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  • Writer's pictureCandis Krummel

🍃Chop Chop, There’s Work to Do

Chop Chop, There’s Work to Do

Hello Dear Friends,

We have the pleasure of sharing another report from Tamara Winter, whom you recall volunteers with Tu'ik Ruch' Lew during Colorado's cold winter months. I know you'll enjoy another of her colorful stories which reveal details of daily life in Santiago Atitlan and the work at Tu'ik Ruch' Lew.


Chop Chop, There’s Work to Do

By Tamara Winter Nelson

In my visits to Santiago, Atitilan, in the Highlands of Guatemala I have felt, oddly, at home. The pulse, energy, and ethos of this hard working and notably artistic culture resonate well with me. Life there is rich in the way a pedestrian society fosters. People don’t hop in a car to run an errand. They walk, hail a tuk-tuk, or jump into a pickup truck. In so doing, there are small interactions of greeting, the exchange of a few coins, a shuffle to make room for others. There is no need for a workout gym, the activities of daily life keep their bodies strong and connected with neighbors. Cameron, the bedrock of Tu’ik Ruck’ Lew operations, tells me there is a chop chop work ethic as he demonstratively slices one hand into the palm of the other. “Chop chop” there's work to do.

The day starts with roosters announcing the sunrise followed by a choir of uncommonly loud mourning doves. Time is measured out in the pat-pat-pat of tortillas and the endless chink-chink-chink of chisel on stone. The men are master craftsmen at stone work.

Volcanic chunks are chiseled flat and angular for building walls and pathways.Men carrying enormous loads with head-straps walk with a quick stride geared to keep the momentum going.

Women chat while having their pre-cooked corn ground into masa at a neighborhood mill. They go to the lake or wash houses to do their washing.

They collect firewood and carry it home on their heads as if they didn’t even know an enormous bundle was balanced up there. I have practiced this poised and utilitarian art out on the milpas where nobody would see me. Only to be caught to the amusement of men out tending their corn, beans and squash. Young women in “finishing school” would do well to model the posture of Mayan women.

This woman carries a basket of fresh baked rolls.

One day we were installing stoves to homes on a footpath up a rather steep hillside. As the team hauled the heavy parts for the new stoves up, a seemingly endless stream of men trudged down with enormous loads of firewood. I wonder how many days a batch of wood will last a family? How many trees a year? What barriers keep people from moving on to a fuel efficient wood stove?

One barrier is keeping up with supply. On a very efficient day, 4 to 5 stoves can be installed—more commonly, 2 to 3 and an occasional combustion chamber rebuild. While I was there we ran out of stoves. That means a trip to the south over the caldera to low land sweeping down to the ocean.

A large truck is rented and we make a long day-trip down to the factory. Forty stoves can fit in the truck. Forty of everything, concrete, steel, clay pottery, crushed pumice and aluminum. Loading the truck was a masterful packing job. They made it all fit in a way to minimize breakage in transport. First, bags of crushed pumice are poured out onto the floor 2-3 inches thick. Then alternating layers of the heavy concrete stove bodies and more crushed pumice. Upon this mass, heavy steel planchas are layered on.

Isa, the Queen of the project, Inspects everything. She is not pleased with of some of the clay tiles for the combustion chamber have cracks. So, every box of tiles is opened and checked and stuffed with insulation material to cushion the bumpy ride home. Light parts, stove pipes and screens, are loaded on top. At the factory there was a showroom with prototypes of fuel efficient wood stoves that preceded the current and best ONIL stove. On the way home, the whole crew stops at a favorite scenic overlook and a fantastic late day picnic prepared by, who else, Isa.

We return to Santiago, dusty, sweaty and tired, but “CHOP CHOP” all of the materials must be unloaded and the pumice shoveled back into bags before we take a tuk-tuk home to a shower and bed. The roosters and doves will be announcing a new day soon.


Let us know if YOU would like to volunteer at Tu'ik Ruch' Lew. There is something to do for everyone, regardless of your skills. And as many of our visitors and volunteers have told us, the experiences are life-changing.

Gratefully yours,


Candis E. Krummel

Co-founder & President, Board of Directors

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