Friday, May 1, 2009

So this is where things get confusing for me

Confession: I am not in Guatemala.

No, in fact, i've been home for several weeks, i'm just backed up on blogging. Thus my confusion is in trying to remember what happened when... I'll do my best to recount the rest of the trip as accurately as i can.

It wasn't too soon after Eric left and Sarah re-emerged from a hiatus in Mexico that a whole new cast of characters descended upon Maya Pedal. First there was Tim. Then there was, uh, the umm, crap, i can't remember their names, but a group of three- two gringas one guatemalan. And finally Diana, Steve and their three very blonde boys.

Tim was with us pretty briefly, coming in from Colorado State's Grad School for Business. He spent a few days before seeing us out with Ruben, Maya Pedal's infamous volunteer coordinator, conducting feasibility studies in the highlands. He had terrific insights to share about the experience, specifically how they reacted to the technology, what they wanted from it, and whether or not it could be economically viable to start producing machines on a larger scale than we currently are.

One of the most interesting points that Tim made is that many rural villagers aren't earning any money from their daily activities- shelling corn is just about eating. And without their tasks being monetarily quantifiable, its difficult to convince them to spend any money on something to be more productive, becuase they simply aren't thinking about their work in terms of earning capacity. The angle that seems to make more sense, he said, is not trying to convince them to become entrepreneurs (though they very well could be) but to highlight the time savings and the lessening of the demanding repetitive actions which often cause chronic physical discomfort. However, with little or no earning capacity it doesn't seem like there are too many in this position willing to take the risk of buying a machine- it could cost them a year's worth of earnings, which the desperately need for other vital things. If only the machines were free...

Tim made a good point that collective buying power, particularly through micro-financing could be a really effective way to get these machines out there, being used, earning money, improving the living standards of those involved, and, furthermore, increasing the ability for more projects and micro-finance to get underway. But that seems like a big undertaking that would require a lot of convincing and time from a knowledgeable foreigner or well-off Guatemalan. Hopefully, that person, or a less complicated system will arise. It was awesome to meet someone like Tim who is actively and passionately trying to make that happen.

My apologies to three whose names i'm drawing a blank on (maybe Josue, Callie and Jessye...) These three seemed to be particularly blessed with the small-world touch, they just kept running into 1 degree separated people all over their trip. And Maya Pedal didn't disappoint. One of the girls knew Dory and the other girl knew my girlfriend- they took a class together at Earlham. Neither knew they would be seeing either of us. What are the odds of that? I mean two? At the same time? Jeesh.

They weren't their for very long, actually, i don't think they even spent the night, but they seemed to hit it off well with just about everyone, especially the kids. Josue gave drawing lessons with an array of brightly colored pastels. Meanwhile the girls chased the kids around in the street.

Speaking of kids. We had heard rumor that there would be a family arriving sometime soon, with three little kids in tow. Then somehow the wires got crossed on the communication and we all were under the impression that this family wasn't going to show for a couple of years. Turns out that was a different family with three little kids. Its amazing how people always seemed to arrive in unintentional waves. All of the sudden there were 12 of us, 3 which were under the age of ten. It was a little crazy for about seven hours.

Diana and Steve's sons are named, eldest to youngest, Ryder, Falen and Cassey. Each one is incredibly blonde, very curly, and really sweet. They were absolutely adorable kids. And the total talk of the town. Everywhere they went the women would flock to play with them, to hold Cassey in particular, and as Diana put it "make out" with him (which i took to mean smother in kisses). Diana was a big fan of the spontaneous baby-sitting that occurred pretty much daily, i'm sure it was a nice break for her to be able to wander easily around the market while a gaggle of old ladies cooed over her kids.

Diana and Steve are a really funny pair, they come from Portland and seem to embody pretty succinctly the young, progressive spirit of their hometown. They are super into bikes, Steve fixes up lots of bikes, he bikes to work (he's an environmental geologist), they homeschool their kids, are super into crafts, and very much about having adventures and being awesome bad asses. I'm pretty pysched to go hang out with them in Portland this fall- i totally want to grow up to be them.

Needless to say, the kids were all over the shop, they were super excited about touching and trying everything. Especially crawling into the washing machine we were building.

If i remember correctly, that day was Tim's last. And before he left we set up some machines in the front for him to document for his program. (Photos which later surpirsed us by showing up in Guatemala's national newspaper).

It was an exciting and exhausting day. I don't think we got much work done, but we sure had a good time.

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