Thursday, March 5, 2009

Carlos can make a machine, break it and fix it

Today we flew through more work around the shop, Erica continued sorting, Erin and Dory organizing the roof, myself fixing bikes, and Roca working on the rear mounted liquadora (which makes so much sense i can´t believe Carlos isn´t churning them out by the hundreds!)

I really like Roca´s design, what with the painted gear underneath and all. He also found a little duck figurine he said he´d superglue to it. He rode it down the hill some, it worked great. I can´t wait to make one myself- this is really the way to go, the rear mounted attachments, much less materials, much less time, plus you get to keep your existing bike- so smart!

The ladies and their massive overhaul:

I might not look that organized, but it really is.

We also had a new face show up, not a volunteer per se, more of a friend of a former volunteer. Her name is Christine. She´s just passing through on an amazingly long journey from Baltimore MD to southern Argentina. Holy crap.

You can read about her travels here, or click the link under "realted blogging" at the top right of this page. Also over there you can also find Dory´s blog for her year off from school. (Its really fascinating for me to read what someone else is writing about the... same... things... like being in the twilight zone or something).

Oh! Exciting news! Carlos had a call from the BBC this morning, they want to interview him for apiece that will get syndicated to all the major US networks! He is really stoked.

I asked Carlos after his call, about how he comes up with designs- he said he just sees them. Sometimes in dreams, but mostly he´s always building things in his head. He said he can build something, break it and then fix it in his head. The craziest part is that he says he can do all this while holding a conversation, and that he does all the time. Now, i don´t know that much about itelligence, but what he described to me sound like the brain functionings way beyond normal human capacity- these are the kinds of things that Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein claimed to be able to do. We´ve referred to him as a genius in the past, but i think now we can do so more assuredly.

And somehow organizing inner tubes turned into a giant ring toss with human-sized targets.

Which then devolved into lets-dump-the-bag-on-matthew

Getting walloped in the head felt a lot like this

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

how is this lemon the size of my face?

Weeks ago while i was in Adelso´s shop i met Joel, a very friendly man who was actually the instegator behind the whole, high-end-fashion-in-guatemalan-textiles scheme. The other day, he approached me again with another idea: to turn his nearby urban farm plot into a place for Maya Pedal volunteers to stay. He didn´t mention it, but permaculture was my first thought.

From the way he described it, it seemed like he wanted to build several types of beds, indoor and out and have volunteers pay him to stay there. Something reasonable i´m sure. He impressed upon me to come visit his farm, that the others should come as well. We set a date and, knowing how guatemalan time works, i asked him to come find me at the shop at that time. He was the earliest i´ve seen a guatemalan yet.

Anneliese was the only other one willing to wander off to this mysterious farm, so she and i meandered out there together with Joel leading the way.

We took a path i had always been curious about, i was excited to see where it went (there are so many of those here!) The walk was short, and on the way there was a beautiful sky. The setting sun hit a big cloud and it cast a giant light streak, almost a full rainbow in a perfectly straight line across the sky.

When we first entered, i thought, boy this place will need a bit of work to be an attractive get away. But when we saw the back my mind was changed. In the first section we entered there were a variety of small farm animals, not what either one of us was expecting.

A turkey that made loud gobbles at us. (Anneliese was impressed by my return gobble).

A small but noisy pig. He was very cute, like a puppy.

We then passed through a small gate into the back section. Joel envisions a grand wooden gate at this entrance.

The rear was filled with fruti trees mostly, something a lot like lemons, small hard but sweet peaches, other berries and furits, sugar cane. It was really cool back there and i started getting excited about it. I envisioned little huts much like the ones i had built out in the woods in upstate NY, just posts with corrugated metal on top. Underneath could be cob beds/shelving structures that have a rocket stove built into them to heat up the cob and make a radiant heat bed. I´ve seen plans for them before and the look amazing. The lanscape of the inside could be restructured some to optimize water use, the trees could have smaller complimetary plants plated around them to encourage healtheir growing. The whole thing could get sheet mulched, and it would be long before he would see the benefits.

Ther was a bunny back there that made me think of my sister. (She loves bunnies).

