Thursday, December 15, 2011

Guess what?

Chicken butt!

There's not a lot of news this week. We went to El Jocote on Saturday with a lot of big plans for meeting all the right people, and then I wasn't feeling well that evening and on Sunday. Mostly, we just sat around, and I slept a lot. It gave us some time to enjoy the festive holiday decorations our host family had put up:

And we had time to get to know some of the family's animals a little bit better. There are always pigs and chickens around:

...but more on chickens later. The pigs are kind of gross and stinky and aren't allowed in the house, except when the little ones are being fed - they are fed inside to keep the big ones (their parents, I might add) from hogging (ha ha!) all the food. All the rest of the animals try to steal their food instead:
Though, to the dog's credit, it really could use another meal or two.

The parakeets, or whatever kind of bird they are, took a liking to Jeff (who wouldn't?):

And the family's cat took a liking to our room. I suppose it's the only place it could get away from the chickens and dogs and pigs and kids for a quiet nap. Although, it really isn't a cat so much as a perma-kitten - it's way smaller than a regular cat, but they tell us it's older than a kitten and therefore isn't going to grow anymore. It is small enough that it would fit inside a one liter Nalgene:

Sunday evening, we went to another Purisima celebration at a neighbor's house. Theoretically, the actual holiday of the Purisima, or the immaculate conception, is on December 7th, but they have celebrations for it all through the month of December. Each evening, a different house sets up an altar and invites the neighbors over. Everyone comes over and sings hymns for an hour or so (well, the women do, while the boys are out shooting off firecrackers), then the host yells, "Who causes such happiness?" and all the guests yell back, "The conception of Maria!" Then the host gives out sweets, and everyone goes home. About 60 or 70 people showed up to the one we went to, which was at the house of the guy who is essentially mayor of the town.

On Monday, we went to a wedding of people we didn't know in the neighboring village of El Balsamo. Apparently, wedding crashing is not possible here - our host family was invited, so they brought us along. Jeff offered to take pictures for them, although there were quite a few other cameras there. The official photographer kept lining people up for pictures, which always makes Nicaraguans stand very straight and look very serious. I don't know that they'll appreciate the more candid shots that Jeff got, but we'll print a few of them out and give them to the new couple anyway.

So here's how it went: The invitation said to be at the house of the father of the bride at 8 am, so we got up at 7 and had breakfast of bread and coffee. We waited for a while, wondering when we would leave, and at about 8:30 we were fed some rice, beans, and tortillas. We finally took off from El Jocote at about 9 am with the host family's daughter and some neighbor women - the host father said he would leave a little later. We arrived a little before 10 am and sat around for a while with lots of other people, the women inside the house and on the porch, the men outside under the trees. Someone came by and gave us little pieces of wedding cake in paper napkins, which was surprisingly good - much better than most US wedding cakes. Somewhere between 10 and 10:30, we went inside and were invited to sit and eat. When we told our host sister that we had just eaten, she said we really should sit and eat, so we did. We had an excellent meal of rice, meat, veggies, and a maize-and-meat mixture that seemed a little like Mexican restaurant queso dip. It was excellent, and we were really full. We wandered around for a bit, then noticed that everyone was crowded around the house. We crowded in with the crowd and saw that people were dancing inside. Then the bride and groom appeared, and with much arranging, they got all the attendants (10 bridesmaids and groomsmen, and three kids) lined up in front of the bride and groom, and everyone started walking down the path towards town:

We walked for about 20 minutes over some fairly rough trails for all the ladies in high heels, with all sorts of animals watching us pass:
And finally arrived at the church:

The church was tiny, so as many people as possible shoved their way in, and the rest hung out around the building, occasionally pushing towards a doorway or climbing up to a window to get a look:

There was even a mariachi band!

The wedding took two hours and was pretty formal, but the bride was glowing through the whole thing nonetheless:

And, of course, there were fireworks. The fireworks here are typically firecrackers or bottle rockets that just make noise, not pretty sparklies. In this case, they had gigantic bottle rockets with 3-foot long sticks that they lit and released from their hands (apparently, they're not called -bottle- rockets here):

After the two-hour ceremony was finally over, the crowd slowly left the church, with much stern picture taking and many starts and stops. The attendants made an arched tunnel with their arms for the bride and groom to walk through, and this was the one time that Jeff got a good picture of the couple both actually -smiling-.

