Brian and Jared both work on coffee farms in San Ramon, a rural municipality in the mountains northeast of the city of Matagalpa. Brian reports, “This has been my third week on the farm, and so far things have been pretty fun!” His family consists of his parents, Carmen and Vicente and siblings Wilmer, Byron, Levy, Bismark, and Ericka. (During our final field trip before the students went on service, we visited Vicente’s farm, having read about the lengthy struggle to retain his land and to practice organic farming despite intimidation and even violence at the hands of powerful moneyed interests and corrupt politicians.)
Brian tells us about his typical day, which begins at 5:00 a.m.: “The house alarm is the radio, [and] usually I am awoken by a random Lady Gaga song. After drinking some coffee, I walk with the cows for the first two hours of my day. I just walk them up and down the road and make sure that they eat and don’t run away. A few have gotten into the coffee fields, so I have had to chase them out. Cows are actually pretty fast! After that we have breakfast around 9:00, and then from 9:00 to 12:00 I just help out with whatever needs done. Some days I weed the cow pasture for three hours (trying not to fall in cow poop – it has happened). Other days I have chopped up the trunks of banana trees with a machete, helped plant coffee, and even fixed potholes in the road. After 12:00 it’s lunch, which is almost always rice, beans, tortilla, and pinol, a liquid corn drink. Then I usually sleep or talk with my brothers until dinner, which again is rice, beans, tortilla and pinol. Bedtime here is 7:00-7:30, so after dinner I usually talk to the family until it’s time for bed. Things are great here in San Ramon, and I am learning a lot! Hope everyone is well in the USA.”
The farm where Jared works is up the road a few kilometers, and coffee is the main crop there as well. Jared’s day starts a bit later, at 6:30. “I then eat breakfast at around 7:00, followed by killing time until around 9 or so, when my brother and I head out to work,” says Jared. “We normally work until around 1:00 in the afternoon. After working, I eat lunch, followed by an afternoon usually filled with either sleeping, watching the World Cup, or running to Brian’s. In the evening we normally eat around 7:00. I then help my siblings with English until I go to bed around 8:00 or 9:00.”
Both Brian and Jared looked like they’ve adjusted well to campesino life — using machetes, riding in the back of trucks, wearing proper rain gear, and getting good and dirty every day!