farming

Chad McCoy's Youthful Adventures - Ep.5 - Feliz Navidad

The 5th installment of the emails sent home, chronicling the time I hitchhiked, jumped freight trains, and rode with strangers down to Guatemala from my hometown of Stratford, Ontario. In the last episode I had made it to Mexico, pooped my pants in a hostel bed, aaaaaand…a bunch of other stuff happened, none as sensational as the pooping unfortunately, but most of it is interesting.

It’s been interesting for me to revisit these writings, and to have a bit of a window into a younger self. Sometimes I wonder why I am the way I am, and why I have these “strange” ideas about how things should be. Rereading these journals after some time has passed has helped me remember that I didn’t just come up with these thoughts and ideas randomly, they are based off of lived experience, and interactions with people far outside of my home bubble.

Anyways, here’s some more stories.

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Dec 24th 09

Feliz Navidad

Hola mi famila y amigos! I made it to Xela (shayla) Guatemala, after a long, strange 2 day bus ride from Guadalajara. (I didn’t pronounce Xela correctly until I got there, I was calling it Ex-ela, like a dum-dum) Crossed the border with an older German fellow who I think was running from either his wife or the law in Mexico, he spoke espanol so it made everything easier. The first thing I noticed about Guatemala was that when people try to sell you things and you say no thanks, they still smile at you. That was my first introduction to the incredibly nice people of this country. We rode a school bus painted funky colours called a chicken bus, probably because it’s likely that´s who you´ll share your seat with. Parted with the german fella at a wildly hectic bus station and continued on my own (1), helped a bunch of dudes carry sacks of potatos to the rack on top the bus (50lbs sacks, like we did on the farm, except these guys carried them on their shoulders/heads and climbed a ladder). Sat right through my stop, (probably thinking about what I had just seen at the bus station), got to the next town and got on a bus going back, made it to Xela, and all I had was an address written on my hand 3 days ago that had half sweated off and no idea where I was in relation to where I wanted to be. This was my second experience with the people of Guatemala, every person I asked for directions was friendly and at least pointed me in the direction I was to go, 2 hours later, covered in sweat, I arrived and was immediately hooked up with my host family. It´s part of the program that I stay with a family here and eat my meals with them, and I have my own room with a desk and a tin roof that makes a lot of noise when it rains. The house mothers name is Alicia and she made me dinner right away, scrambled eggs, which I stuff in tortillas and smother in salsa. The food has been great everyday, cereal and fresh fruit for breakfast, bananas, papaya, and apples, which come from Washington state (The food system is so f’ed). The tortillas are the real deal down here, small and thick, made from corn by a woman with a wood fired grill in an alley, she’ll sell you 15 of them in shopping bag for 10Q, which is about $1.30. Lots of beans, great cheese, the lettuce is grown locally but unfortunately right beside the road, so it`s subjected to terrible amounts of exhaust and pollution (funny story about that lettuce, which involves food poisoning and vomit and poop on Christmas day, but we’ll save that for another time). There is a lot of garbage lying around down here, and people driving 2 stroke engines, so the air gets thick.

On Christmas Eve, a few hours after I originally sent this email, I went with a few classmates and the director of the school to a Woman’s prison in Xela, to spread mirth and positivity. We sang some songs and danced and it was an amazing evening, so much fun was had. The director, pictured here, had me bring my guitar to every event; at the prison, I played a duet with one of the women, who sang the old pub favourite, What’s Up, by 4 Non Blondes. What a world.

On Christmas Eve, a few hours after I originally sent this email, I went with a few classmates and the director of the school to a Woman’s prison in Xela, to spread mirth and positivity. We sang some songs and danced and it was an amazing evening, so much fun was had. The director, pictured here, had me bring my guitar to every event; at the prison, I played a duet with one of the women, who sang the old pub favourite, What’s Up, by 4 Non Blondes. What a world.

In the prison, the director gives us the lowdown. From the schools website “Our activities are designed for you to experience the culture, traditions, lifestyles, social problems, history, Mayan worldviews and life in the rural communities of Guatemala. Through visits to indigenous villages, churches, markets, cultural conferences, films and discussions, it is possible to gain a better idea of the political, social and economic situation of Guatemala” I did learn a shit ton while I was there.

