Dembow and bachata
Mosquito nets (saving my life one centipede/dengue/tarantula bite at a time)
Stuff I'm thankful for in the US:
Wanna know the truth? I can't believe I'm still here.
But that's what all this development work/Peace Corps stuff is about right? Testing your limits and learning how much bullshit one person can handle? It sure seems like it lately.
After almost two months without a site or job (see previous posts on being a PC gypsy) I'm 2 weeks into my new site.
Yep. Starting over. Living with a family again (ayy yi yi) and eating lots of food that I don't want. But do not worry, I have a firm list of all of the food that I will be eating when I return to the US in a month. Ask my family. They have already received my emails.
ANYWAY. So you're probably wondering what I'm doing up here. And the project is actually really cool, if I can get the business up and running again...
I am working with a very well known Cacao (chocolate plant) Cooperative called Cooperative La Red Guaconejo. Why are they well known? Well, here in the DR (and in most places in the world) cacao farmers have been poor since anyone can remember. However it make no sense because in developed countries, chocolate is an extremely lucrative business (people here don't eat chocolate. I rest my case about Dominican food habits). Why are they poor? Because intermediaries buy their crop for basically nothing (they are country folk with very little education and are taken advantage of) and then turn around and export it for a sky high price. My organization strives to be a direct trade operation; meaning that the farmers are selling directly to the customer without an intermediary. It's still a business and they still turn profit but the object is for the farmers to see some of the money made for their organic chocolate plants. You see, organic cacao sells for up to $400 per ton more than the market price for non organic.
Who buys their product? The main customer is Taza Chocolate, located in Massachusetts. Check out their site!http://www.tazachocolate.com
There's also a short documentary about my project and you can see a preview here http://www.viewchange.org/videos/chocolate-country
The problem? They're damn near broke and they have quite a few delinquent accounts receivable. As a cooperative, they offer credit to their members to invest into their farms in order to produce better cacao. There debts can usually be paid in cacao but in the last two years they have had some collection issues. Part of the problem was that the members who borrows money were not properly investigated for their eligibility to borrow. The other problem is that the administration was/is a complete disaster. One member took it upon herself to make all of the decisions for the coop, most of which were terrible for the business.
So now I'm working the development organization that helped them get started to prepare for an assembly on November 30th.In this assembly a financial summary will be presented to the members and we will hold elections. From there I can only hope we can move forward with making the business profitable again. Unlike many operations, La Red already has their niche market and customers who are waiting to snatch up their product as soon as its available. The problem is on their end, specifically in administration. The bottom line? If they can get their shit together they could be an extremely profitable and sustainable business. Vamos a ver.
The cooperative also has a women's group who makes organic cocoa powder and sells it. It's absolutely phenomenal in chocolate sauce and for baking. I will be working with them on the accounting and market development of their product. We need to get them registered and able to export because this is how almost all small chocolatiers make chocolate when they're first starting out, with cocoa.
Next Sunday I will be headed to Santo Domingo to stay with an embassy family for the week and bake my ass off with my backing team (brownies4lyfe) for our Thanksgiving celebration. Volunteers will come from far and wide to hang out on a rooftop pool, sip some cocktails, run in the turkey trot (not this turkey) and stuff their faces with the traditional Thanksgiving food we all cherish so much. I cannot wait.
Then just 2 1/2 short weeks after tday I AM RETURNING TO THE US OF A TO SPEND CHRISTMAS WITH MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS. Again, super excited. Oh, and I turn 26 somewhere in there too.
Oh also, today my friend Jackson and I went to the beach. It was rough but I really needed it. We both did.