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Painting Our Campo House

Painting Our Campo House

Hello and good day!

There was a time when my brother was completely burned out on living in the jungle and running our cacao processing facility. We started the project just when his first child, his daughter Amara, was born.

For the next ten years, Brian said goodbye to his daughter and wife every two weeks to take a 17-hour bus ride to the northern Peruvian jungle. After two or three weeks in the jungle, he boarded a bus and took the same 17-hour ride back home.

After a few years of this, his body and spirit gave away.The work was hot and physical, and Brian was in his forties, not exactly a spring chicken. Brian has had two shoulder surgeries, both injuries caused by the intense nature of working in campo.

In addition to the physical stress, it was heart breaking to be away from his daughter while she was growing up.He was only present for half of her life from age zero to age ten.

That is what my brother sacrificed to bring our chocolate into the world. Anyhow, when his will began to break, he asked if I could go out and live in the jungle for a while so that he could rest his body and put his family life back in order.

I agreed.

My wife was able to take a leave of absence from work and we moved out to the jungle. There is not a robust rental market out in campo.

If you were to attempt to visit the town of Puerto Ciruelo, in the district of Huarango, in the department of Cajamarca, two hours outside of Jaen, you wouldn't be able to find a place to stay.

You'd have to stay in a hotel in Jaen and commute two hours in each direction every day. When Nery, my wife, and I went, there was literally only one place available in town, and it was only available because it had been abandoned and was in complete disrepair.Since there was no other place, Brian rented it.

It was a single room with a concrete floor and mosquito mesh for windows instead of glass. Brian purchased a hay mattress for us and covered it with a mosquito net. He also bought a plastic folding table, on which we arranged a propane camping stove for cooking.

Beyond that, we were left to fend for ourselves. The bathroom was in a separate unit across a small grass yard. On my first day of work, the team members at the processing facility told me they'd heard about the place Brian rented. They confirmed that it was a truly awful place. In spite of all that, we would have toughed it out.

Unfortunately, we had a neighbor who lived in a unit that was built on the same property. We were supposed to share the bathroom with him.

He had the bad habit of sitting in our communal yard in front of our house after showering, wearing nothing but a towel. I was leaving early for work and that left Nery alone with this fellow and he sometimes stayed out there for hours.

This made the situation untenable.

We started looking for a new place. After a few days of looking, we found a place that was completely boarded up, condemned and abandoned. It was on the Chinchipe River and had a balcony in the back up on forty-foot wooden piles that reached all the way down to the river.

The bathroom was out on the balcony and of course we'd need to use the bathroom, no matter how shoddy the piles might have become after years without maintenance. Also, there was a rat infestation.

I didn't want to rent this place at all, but Nery has a lot of gumption, and she said that anything would be better than looking at that man's hairy back every morning.

Since I was working most of the day in the facility, and she'd be spending more time in the house than I would, I went along with her wishes. We cleaned up the place and made it livable. That was no small task.

We had to find a way to clear out the rats and we had to clean a house that hadn't been lived in for more than 5 years. When that was all done, we decided to give the place a fresh coat of paint. The faded white paint on the walls was cracking and peeling and it was depressing to look at.

There was a small hardware shop in town where we bought yellow paint and a bunch of paint brushes. At lunch and in the evening, we got after it, but it was slow going. We had to scrape and sand the other paint off the wall first.

Now here is the thing I wanted to get to. Everything above was context.

One day when I went to the facility, the team saw that I had yellow paint on my hands, and they asked me what I'd been up to. I told them about the painting job. That night, several of those guys came over to help us paint.

The next day, at lunch, they came over again. And they kept coming at lunch and in the evening for the next few days until the job was finished.

Working in the facility is very physically taxing work. It is hot and humid, and every part of the process requires moving thousands of pounds of cacao per day.

In Peru, it is traditional to take a two-hour lunch that includes a siesta, a nap.

In the case of our facility workers, the break is important and necessary as recovery time. It is important to rest in the evening as well. By coming over to help us, they were sacrificing something valuable. We offered to pay them, but they turned down the money.

They just wanted to be helpful. I can't tell you how much that meant to me and how much it motivated me to be a good manager who would do anything possible to take care of his team.

I keep that memory in my mind to this day and when I need a little kick in the pants to get my energy up, I think about those guys in our terrible little house, helping us paint. Those team members are still out there working in our facility to this day.

And they are still the same great guys. One note before I sign off.

I am sick as a dog as I write this. As an aside, I wonder where that expression comes from, as I haven't known dogs to be particularly sickly animals.

But I am under an oath to write every day for a thousand days straight. If this one was incoherent or poorly written, I apologize.

My head feels like it weighs about a thousand pounds and might come crashing down on the keyboard at any time.

Thank you so much for your time today.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!