In the prison, the director gives us the lowdown. From the schools website “Our activities are designed for you to experience the culture, traditions, lifestyles, social problems, history, Mayan worldviews and life in the rural communities of Guatemala. Through visits to indigenous villages, churches, markets, cultural conferences, films and discussions, it is possible to gain a better idea of the political, social and economic situation of Guatemala” I did learn a shit ton while I was there.

The school that I´m attending has been around for 30 years or so, teaching travellers and students spanish by immersion, they do a lot of work within the community as well. So far I´ve been out in the countryside transplanting pine tree seedlings with a 60 year old indigenous woman who laughed kindheartedly at my poor spanish and pale skin for most of the morning, there were 4 of us, 3 students and her and we worked well together and got a bunch done, I was pumped to be working with dirt again, and she was pumped to tell us about the countryside. Of course I hardly understood anything, which made her explode with mirth. (This lady was super spry, jumping off ledges and skipping about, I remember how pleased she was to tell us she was 60 years old)

I´m finding it difficult to learn another language, and now realize that my english is very poor as well, basically I know very little about grammar (this is still true). It´s coming along though, and I can communicate very basic thoughts, like I´m hungry, I´m full, how much is that, stop doing that, keep doing that, etc. There are a lot of subtle differences down here, and I´ve made a few mistakes. Little things involving accents and emphasis, like papá and mamá mean father and mother, while papa and mama mean potato and breast, stuff like that. In my first week I told my teacher I was horny, my potato lives by a river, I want to have intercourse with a pig all the way to the capital and I told a woman her breasts make great dinner. It seems like a very sexual language, that or the people here all have dirty minds. Ask for a spoon in a restaurant and someone will snicker.


Dogs, everywhere. I love it. Most live on the street and have certain turfs, like the downtown dogs stay downtown, the dogs near my place don´t usually travel far, and can usually be seen sleeping in the same spots night after night. I´ve befriended a few, right now I´m working on this 3 legged chow with dreadlocks that sleeps by the soccer field, it is the funniest looking dog I´ve ever seen, I´m going to try and get a picture because I can never describe it properly. I laugh out loud every time I see this dog, and will go out of my way to walk through it´s neighbourhood. (I went to great lengths to befriend this dog, I even went and bought a box of dog biscuits, which was not easy and led me to a shady part of the market in a strange shop with a scary shopkeeper who thought I was insane buying food for street dogs. The box of dog biscuits was so old, and I never made a breakthrough with the chow, but other dogs and I became fast friends)


Went to a coffee plantation with the school and the first thing I saw was 10 guys in a field with machetes and handkerchiefs around their faces, using their giant knives to cut the glass down low, for a soccer game that was to be played there in a few hours. They turned out to be great guys and showed me around, even though we didn’t speak the same language we still shared the love of the harvest and it was easy to communicate. (This was one of the most illuminating days of this adventure. These people work and live on his coffee plantation, the owners are italian and are almost never there. They rarely leave the plantation, and buy most things from the company store. They considered this a good farm to work on due to the fact that the owners were pretty hands-off, and there was a decent amount of job security. There is nothing like hanging out with the other labourers and producers around the world. No war but the class war). Also visited a hot springs and soaked my bones. It was a great feeling. I´m glad I came.

That´s all I´m going to write today because I think the guy wants me out of his garage.

Much love

(1) I didn’t want to write this up there and destroy the weak flow that story had going for it, but I saw a guy get backed over by a bus about 5 feet in front of me at this bus station, folding him in half and crushing him. I’ll spare you the gory details, but it gave me nightmares for a long time.

Sometimes these adventures are all fun and games, and exploration and discovery. And sometimes some very real shit would happen, and you just have to find a way to understand what you just experienced, and hopefully not bury a piece of it and have it fester.

Chad McCoy's Youthful Adventures - Ep.3 - Cabin Departure, Border Silliness, San Diego

Continuing the saga, an email I sent to a close friend in November of 2009 describing the latest parts of the adventure, plus "the f'ed up truth"....

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From: pass_the_carrots*******

To: czars13********

Subject: What's up

Date: Wed, 25 Nov 2009 01:13:28 -0500

Where are you at? I miss your presence daily.

This is the message I sent most people, plus the added truth I sent a very select few...

