I was in my living room when my mother showed me the email of the Sustainable Summer Program. When she urged me to sign up, I figured why not, no harm in at least applying for it. In that simple decision it took me to the Galapagos Islands for 10 days with the most amazing group to experience the most extraordinary things. I hoped this trip would provide enjoyable, entertaining and educational experiences, and it greatly exceeded that. The memory that consists of all the previous topics is the visit to the coffee plantation.
The turning point in our groups trip would have definitely been the day we visited the coffee plantation. We had just gotten back from a long day at the Tortoise Rehabilitation Center, snorkeling in a bay near by the center and visiting the highlands to explore the lava tubes, so we loaded up the bus one more time for the final stop of the day. The overall atmosphere from the bus was wariness and slight exhaustion from our very eventful day. Everyone on the bus was kind of in their own little world, whether it was looking at the window to small conversations with the closest passenger or falling asleep on the short bus ride. Also with it being the fourth day of our trip together, everyone was still not necessarily comfortable with each other quite yet.
Once we got off the bus, the group quietly rose and observed the plantation. The plantation consisted of an open pavilion almost and a gazebo with simple machines for the coffee-making process. As we waited for the owner of the coffee plantation to greet us, we slowly started to investigate the place. While still being in the highlands, the plant life was thick and the weather was cloudy and cool. Hens and their chicks roamed the area while roosters wailed in the trees.
As we waited, Luis directed our attention to the capsicum plant and described that it was so spicy it was used in tear gas. Instantly the group started to dare each other to try the intense pepper. Allie advised us not to eat a whole pepper as to a previous experience with another unfortunate dare devil to try the whole capsicum pepper, so we all took little dabs of the pepper and waited for each other’s reactions. Even though I am not a fan of spicy foods, Kayla urged me to at least try a small taste. Once the drop of the capsicum pepper hit my tongue, it wasn’t like a normal spicy, but an inflamed, intense sensation racing across your taste buds. Tears welled up in my eyes without any recollection of tears evening forming in the first place. The race was on for water once everyone had a taste.
After we recovered from our own silly decisions, Luis started to show us the coffee process. He started to show us the basics, such as the plant and how to retrieve the actual coffee bean. He then illustrated the process of grinding the coffee bean with just a huge barrel and a large mallet. After that we moved to a wooden table with various bowls filled with various items such as sugar cane, coffee beans, and brown sugar that were all natural and from the coffee plantation. Luis invited us to try all of these items and we did so willingly. The sweetness of the sugar cane and the brown sugar with the caffeine in the coffee beans revived the group almost unnoticed until it was obvious everyone was definitely more excited about coffee than they were on the bus.
We eagerly followed Luis down a small trail behind the gazebo to where a wooden rectangular box was holding the sugar cane juice we had previously ingested. He questioned us as to what exactly the sugar cane was there for as to where Henry replied with fermentation. This lead us to the next part of our visit which was continuing on the same path to a furnace and a huge contraption. This is where we learned that the sugar cane was converted into rum here. Luis explained that the rum was 50% alcohol and then threw an amount of the rum into the fire to show the alcohol content.
At this point our group dared Luis to try the rum, since he pointed out the capsicum pepper to us so this was almost a small playful form of payback. We then went back up the path to the gazebo to try the complimentary juice and the coffee from the farm. Suddenly, two barn owls were in the gazebo, and instinctively, the whole group reached for there cell phones and cameras to catch the sight. As we were doing that Luis explained that the owls were trying to mate and jokingly suggested we should give them their privacy, especially since the glare one of the owls was giving our group looked extremely annoyed with the tourists. By then the group was bubbly with sugar and caffeine. The whole group was so much more comfortable and relaxed with each other now than the group on the bus. Group members were making jokes with each other, asking for pictures, and encouraging others to try the coffee or juice.
After we concluded our trip at the coffee plantation, we loaded the bus back up again to head to dinner back in Santa Cruz. The whole bus was erupting with laughter and energetic conversations, partly contributed to the sugar and caffeine intake. By then the whole group was actually looking like a group that was enjoying each other’s company. Then the idea was pitched that we should take a picture. Half of the bus was fumbling from excitement or a good position to take the photo while the bus rocked to the road. Luis snapped the photo for us that now looking back symbolized the first time our group bonded. The memory made at the coffee plantation set the tone typically for the following days of the trip, and with everyone finally starting to be comfortable with each other, it altered the experiences we further shared. If the group is close, the group will open up to each other and express their thoughts and feelings about the things we experienced. This also gives the group more opportunity to see how others experienced the same thing as yourself, therefore allowing to see different interpretations and understandings to expand your own knowledge.
This trip was not typically what I envisioned at first, it was better. I developed relationships with people all over the United States to where I am actually visiting one of the other participants in December. I learned so much about a place I can honestly say I didn’t know exactly where it was a year ago. This memory of mine consists of education, sustainability and relationships and those are the things I valued most going into this trip.