My day-to-day during the Covid-19 pandemic has been one to remember. It’s October and things haven’t changed much since March for everybody’s day-to-day lives. Luckily, I was able to find something that made me feel personally fulfilled while learning something new. I’ve been employed by a couple of different private contractors and I’ve always had fun doing this sort of thing. Helping see a shed or a hydroponic system or a greenhouse come together has always been a fun way to spend my time. The jobs always came to me for one reason or another, I knew someone or someone knew me.
Recently, I’ve been expanding some of those skills on a co-op in Los Angeles, my hometown. Working with a seasoned contractor like my current employer has been quite the learning experience. I think it’s because Dave, my employer, has some perfectionist tendencies which has meant that I’m able to learn in greater detail. He cares so much about how the job is done that it forces me to make sure the job really is done right.
A lot of the work is precise and requires patience. For instance, laying mosaic tile over a wall in a pool can actually be quite the tedious task. Especially to get them all level. As well as the prep to get there. So, every little mistake counts and one must be extremely gentle and intentional making sure everything’s straight before everything dries. Everything is measured three times before you cut. Things like that. The kind of care and attention that is required to make these things has taught me a lot about what it takes to build anything, and the level of focus that is necessary. The reason I say this is because there are times where you can’t afford to be distracted because the mistake can cost you. Luckily, I’ve been fine. This said, I work with materials that are meant to make something last for a significant amount of time, like concrete, thin-set, sealer, stain, various adhesives, epoxy grout. These are all things that you don’t want to get all over the customer’s property because it’s hard to correct those mistakes. So, not a lot of time for day-dreaming.
After a couple of delays related to the California fires as well as other complications, we just finished building some trellises for a customer and now we’re gonna make a private salon for an upcoming business owner. I can’t wait to see what this is going to look like. I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and I think the skills and lessons I learn here will definitely be a part of my experience at Antioch in the future. I feel like getting my feet wet with different contracting jobs can be helpful with a goal of mine to build an instrument and design some sort of acoustically sensitive space for recording and practicing. I feel like I’m learning things that I could definitely use in the future, even beyond Antioch, in one way or another.
I also have some music in the works. I hope to come out with at least a single by the end of the year. I’ll have to get in touch with a couple friends who have some recording equipment, but I think I can manage even if I use really terrible mics for recording (like the one on your phone). The goal for me is to lay some music down that I feel good about. I’ll have to make sure that I stick to a style of music that can sound good with whatever recording equipment and mixing software I end up using. My thing is, I’m a self-proclaimed musician who has never really recorded anything seriously. And since I decided to take a musical direction at Antioch, I think this will definitely be the start to something that I’ve always wanted to do. I think recording and mixing your own music is another level to music that I’m very excited to start and develop at Antioch.
I’ve been lucky enough to be able to spend some time with my family whom I haven’t been able to see in quite some time. I spent time in Colorado for a year before I went to Antioch and haven’t seen them much since. I’ve stepped in as a part-time caregiver for my grandmother since I’ve been back, and I feel like it’s been time well spent with her. I help with her meals and other regular needs. She has onset dementia that seems to be getting worse but she still has good advice to give. We’ve been making sure we take every measure to be sure she’s safe from the virus. Luckily, everything’s has been okay because everyone has been wearing their masks. I feel like my grandmother has taught me a lot about the aging mind. This has reminded me of my long interest in psychology and neuroscience as well as the strength I find in the giving of service to others. I’ve also been helping my grandmother’s dog walk again, as well as monitor and feed him. We just got him a doggie wheelchair because he couldn’t use his hind legs anymore. He actually seems happier with it and it’s really nice to see such a difference in attitude with him.
I can feel this chapter of my life can be called “love service” or something. I appreciate the sense of fulfillment I feel as I continue being of some help to my family while I’m here during this pandemic. The time I spend making sure my family has everything they need and the gratitude my grandmother has shown, specifically, is always so amazing to feel. I can feel a lot of healing occur in my own heart as I rekindle the relationships I have with my family. I’m reconnecting with them in meaningful ways that will give me a better sense of family connection in the future, which I felt I had not had in a long time.
Everyday I wake up ready to take on a new task here at Mount Totumas. I’m a volunteer here in the Panamanian Cloud Forest, always ready to help move the project here forward. They have a huge coffee project here, along with a couple others, and the coffee will keep growing in greater numbers as the years go by. This year it was projected that we will have harvested, dried, and roasted, a little over 2,000 pounds of coffee.
I work closely with the indigenous community here and everyday we teach our languages to each other. We talk to each other about our cultures and families, interests, food, anything to help the time go by. Some of us even play fútbol in our spare time. It seems we’re always trading words and phrases to help us communicate with each other better. Lots of laughs, and we’re all very grateful to be working in such a beautiful place. I couldn’t imagine a better place to practice my Spanish. This, so far, has been an incredible cultural and language immersion experience.
