In all honesty, I lucked out on the date I chose to post. My irritation with having to wake up early was quickly washed away when we made our way to the Coffee Plantation. Just like every other experience I have had in Costa Rica, I didn’t really know what I would be up to until I went ahead and did it. By the end of the day, I got a basic understanding of many aspects of the coffee industry. Today far exceeded my expectations to say the least.
We got out of the van around 9:15 surrounded by beautiful fields of Café. I felt a tad uncomfortable because of the sunburn I got from playing soccer in Ciudad Colon the day before. However, the clouds soon came out, thus ensuring us with fair weather for the rest of our visit. We then drove down to the house of a local Coffee farmer. After seeing 80 year old Don Manuel with the machete strapped his side, I knew that the tour wouldn’t be bland. We were provided with a history of the location and a fantastic meal. When Don Manuel started singing the songs of old with his guitar, he became someone that I won’t forget anytime soon.
Throughout the day, I remembered the words of our guest lecturer on Friday, Victoria Fontan, who said, “There is no coffee plantation in Costa Rica which is clean.” It’s sad, but true, that Don Manuel wasn’t an exception to this. He told me that most of the workers during harvest season were Nicaraguan laborers, some as young as 15. The problem is that our definition of worker’s rights varies with the way things operate in this environment. This case of Don Manuel isn’t one where his coffee profits go to some US corporation, so in this case there isn't a simple right or wrong solution. I'll back off from starting a debate, that is best for another setting.
After we finished our feast of various fruits and beverages, Don Miguel encouraged me to pick some mangos from his tree. By the time I actually reached the mangos, a green one hit me in the face, green mangos aren’t soft. Don Manuel soon gathered the group and gave us a tour of his non-caffeinated plants, we ate Manzanas de Agua straight from the tree, pura vida.
The tour continued from Don Manuel's house to the factory where they actually made the coffee. This place was a stereotypical industrial factory, but with coffee added, it was quite the sight to take in. The highlight of my day was when I leaned into the large coffee roasting machine to take a picture. Right as I was as practically inside of it, a huge blast of coffee smog shot right into my face. After the chaos, I saw Paxton got hit just as bad as I did. The emotional trauma lasted for the next few minutes.
We then walked down to where the fertilizer was produced. Inside of a large greenhouse facility, the old coffee bean peels were decomposing. Mind yourself that this facility was gigantic. Our tour guide lifted up a piece of the compost to reveal that it was just teeming with worms. We learned a bit about the science behind the compost, but I was still hung up on the fact that our group was surrounded by an infinite amount of worms.
This was also the first day in which we had instruction in Spanish. As a lover/student of the Spanish language, the lack of instruction in Spanish was one of the things I wish could have been different about the trip. So for this excursion, I was pleased to be able to test my Spanish abilities with Don Manuel, and the tour guide. I also had a run-in with the German swimmer bro whom more than half of the group found highly distracting. He told me of his travel experiences and how he’s staying in Costa Rica for over a year working closely with the Coffee industry. I thought it was great to see a guy who’d go off into a foreign land and completely immerse himself. It was only until after the tour that someone told me he spoke English.
On a whole, the day was fantastic. Upon getting back to Ciudad Colon, Francesca and I went to the market to do some work and feast. My bill was 1200 Colones ($2.40) for nachos, a taco, and hot chocolate. Sabrosa.