“Noris, Can you show me how to open a coconut with a machete?” I asked.
Noris then gave me one of her yes I will show you how to do something you silly (but hopefully endearing) gringa looks. I brought her my machete, and before I could even say anything she asked me if I had bought a sheath for it. I had not. I told her that in an effort to save money I passed on the sheath. As soon as I said this, I realized that perhaps a sheath to cover an extremely sharp machete was not the place to cut corners financially. She then proceeded to ask me if I had had it sharpened. I had not done this either. I had bought a machete hadn’t I? Isn’t that part of being a machete, also being sharp? Apparently not. Noris told us of her friend that we could visit who would sharpen our machetes.
We set out after dinner to find the house of Agustin, the aforementioned machete sharpener. I decided to carry one machete in each hand through the town wearing a dress and a cardigan. It had to be a strange sight: A casually dressed blondish gringo girl carrying two open machetes. We passed a children’s birthday party machetes in hand super nonchalantly.
We arrived at the house of Agustin and Johanna–neighbors of our friend and master chef Noris. I got the sense that they too were laughing on the inside at the three gringa girls wielding unsharpened open machetes. We learned in our conversation that machetes were in fact not sold sharp to deter potentially violent shoplifters. They also asked me why we had not bought machete covers again highlighting my machete noob status. Besides that we had super fun conversation with Agustin and Johanna, who were so absolutely sweet and welcoming. We talked about the differences between learning English and Spanish, the future and Kalu Yala and our roles in the town. They emphasized the importance of a consistent education program in the town of San Miguel, and we agreed. Directora Kelly explained that this was one of our main goals as a program. We want consistent after school programs to be carried throughout each semester including ESL, art’s and crafts, and science club.
To check if our machetes were sufficiently sharp, Agustin without a word cut a frond off of the palm tree out back. They were sharp, and they both repeatedly pleaded for us to be careful walking back since we didn’t have sheaths.
Once again designated the machete wielder, I returned to our house with the caravan of gringos. Again we passed the birthday party full of small children machetes in hand, although I have a slight feeling it would have been more normal had I not been wearing a floral printed dress, cardigan and flip flops.
This experience taught us a few things:
Always buy sheaths for sharp dangerous objects.
Our neighbors are beautiful and kind people.
I looked awesome double-fisting machetes.
The following morning Noris was able to open the coconut with her trademark Noris smirk, and it was glorious. After my careful observation, I think I should be able to open it myself next time without severing any vital limbs. Sipping on my coconut water I reflected over the whole experience. Despite making multiple missteps on the machete journey, our friends in San Miguel were patient and willing to help us. This is what Kalu Yala is about. Cooperative community engagement and machetes.