Following a delay that brought Melissa and Paula to Mexico on Sunday, and Judy and I’s flights that landed us in Mexico City within an hour of each other but required Judy to navigate through different terminals to find our meeting place, we caught the three hour (and surprisingly posh) bus to Queretaro, took a taxi to el Centro Historical and our hostel, and looked around for all of two minutes before the four of us found each other. Our team was complete!
We had to determine our plan of action going into Chitejé, as we would stay in Querétaro for this one night before buying whatever supplies we needed and could carry and going to our host family in Chitejé de Garabato.
Melissa, the sole Chitejé-traveled veteran of the group (who will be leaving us to fend for ourselves on Friday), wanted to see how much the greenhouse vegetables were growing over the summer. The productivity of greenhouses when she visited them last winter was varied, with a few households filling their greenhouses and most of them barely growing their vegetables. We were concerned that our mixed results could be due to different possible factors: the winter cold season, an inefficient greenhouse design, or at the worst negligence, with some families not putting in the time to maintain the greenhouses they’d asked for. We will attempt a cost benefit analysis this summer by using a quantifying method to measure vegetable growth (counting vegetables grown or measuring the square area and average height of each bed used).
We are also building one new greenhouse, with a new design created by our Chiteje de Garabato contact and agricultural engineer Gaby. This greenhouse will be on school grounds, and can be used to teach students how to cultivate plants, the importance of vegetables for health, etc. But it will also allow us to compare the performance of Gaby’s design over the old greenhouse design. Along with our summer greenhouse assessment we can use our information to help determine which greenhouse is most effective, and how to choose who we could offer subsidized greenhouses to. In the long term, if greenhouses are profitable for families, we will pursue a sustainable government subsidized greenhouse construction program run by the community.
Chiteje de Garabato has limited education and activities for its children, and depression and suicide have recently been high in this 1,600 population town. Our goal going into any community is to help satisfy a pressing need, so though we are not equipped to fully tackle these issues, we hope to use our short 2.5 weeks wisely by offering classes (perhaps 3) to the children at the school and activities such as creating a mural of reasons they love to live in Chiteje. Last winter Melissa and Kristyn taught three computer classes after school, and were very well received by the students and their families. We just need to create lesson plans and handle logistics.
Well, that will wait until tomorrow, since it is late and the delicious Mexican food we had with Rob (former head of the Technology Transfer program in Mexico for the Peace Corps) and beautiful Centro Histórico de Querétaro are still fresh in my memory…