One thing that I have been taught here is to not over examine my life. It’s easy to reminisce and poke holes in our stories, and possibly even regret or stress over past events. The people that surround me are always present and content, it’s amazingly inspiring. Busy, but not stressed. And if stress is there, it is handled maturely, to the best of everyone’s ability. We’re all in this together. The attitudes of the people here seem to have rubbed off on me. My perceived problems that I either have had, or that arise, have deflated tremendously. I can’t help but feel inspired to be and do more since I’ve been out here. Not to sound too mystical, but the energy here IS real, and it has been having a serious effect on my well-being and presence of mind. It’s been easier to choose the thoughts that I want since I’ve been here, but I still have plenty of room to grow.
The culture here is vastly different from what you can find in the U.S., to say the least. Integrity is the name of the game here when it comes to community relations and even employer-employee relations. For example, say your neighbor’s barn breaks down and you supply wood, labor and other supplies to repair it. There is an equilibrium between the neighbor’s hearts that is felt, and it is desired to maintain balance as much as they are able to. So then the neighbor that received assistance will supply corn, or offer one of their livestock or anything to make the relationship between the two feel balanced once more. Many countries, especially in more rural and agricultural areas even beyond Latin America depend on this principal, it was translated to me as an internal debt. Since government aid can be sparse or non-existent community relations are huge. And I get to see just how important it is to practice that integrity for a good beyond individuals and individual communities.
The rawness of nature here is profound. We are 8 degrees north of the equator, so the tropical ecology offers immense diversity in plants, animals, birds, and insects. From east and west we sit about thirty-five miles from both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Carribean winds combined with the drier pacific winds demonstrate a variety of weather patterns that can be both exciting and overwhelming. The pressure differences between the two oceans, the pacific having much less, is what mainly draws the clouds over the continental divide, and over us. We are in a constant battle with the weather since the coffee drying process greatly depends on the beaming sun. Learning to work with, and adapt with, what has been given has also been an important lesson here. My spirit feels more adaptable, malleable even, to the inevitable change and progress of life.
Along with growing coffee, there are also prolific green houses here that supply truly hard-earned, organic food to the people up here. I’ve subdivided plants, prepared and planted ornamental clippings, prepared seed beds, planted a variety of vegetables, transplanted germinated seeds to larger pots, and much more. (can’t list jobs forever) Working in the greenhouses has given me great appreciation for botany, horticulture, as well as the resilience and flexibility of life.
To support the overall operation here. Mount Totumas also has tapped into the tourist’s dollar. Renting out cabins and lodging guests is a significant source of income. However, this is a means to support what they do here. Mount Totumas wants to be a small and simple natural haven for the few that are up here, and those that come to visit. The road to get up the mountain isn’t paved for a reason (it is EXTREMELY bumpy). Nearly every guest that does come, is impacted deeply and very grateful. The suspicion is that it would lose its simple family run charm if it was to be a larger tourist attraction. Nevertheless, it is still a highly sought after destination. Thankfully with limited space.
So, why doesn’t an hour mean anything to me anymore? I’ll explain.
While I’ve been out here in my hometown of Los Angeles, I’ve been managing locations for Accurate Car Wash Division in Santa Monica and West Hollywood.
Traffic is everywhere all the time so I have to plan ahead and make sure I’m at work by 8:00 a.m., which means I have to wake up at 6:20 every day of the week. Honestly, it isn’t that bad but I have to be careful with how I spend my time in the evenings and the mornings, or else I lose out on the early customers or I’m just exhausted the next day. Or both! Which sucks!
My boss, Jose, has 8 locations throughout the Los Angeles area. We try to get 8-10 cars a day to make sure Jose is making money and not just paying people to wash cars. We make our own tips and I split the tips with whoever is helping me that day.
Being the manager of my own locations means spending my time wisely. Some people need their cars to be done by 10:00 a.m. and others at the end of the day. Sometimes I have to tell the customers to come back the next day because I’m all booked that day. So organization is key. I never thought that washing cars was so time-consuming but it really is.
Half an hour feels like 5 minutes to me now. On a larger scale, the time between the last day of the winter quarter and now has been so quick I can’t believe it! It feels like a month but it’s actually been 2 1/2 months.
Now I’m starting to see why my mom would try to cram in as many things as she can in a day.
Anyway, another part of the job is handling the money and recording all the cars I wash. I have to make sure everyone pays and pays as soon as they can. Some people like to pay when they drop off their cars and others prefer to pay when the job is done. I have to be careful with the people who like to pay after because I can easily waste 40 minutes of my time waiting for someone who doesn’t respect my time.
I can’t wait all day for someone so I just send them a text telling the customer that their keys will be left with the valet. I usually forfeit a tip when this happens but I’d rather not wait around.
The reason I’m washing cars is pretty simple. I want to make money! I just took the first job I could get because I knew that I would waste a lot of my co-op waiting to hear back from someone.
I waited until the last minute to get my co-op together, so don’t be like me.
I’m on track to meet my goal and make enough money to purchase a car in Ohio. Once I have a car and I’m back at Antioch, I’ll be able to take classes at other colleges that are part of our consortium. I’ll work toward credits that will help me get the degree I want. Then I will be able to get all the credits I need to since Antioch doesn’t offer every class for specific majors. I’m not so clear about what my major will be yet, but I’m considering something that has to do with health on a broad level, including mind, body, and soul.
Having the option to take classes at different colleges will be a huge game-changer in my college experience overall. Plus, having the freedom to go to far off places is huge for me and my mental wellbeing.