Bri’ana Odom ’15 reflects on the lessons she learned by listening to a worker on a coffee plantation:
Being in this beautiful country, which was completely new to me just a little over a week ago, has opened my eyes to a people who are both welcoming and approachable. At first it was hard to put myself out there — to feel vulnerable by conversing in Spanish because it is not my native tongue — but I have seen what good stepping out of a personal comfort zone can bring. Every night we debrief on the happenings of or day; every day we share new stories and experiences with each other and talk to those not in our group, like the people who work in restaurants and street vendors.
Yesterday we visited a coffee planation and, while it was interesting to learn about how the coffee is processed and grown, I feel that I learned more from one of the workers of the actual plantation than from our tour guide. Not only did this man, who picks coffee for a living, take time out of his day to talk to all of us about his life, but he also answered any and all questions that we had. He told us of how he works for hours and hours every day except for Sunday, only to receive the peso equivalent of 5 American dollars per week–and he never complained once.
He had a smile on his face and a laugh that told me that he was content. And sitting there and talking to him made me realize just how grateful I am for the benefits that my working friends and family members in the U.S. have. The working man was somewhere in his fifties and so is my grandma. My grandma and this man both work, and while my grandmother will eventually be able to retire and receive aid from the government, that is not a possibility for the farm worker we talked to. For that man, stopping to work is not an option because his work on the farm provides no insurance policy or benefits. Before coming to Colombia I never thought about that being a possibility; coming here has made me realize that my reality/the reality of my friends and family is definitely not a shared one throughout the world.
So many people in my family have retired, and although I haven’t started working or even picked a career for that matter, I am able to look forward to a time when I will be able to enjoy my days without the stress of a job. It makes me sad to know that many people like this farmer will never have that luxury. This is something that I will never take for granted. Everyone has a story, and the story of the coffee planation worker is one that will always stick with me.