Joel was very nice, he showed us all around and told us about his ideas. He even climbed up into a few trees to pull down fruit for us. A little exaggerated, but a kind gesture. We were very happy to receive the most gigantic lemons we had ever seen, one was seriously the size of a cantaloupe. We also got big sticks of sugar cane and Anneliese got flowers (how did he know I didn´t want flowers?) His pitch was that he wanted money. But both of us are smarter than to just throw money at this guy. Anneliese offered her labor while she´s here. And i offereed to brainstorm designs with him to come up with a plan that would be the first step toward applying for funds. The whole thing has me really excited and i would love to see it happen, i don´t have a good enough sense of Joel yet to see if thats really realistic (people can get pretty behind the ball here, there are some significant inefficiencies built into the culture, like never being on time).

Its a cool idea, we´ll see what comes of it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Charles in Charge


Carlos and Roca working on a rear-mounted bici-liquadora. This is really exciting to see happening finally.

For a while we, the volunteers, have wondered why somethings are as they are. Why, for instance, is there not a price list on parts? Why do the price tags that are on bikes for sale, not actually have a price on them? Why aren´t the volunteers allowed to complete sales?

It appears that there were a certain amount of inefficiencies built into the organization of Maya Pedal as the justification for an additional full time position. Its been a really good thing to be able to provide one more Guatemalan work, this is a very poor country and as many people as possible need work. And some pretty hefty innefficiencies in the organizational structure were what made that possible.

I hope that this doesn`t come across as anything against anyone at all. I completely understand why the organization would be run this way, the whole point of the place is to serve this country and the existence of one more job was doing that. However, i also understand the Board of Directors position on the matter. The changing of the world economic gaurd, from bull to ravenous bear, altered this efficiency equation. And so the position of Administrative Secretary no longer exists.

But don´t worry Johana had a new job well before her postion was termintated, and she´s doing quite well and seems pretty happy about the switch.

We had a very nice going away party for Johana, with a creamy cake (similar but much better than the previous one i´d tried) and a native food- meat and sauce boild inside of a corn meal wrapped in a corn husk- i know the name, but i cant think of it, its something really obvious... any way, everyone had very nice things to say, we all laughed and ate a lot, except for the vegan at the table who couldn´t eat any of it.

I had fun keeping Anjie, Johana´s little girl, and myself amused by playing silly games and giving each other presents like the bone she was chewing on, or Erins rose from valentines day. I´ll miss that little girl, shes a real character.

All of this put Carlos squarely in charge. And there was a strange bittersweetness to the change. We no longer had Johana`s smiling face and cute little munchkin, but suddenly a lot of things that needed to be streamlined could be. And so on day one we began a massive overhaul of everything.

Purely from an organizational standpoint, it was exciting and satisfying to see everything coming together. Carlos knows exactly what has to be done in order for the organization to run more smoothly and profitably, and he set us on that path straight away.

We all hustled about simultaneously, Erin and Dory reorganizing the bike graveyard on the roof, Roca and Erica sorting through and pricing every part in the part room. Anneliese and i getting bikes fixed up and ready for sale. Everyone was feeling really buzzed by all the good changes happening, especially the rapidity with which they were rolled out.

A much, much, better organized pile of bikes.

Things separated by type, and subtype and clearly labeled in english and spanish with their names and prices (all previously unavailable).

I pulled out this parts poster, previously hiding in the parts room behind a shelf where no once could see it, and hung it loud and clear. I didn´t ask Carlos, i didn´t need to- it just made sense to have it out where it could actually be used. And that´s the name of the game now. Its wonderful that the organization is able to pull things together and move in an exciting direction- its just too bad that it had to come at the expense of a career.

While we were working a horse somehow got stuck underneath this truck, it painfully forced its way out. I wish there was something we could have done.

We used the blender for lunch that day- spaghetti sauce, an other delicous concotion of Erin´s (she goes way out of her way to amke sure everyone knows that vegan food can taste amazingly good)

And randomly, a drawing that Johana asked me to do. Its a logo for her new job, if you cant see (sorry) its an open book in front of the world with a computer image on the page, there is a torch and dove centrally featured on top of it all. Not really sure what its all about, but supposedly the symbolism is pretty typical of the area- Catholic someone said.

