As many of you know already, Laina Schneider was Aldersgate’s mission intern this summer, serving in Guatemala with the Association of Highland Women (AMA). Here is her final reflection of and thank you for her experience.
The women giggled as I knelt, plunged my arm down into the hole and grabbed at the black clayey loam. I rolled the soil into a ball in my hand, recording notes about the color, moisture and texture. The breeze knocked my hair into my eues, stronger on the face of this hill in Chiquisis than down in the valley. The young ladies standing over me were wrapped in sweaters, and smiled as Kirsten made jokes about how much I loved dirt. Even after my somewhat silly display of enthusiasm, they showed me patience as I bumbled through the rest of the interview in Spanish, trying to pin their words to my clipboard as I wiped soil off on my jean leg.
This episode repeated itself many times in the first few weeks of my summer, as I conducted site assessments and interviews with women’s circles in Quetzaltenango and Santa Catarina as a part of my internship with AMA and HSP. The hope was to lay the foundation for agricultural programming and collect initial information about potential sites for greenhouse projects.
Directly engaging with each circle allowed me to connect with the women and learn the distinct qualities of each community. Just like the unique patterns and colors of their huipiles, each community has different hopes and dreams for the future, for their children and even for a greenhouse project. Being able to hear those aspirations provided me with inspiration for my own project and future in agriculture.
As an agriculture student at Virginia Tech, this process lent me fieldwork experience as well as the opportunity to connect the importance of soil quality to the livelihood of those it supports. I even discovered a new field, ethnopedology, which allowed me to align Western soil classification nomenclature with the traditional folk classification of Mayan farmers.
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