23 January 2006

Companeros - Day 4

Today was coffee day. After breakfast we went to Cerro Verde, the finca (coffee farm/plantation) where the Don Justo – Coffee with Dignity coffee is grown and processed. There was nobody there and nothing really going on as the harvest is over for the year. There was one guy spreading coffee-pulp compost around some of the coffee plants (organic fertilizer). They collect the pulp off the coffee ‘cherries’ when they’re harvested and the pulp composts in a ground silo to be spread in the off season.

On the way back to Berlin, we stopped just past Alegría to take pictures of the valley. It was slightly hazy but still much clearer than I’d ever seen it before. You could actually see the Rio Lempa and volcanoes across the valley.

Back in Berlin, Bob took his car to the mechanic and Randy/me to the place where he got his cell phone purse that Randy and I both admired a great deal. We had been commenting on his because it was so compact, yet easy to use and it keeps the phone from flipping open all the time…which annoys me no end with the cell phone holder I currently have. They didn’t have one to fit Randy’s phone but I got one just like Bob’s that I thought should work with mine fine.
We met up with the other gringos in the street and all walked together from there so that Kathy and Marcia could get notebooks.

Back at the Casa we had a coffee meeting with the Pastoral Team. We had a version of a contract that no one was sure was ever actually used but we thought it would be a good place to start in finalizing one with Stella (the woman from the finca). We decided it needed modification and translation into Spanish so we broke off into a smaller group to make those changes…Kathy and me for Compañeros, Blanca for the Team and Walter to translate. It was basically lunch time when we finished the larger group meeting and Stella was coming at 2:30 so it was a bit of a rush to get through lunch and finish the contract before she got there. And, in an extremely un-Salvadoran-like manner, she arrived early.

She came with 2 of her sons…Justo (30, maybe? His wife is just weeks away from delivering their baby.) and Emilio (15, we guessed). We started to go through the contract but Stella kept bringing up money owed for this, getting more for her coffee, etc. We tabled the financial stuff to talk about between her and the Pastoral Team, to try to keep the focus on the contract.

Eventually, we got through it and took a 20-minute break so they could meet amongst themselves, the Pastoral Team could meet to talk over their situation and Compañeros met in a third location to discuss our role in all this. We decided all we had to do was support what the Pastoral Team decides. I did some quick Googling on the internet to confirm some information about Fair Trade standards and current prices, which I passed on to Blanca.

When Stella and sons returned, we started the small group meeting with just them, the Pastoral Team and Kathy/me. Walter sat between Kathy and me to let us know what was going on, but we were not there to be part of the negotiations…just represent Compañeros and support the Team. Gauntlets were dropped on both sides and it got kind of tense. They decided to take another break to have sidebar discussions again. Negotiations would continue later in the week.
The Pastoral Team is tough…