Monthly Archives: August 2013

Aprendemos Español

Ever since we first started talking about going on a missions trip, we have been working on the language learning aspect. In the last several months, we have learned words in Spanish, Kyrgyz, Albanian, Swahili (Kenya), and Uzbek (Central Asia–used to teach how to learn a language at training) — usually hello, how are you, I’m fine, and thank you.

Since we determined we are going to Guatemala, we have been able to focus on Spanish, which is a good thing, as my brain seemed to go there anyway. I had several years of Spanish in high school and college, and when we were learning Uzbek at training, I found myself responding to questions in Spanish, rather than the Uzbek we had been taught. Apparently, my brain has an English mode and a foreign language mode. Hopefully, I’ll be able to expand that with more time as I’ll need to add a Kekchi mode in a year or so!

Anyway, I have been trying to teach the kids Spanish as part of school for the last several years, but have not been overly successful as it generally gets pushed out by other “more important” subjects. Finally, though, all those materials I’ve accumulated are coming in handy! Along with the story books and picture books we have, we have also been trying some free online courses and CD sets from the library. (We have tried an older copy of Rosetta Stone (the “gold standard” in language learning) but it is not a favorite here.) The current favorite method being used by the oldest three in the household is Duolingo; it can be used both online and as an Android app (which is installed on our phones and Kindle). Last night, the three of us were sitting around the living room all working on improving our Spanish. Daisy and Ted actually have a competition going; they continually go back and forth in the standings. Because of my previous Spanish learning, I have advanced a bit quicker than them and am competing with myself; though what I learned before is coming back pretty quickly, new words aren’t sticking so quickly.  Although Duolingo doesn’t work on speaking very much, it at least gets the words and grammar in our brains. We have been trying to speak it with each other, usually resulting in a rather humorous version of Spanglish.

To help with the speaking and hearing the accent as well as to help Cub learn some words, we have also been listening to Spanish music. I have some CDs I’ve acquired over the years and youtube is also a wonderful resource. There are lots of Spanish worship songs there and today I discovered quite a few “Rey de Reyes for Kids” (King of Kings for Kids) videos which are fun and energetic; even Chimp is starting to sing along to a few that we have worked on. Daisy has even suggested this week that maybe Rosebud’s first words will be in Spanish! I think that’s rather a stretch, though I have been singing to her in Spanish when she’s been fussy the last couple days.

Bonus: A joke I came across today in the book How to Learn Any Language by Barry Farber

Two mice were hopelessly trapped. A hungry cat was poised to pounce. There was no escape.

At the last instant, one of the mice put his little paws up to his lips and yelled, “Bow-wow!”

The cat turned around and ran away.

Whereupon that mouse turned to the other mouse and said, “You see, that’s the advantage of knowing a second language!”

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Coffee Beans

Coffee Beans

The coffee bean at different stages during its processing. Left to right, top to bottom: A cherry fresh off the bush, a cherry cut in half to see the two seeds, the seeds once they’ve been through the wet mill to remove the flesh (must happen within 24 hours of picking), the green beans after having been dried (this is a stable state and how they are shipped), the roasted beans.

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Alphabet Soup

We ordered a few books about Guatemala this week so we could learn about it and see some pictures of the people and places we’ll be going to. Today we got the book called Guatemala ABCs: A Book About the People and Places of Guatemala. It continued to give us small confirmations that this is our calling:

ImageC is for Coffee — “Guatemala produces more coffee than any other country in Central America.”

I is for Ice Cream — “Bell-ringing ice-cream carts are common on city and town streets…” Ice cream is one of our families favorite treats!

S is for Soccer — “Soccer is the most popular sport in Guatemala.” Cub got to play soccer this summer for the first time and he LOVES it.

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A House Blend

Ted has been spending a good deal of time the last few weeks reading and learning about the coffee business. Last Saturday we stopped at a small coffee roaster/shop near Elmira, NY and he chatted with the owner for almost an hour learning about the coffee business and how beans are bought and sold in the US. 

This Saturday, he was able to connect with another coffee roaster, this one from Ohio. Paul Kurtz, owner of Hemisphere Coffee Roasters, has been working in the coffee business in Central America for ten years. A little over two years ago, he took a trip to Guatemala with someone from EMM and talked with the Kekchi people about their coffee. From that visit, and Paul’s passion for helping people through direct-trade coffee came this opportunity that we feel called to.

Paul Kurtz is also Vice President of New Initiatives at Rosedale Mennonite Missions and part of the Rosedale Business Group, and as such he has a good background in missions and business. Ted had been planning to drive out to Ohio sometime soon to meet Paul, but Paul happened to be about 3 hours away in PA this weekend for a conference, so Ted hopped in his truck and drove down. They had a wonderful chat about the work Paul has already done in Nicaragua and Costa Rica and his vision for Guatemala. Because of the conference, Ted was also able to meet some of the other people who are part of the plan. It was a great opportunity seized and Ted brought home a book Paul wrote about the story behind the Guatemalan coffee that he roasts and sells: A House Blend.

ImageI had some time today to read this short book and really enjoyed the story. Not only did I learn a great deal about how coffee is processed, but I also got a vision for how big of an effect this project can have. Paul really works hard to follow the principles I mentioned in this post about the book When Helping Hurts. He wants to give farmers a “hand up” and not a “hand-out.” Current practice has up to six middlemen between the farmer and the roaster–each taking their cut. Paul works to cut out most, if not all, of those steps, while encouraging a quality product. He advocates “Direct-Trade” rather than “Fair Trade.” (See this page for a description of direct trade.) His experience with fair trade is that it is not truly fair at all for the average farmer. In the  story in the book, between God’s hand at work in Nicaraguan banks and Paul’s work in helping to improve the quality and purchasing the coffee directly at higher prices, the farmer was able to significantly improve the life and homes of his 90+ laborers and now also supports seven pastors that have churches in nearby communities and is looking to add more soon. 

Although our situation will be a little different as we will be working with individual farmers rather than an estate with an owner and laborers, the potential for changing lives is still very significant!

Ted is looking into the possibility of going with Paul to visit the Nicaraguan farmer for a few weeks in October and learn more about coffee processing and shipping.

We continue to work with EMM to get through the rest of the long-term application process. Hopefully, we will be able to take some more steps with that this coming week.

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