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And now I'm in San Diego, took a bus south for 2 days, got into downtown at 4am, palm trees, american flags, and me on about 6 hours of sleep in the last 4 days trying to figure out what the hell I'm doing. (The beginning of "Slept In A Bush" off of A Few Crumbs, 1 of 2 was recorded at the point described here)

Left the cabin around the middle of the month, just in time too, it snowed while we were driving away and didn't stop for days, Vancouver got something like 300mm of rain in 4 days, I got about 30mm of rain in my shoes.

Leaving the cabin was bittersweet, I really do like the lifestyle, lots of wandering through the wood, seeing black bears and trying to befriend little weasels and gophers. Yeah, it was lonely, but I caught a mouse and kept it in a bucket so it wouldn't poop in my dishes anymore. I wouldn't say we became friends but I think we could have, had we both been the same size and species. There's a good chance I'll go back there next fall, it's a pretty good gig for me and I did learn some stuff, got to drive a next-to-new, massive tractor, listening to the radio, wearing rubber boots all day and thinking "This is my life?" So yeah, it was a great gig.

Took my cast off about a month ago with a pair of tinsnips and a rusty saw (I am resourceful), went to the waterfall and washed my hands properly for the first time in a month and a half, what a great feeling. And the reunion with my guitar was one of the sweetest things in memory, sitting in front of the wood stove with candles giving off some mood lighting, it was love, that's the best way I can describe it, I was starting to forget why I play guitar all the time, then I remembered and it was pure love. I don't know what I would do if I didn't do this. (fast forward a few years later, when an injury made it near impossible to play guitar. That was some serious fuckery, realizing that the thing that most of my identity was based on might not be possible anymore, and that I'd have to re-invent myself. Luckily, I've been able to work myself back into some sort of shape and still share music with people, but it was a real eye-opener. Note to self, every day you can play is a good day)

Spent some time in Victoria, that was the first place I went when I graduated from high school so it was a little nostalgic, but not as much as I thought it would be. I am not the same person I was then, that's for sure. Hooked up with a tree-planting buddy and got drunk for 3 days, went ice skating at midnight, talked trees, crashed some house party, then got all decked out in neon ski clothes for an event called Neon Ski-on, it was pure silliness and I'm glad I left Canada on such a high (low) note, wearing a wig with a neon headband on overtop. Potato vodka is the devil. I'm glad I'm done with it. (It was around this time that Hamish Black told me he wanted to become an olympic speed skater, look at him now! A fucking legend! This was also around the time he left for the bar with a ziplock bag full of quarters and cake all over his face, screaming about his shoes. Also legendary)

Went to the ferry the next day, hungover from the last few days, very little sleep, remembered when I got there that I had to get through customs, and that I looked like a filthy vagrant. The Canada side was no problem, but when I got to the states it was an old man who immediately didn't like the look of me, maybe because I had a tarp wrapped around a sleeping bag strapped to my bag and was carrying a guitar. (I stuck out I suppose)

Anyways, he started trying to trap me with questions, and it was pretty easy considering my state, so he made me stand to the side and him and another guy searched all my stuff. I didn't like it at all. A little scared, and violated, and mad that he was picking on me. Finally they let me go, and I caught my bus, but it tainted the next few hours for me, I kept seeing signs about the war and "protecting our freedom" bullshit, and really obese people, and I had a bad first day in America.

But I made some friends on the bus, and the next morning we saw a beautiful sunrise come out from behind Mount Shasta, and the whole day was sunny, which I hadn't experienced since the beginning of my time in Pemberton. So yeah, I feel much better about life. San Diego's a good looking city, I'm crashing in a hostel and busked a bit down by the pier, ended up with a bunch of homeless people crowding the hill opposite me, I don't think it was good for business, but I didn't care, we had fun. (that was a strange moment in my life. I realized quick that I wasn't going to make any money with this crowd of ruffians milling about, but they were having a good time so obviously I felt the need to sing them songs and we ended up having a nice little drunken party on the pier at around 1 o'clock in the afternoon. Then a rival busker came up to me and wanted to fight me for taking his busking spot, and one of the homeless guys tried to fight him because he wanted me to keep playing. It got strange, and I left without playing an encore.)

