Tuesday night we had a great Hot Pot dinner with a local club family. The man was recently a village leader and the family had just recently believed. We had a great time of fellowship with them and their grandchildren and a few of Kevin’s friends. We joked with him some about a girl that he invited. Kevin is a young man and not yet married.
Yazoo and I made sure that we didn’t take the honor of eating the chicken head or feet out of the hot pot bowl. And we all tried to make sure that we served everyone around the table before they tried to serve us. But, sometimes the other guests would beat us to the different plates of food as they came in and would take it around the table and put some on our plates.
After dinner, Kevin took the company car and dropped off his friends. Yazoo, Fulmer, Switzer and I used and app to get a ride back to the office/apartment. I can’t remember the name of the App. But they used it for everything it seemed.
It was late and we were getting up early to go to some villages in the morning. So, we all got ready for bed and settled down. I was thankful that my room did have an air conditioner. It wasn’t really hot at all, but it just helped keep the air moving and removed the humidity out of the air.
I learned something new that night. A rooster in the city will crow at 2:00 AM until morning when he lives outside under street lights in an ally. It’s true. I almost started feeling like I would eat him if he didn’t shut his beak, but I was tired and he only kept me awake for about an hour.
The next morning we all got ready and packed up to go out to the villages. The bathroom with the shower was set up oddly to me. The shower and toilet where right next to each other with no separator. There was just a drain in the floor in the middle of the room and a squeegee on a broom handle to help move any remaining water over to the hole if it didn’t drain, but it did. It was a tall toilet luckily.
The sink and mirror were on the opposite side of the bathroom. It did seam fairly efficient and easy to clean. I thought to myself that I would just use the hand sprayer to wash off the toilet any time it needed cleaning. The floors were all made of tile, so it was an easy to clean space.
We packed up the little SUV and headed out. But not before Fulmer walked down the block to get some street food on a stick. It looked good, but I stuck to my Premier Protein bar. I did not want to have an upset stomach incident out in a hillside village. Which is why I also made sure to empty the tank before we left the apartment. This is operationally important for many reasons. Trust me.
The journey and the villages were beautiful.
We stopped in the first village up high in the mountains. The town was full of chickens running around in the natural areas around the oddly modern looking housing. It was a foggy morning up in the hills, but I could slightly see a winding stair case that could take tourist up to the top of the peak. It was still early, about 9:30, and not many people were in the village center, but we spotted an older lady using a stack of stones as a clothes washing area. She had a bucket of water and was wetting the clothes and running the clothes back and forth across the stones and then re-soaking the garment. Her hands seemed amazingly strong as she worked the garments. But they also looked tired with age at the same time. I can’t show you the pictures unfortunately.
This whole village thing was not what I was expecting. In my mind I assumed little huts built with sticks or mud or wooden houses with outdoor fire pits. I guess I didn’t stop to think about it deeply before arriving. I was just going because I felt like I was supposed to and didn’t even research what I was going to see. I packed for villages with dirt floors and outdoor cooking. But, these places were well built with tiled flooring, electricity, and aesthetically beautiful.
However the people were still down to earth farmers. They still slaughtered chickens right there on those beautiful tiled floor porches. Oh yeah, and there was a tall pole with government flags and face recognition cameras even out in the remote villages.
We talked to the lady for a while and Kevin asked her about tree farming and if she had heard of pecans. She didn’t know what they were, but she knew about walnuts. We talked for a while more before heading out. She was interested in showing us her house, there was not much to it, but we did notice the wall with the little idols.
We drove down the road a bit and stopped in another village down the mountain. The same scenario almost, not many were in town, but one lady was sitting on her porch stitching graphics into cloth. Fulmer and I made conversion. Actually Fulmer made conversation, and I smiled a lot. Then she offered us some wild picked chestnut type nuts. They were hard to peel but delicious and sweet. I ate several and just hoped I would not get a stomach ache.
She was very excited that we were taking time to talk with her and wanted to take us over to her shop. So we went.
I bought some nice hand made items to hang on the wall at home and took time to try on some of her hand made vests.
This is when a man walked in the door and we found out that he was the village leader and the lady was his wife.
I took pictures with the village leader and his wife who made the stitched items and promised that I would give them to my wife and daughter. And she wanted me to send pictures back for her to hang on the wall.
Apparently that talk time and purchase helped us gain a lot of good will to plant pecan trees. Big win for us. I have since received word that this village was part of our first successful planting of pecan trees, and it was a UUPG village. Now our company has a reason to be in the village. And, oddly, a picture of my wife and daughter may actually be hanging up in the local shop where I bought the handmade stitched items.
Our next journey would take us to Kevin’s home town to meet his family. We were scheduled to eat lunch with them. This would be a very important meeting because we were going to share the Good News with Kevin’s family. We really wanted to meet Kevin’s father.
To our surprise a rock slide was blocking the road on the route that Kevin was taking to get there. But, the detour we had to take took us to a place with a beautiful and very tall waterfall that exists about 8 months out of the year during the rainy season.
