Its “verano” now, or summertime, even though we are living north of the equator (which runs through Brazil, not Venezuela.) “Invierno,” or winter, less than two months of wet, cool weather, ended in late December, and “primavera,” springtime, will begin whenever it feels like it, in late March or April, when it begins raining again. Summer means dry weather, three or four months of dust swirling around our ankles as we climb the steep mountain roads to the edge of the cloud forest.
Jan and Ari
Another son, Jan Brouwer, came to visit with my wife Susan, and decided he would stay until June. He’s working with his brother Ari at Las Lajitas organic farm, part of La Alianza Cooperativa. (Susan had to return to her teaching job in the States.) The boys rise at 5:20 am, join Omar, one of the long-time members, at 5:45, and start ascending the mountainside. Work begins in earnest at 6:30, with breakfast around 8:30, and lunch about 1:30. At 2:00 pm they’re hoofing it down the steep mountain road with plenty of time left to enjoy the day. Since they’re new to farm work, they often head straight for a short siesta.
Charco del Burro, according to local legend, is haunted by the soul of a donkey who fell into the pool and drowned a hundred years ago.
Upstream from the waterfall is the “angostura,” the narrowest part of the gorge.
Non-monetary gains, such as the variety of educational, nutritional, recreational, and health missions that are now available to almost everyone, have also contributed immensely to improving the quality of life. Our village of Monte Carmelo now has a paved street, three bodegas, food stands selling empanadas and hot dogs (a Venezuelan perrito caliente, with a about 20 different toppings thrown on at once, bears little resemblance to its U.S. counterpart), a lighted futbalito and basketball court, and a tiny high school for the one hundred and thirty families that live with a kilometer of the little plaza. It also has an ambulatorio, a walk-in medical office served by a Cuban doctor who has just returned after getting more training in Cuba with a six-month course.
We could throw out a number of impressive statistics to go with the list above, but one small number is probably the most astonishing: 8. There are now eight young people from Monte Carmelo, population less than a thousand, enrolled in the first three years of the six year Medicina Integral Comunitaria program (see other two articles.)
There are forty other students studying medicine in this rural municipality, Andres Eloy Blanco, which has a little over 50,000 inhabitants. Many of them live in Sanare, the capital of the municipality located about 7 kilometers, or fifteen minutes, away from Monte Carmelo.