyways, as frustrated as I had felt – due to the institutional disorganization, interruption, lack of general respect, and lack of any kind of guidance or orientation, not because of the students´ actual behavior – I really think I would like to spend more time teaching.  I would love to be their full-time teacher.  Then maybe I might be able to accomplish something.  Once a week is not sufficient.  And I really want to work with those kids; it reminds me of when I used to play school as a kid!

The only thing is that I really don´t know how I can or should or would deal with this general lack of respect that I am observing, or perceiving rather.  I really don´t believe it´s my place to judge, but I can´t help but wonder why this standard respect for others, self, and environment is so rare…or distorted rather…here in Venezuela.  This problem seems to be worse here than in other places I have visited in my young and innocent life.  It makes me wonder, is it a cultural thing?  Perhaps respect is shown in other ways……Like when the group of students waits for whoever is still coming, or when they always offer some of whatever it is they have regardless of how little there is, or when the last one off the bus pays for everyone, or when there is almost always someone to sit at the table with the person who is still eating, and everyone always wishes buen provecho even if just passing by.

But something pokes me in the side.  Something is missing here, and I can´t put my finger on it.  I believe it is that respect (for the self, others, and the environment); if it were not lacking, the people would be much more content, happy, and pleasant.  But I don´t perceive them that way.  They pretend to be, or they tell themselves they are, but deep down, I don´t feel the good vibes like I felt when I was in Costa Rica….

I noticed this today when some of the Fundacea students were goofing off, killing time, in the plaza in front of the school in Mijaguas.  I had thought that we were waiting for the classes to start and we didn´t want to distract the students by hanging around inside the school.  (As usual, though, I was completely lost – at this point my castellano was still in major need of improvement.)  I later realized – when Ligia chastised everyone – that the Fundacea students were avoiding their activity!  I wonder, do they really want to help these kids in Mijaguas?  If they did, for me at least, they wouldn´t have behaved that way.   Perhaps they just weren´t thinking that as Fundaceaistas we should set an example, because many youngsters (and oldies) are looking at us.  Maybe that’s why Freddy and Johnny were telling some story to make fun of one of the other students, gritando como locos y haciendo bullas, throwing out explicitives, and not setting a good example for the school kids who were all around watching.  Sometimes they smoke cigarettes there (even though Prof. Erica, the encargada, told them not to).  Ah, I don´t know, I hope this is just my cultural barriers distorting my perceptions, something that I am misunderstanding.  I am just so disappointed when I see the way they act when they are supposed to be serving others.  I will ask Prof. Corona for advice; perhaps they never had an introduction to community service etiquette.

Any ways, on a positive note, the school is very bright, full of colors and paintings, and very proud of Venezuela´s independence, existence, and national identity.

The Real Truth

Credits to my really rude but equally lovable friend Mike for inspiring me with his perfectly posed “Skype video cam” reaction… We were catching up after a very long time – which really made my day, thanks Mike! – so naturally I was telling him about life here in Venezuela.

“Dude, so tell me, what’s it like??!”

Ah Ha, well, as it is the start of Christmas holidays, there are only 8 of us here right now.  That is because of the 97 students here, 87 are Venezuelans, so they all go to their homes for December.  Although this is technically an “international” United World College of Agriculture and Rural Development, there are only 11 international students, and that includes me, the American volunteer.  There are three Haitians, an Antiguan, a Hondureña, a Salvadoreño, a guy from Belize, a guy from Cameroon, a Swedish guy, and a Nepali guy.

“Whaaaat??!!!!”  Mike’s eyes got so huge, I couldn’t help but laugh as he is not one to easily show such shock.

Yeah, there used to be a bit more international students in the “good ol’ days”, that was back before Venezuelan efficiency had really debuted.  Now the first year class is pure Venezuelan, not that that is a bad thing, but it certainly makes the UWC sense of international and cross-cultural understanding very difficult to promote when every one is comfy in their beloved tierra.  Well, really nobody really notices this deficit – aside from the internationals – because most students, and I believe a few teachers, do not even know that this is a United World College.

That was a bit of a shock for me.  It is part of the freaking name, come on folks!  But sadly there are many out there who are completely unaware of their opportunities, purely because of ignorance.  That is good, though, if they already new about all these things, what would I be doing here?  But sometimes it makes me worried that I may not be able to fulfill such a deficit all on my own.  I mean, I’ve been here two months already, and I still can’t even get those darn kids to attend the English classes.