When we finally arrived at Kevin’s childhood home, we had a great time with Kevin’s family. Kevin’s sister had prepared us a wonderful meal. As we ate we was able to share the business plan, the Good News and other things with Kevin’s sister.
She was open to the Good News and was asking questions and wondering how our country heard of the Good News. I gave a little history lesson of how the original colonies in the United States were originally established and pulled out some American money and talked about the reason it has the saying “In God We Trust” on the dollar bills. This story resonated with her.
She didn’t make a decision that day, but I later learned about a month later that she did finally make the decision to believe.
After a few pictures we then drove back to the big city via a different road out of the mountains. We checked back into the original hotel we were in and planned out a few places we wanted to visit the next day.
The next morning we woke up at 5:30 and Yazoo and I went for a 5k run. It is high altitude in here at 5750 ft. It was also still wet. So we had fun dodging puddles. But this city is very modern and beautiful. So we had great running paths. You just have to make sure to listen out for mopeds.
They are battery powered and you can barely hear them coming from behind you on the same path. At least twice I was startled by a moped racing past me from behind.
After the run we packed up all of our things and checked out of the hotel. Today we are headed to a smaller city to the other business office and near the villages. But not before another stop at Starbucks. Switzer is very into coffee.
Fulmer picked us up and we headed out for Starbucks. I found out that this region grows coffee beans. So I bought two bags of regional beans from the Starbucks Reserve store while we were there. Folks, this is good coffee. I brought back those two bags of beans and ground fresh coffee each Sunday for my LIFE Group class for a couple of months. After taking a few minutes discussing the major coffee growing regions of the world, we were off on stage two of our adventure.
On the trip there are about nine tunnels. One of them was more than a mile long. The mountains on this east side of the region looked like the Smoky Mountains with the fog rolling over. We also drove through a stone forest, and saw live Eucalyptus trees.
Upon arrival we saw the new business office. Fulmer and Kevin did a great job getting this spot. It is a two story store front, and the second level is set up for fairly large groups of business folks to lodge as needed.
We unpacked and set out to attend a prearranged lunch meeting with the local agriculture officials. I was in the back of the car and had no idea where we were going. Kevin was driving and he knows this city. So when we turned into a back ally and pulled into a parking spot with people peaking out from behind the blinds of the small windows of the buildings, I was a little confused. I thought we would be going to a large government building. But this seemed more like a meeting with a mob boss.
We all piled out of the car, there were five of us in the little compact SUV, we were greeted by a young lady who quickly got us out of the ally and into a small building that was just set up as one large room with two table. One smaller six top table and then a very large round table. It was set up with the standard place setting for a meal.
After a couple of minutes a slightly rounded gentleman with glasses came in the door flanked by two well dressed (business attire) ladies. We all introduced ourselves and were motioned to sit down at the table.
We were sitting around a big round table in a private location and it felt like I was living a movie scene. Half scared and half amazed. I watched as the official was served by the female hosts like a king. He came in with a cigarette and the ladies made sure he always had a fresh one waiting.
It was an awesome lunch with all local produce and meats. For free. It was amazing food. I was a bit nervous though. As I was eating Fulmer leaned over and translated a few words for me.
This meal had included some cooked mushrooms that were so expensive if bought anywhere else in the world it is a rich man’s delicacy (like $3000 an ounce).
He and Yazoo sat and talked mostly as Kevin translated. But after a while he and Kevin just talked together as Kevin explained our business model Fulmer, Switzer and I sat on the opposite side of the round table, and I was flanked on my left by the two ladies all around a very large round table with a huge lazy susan.
After eating and talking a while. The official leaned back in his chair as to say it was time to get to business. We discussed business and the official gave us tips based on the information that Kevin had relayed, he then told us we could look around for the best growing areas and come tell him what we needed. It was a God thing really.
He took us up to his office, the ladies served us fresh green tea from local leaves, and he gave us each one of his cards. It was our golden ticket to use if we were harrassed in any village by the police. We were international business men with money to invest in his region, and that was true among other things. We do want to invest in these villages and in many ways.
I was relieved as we left the office and headed out to the car.
As we rolled around town for a while and visited local shops we were able to stop into a shop making garments with local flare. I wanted to buy a dress for my daughter, but they said they make these dresses custom to size. So, we didn’t have time to wait on that.
I was amazed at one point as we were driving around. This smaller city had many high rise buildings with apartments and open air stores/restaurants on the lower levels, similar to the larger city. However, you could tell that the people were not used to this, because they were still farming in every single spot of dirt that was available around these buildings. I found out that many of these folks had to make a decision to leave their villages in order to find jobs in the city.
I saw several small trucks and even makeshift flatbed mopeds with pigs and even cows on them coming into the city and directly to restaurants. They would be quickly dispatched for the customers coming in for lunch or dinner later in the day. They would simply wash off the sidewalk to clean off any remaining body fluids.
After driving around and getting the tour from Kevin, we then headed back to the office to rest before a dinner meeting with another group of local club members.