Campo Fridays

So on Friday’s, me and Rachel are now working with the municipilidad (CholChol council) going out into the countryside with a couple of guys from UDEL. The first week we went out with Oscar and Yasmin, and we went to a meeting in Coyinco (the countryside is divided into different sectors with different names). The meeting was about the lack of water, because they do not have running water in this area. They take water from the river, or from a well, but there is not much for them, and not enough for them to be able to use it for commercial use – growing crops for example.

The president of the group was a very outspoken man, and he was angry with the council, because the water problem has been present for a number of years, and each year they’ve been given bits of paper, they’ve had visitors come and see them, but there’s been any solutions to their problem. This time, Oscar and Yasmin came to do a survey about the water situation, and we helped out. The man who we surveyed had such a small amount of water, he didn’t have enough for personal use, let alone commercial. Without water, his family of 6 is suffering.

It was shocking for me, because althought I knew that in Chile there is poverty, and I knew that people in the country live in basic conditions, I didn’t realise that people right on my doorstep were living like this. I wasn’t aware of the gravity of the situation.

Last week, because Rachel was in Santiago, I went on my own, and in the morning I went out with Oscar and Rodrigo to two sectors called Quelimanzano and Malalche Quelimanzano for monthly meetings. On the way to arrive to these places I saw the most beautiful views, of untouched nature, and it was really pretty. The roads are dirt tracks with lots of bumps, and hills. At one point we were up high, and I could see 5 volcanoes as clear as day.

In the meetings, Rodrigo and Oscar talked to the country people about the different opportunities there are for them to make money. For example, there is a company who is looking for people to grow pine trees for a contract of 3 years. The ins and outs of the contract were discussed, and the countrymen asked questions. Also, Rodrigo is a very scientific man, and he was explaining to the countrymen why you should rotate crops, he talked about acid rain, the acidity of the soil, pH, how to get rid of rabbits etc.

I really enjoyed it, because I like science and haven’t learnt any whilst being in Chile, and I was fascinated. Also, I got to learn more about the day to day life of the people in the country, and how different issues can affect them. For example, we also talked about diseases that plants and animals can get, and how you have to get animals vaccinated, and if there’s a dying plant you have to take it out and look at the roots to find out the problem.

A lot of work goes on behind the scenes that I had never thought about. If the animals and crops die, what will they eat? If all their wheat gets a disease, how will they reach the quota that the company wants them to produce? If the summer is really dry, where will they get water from to water their plants? All these things I had never considered, but for them this is their way of life, and all these if’s and but’s are really important for them.

For me, living in a city I’ve always been guaranteed that in any weather, any time of the year I can go to Tescos and find bread, tomatoes, cheese etc on the shelves. But here, you’ll only eat tomatoes in the summer when they’re in season. If you want cheese, you have to milk the cow, make the cheese and leave it for X amount of time before being able to eat it. Even in CholChol, the village, if I go to the supermarket there will pretty much always be things that I want available, but for the 5000 people who live in the country it’s not so simple. Although they all live in the comuna of CholChol, if their only method of transport is a horse, how will they get a sack of potatoes back to their house?

I really like my campo (country) Fridays, because it provokes all these questions in my mind, and I’m learning so much about an aspect of life that I’d never experienced back in the UK, and probably won’t ever experience again.

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