But, I have seen that there are some very motivated people out there, at least in Venezuelan standards.  Greisi, she is from Pedraza, the town nearby; she helped out quite a bit on the afternoon of the Noche Internacional.  I got to know her through the Mahi Ve practices we did, and I really learnt to appreciate her interest.  She was so enthusiastic about our dance; she organized our costumes, found other accessories, she even wanted more rehearsals.  Then on the day of, she was the one who put together the cartelera that I had not had time to assemble.  It was a showcase of “internationalism”, basically a bunch of touristic posters.  Anyways, she helped out just for the sake of helping out, and showed a genuine interest in becoming involved in something other than the Venezuelan norm…that made me happy.

 

Welcome to Fundacea

Fundacea is the “local” name here for Simón Bolivar UWC, originating as the name of the founding organization that runs the school from Caracas. Aside from that, it is used by the “internationals” to represent … the reality.

Not to say that “Simón Bolivar UWC”, as it is called only by the “outsiders” (folks from other branches of the UWC movement), is fictitious, but here in the actual college, here in Pedraza, Barinas, things are veeeery different than they seem from elsewhere.

Originally I was intending to write a huuuuuge exposé on how completely different things are here in Fundacea, a kind of parallel to the previous post. But the more I reflect, the more I realize that it would have been extremely … hmmm … sensitive to the culture shock that I am just now beginning to overcome. So, with that in mind, I do have some explaining to do, but my perceptions, realizations, observations, etc, are now much more adjusted, I suppose…

First: Demographics

The school currently hosts only 97 students although there are 180 spaces. Logically, there should be around 60 students in each year. However, due to economic difficulties (as well as extreme mismanagement), the supposed availability of scholarship offers is declining. The second year class has only 21 students. They started with much more, but many students dropped out over the year. The first year class has 30, a bit more hopeful…

Of the 97 students, there are only 10 internationals: 3 Haitians, an Antiguan, una Hondureña, un Salvadoreño, un de Belice, un de Suecia, un de Camerún, y un de Nepal. The original rule for the college was to have 75% Venezuelan students (with the idea of spreading agricultural improvements throughout the home country) and 25% international students, selected by UWC national committees. But with minimal financial resources, it is much “cheaper” to offer a Venezuelan scholarship than an international scholarship. An international scholarship costs $13,200, and includes tuition, room and board, extremely basic health care (it does not even cover an apendectomy), and one roundtrip airfare from the home country to Venezuela. Imagínese, a flight to Venezuela from Africa or Asia can cost around $3,000. Yeeks! So, naturally, it is easier for the college to select the majority of students right here from Venezuela.

Of the Venezuelan students, the majority come from Los Llanos, estados Barinas, Portuguesa, Lara, and Táchira. There are a few from Caracas and a few from Bolivar, la parte amazónica. The cool thing is that there is a fair representation within the student body of Pedrazeños, students from the same town as Fundacea. As a result, the school is extremely well-known throughout the area. Actually, it is quite funny sometimes, how similar it is here as to being in New Mexico. Whenever I go to the town, everyone knows “Fundacea student”. I guess my blonde hair and blue eyes indicate that, with very high probability of success, anyone can figure I am not from here… The Venezuelans are very friendly (although sometimes very shy), so just like the Las Vegans can easily identify any of us from UWC-USA, the Pedrazeños usually will ask me if I am from Fundacea. Yeah!!!!

I really love going out to the town, although I don´t take advantage of as many opportunities as I should. Working with the people from outside of the college is one of my favorite things to do here! But I love it too much that I will have to write more specifically about Pedraza later…back to demographics!

Aside from the major deficiency in international students here, there is also an even more major (I am pretty sure that is grammatically incorrect, so forgive me English teachers…) deficiency of women. Well, amongst the student body at least. There are quite a few profesoras, but amongst the students, there are only 20 girls. We don´t even fill one dormitory to its full capacity. Less than a fifth of the population.

Naturally this affects the atmosphere of the school, in many ways more than you´d expect. The boys are always very … hmmmm… boyish? They spit a lot, they walk around without half of their clothes (outside and in the dorms at least), they smoke, they eat chimo (some kind of gooey chewing tobacco that they say tastes like chocolate), they go hunting, they play a loooot of soccer, they lift weights, they use a looooooooooooot of groseria (vulgar language), they often speak with a sexual innuendo, they drink a ton of beer, they are loud, they don´t clean their rooms, they are obsessed with girls, and they´re pretty goofy. It´s okay, I like the differences. It makes me appreciate Saturday mornings way more when all of us girls wake up early and clean our room and the hallway leading to outside. I guess this keeps our dorm from getting too stinky.

