The rocks rattled and clanked as they rolled down the sloped zinc panels, raising a hell-sent cacophony that made even my nerve jangle. I ran outside and chased the kids away, [but they returned, chanting] "Timoteo, Timoteo, el hombre mas feo" (Tim, Tim, the ugliest man) over and over again.
This unpleasant greeting set the tone for the first few months in my site. I organized soil conservation meetings that no farmers attended. I was heckled by wiry teenagers while giving presentations in my awful Spanish. With the help of the school children, I planted a thousand baby trees around Santa Rosa soccer field, only to find every single one of them uprooted and overturned a few days later. I had constant diarrhea, lost 20 pounds, and even the simplest tasks were a struggle to complete.
I knew my psyche had been scraped truly raw when one afternoon, coming home from a failed attempt to organize a tree nursery in a distant village, I was taunted by kids along the dusty hill path. It was the ever popular Timoteo chant that had quickly become my anthem, as far as the children of Santa Rosa were concerned. I saw red; the next thing I knew, I was chasing the little bastards up a hill, waving my machete like a maniac, tears streaming down my cheeks and screaming in English: "I am not ugly, you little ____'s! I am not ugly!"