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!-a-