The only thing is that these boys, with all of their testosterone cycling through the air, do not learn how to behave in front of the ladies. If you know what I mean… Actually, I never realized that this other side of them existed. I guess the American boys paid more attention in etiquette lessons.

Sometimes when I go to the cuadrilla (morning class outside in the field) I am the only girl in the group.  In these cases, the boys are usually very gentlemen, but they don´t let me do the hard work!  It appears I may have given them a culture shock, as I am one of the few girls who will actually use the escardilla (the thing to dig and move the soil) to make a cantero (a raised bed of soil).  I´ve noticed, the Venezuelans, llaneros rather, are very much old-school, at least in their interpretation of gender differences.

Colegio del Mundo Unido Simón Bolívar

Simon Bolivar UWC is very different from the rest of the United World Colleges. First of all, located in Barinas, the farming state of Venezuela, this school has a focus on agriculture and rural development. Rather than studying the International Baccalaureate, students here study a three-year technical program, perhaps equivalent to an associate´s degree in farm administration. The program was developed in the 1980´s by Dr. Luis Marcano, the Armand Hammer of SBUWC, modeled after the methods of the great Venezuelan hero Simón Rodriguez (second in line after Simón Bolívar). Simón Rodriguez was an innovative educator, notably for his experimentation with experiential learning, and became a model for Dr. Marcano in the area of experiential learning.

SBUWC is certainly a fine example of “aprendiendo haciendo”, learning by doing. The students have a very different class schedule than any other UWC. In the mornings, they head out to the different sections of the schools 750 hectare farm – Hortalizas, Cultivos, Bovinos, Porcinos, Topografia, Mecanización, Especias Menores, etc – where they spend a month working in the field alongside the professor´s expertise, fine-tuning their familiarity with the land. The idea is that the students maintain the different sections of the farm, and as they milk the cows, weed the gardens, and harvest the plantains, they gain a strong understanding and practical knowledge of the subject. And, as true with any UWC, the students most certainly develop their ability to work well with others by sharing the “field” experiences with their classmates. This week I have been attending the Hortalizas classes, and I´ve seen that despite the hot sun and humidity, the semilleras were prepared, filled with soil, weeded, planted, and cared for by the seven students working together.

Every Wednesday morning, classes are suspended as the students go into the community to work on the service and rural development projects. First years participate in the CADS program (the SBUWC version of CAS) where they go to schools in Mijaguas (a nearby town) to offer classes in English, sexual education, journalism, sports, and huertos (school vegetable gardens). Second years have a class with Profesor Corona on community development. Third years various towns nearby and work on their service project which was developed during their second year. For example, one group of third years goes to the school in Las Monjas just beyond Pedraza where they help them with the cultivation of a small patch of land behind the school that is going to be used to sell plátanos, maíz, ají, calabaza, cebollín, and other easy to grow vegetables to raise funds for classroom materials. (Here in Venezuela, the government provides money for school meals, but nothing else, not even pencils. That is why they do not use textbooks here.) Profesor Corona is the guy who runs this whole program, and he knows a lot a lot a lot. He is certainly a very important colleague to me, and besides, he is one of the nicest guys here in Barinas. So I am excited to work more with him.

Oooh, I can´t believe I nearly forgot, el comedor!! Here at SBUWC, the dining hall receives almost all of the food from the farm here, and they serve a LOT of food. The school currently has 400 cattle which supply the main nutrients for the Venezuelan academic. Pretty much every day there is some form of beef. (I really miss my carrots and apples…) And here in Latin America, the whole animal is used. I like that idea, but as hard as I try, I still have not been able to swallow the hairy looking pieces of stomach that are sometimes in the soup. Every lunch – and usually dinner, too – is accompanied by rice and, at least a few times a week, pasta. This, I am pretty sure, is purchased or donated from outside. (Izamar mentioned once that Monsanto donates rice…uh oh.) There is also always a piece of plátano, or sometimes yuca. These come from the cultivos section of the farm. Other various vegetables, mostly ají, come from the hortalizas. Specialties like carrots and potatoes and lettuce are purchased from other Venezuelan states where the climate is cooler. The milk comes from the cows here. I believe I remember Antonio, el vaquero, saying that the cows here produce 300 liters per day, most of which is sold. (something to check on…) And I am not sure about the chicken. El comedor serves a lot of chicken, so I do not believe it comes from this farm. But they do utilize all parts of the chicken as well. I am always curious, though, why they do not serve more eggs. Those are somewhat “renewable”…