In the next day or two I'm catching a ride with a guy that I met on a rideshare, there are 3 of us in his van and were going to head over through Arizona, then go cross the border and head south to Puerto Vallarta, I'll chill for a few days if it's nice, then head to Guadalajara to stay a day or two with a very nice woman who I used to play gigs for through Seneca. After that I make my way southeast to Guatemala, where I'll stay with a family and take spanish lessons for a month. This is me putting my retirement plan into action now, and so far it seems to be working out alright.

Take care everybody,

b

Thanks- Huge thanks go to Pola for putting up with me farting on her couch for a few days (I had gas) Melissa for the peach jam, it reminded me of home. The potato boys for the great 2 months at the farm. Jac for getting The Last Waltz and for folding my laundry again. Molly for being so damn cute and jamming with us boys. Trish, Leila, Sid and the rest at Linnea for showing me such a good time on Cortes Island, Leila for not being too upset when I punched her in the privates after too much fun was had at the bar (I'm so sorry Leila)(also, that was an amazing trip, the quest we took to see the old guy that built his own cabin and made a living creating high quality kitchen utensils out of fallen arbutus trees really influenced me. He had an old bathtub out on the top of the hill so he could have a bath and look out on the ocean, those are some straight priorities). Hamish for letting me wear his neon tights and women's swim trunks. And you folks that have messaged me back telling me what you're up to, I like getting those messages.

Peace.

Myself and Leila, she whose privates I punched (in jest). I had cut my cast off a few days before this, so I still had a skinny chicken arm, and it was easier to have others strum while I chorded. Can't stop the jams.

Myself and Leila, she whose privates I punched (in jest). I had cut my cast off a few days before this, so I still had a skinny chicken arm, and it was easier to have others strum while I chorded. Can't stop the jams.

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Really, where are you? I'm heading into Mexico in a few days and wish you were here,

I went to Commercial drive and looked in a dumpster, it was picked clean, but I grabbed an apple off of a bench.

Much love brother

 

Chad McCoy's Youthful Adventures Ep.2 - Apples, Potatos, More Mountains

The second installment of the ridiculous adventure that I embarked upon in my wild youth! So far I've hopped a freight train from Sudbury to Edmonton, hitched through the mountains and slept in ditches to get to Kelowna, and broke my arm falling off a skateboard while living under a tarp in an apple orchard. Things start getting wild around here, so read on.

Two Princes and a Queen

(somewhere around mid-late September maybe? 2009)

Hey everybody!

So on a decision made very quickly after a sleepless night, I'm heading up to Prince George to visit some family I haven't seen in 20 years (I never made it, sorry Penny and Aunt Trish!), then to Prince Rupert to take the ferry to the Queen Charlotte Islands, known as Haida Gwaii. 

I picked apples for a bit, but that went sour. My stupid cast and the poor orchard conditions left me realizing I would never make enough money, and I was having no fun. I was also not real keen on the pesticide dust and earwigs falling into my cast and crawling around. True story. 

So we left, on good terms. Two good friends, Luc and John, came and we spent a night at Steph and Natalie's in Kelowna and were joined by Steph's French exchange parents from years ago. We made dinner, had some drinks, then the guitar came out, and the pots and pans, and various other kitchen items, and we had a huge silly jam. Pierre, who didn't speak a word of english, played the cheese grater with a pen, his solos were maginifique (he ended up grating the pen down to the ink and got it all over his hands and laughed and laughed).

The next day Steph took us to a winery for some photos, then to the highway to hitch on out. The plan was to split up and head to Osoyoos, but we ended up in downtown Vancouver at a party in a tiny apartment where everyone was so wasted I couldn't understand a thing they were saying, so I slept on the roof. (anyone who has heard the "Vagina!? What the fuck is a Vagina?" story, that happened during this hitchhike) (sorry Mom)

We decided to look for jobs here, but after doing up a resume, I realized that I can do manual labour, play music, and wash dishes well, none of which I can do with a cast (I have slightly expanded my skill set since then) . Soooooooo, on a whim I decided to check out Haida Gwaii, which I hear is beeeeautiful, unlike anywhere else in Canada. This way I can take a week or 2, check out central BC, see what's up, and maybe come back to Vancouver a little more healed and positive and try again.

Thanks go to....Steph and Natalie for putting me up, or putting up with me. Pierre and Annie, for sharing a multi-language dinner with us. Jen Pola for letting me crash her couch here in Van, she made me put on a silly rubber glove and do her dishes though, evil woman (this is untrue, I offered to do the dishes, she didn't make me, sorry for lying Pola), Kiel, for letting me crash his roof. $1.50 slices of pizza here in Vancouver, a real lifesaver.
And Luc and John, for demoralizing me and smoking all my weed when I needed it most, thanks guys. Sincerely.

