On Wednesday, our team had the opportunity to take a trip across the lake to experience some of the local culture and learn a little about how some of the families support themselves. In San Juan we were able to visit a coffee co-op (La Voz) and a weaving co-op (Casa del Tejido) as well as check out the shops run by local artisans.
At the coffee co-op we toured the grounds and saw coffee plants in various stages of life. We were able to pick a bean off the plant and tasted the nectar that surrounds the bean inside the shell. It was like honey suckle.
While on the tour, I asked Bruce if he had toured a coffee co-op before. And in typical Bruce style, he says, "oh yeah, I interned on one in Costa Rica on a summer break from teaching". Bruce is a quiet guy who goes about his business on the build site without bothering anyone. But when you spend a week with him in Guatemala, you learn that he has stories to share for days and might be one of the most interesting people you've ever met!
We toured the area where the beans are sorted, washed, shelled, dried, processed, and roasted. It was really interesting to see the whole process of how the bean from the plant made it to the drink in my morning mug.
The families that are in the co-op benefit by being able to sell their beans to someone else who can then process and sell the product. To do this on your own is very difficult.
All of us enjoyed a coffee drink at the end of the tour!
We then headed to the weaving co-op. This is the same co-op we have visited each year of the trip. Though I have seen the demonstration 3 times, it is fascinating each time. The skill and artistic talent that goes into the process of weaving and making the textile goods is outstanding.
One of the most fascinating things to me is the dye that changes color based on the moon phase and if it is dyed overnight. They use plants to make their colors and when dyed in a full moon indigo is darker than when it is processed in other moon phases.
As usual I was the last in the shop trying not to break my bank account with the amount of items I wanted to purchase. I am a sucker for souvenirs and even more so for products that are fair trade and support women in cultures where it is hard to find work and support your family. (And on top of having beautiful products, they take credit cards!)
Once final purchases were made, we headed back toward our water taxi with a couple stops on the way in the shops.
That evening we were able to have a visit with Fredy and hear about what he is up to now. He is focusing most of his efforts on a nonprofit geared toward helping students complete high school. We were able to bring him some supplies for this (and his new baby due next week!) and he was so very grateful. The work and love he has for his community in San Juan is inspiring!
On our trips, I think the cultural days are just as important as our days on the build site. It is helpful to know more about the population we are partnering with and to support the local economy in sustainable ways.