The other cool thing about SBUWC that I nearly forgot is that they use composting toilets!!! Well, sort of. The bathrooms here are not quite as fancy as those in COA. There is running water, and we do not add woodchips. But all of the sewage goes down a long tunnel to a deposit somewhere in the middle of the forest in the farm. I believe the shower water goes there as well. I am a little worried, I didn´t realize when I first arrived, and I dumped my mop water (which was mixed with cleaner) down the drain. That could be an interesting assessment: effects of chlorine bleach, laundry detergent, and other powerful chemicals on compost formation.

Okay, now this is hopefully the last thing I nearly forgot – physical description. The school is situated on 750 hectares of farmland. Some of it is cultivated, some of it is pasture, and some of it is forest. At the entrance are the main buildings – a set of classrooms, offices, a computer lab, a library, and bathrooms. There is a main administration building where Francisco Amos, the director, works. There is the dining hall and kitchen. And there are six módulos, or dorms, each named after the continents. Oh, and there is a small gym where the guys like to lift weights, a football field, and a basketball court. The thing I like the most about the buildings here is the lack of air conditioning. (except for the offices, which use window boxes) Although it can be pretty hot and humid sometimes, the fresh air is really nice, and I believe the fans here use much less energy than a home cooling system. My sister would die here in the heat and humidity, but I really like it. I think I was born to live in the tropics.

Aside from the formidable climate, there is always an abundance of nature, a characteristic of the tropics – birds outside my room, birds in the trees, birds in the fields, soooo many birds!! (My favorite is the miniature egret that I always see playing in the grass.) I remember learning that birds are a strong indicator of a healthy ecosystem, so SBUWC’s land must be in superb condition! There are soooo many cool bugs, too! The other day while walking to the cow pastures, I passed a humongous ant pile. It was incredible! I have never seen such a thing. It really makes you realized the power of teamwork to see those little tiny ants building such immense structures. (Hmm, and it kind of reminds me of the Egyptians building their pyramids.) And here just beside the classrooms, I nearly squashed some ants once. They have a highway going from one part of the grassy field to their house that is underground (I suppose). There is a little tiny window – that looks kind of like a mini-bird’s nest – that they climb in through. Sooooo coooool!!! Anyways, I decided to make a field journal for all of these fascinating subjects, so I won’t tell all the surprises yet.

Ahh, and one last thing, I swear. I was saving the best for last: compost!! In the cafeteria here, everything, EVERYTHING, goes to the pigs as their food. If you don’t eat it, drink it, use it, it goes in the big blue bucket for porcinos, even the napkins. It is hard to tell just by eyeballing it, but I believe there is much less waste than at UWC-USA. The thing is, though, the bandejas (trays with different compartments that function as plates) are all returned to the dishwashing window, some of them impeccably clean, others full of a nearly entire meal. Everyone knows that the food will go to the pigs if you don’t eat it, but when you don’t scoop it yourself, you don’t get that same consciousness of waste. Anyways, the food waste in the cafeteria here doesn’t go towards compost. Instead, the cultivos class makes compost holes where they deposit farm waste, things like the fallen plátano leaves, grass, and other yard waste. It is really massive, like an over-sized Jacuzzi. The teacher was explaining all of the chemistry to me, but I got a little lost in all of the Spanish. I´m pretty sure it´s the same chemistry as in an English-speaking compost pile…I wonder if their compost hot tub is going to smell as bad as the holes we dug up last year. Yeeeeks, just thinking about that experience slightly makes me want to vomit. (The excess of wet, nitrogen-rich food waste that had no aeration nor chemical balance had gone into lactic acid fermentation and turned into a slimey gooey slop that smelled really ugly.)

I realize this is quite scattered, and I am sure there are still more details that I meant to include, but I have reached my writing limits. (And, besides, it is lunchtime, and I am really hungry!!) So, forgive my disorganization. Some of these posts will be very … free… just like this one, others will hopefully be more formal, or at least better written. Until then, Cheers!