Monday, March 2, 2009

adios Palo

I had heard that there was another permanent gringo in Itzapa (other than the mormons), but never met said gringo. A few weeks later we ended up at her house for dinner.

Sarah is here with the peace corps, she is working with a women´s collective that makes shampoo- much like Mujeres en Acción but without the bici-liquadora. Maybe they can join forces?

She has a lime tree growing in her courtyard, which we used for the guacamole!

Her apartment was a step up from ours, though far less furnished. We had a nice meal of tostadas with guacamole, tea, fruit and a cake that tasted like queso fresco (not a good taste for a cake) (it was also disgustingly moist- you could squeeze it like a sponge and liquid would drip out).

Palo serenaded us, as always.

Anneliese showed off her crazy elbow tricks.

And we shared youtube videos- Sarah has... wireless

This morning Palo left, which was really sad for everyone. He kept us all well stocked in laughter.
Ahhh, Palo...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

kicking around during sleep-inducing skies

Not too terribly much from the weekend, pretty slow, pretty low-key.

Elizabeth left on friday, i felt really bad, i totally missed her leaving, the internet sucked me into a time warp and i fell out of it many hours into the future where Elizabeth was not. In her place, however, was Dori. Dori is a funny cookie. Also this weekend, two more showed up Erica and Roca, travelling together they are on their way to, or from, mexico, not sure which. They remind me of the kinds of squatters you used to see on south street in philly before the Baby Gap and Reebok moved in. Roca doesn´t speak much english, but he gesticulates energetically with fast sweeping gestures and lots of sound effects. Like Palo, we wonder what cartoon he ecaped from. And what cartoon villian is going to try to capture him and return him to a land of 2 dimensions.

We took, Anneliese Palo Dori and I, a bike ride to Parramos. Palo wanted to givbe a skateboard to a kid there. We wanted to get out of the house. It was a good ride.

Somewhere along the way Dori and i got into trouble, almost simultaneously our bikes both fell apart. We were pretty much at Parramos at this point so we scootered our bikes to the closest bike shop.

My chain straight up broke.

Dori´s rear derailleur fell apart when she stopped to see what was wrong with me. She´d never seen that happen before.

We split with our comrades, Palo took my camera to get a picture with the kid, so unfortunately no hay fotos de the rest of the trip. Sorry. But i can tell you about it.

So we went to a bike shop where we asked to use their tools. It was nice that all either one of us needed was a chainbreaker to get us working again. Though my problem made for a much easier quick-fix return than Dori´s. The folks were really nice, they even brought us water to wash our hands with.

Dori and i figured that they (Anneliese and Palo) were going to take a while so we meandered further into town in search of papas fritas. Several roadside stands proved useless. Though one did tip us off to a restaurant around the corner. We went there and had, what turned out to be, the most expensive papas fritas we will ever have. The highlight of the meal, though, was discovering Tostaditas- a local brand of chip that are so good. We both are determined to find them now (supposedly they only exist in Chimaltenango).

It was nice to have a chance to chat with Dori, she goes to Oberlin and studies, uh, i forget. Something about English with comparative something or other. We commiserated about the confusing nature of gender identity amongst our peers, particularly the language- when i´m referring to former him as the gender neutral they do i use the plural or singular verb form to conjugate?

Our lunch makers were really nice and talked to us a bunch. They sponsor lots of Peace Corps volunteers and have dozens of pictures of them everywhere.

Back at the shop, i decided to shave, but apparently forgot how.

Though, my mustache is pretty sweet.

I look more like Borat than the American Gothic guy. (That´s what i was going for with my pitchfork and all)

Palo got sick-feelings again and Carlos promised to bring him something to drink. Having done this once before, and it being slightly terrifying, we thought we could play a prank on poor sleeping Palo.

Dori found a piece of rotten fruit in the kitchen and we thought it would be perfect to pose as an "herbal remedy" akin to the nastiness that Carlos made us drink the last time. So we stuck it in some boiling water and added tumeric for color.

Groggy Palo thought it was gross and didn´t take the bait. We tried to keep straight, but could help laughing. He believed us though, even through the laughter- it really was the kind of crazy thing Carlos would totally be like "yeah, drink this."

Hopefully all of the new blood will make for some more interesting stories throughout the week.
I´m thinking yes.