Sunday, July 20, 2014

Four Countries in Four Months

I have been trying to think of one word that encapsulates my last four months. The word jet set doesn’t quite suit at all as I am far from being in the wealthy category. A number of words come to mind for me: overwhelming, exciting, eye-opening, difficult, easy, joyful, etc. Three of the countries I visited were apart of my work for Grounds for Health. I witnessed a community health promoter training, a clinical training, a refresher clinical training, and two cervical cancer screening campaigns in which 500+ women were screened. In addition to this, I was apart of our trip team for initiating our new program in Ethiopia. All the while I learned so much about coffee at its origin, the industry, fair-trade and the impact of cervical cancer in low resource settings. Overwhelming may be an understatement. I still feel very green in all these areas but I have and do enjoy being a sponge.
I often feel as though the time and space continuum is a barrier that I can’t overcome. I did not update my blog at all while I was having these experiences for a few reasons. Obviously time and connectivity plays a factor but I felt it was best to wait until I was able to process the experiences and all the emotions that went along with them rather than constantly having to find the emotions I was feeling or thoughts I was thinking at the time. 
In coffee country of Peru

Drying coffee in the streets in Peru

Somewhere between Jaen and Chiclayo at 2,137m (7,011ft) in Northern Peru.
In Peru, I reached La Coipa, a town tucked in the coffee producing areas of northern Peru.  Interesting facts: coffee is not customarily consumed here and coffee is dried on the streets.  This was my first time back in Peru since I lived there in 2006 and my first time to the Cajamarca region. In Nicaragua, I learned that local non-export quality coffee is served practically 24 hours a day, at least it felt that way.  
Community Health Promoters at the closing ceremony.
 This was my return to Nicaragua for the first time since 2005. It was interesting to return to the country that I first visited outside of the US and Canada and one that had a special place in my heart. I found that Nicaragua was very different than what I remembered with society feeling more closed under Ortega’s presidency. The coffee producing areas were new to me and I made it through every inch of la ruta del cafe. I really love that the fair-trade coffee cooperatives care so much about their farmers and meeting an inspirational woman that runs one. I saw the strength that the empowered community health promoters to educating their communities on cervical cancer. 
Coffee and cupcake celebration

The road more traveled in SNNPR

Water with healing properties!
In Ethiopia I saw and felt so much. Being in Africa again and in a new place unlike any other I had ever lived in. A proud culture and the birthplace of coffee. My first coffee ceremony. Meeting a fair-trade coffee buyer and listening to the importance of fair-trade for farmers. I also saw the aid culture present and alive in Ethiopia and how that presence fails to reach rural areas. I tried tej, dorowat, and learned to love ambo (sparkling water) as the only relief from feeling ill. In Kenya, I took a breather from the last three months, spent valuable time with my partner, and then started to take the pieces apart from the life my partner and I had started in East Africa. I found Kenya still brimming with complexities and fear over the issues with Somalia and a vigilant society to what are considered “others.”  
As I made my way back to Vermont I began to reflect and think about the importance and opportunity I have with my work to be apart of making change that's bigger than me. I also thought about the next chapter of my life, as I prepare to make a life-long commitment to a loving/caring partner and how to learn from my past mistakes and success. The next four  months is going to be similar than the last but I know I will come out better for it afterwards I just hope I can hang along for the ride and keep up!

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