22 June 2012

Farm chores and Political chaos

Much has happened in the past four days!

I have been on a rotation of the different parts of the school in order to see them all before I start my own projects. This has been a great way to learn more about the school's model as well as meet more of the students and staff. First and second year students go through all the rotations as well, spending a month at each section and then choosing one to specialize in, where they will spend their entire third year.

Tuesday- 'Planta Láctea', where all of the dairy products are processed. I cut, deseeded, and peeled pumpkins for two hours to make marmalada de zapallo (a cross between jam and dulce de leche) and watched them start the process for dulce de leche, made from our own cows' milk.

Wednesday- Marketing- I left the school with a group of students from the marketing class at 7:30am with a basket of produce. We caught a bus to the nearest town of Benjamin Aceval (about 10-15 min away) and went door-to-door trying to sell our radishes, lettuce, garlic leaves, parsley, green onions, cheese, dulce de leche, eggs, and pumpkins. It was a very interesting experience (definitely need to work on person-to-person marketing with some students) and I enjoyed touring the town on foot and interacting with directly with our customers, many of whom had questions about the school and how I came to be there. By the time we made it back to the school at 11:30am, just in time for lunch, we were all exhausted and only had a couple of unwanted cheeses left!

Thursday- Animals! I helped catch a bunch of baby goats, feed baby cows, and collect eggs from almost 3,000 chickens. Then all of the eggs had to be washed, sorted by size, and packaged. I only broke five! Then I helped with the ordeña- milking. I was originally told I should come help milk at 2am, but I opted for the 2pm milking time instead, figuring the first time I milk a cow should be in daylight in order to avoid disaster. Needless to say, I will not be making a living off milking cows by hand anytime soon! You have to pinch your thumb and forefinger at the top of the teat and then tighten your fingers downwards in order to squeeze the milk out instead of pushing it back up into the udder. This hand coordination and strength was hard to figure out. The students let me milk one cow and then gave me other tasks. I also watched three students use small twigs to pick fly larvae out of bloody holes on some of the cows. Disgusting, but very interesting.

Friday- I spent all day today in the kitchen. Cutting up pumpkins (they're in season) and helping prepare the cocido (traditional yerba mate tea with milk and sugar) and a pumpkin soup. I am definitely not eating the delicious farm food as I was expecting, as costs and culture get in the way. I could always spend more though and buy the products from the student-run store, so that's a nice option to have.

My projects have now been finalized with the school's principal:
1. Creating and designing an interactive map of the garden space that is to scale and shows crop rotation, date planted, and seasonal information.
2. Evaluation and suggestions of the nutritional value of the school's menu.
3. Assist with the marketing classes.
4. Help digitalize the curriculum- typing and taking photos of lesson plans, assignments, readings, etc.

I will immerse myself in my own projects starting next Wednesday, after I finish my rotation. It's all very exciting! I shall put the story of political turmoil in another post, as it will also be lengthy.

Enjoy summer in the states! (Especially those of you who are in California.) It's cold here!

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