Monday, March 23, 2015

A Hidden Paradise

As we began to approach the next house for our interviews, I was reminded just how long this day would feel. In a small farming neighborhood in the rolling hills of San Vito, we set out for the day to conduct door-to-door surveys for our third faculty led project. Our surveys were about wild edible plants, and how many the people we interviewed could list for us. This was all to measure the amount of traditional ecological knowledge in this community. As excited as I was to conduct the surveys, it was a hot and dry day with an agenda of about 100 interviews total ahead of us. I had no idea that during this calculated afternoon we would have an unexpected experience that would change my perception of that day.

At this house in particular, we began to interview a woman, in her mid 50s, who very eagerly began to list as many wild edible plants as she knew. If we didn’t recognize the name, she took us to her garden and happily pointed it out. About 15 minutes into our conversation, she informed us that her family owned a farm that was connected to the back of the house. As her memory of the plans began to slow, she remembered that her husband would be able to recall more than her. “He’s out working on the farm”, she remarked “I’ll bring you to him!” Before we knew it, we were following her through rolling pastures and coffee fields to where her husband was working. A small wind sparked in the trees bringing to life this hidden paradise that I’m sure few eyes from the outside world have seen. As soon as we reached the top of the hill, her husband greeted us, setting aside the small coffee saplings he was planting. His wife explained why we were there and he immediately left his work, picked up a machete and told us to follow him. He led us through more of their property, pointing out plants as we went until we reached a small section of dense forest. In we went to find the wild plants we were in search of. We wandered about for almost 45 minutes with the couple sharing their livelihood with us and letting us try wild fruits like guava and guanabana.

As we left their house after our excursion, I was reminded of the beautiful hospitality Ticos share with complete strangers. This kind man and woman were so eager to share their little patch of heaven with a few researchers from America hoping to learn a little more about their culture. I will never forget this experience nor the immense kindness they showed us that afternoon.

Stephanie Hynes

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