By Jordan Colombo
Vanessa Rau is a 22-year-old German girl who graduated from Duisburg-Essen University in Duisburg Germany. With her mother living in Germany and her father living in Vancouver Canada she has had duel citizenship. Rau often frequents visits to Humboldt county to work on “The Hill” to make some money. However, Rau stopped after a friend of hers almost died from an overdose.
Rau graduated college and with a bachelor’s in sociology then moved in with her father to get away from her life in Germany.
“Life was good in Germany,” Rau said. “But the people are a bit the same and I wanted something better and more fulfilling in my life.”
When she had gotten to Vancouver, she started meeting people and found a job working at a bar in the Gastown area of downtown. She had met a few regulars that she would talk with about going to Humboldt county to trim weed on “The Hill.” At first she was skeptical of it, then the job eventually sounded better. Rau knew, at the time, that growing marijuana and trimming it were illegal in California. After some convincing by her new friends she has took her opportunity to go on the endeavor.
Rau took a few weeks off from work telling her boss that she wanted to go see her mother whom she had not see quite some time now. Her boss understood that it must be hard to be so far away from home for the first time. Now with no work for two weeks, Rau took the 12-hour drive to Arcata, California, in September, where she would be living with her friends in a van.
“I was very skeptical at first, but began to relax once we figured out a way to make the van more comfortable,” Rau said.
Humboldt County has a large marijuana growing industry because of its vast forestry and its perfect climate. However, illegal growers have done a lot of detrimental damage to the forest. The growers can drain lakes that provide water to local animals and drain the land of its nutrients. Local law enforcement are constantly flying helicopters over the redwood forest to find spots that growers can be found, by looking for openings where plant life looks organized and having see through sheds near them. Then they send the ground troops to further investigate where they can find signs of growing with large pumps leading to lakes near by rivers.
When Rau arrived in Arcata it had reminded her a bit of Vancouver a bit because of all the transients that are hanging around.
“Vancouver has a huge homeless problem,” Rau said. “Most of Canada is cold, so the homeless come to Vancouver because it is the warmest place for them to go.”
She acclimated to the lifestyle of Humboldt County very fast. When her first day of work had come she was nervous because it was a long drive from Arcata to”The Hill” where she was working. She had taken many turns and many dirt roads.
“The roads were so small you could not fit two cars coming from opposite directions,” she said. “The trees sheltered the road from the sun giving this whole ride an ominous look.”
When Rau arrived on “The Hill” there was an open field with a small trailer on it and a makeshift shed that was close to the trailer. In the shed there were people working at a table while another man stood behind them just watching making sure that no one steals.
“I remember watching movies about drug dealers where there are guns everywhere, but this was nothing of the sort,” Rau explained. Inside the trailer was a kitchen as well as some plants hanging around.
Laura Trudladu, a 24-year-old from Tübingen, Germany, is now an Arcata resident living in a grow house.
“I met Vanessa a few times,” Trudladu said. “She would come down our driveway in a van full of people from all over the world.”
Trudladu said that she has met people from everywhere living in a grow house and was nice to meet Rau because she actually got to speak her native tongue.
The man that was watching over the others had explained to Rau that she was to trim the marijuana leaves as close to the bud as she could and then throw this into a bucket. She was instructed to not throw her buds into anyone else’s bucket. Because workers were paid by total weight of the trimmed marijuana, such contributions would benefit the other person who owned the bucket.
When it was time to pay Rau, the person watching her would take her total trimmed bucket, weigh a bucket that was the same, but empty to zero out the weight, than would weigh the bucket full of marijuana and take the total weight divide it by a pound in grams (454) then times it by 100. The first time she worked she had worked over 25 hours, but only was able to produce three pounds of trimmed marijuana, which turned out to be $300. The longer she did it the better she got at sitting there longer and being able to trim faster.
Rau would continue to travel back and forward from Vancouver to Arcata to keep working on “The Hill” for a few more years until she realized that doing this type of work was not for her.
“It was fun at first, but it got tiring and I saw some friends got hurt,” Rau explained. She said that some employers would provide you with cocaine to keep you awake and keep you working longer. What made her quit working was that one time her friend was dropped off near a place they were staying at with a nose bleeding and twitching a bit from too much cocaine.
Alden Haro, who had been working on “The Hill” for five years, had also been with the friend that got dropped off.
“It was the scariest thing I had ever experienced,” Haro said. “I thought I was about to lose one of my best friend.”
After that, Rau never went back to work on “The Hill” but she still frequents Arcata often.
“Arcata is a beautiful town with beautiful people that has so many secrets in the town and in the trees,” she said.