Then the whole group headed back toward the houses... go to the home of the groom's parents, who threw a party very similar to the pre-wedding party at the bride's house, right down to the same food and the same music (canned loud-base pop radio music, not mariachi or anything traditional). The first dances were danced, and the dance floor was opened, and our host father decided it was time to take off. That night, after dinner, we sat around discussing weddings with the family, including the fact that our host father was not amused that the couple walked to the wedding together, and -not- with separately, each with their parents as is traditional. He considered it disrespectful to their parents. I guess even Nicaraguan village kids have crazy, non-traditional weddings.

We had gotten back to the house that afternoon at about 3:30 or 4 pm, and I realized that I hadn't been drinking enough water and had a dehydration headache, which didn't go away until after dark. So that was another day of not visiting who we had planned to visit - but at least we got to see a wedding.

The next day, I woke up finally feeling great. Jeff, however, woke up feeling not so great. At breakfast, he tried his best, but the beans, rice, tortilla, and fried egg were not going down well. He went back to bed, and a little later had to make a run for the bushes to be sick. He spent all day in bed feeling queasy. I mostly sat around trying to do stuff to make him feel better, but he couldn't eat anything and mostly just had to rest. The most useful thing I did was to run to the local shop (I wouldn't have known it was a shop if I hadn't been directed there - it was just somebody's house who happened to have a bunch of stuff for sale inside) to get alka-selzer like meds with aspirin and, later in the evening, a drink powder made of ground oats. The next day, he was no longer sick to his stomach, but he couldn't eat much. I stuck around, not being able to help much. In my useless boredom, in between bouts of Spanish studies, I had lots of time to figure out which chicken is which. But more on that later. First, a study in intercultural communication.

A major thing we had to figure out before we left El Jocote was how to get out of there. On the previous visit, we had ridden into El Balsamo in the AsoFenix company trucks, worked on a project there for an afternoon, and then hiked 20 minutes into El Jocote. The trucks left the next day and we stuck around for a few days. We planned on leaving by bus, but no busses run through El Jocote, so people have to walk to a neighboring town that has bus service. The regular bus from a close-by town called El Espino had "fallen apart," so we had to walk twice as far in a different direction to a different neighboring town called Bramadero to catch the bus there. Since that was the only bus we knew, when we came back to visit this time, we took the same Bramadero bus and the same long path back. When we asked around once we got to El Jocote, we discovered that the El Espino bus has been repaired, so we decided to figure out how to catch that bus out of town this time. It has two advantages: one, the walk to it is only half an hour, not an hour, and is on flatter terrain; and two, it leaves at 6:30 am, not 5:30 am, so we could get up 4:30 instead of 3:00 am. The trick was figuring out exactly when it left and exactly how long it would take to walk there.

This was a trick because Nicaraguans do not think about time the same way we do. When we asked, "When does the El Espino bus leave?," having previously been told 6:30 am by the people we work with in Managua, our host father said "5:00." We told him that we thought it left more like 6:30, and he said well, of course, it leaves El Espino at 6:30, but we need to leave the house at 5:00. We asked how long it takes to walk there, and a visiting guest said 10 minutes. Our host father agreed. We said if it takes 10 minutes, then why would we leave at 5 am to catch a 6:30 bus? They said the 10 minutes is if you are on a horse, and of course, we do not have a horse. Jeff said that it really only takes one minute, but that is if you are in a helicopter, and we don't have one of those, either. They did not get the joke. So we asked again what time we needed to leave the house, and the host father said 5:00. Even though this seemed a bit early to us for a shorter walk than the one we had already done to Bramadero, we figured it wouldn't hurt to be early, and set the alarm for 4:30 am.

