Last Tuesday I took my students on a field trip to a nearby coffee farm, La Hermandad. The farm is located in the midst of the mountains and its sharp slopes are covered with coffee plants of varying ages. The main purposes for the trip were two-fold. First, I wanted my students to practice photography techniques in a new environment. Second, although many of the children of Matagalpa grow up with beautiful views of the lush countryside, few actually get to experience it first hand. For many students it was their first time ever in a forrest, while for others it was their first time out of La Chispa.
We had nine students and five staff members attend. We were able to use the Bibliomovil to transport us all from La Chispa to San Ramon. From there we rented a truck that carried all of us up the steep dirt road. Each turn revealed gorgeous glimpes of the valley below. The half hour ride itself was an experience, as we were jostled and jaunted, we couldn’t help but giggle. By the time we made it to the top, my sides ached from laughing so hard.
At the top there is a small guest house and reception area where Don Sebastion, one of the owners of La Hermandad gave us an introduction to history and programs of the cooperative farm. The students learned about the need for biodiversity of crops and soil nutrition as well as how the cooperative works. Lastly, he explained about the new school that has been built in cooperation with Planting Hope to help educate the children of the coffee workers.
After the orientation, we took a 3 hour hike around and through the coffee fields. We got to see different varieties of coffee as well as bananas. Also, we took a detour through the jungle in order to get a closer look at the surrounding flora and fauna. The jungle trail was muddy and steep. To make matters worse the dense vegetation darkened our vision and made the hike doubly tough. But the kids were great sports, perhaps better than some of us adults. They helped each other up and down and didn’t bat an eyelash if/when they fell and became covered in mud. Throughout our jaunt in the jungle, we were asked to remain silent (or as quiet as possible) to increase our chances of seeing some wildlife. We were able to see and hear all sorts of birds and insects. I was a little dissapointed we didn’t spot any monkeys, but our guide told us we weren’t quite quiet enough, and mostly likely they had retreated a bit. Having a guide really made a difference as the kids could have all their questions answered: “What kind of a flower is that? What does that bird eat etc.”
By the end of the day we were wet, muddy, and tired. Regardless, everyone had smiles on their faces. The ride back down the mountain was just as amusing and on the bus ride back to La Chispa, the kids couldn’t stop talking about what was their favorite flower, or which bird had the prettiest song. I hope it was a day they will remember for a long time... I know I will.