Alright, talk to you all soon!

Me washing Pola's dishes. Pretty sure she took this picture, I bet we were laughing.

Me washing Pola's dishes. Pretty sure she took this picture, I bet we were laughing.

Sometime in early October, 2009
pleasantly picking potatos in Pemberton

Ok, so I'm in the Pemberton valley harvesting potatos and living in a cabin with no hydro or running water. I fill up buckets with water from the river for dishes, there's a wood stove so I have a fire every night to keep warm, a little coleman stove for cooking, good books, a bed and a chair, and I wake up every morning with the sun and pee outside with a great view of the mountains, which as of this week are covered with snow about 2/3rds of the way up. Yes, totally random, and awesome.

I was hitching out of Whistler, an old man picked me up, took me to his place for breakfast (he had some sort of Whistler travellers home stay thing going on, so there were a bunch of random people there. He was also something going on with his brain and he kept forgetting what he was doing, he drove me to Pemberton later that morning and had to ask his wife who was in the passenger seat what they were doing that day, then he'd laugh when she told him they were picking up the chainsaw carving from that guy in Mt. Currie, it was comical, and scary). A girl there gave me a phone number to get potato picking work, I called it, started the next day and things fell into place from there. It's work I can do with the cast on and I'm good at it, so the farmer offered me the cabins at the back of the farm to live in in exchange for reliable work, and it's been working out great so far. (I was able to name 3 of the 4 varieties of potato on the farm on sight, pretty sure that's what got me the job, ha)

I've been here about 2 weeks and made some good friends, the Root House Manger is a great guy and we work and play well together. I get to drive huge dump trucks full of potatos, sort potatos and dirt, do potato quality control, and package potatos for sale, which is right up my alley. Sometimes I call the potatos "bahdaydas" like my dad, like "What's wrong with the machine?" "A bahdayda got stuck up in there, gotta unjam it with a screwdriver" You know, stuff like that. 

The farm is an old family farm, right in the middle of Pemberton Valley, also known as Spud Valley, which has some of the best alluvial soils in Canada, prime for growing potatos, which they've been doing for many years. About 7 years ago they went organic, which is nice to know that I'm not inhaling pesticide dust everyday. All of our culls (bad potatos) get shipped to a vodka distillery that started up in the area a few months ago. It's called Schramm Vodka, small batch organic potato vodka, delicious. 

A little japanese guy came to work on the farm for a few days, he spoke very little english and played guitar, mostly he sang american folk songs on his out of tune guitar in an equally out of tune voice, the affect was strangely haunting and enjoyable. I had him over for dinner and we didn't speak much, but passed the guitar back and forth sitting in front of the fire. I made beans for dinner, he enjoyed them, so I was pumped. I love beans. (I still love beans)

The wilderness near the cabins is amazing, mountains, waterfalls, species of birds and plants I've never seen, huge trees, rivers, etc. I send a lot of my time trudging through the bush and collecting firewood, and wild mushrooms. A friend showed me which are edible and there are tons out there, so I've been foraging, this weekend we're going hiking for pine mushrooms, yum! (did we find and eat magic mushrooms? I'll leave that up to you to decide!) (sorry Mom)

So things are great, I'm making friends and money, and learning more about farming and life without electricity, which I like. I might stay until the end of the month, or maybe two, we'll see. (the cabin life was a real influence on my life direction, currently working hard and saving up to build my own little cabin. When I get hired out to rock parties, most of the money I charge goes towards that dream)

Tonight were going to the Pemho (Pemberton Hotel) to see a local band called Baked Potato. I'm not making any of this up.

Ok, that's all I can think of, a lot more has happened, but I can't recall everything right now.

Thank yous- Andrew and Lia for feeding me and letting me do laundry, and feeding me moosemeat. Jaqueline for folding my laundry and letting me play her guitar. Tessa the dog for making me realize I'm not as fast on my feet as I thought I was. Harriet the Irish girl for the countless potato jokes. And Ed for picking me up on the side of the road in Whistler even though I looked like a scruffy weirdo and setting this whole series of events into motion. 

Bm