Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Recovered and back to work

When a large group came to the office a couple weeks ago, there wasn't really enough room for everyone at the office nor at the village. We took advantage of the situation by taking a mini-vacation for a couple days. The idea came up when kate was working hard on her physical therapy, and her excersize pamphlet advised walking barefoot, walking in sand, and swimming, which we decided was a prescription for the beach.

Off we went to the nearest beach at the town of Masachapa and Pochomil. Masachapa is a sleepy little fishing town that turns into party central around the easter holidays:

Pochomil is a nearby "town" that is really just overflow restaurants and hotels. We weren't too crazy about Pochomil since it had these giant shelters lining the beach where thousands of people could park their cars and hang hammocks. Cars on beaches are a major turnoff to us, but we eventually found a nice little hotel with swimming pool on a quiet stretch of beach between Pochomil and Masachapa, which was slightly trashy and stinky of fish. The decent hotels were relatively expensive. $50/night is a lot here, especially when we are not earning money. But we enjoyed lots of delicious seafood:

And swam in the pool:

I (Jeff) also swam in the ocean, but the water was cold and I immediately got stung by a jellyfish and decided not to return to the waters after that.

After 4 full days of the prescribed sand walking, Kate felt ready to tackle the village again, without assistance, for the first time in 2 months. We pulled in just as the service-learning group was leaving, so we didn't get to meet them. But another quincianera party was brewing, and we ended up being the official photographers. It was fun to see how they carried the cake by foot 2 miles from a bigger village on the other side of the mountain:

The party started off awkwardly quiet

but as dark fell, the house filled with hundreds of people, many of them on horseback from neighboring villages. It was another all-night-music-blasting event that we were happy to experience, but happy to leave early and go to bed. When I woke up the next morning, the party was still going on.

We spent a week in the village, trying to meet with almost every household there to make up for lost time. Juan Jose's family butchered a pig one morning, and we got to see them buthcer the whole thing up in a matter of hours:

And cook the scraps into chicharrones and rendered fat:

They shared with us the deep fried pork, and we told them stories about how you never get meat this fresh in the USA.

Many of the houses we visited would offer us food and drinks, which sometimes makes us feel like they are fattening us up for some occasion.

Dona Inez introduced us to sticky-sweet puffed millet balls:

And we saw the progress in her garden that we helped her build:

We also started taking more videos of our experiences. I've been wanting to learn the full process of tortilla making, so I videoed the different steps, from nixtamalizing the corn to grinding and throwing the tortillas. It's a 5 minute video with full instructions so that we can hopefully reproduce it when we get home:

Kate put together a slide video of the kids here, too, as a way of practicing the video editing software. We don't have much actual video footage of the kids yet, but we're working on that.

Kate passed the final test of recovery by hiking about 1.5 miles down the steep rocky road to the bus stop to return to the office. We had plans for a big festival the upcoming weekend.

Kate, Richard, and I headed to San Jose de los Remates for the fiestas Patronales, their patron saint festival that includes all-night dancing and bull riding. There are no advertised hotels in San Jose, but from inside sources we knew of a ridiculously cheap room ($2 per person per night) that we could rent for the weekend. San jose lives in eternal spring due to its higher elevation, and is surrounded by green mountains, a great break from hot and flat managua:

We spent the first evening wandering town and the growing festival. There was a giant dance with a live band that night that went to 2:00am. We went to bed around midnight, but we were awoken by a drunk cowboy who ambled into our room after the dance when it finished. The door didn't really have a lock from the inside, just a little wooden latch held in place by a little nail, which the cowboy broke open in one drunken push, and then profusely apologised for walking in the wrong door. It didn't matter, as I was wide awake from adrenaline. After a couple hours of reading to calm me back to sleep, the street parade with oompah bands and fireworks started up at 4:30 and continued to about 7am. I finally got sleep between 7 and 10, and then we went out to join the second day of festivals.

We spent the afternoon in the rodeo, watching bull riding and fancy horses. We seemed to be possibly the only gringos that day (not a surprise since there aren't hotels there), so the occasional person would walk up to us and say something random in english.

I had never seen bullriding or a rodeo before, so I don't know if it's any different than a USA rodeo, but we had a lot of fun watching guys get bucked off bulls:

We even took some videos of the trip, most of them from the bull riding:

afterwards, Richard tried his hand at a gambling game somewhat like roulette.

On the way home to managua, the bus was quite packed due to all the party goers returning home. We finally had the camera available in a packed bus, so we decided to add a video of squished buses.

Our next goal is to continue talking with individual families and working on our education programs. We also have a group that just arrived and we are going to help them install more solar irrigation systems, and Richard and I will be installing more stoves as well. So we have a lot of stuff to do in what now seems like very little time left. We also bought our tickets back home. May 4 we will be arriving in SeaTac and we will get to know our new nephew and reconnect back with everyone else.


  1. Great descriptions of many interesting experiences. I must say your sense of adventure really amazes me.

  2. I stayed up WAAAy too late looking at this and all your wonderful videos. (I can almost taste the tortillas--YUM!) I'll pay for this tomorrow, but it was fun. Thanks for all the stories and photos. I think my favorite was the kids of El Jocote!

  3. Glad to see kate has recovered from her injury. All the food looks tasty.