The Compassion Experience

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A homeschool group that I belong to posted about The Compassion Experience online.  The Compassion Experience is a mobile caravan where you get to “experience other cultures, the realities of global poverty, and how you can change the life of a child living half a world away.”  You walk through rooms that are set-up to look like the places that other kids live and get a real feel for what it is like to live in poverty.  The few responses on the thread said that they enjoyed this experience and it was eye opening.  Someone questioned how much religion is in this experience and one mom that had previously gone stated that even though it is put on by a Christian organization(s) it didn’t have a strong religious tone to it, which is something we were looking for.  I thought that this would be perfect for my boys because they have a bad case of the gimmes and greedies lately.

We didn’t make a reservation because they were full, so we walked in.  There wasn’t a long line, but it took awhile to see the exhibit because they only let people in every five minutes.  When it was our turn we had to choose between two stories.  We decided on the story of the boy from Ethiopia (his story didn’t seem as depressing and more suitable for our boys).  We each got headphones and an iPod which would tell us a story through the exhibit.  We headed into the first room, which was this teeny tiny room that could just fit us four (they said that the max would be six per room, but I think that would be too crowded).  The story started, but they didn’t connect what we were seeing in the room to the story that much.  Then we went to the next room, which was supposed to be a portion of the house that the boy lived in.  It was hard to feel like this was an actual room because it was so small.  I had really expected that there would be an exact replica of a couple of rooms, but there were not.  Again, the story didn’t really give us much insight into how a kid in poverty lives.  The next room was a school room.  This is where the stories started mentioning Jesus and God a lot with the message that they were the only ones that could bring you out of poverty and save you; this message continued on in the next two rooms.

When we were done the first thing that the boys said was, “That was boring.”  I would have to agree with them.  I really had expected something much different than what we experienced.  I was hoping that my boys would see what it was like for others living in poverty and feel a little compassion and know that they have it really good compared to other kids in this world.  I think that if the Compassion Experience had better stories, actual replicas of rooms (instead of just a sliver of the room), and tried to explain what it was like for a kid to live in poverty it would have been much better.  I assume that if you are religious, particularly Christian, you might get more out of the experience than we did.

 

Creo Chocolate Factory Tour

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At the beginning of this month the boys and I went on a homeschool field trip to The Creo Chocolate Factory.  I have to admit that when I hear and/or think chocolate factory I think of a big factory like the one that my previous employers had (we made cosmetics in a big warehouse with big machines and that’s what my image of a factory is).  I’m sure that the boys thought it might be along the lines of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  We get into the building and the first thing you notice is the aroma of chocolate, which wasn’t all that bad for this non-chocolate loving person.  The space was very clean and decorated nicely.  It had a very relaxing and comforting vibe and felt more like a coffee shop.  The space, including their “factory” was the size of a coffee shop and not a big factory.  I should have expected this since I knew it was an artisan shop and I went on a chocolate factory tour in Los Angeles and it was even smaller.

Here is the story of chocolate and particularly Creo’s chocolate.

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First, a little backstory about them.  The name Creo /KR-É-OH means I believe in Spanish and I create in Latin, which the family who owns this business felt meshed nicely with their business motto.  To learn more about the family and how they got into chocolate and came to own the store go here.

The process starts down in Ecuador where the cacao beans are grown in pods on cacao trees.  The beans mostly grow on the trunks of the trees, which was neat to see.  Once the pods are ripe (they turn a different shade) they are ready to be harvested.  They are taken off of the tree and then cut open.  When they are cut open there are all of these white looking seeds that have a citrus smell to them.  These are the cacao beans, but they can’t be used yet.  The farmer will then take these beans put them in bins/boxes and let them ferment.  This process gets the white pulp off of the cacao bean.  Once they are done fermenting they are laid out on concrete, asphalt, or something hard and sun dried.  The owner told us that some farmers will use the roads to dry the beans and when this happens anything from cars that leaks or anything that is on the roads can get into the beans and because of that these beans are cheaper to buy and mostly the big mass produced chocolate makers buy these, yuck!  While they are drying they are raked and the workers will wear special shoes while stepping on the beans.  The beans are then sent up via a ship to Portland where the owners go and get them.  They are then stored in the basement until they are ready to be used.  Here are some videos to watch of the growing to shipping process.

Once the beans are ready to be used they come upstairs to the store.  The first process is to sort them.

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The next step is to roast them:

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Here are some roasted beans:

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After they are roasted they are put into a container that looks like a funnel with a drill at the bottom that turns this machine and “smashes” the beans.  What it is doing is removing the outside husk/shell.  Under the husk are the nibs.  These are the chocolate and taste very much like dark chocolate (yuck for me, but yum if you like dark chocolate).  The bean parts are then sorted by size.

The beans now make their way to the winnower (I got video, but it wasn’t that great and I was behind some people who got in front of my camera).

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Here is the winnower:

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Once the nibs have been separated from the husk they are now ready for the conching process:

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Sugar and/or milk is added at this point.  This is a conching machine:

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Once the nibs are done being tempered they look like melted chocolate and taste more palatable than the nibs (it is that extra sugar and milk!).  Now it is time to temper them.

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Here is the tempering machine:

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The chocolate is put into molds, shaken to fill in the mold evenly, and then put in a fridge to harden.  When the chocolate is ready they take it out and pop it out of the mold.  They then put it in a compostable cellophane wrapper and cardboard sleeve.  It is ready to be sold!

This store only sells dark chocolate and I had some samples and really didn’t care for it (I don’t like chocolate and can only handle small doses of milk chocolate, yes I do know some people think that I am crazy!).  My boys really liked it and the other guests seemed to too.  The owner and his son were really nice and if you are ever in the Portland area and are looking for some chocolate you should stop by this store!

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A picture of a cacao pod with cacao beans

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Lastly, their bathroom floor was made with pennies and it was the first one that I have seen and it was very interesting and pretty to look at (there were 20,000 pennies!).

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