The Importance of Learning Outside the Classroom

All it took was 48 hours for 9 participants to feel as though they have known each other for weeks. I suppose it’s something that’s mixing in the fumes of the concrete, or something dug up in the bottom of a hole built to provide a school for the youth of Guatemala. Nevertheless, the time spent within the first couple of days of our nine-day adventure built a strong foundation of knowledge of fair trade, the coffee industry, and the expectations of what the next six long, but seemingly short days have to bring.

>Operation  Groundswell gettin' around

The super luxurious OG limo

On day uno, we spent our day in the coffee fields working for As Green As it Gets learning the processes of coffee, and the amount of work that goes into its production. We started out in the fields picking the fruit, pulped the fruit into seed, washed the seeds, sorted the seeds, roasted the seeds, and then crushed the roasted the seeds into coffee grind (to put it lightly). From the fields, we went to the farm to assist the construction of a bio-poop hole for lack of a better term. This was no ordinary hole though: this hole was the construction of a very lucrative process that takes the manure of the pigs, sends it into a pipe, and uses the fumes in order to produce gas and fertilizer for the fields. It was a long day of work, but a great experience climbing the side of a volcano to the coffee fields, learning the processes, and lending a helping hand for an amazing project.

After a much deserved dinner, we watched a documentary on the genocide (which is misunderstood as a civil war) that shook the Guatemalan population. The opportunity to see the history of a nation that is so understudied was a rude awakening to the ignorance the West has to these sorts of points in history. This shake is still rippling with the prosecutions of the generals and the presidents that have been escaping the criminal system for their war crimes many, many years ago.

Takalik Abaj

This archeological site, Takalik Abaj, is one of the first pieces evidence of the Mayan Civilization (800 B.C.)

Today was spent working on a school on the mountainside that is being built in order to teach the business aspect of education, Guatemalan style. The school will teach the trades available to the Guatemalan people, which produces the opportunity for growth in the economy. After a long day of digging and building, we headed to our homestays for dinner and a shower before our “coffee talk” with Franklin. This talk outlined the importance of actual transparency within the coffee industry that fair trade does not provide.

Franklin pointed something out tonight that is too often forgotten: the importance of learning outside of the classroom. All of us here are university students, and we all know what it is like to read the opinions of PhD writers in order to write an essay; but what Franklin pointed out was the importance to see the complete opposite side of the spectrum to see it from the “ground up”. Today showed us the ability to live something rather than reading it, and after 48 hours, I’m starting to see that that is what OG is all about.

Travis Rumney
OG ARW 2013 participant