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Community Coffee : Ryn McCall ’21 at Mount Totumas, Panama

What lingers as the most dominant element of my time at Mount Totumas is air.

      Centered between the great oceans of the east and the west and playing host to the fickle winds that shift overhead, the skies peel back from themselves again and again, ever revealing new patterns, new indecipherable secrets, new passing fascinations that dance day and night, lit by the sun and the moon alike. The clouds billow into tufted  tapestries of blinding white before thinning to a gauzy whisper or falling in the finest mists while the sun, ever constant, beams on and on as it marches its reliable path up and over. In this shifting air, everything dances. The flowers stand solemnly bobbing, the trees in their shimmering glitter twist tantrically, the tall grasses sway as though in an unheard rhythm and the butterflies, often in duo, perform a ballet so organic no choreographer could hope to repeat it. 

      The immense quiet from the external, the significant altitude of 6,500ft, and the ever changing light and expressions of life give Mount Totumas an inherent dream-like quality.  Its secluded footprint borders Amistad National Forest and is nearly an hour and a half from town, giving a sense that you could likely be the last person on earth and not know it for some time. As with most farm job sites, the work is new every day, and adds to the excitement of the place. Some days may be filled to the brim with coffee processing tasks, from washing and drying to sorting and roasting while other days might be planting and weeding or even making fresh bread for the guests. The downtime here primarily revolves around the captivating nature that surrounds me. With 400 acres of explorable cloud forest, I often find myself pulled deeper and deeper down a sendero, hoping to see a white faced capuchin or a resplendent quetzal. I encounter many creatures in my days, both big and small, though the recurring ones have a special foothold in my heart. Two farm dogs, Jacky and Canela (which translates to “cinnamon” in Spanish) have developed a certain affinity for me, no doubt because of the affection and snacks I shower them with that is absent in their other relationships with the humans here on the mountain. They have taken to following me around as I move about the farm, resting in the shade while I complete a task and standing once more when I move onto the next. 

        While my Spanish has vastly improved during my time here, sometimes having a friendly face that requires no conversation offers some comfort of its own. I have enjoyed the opportunity to practice my Spanish more, as there are very few people here that speak English, and only one person who can speak broken spanglish in the homestead where I live with the other trabajadores. One of the most striking improvements in my linguistics has been the shift from needing to mentally pre-translate each word or sentence before speaking and being able to respond more rapidly with the vocabulary readily present in my conscious mind. Beyond this, conversations with alumni, host, and owner Jeffrey Deitrich are some of my favorite moments here on the mountain. Ranging from topics such as endemic species to cultural shifts to the death of the cottage industry in America, our meandering and engaging chats open opportunities for wonder and a deeper dissection of concepts and topics not often navigated in polite small talk. 

       Beyond the farm work, tasks that interact with the constantly rotating guests offer an ephemeral quality to the cultural atmosphere. German, Russian, French, Locals and beyond exchange themselves in and out on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. From scientists collecting data to avid bird enthusiasts to those simply seeking an escape from the bustling metropolises of their respective homes, even the reasons that bring guests to Totumas vary greatly. 

       My time spent here will certainly be remembered fondly and with vivid delight. At the intersection of personal interest and a need for further growth, Mount Totumas has been a splendid melding of that which interests me and that which I still wish to learn and explore. 

Sunrise over the coffee drying beds behind the farmhouse
straining lago fermented coffee berries
measuring the coffee humidity
Bouldering the Rio
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<p class="p1">Hello, my name is Frank Adam Fortino. I am in my fourth and final year at Antioch College, and on track to graduate with a Liberal Arts bachelor's degree in art focused in media studies. I have spent my college career thus far, as well as my past three co-ops studying the art that is film and video making; from its history to actually creating works myself.</p> <p class="p1">I have worked for filmmakers such as Rea Tajiri (Philadelphia) and Ken Burns (Walpole, New Hampshire) who have helped me gain better understandings of the documentary form, as well as story telling in general. I have travelled to far places (Andros Island in the Bahamas) with film equipment I had to sneak in my pants to carry it aboard an overweight plane.</p> <p class="p1">I have studied and worked with found footage, animation, and essayistic forms. I have researched the links between avant-garde and conventional filmmaking (comparing Maya Derren to Christopher Nolan and <i>Sherlock Jr.</i> to <i>Un Chien Andalou</i>) and have grown very fond of experimental tactics used to convey stories through film and video.</p> <p class="p1">To highlight my passion and excitement for film, I will be organizing and hosting a film festival called <i>30(ish) Frames Per Second: A Yellow Springs Film Festival</i> (www.30ishfilmfest.com) in June of 2017. For the festival, we will be celebrating works with essayistic qualities that deal with social justice issues in some capacity.</p> <p class="p1">Along with my ever-growing fascination for movies and media, I have a strong connection to the ideal of living off of the food I grow myself, in a home that is self-sustaining, and harmless to the environment. To realize this, for my final co-op I have travelled to West Ireland to glasraí farms to live and work with a family who has very similar ideals to my own. They are teaching my how to farm, and live sustainably, and in return, I use the skills they teach me on their farm. Along with immersing myself in a culture different from my own, I am learning skills that will follow me beyond the classroom, and into the way I want to live my life.</p>

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