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Huele de noche y duele de noche (It Smells at Night and It Hurts at Night)

IMG_8383Ricardo’s father in orange raincoat. He got ahead of us because he wanted to make sure to get all the necessary ingredients and plants for the dishes.

Every trip teaches me new lessons.

My friend Ricardo was preparing everything for a food tasting celebration in the city. In order to make one of the dishes, he needed to go to his ranch to get this plant called huele de noche (it smells at night, for lack of a better translation).

My friend Efraín, from the city, needed some photos of the coffee trees and I offered to take those. It was cold and raining, so Ricardo advised me not to go with him because we were going to get wet, muddy and potentially sick. I insisted that I wanted to go and that I could pay someone to drop us off closer to his ranch, then we would walk the remaining portion of the road. Because it had been raining for the past few days, a big part of the road was extremely muddy and vehicles couldn’t pass through.

IMG_8393Coffee trees

IMG_8454Muddy roads up ahead

Since we were not sure if we were going to be able to get somebody that could drive us there, his dad took off walking early in the morning. I was ready for anything that could come our way since to me, that was an adventure that I didn’t get to enjoy every day, but for them, this is was not an adventure, this is how they live their daily lives.

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Since I had been exercising months prior, I was in pretty good shape to keep up with Ricardo but the one factor that made it somewhat difficult was the altitude. I live in South Texas, pretty close to the border with México and the elevation can be anywhere from seven feet below sea level to around 70 above sea level. The altitude in Alotepec is approximately 5,000 feet above sea level. I had severely broken my leg in two pieces a year before and have a metal rod that goes through the bone marrow, so it was a little bit more difficult to walk in slanted ground without hurting my ankle a few times. I did not say a word, of course and kept on walking.

IMG_8416Ricardo had to get some bananas as well, so he cut down the banana tree in order to reach them.

After I took the photos and he got the bananas, we went back to a small shelter that him and his family had built to rest while they work on the fields. Sometimes they would even sleep there if they had a lot of work to get done the following day.

IMG_8427Temporary shelter

Now, this was fascinating to me, to be able to see steam come out of my feet! To me, that experience was as if I had become part of the mountains. It’s not that they are smelly, it’s actually steam, I swear!

Ricardo told me to wait in the shelter for him since he had to go further down and the ground was even steeper, which was difficult even for them that were used to do that. Because I needed to go to the restroom badly, that sounded like a great idea. As soon as he left and I didn’t hear a noise, I took advantage and picked a spot to urinate. I like to spoil myself sometimes so I picked the one with the most beautiful view, yet secluded. For some reason, that really gave me a sense of freedom.

IMG_8440Restroom’s view

The man that dropped us off was driving a small Nissan truck, just like 99% of the population owns one in the small towns in Oaxaca. Only three could fit in the front, so I decided to ride in the back of the truck with Ricardo’s dad. I loved riding in the back; it reminded me of when I was little and I would ride in the back of the truck when we would go to my uncle’s ranch in Monterrey, Nuevo León.

IMG_8468Ricardo’s dad

My shoes and socks were soaked! So the first thing that I did when we got back, was to scrub down all the mud from the shoes and put them to dry in the fire.

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Henryqueta, Ricardo’s wife, had the food ready by the time we got back. It was caldo de chayote con carne y papa , vegetable pear soup with meat and potato, accompanied by the organic coffee that they produce.

IMG_8493Caldo de chayote con carne y papa

Later that day, at night to be precise, a certain type of wasp stung me. So the day that started to be all about getting the plant huele de noche (it smells at night) turned out to be duele de noche (it hurts at night) for me. I was stung in my lower back, almost in my behind and it was very painful. I was trying to suck it up, but because I thought it was actually funny, I told Henryqueta about it. She was a little hesitant to share a solution to my unfortunate situation, hehehe, and with a smile she told me that she had a home remedy for the pain. She handed me a bottle that had some sort of weed soaked in alcohol and all I had to do was rub it on my skin. It was the first time that I had ever tried such a remedy and needless to mention, it worked.

IMG_8530Meet the waspIMG_8531

Home remedy

IMG_8577And I almost forgot, this is the plant huele de noche ready to eat.

Throughout that day, it was impossible to stop comparing their daily lives with my own and the things that I had to do in order to keep myself in good physical shape. I have to pay to go exercise at a gym for one hour a day at least three to four times a week and to go cycling for a few hours during the weekends. They only have to live their daily lives in order to survive and keep themselves healthy. It is quite a workout to go walking to their ranch and get the things they need and come back; that is cross-fit at its purest and they don’t have to pay a thing to exercise. Ever since that time, when I came back home, getting a metal for completing a ride or run, was completely meaningless to me. Why should I get a medal for completing something where I only invested a few hours of my day? These people work very hard everyday and their only medal is food on their table.

IMG_8415My friend Ricardo

November, 2014

(All photos were taken with the iPhone 5s unedited, except the first image; it was edited in Photoshop)

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