We got up at 4:30, got ready for the day and packed up the last of our things, and at about 10 minutes to 5 stuck our heads into the kitchen, where they were preparing the day's tortillas, to say goodbye. They said, but aren't you going to have any coffee? It's ready! So we said okay, we'll have some coffee. The promptly all left the kitchen. A few minutes later, the host father came back to grind maize, the first of many steps in making tortillas, and the women chattered in their bedroom. A bit later, the host mother came in to wash up some cups, find some clean plates, find the bread, and made us up some plates of bread and cups of coffee. We sat an enjoyed our breakfast with the usual chatter of animals begging for crumbs, then stood up (about 5:15 now) and said goodbye again. They said, what's the rush? You don't have to leave for another half hour or so - it's dark out now, it will get lighter in a while. We said that we thought we needed to leave at 5 am, and they laughed. No, no, it only takes 20 minutes to walk there. Okay, 20 minutes for the host father, maybe 30 minutes for us. If you go now, you will have to wait in El Espino. And the bus will be late, probably 8:00. We said, but we thought it would be leaving El Espino at 6:30. They said, well, yes, it will be in El Espino at 6:30. It won't arrive in its final destination, Teustepe, where we change busses to get to Managua, until 8:00. Very late. And it doesn't take long to walk to El Espino. You would have to wait in El Espino if you left now. We said, but Jeff has been sick, and we may need to give more time for the walk, and we're ready to go anyway, so we should leave now. They said, you should wait until it's lighter out. We went into the bedroom for a minute, and decided to heck with it, we're ready to go and we either wait here or wait in El Espino. So we put our bags on and said goodbye again, and the host father laughed and took Jeff's bag and walked with us until we were out of El Jocote. We continued on our way. The walk ended up taking about 40 minutes, and we got there about 6 am, then had to wait in El Espino until 6:30 and watch the sunrise. Not such a bad wait, actually, and now we know the real time for walking and the real departure and arrival times of the bus, and next time we won't have to ask. Phew.

But I know all you've wanted to read about this whole time is chickens.

And so, without further ado, I introduce with pleasure, the Jarquin family chickens of El Jocote, Nicaragua. They have 15, more or less, and some of them I can't tell apart. Two are nesting, and I didn't get pictures. One is taking care of five little babies - make that four, as one was eaten the other day by a hawk - which I also neglected to take pictures of. But here are the ones I've named:

First, the rooster. He really doesn't need a name, since he's the only rooster:

Next is Pretty Lady, Jeff's favorite:

This one is Noisy Bird. She squawks a lot, sometimes going for more than 20 minutes at a run.
... or at least, I -think- that's Noisy Bird. There are several red hens that I have trouble telling apart.

Next comes Top-Heavy - I have no idea where her tail went:

...and the Bearded Lady - I have no idea why she has feathers under her beak:

...and Blagojevich, who has quite the head of... feathers:

...and Tipsy, who looks a lot like Blagojevich, but is missing a toe (not that you can see the missing toe in the picture, but I promise there's one missing):

And finally, Dinner. This is the first one I named. She came to my attention when she jumped up toward my hand while I was eating one evening to try to steal my tortilla. I was not amused, thus the name.

And that's about that. We're back in Managua to go to a AsoFenix company holiday party on the beach tomorrow, then have a real weekend without work. We aren't entirely sure what we'll be doing next week, but we'll most likely be headed back to El Jocote for another week-ish long stint, perhaps staying through Christmas.

Like I said, not a newsy week, but I still managed to drag it out to be a nice, long blog post. I believe next week is shaping up to be more interesting, and hopefully more healthy. Hope all is well with everyone out there reading this. Keep the comments coming - we love to hear that people are actually reading what we're posting!


  1. wow, very interesting! all the discussion of timing the bus trip would drive me nuts! I like your chicken naming strategy :)

  2. Fascinating! Please keep telling these stories. Do the people not tell jokes at all, or was it just that they didn't get the helicopter one for some reason? My question when looking at your photos was the yoke device that the pig wore on its head. Is that to keep him from poking his nose into places where it shouldn't be? Poor baby! Oh, and I loved the animals in the house and especially the birds on Jeff. I presume they were pet birds. Can we feed that dog, please!