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Bryce Tarling Shares his Experience in Mexico
The following blog was written by Bryce Tarling, the communications coordinator from Fair Trade Vancouver, who was one of 10 participants selected for an internship to farm in Northern Mexico at the Ejido Benito Juarez Leyes de Reforma.
It’s been a while now since I returned from Mexico. It takes a while for the experience to settle in.
It’s not really the type of thing you can really sum up into one blog post. Rather, it’s something I’ll carry with me for quite some time. It’s given me a frame in which to look at the world, to explore through writing, and in my day-to-day life. Am I a different person because of the experience? Yep. Do I know what kind of person it has made me? Not sure on that one, yet.
Sometimes I feel like people want me to tell them about how difficult the work was and how awful the living conditions are down there. But this is an oversimplification. The work was difficult, sure; but I know lots of people who work tough jobs in Vancouver.
(The hot sun was definitely the most difficult part to cope with. There were a few days where the temperature reached 39-40 degrees. These were tough days, with nothing but blue sky and nowhere in the middle of the farm was there any shade — well there was one small patch under a tree, but nothing grew there.)
The living conditions were different than they were here, but who’s to say that living in a mud brick house with a dirt floor is a worse way to live. These people live the way they do, and they get by. If anything, living in a building with dirt floors and birds nesting in the open spaces of the roof, it draws attention to the extravagance and privilege of the lives we’re fortunate enough to have in Vancouver.
If anything, one of the most endearing qualities of the ejido was how the people who lived and worked there seemed to always be in good spirits. Working in a field for eight hours a day can be a long and tedious task. But when you have a team of people who get along with each other, who can laugh and tell jokes while they work, it makes the work seem like any other job I’ve had in Vancouver.
The good spirit, the happiness, the satisfaction people seem to have working in the fields, these are great things to see. I believe that the Fair Trade initiatives that have been incorporated into the project contribute greatly to the sense of satisfaction on the ejido.
However, even though the work was satisfying, and the people very welcoming and easy to get along with, there was always an underlying sadness, or worry, that stayed with me during my two weeks on the ejido. Something bothered me, but I didn’t know what it was until my last day. I think the other farmers realized it about the same time that I did.
The sadness had to do with the fact that after working with these people, being welcomed into their homes, eating with their families, I would be going home to Vancouver. This was my privilege: I get to leave. I got to fly down to Mexico and play farmer for a fortnight and then go back to my real life, with my hot showers, paved roads, and high speed internet (yeah, I could have chosen any of the luxuries that I enjoy in Vancouver, but I went with those ones — they were the first to come to mind).
This was the difference between them and me. I had the opportunity to go down to Mexico and experience their daily life — to live and work just as they do. And while my experience might seem unique, if any one of us living in Vancouver, or anywhere else in Canada and the United States, if you’re reading this, chances are if you really wanted to go to Mexico to do what I did — I mean really wanted to — it would probably be within your means.
For them, though, they don’t get to leave. They don’t get to fly to Vancouver to visit me in my apartment and to spend a day with me at work. And what would be the point? What would be the point in showing them that what they make in a day would barely afford them a medium pizza, or a couple of happy meals?
On that last day, I imagined them thinking the same thing. Or at least wondering where it was that I was returning to, but at the same time coping with the fact that they might never know.
The difference between them and me is in the opportunities we’ve been afforded in our lives. In the future, I hope that I can be more like them — more content in what I have in my life. The many luxuries and conveniences that we enjoy in our lives are made possible by the labour of millions, probably more like billions, of people across the globe.
At the same time, I hope that they’ll be able to live more like me — with more opportunities to be whoever they want to be.
With the organic and Fair Trade initiatives that have begun on the ejido, these opportunities are growing. With the higher pay and the potential to make more money through profit sharing when the operation becomes more successful, there’s a chance that more money will flow into the community. But they need people to purchase their products, to support Fair Trade projects like theirs, so that they can have the opportunity to live the sorts of lives that they want to live — whatever that may be.
Or read more about Mexico at his Mexico Blog: brycewordsmexico.wordpress.com/