The main news since the last post:
Jeff did a bit of damage to himself. He hit his head on a towel rack in our office in Managua, and ended up with ten stitches and (a few days later) two black eyes. The colors are still progressing, but mostly gone, and he got the stitches out today, so his injury isn't quite as destructive to the trip as mine was. However, he will get an awesome scar story out of it...
Last week's trip to El Jocote involved a lot of work on projects, like building three improved cookstoves and two patio gardens, and doing our last educational workshop. But it wasn't as interesting for a write-up, and we really didn't take many photos (a few will be included randomly throughout this post, just to make it pretty). But as we're winding down our work and preparing to leave Nicaragua, I've been reflecting on our experience in the way I typically do: by making lists. (Ask my mom sometime - I'm a list maker, and always have been.)
List #1: Things I will miss.
- The kids of El Jocote.
- Sitting on Tonio's porch overlooking town.
- Hearing Angela Fuente repeat our jokes.
- Having a truck coming through town be an event.
- Not having a regular schedule.
- Walking toward a house and seeing two plastic chairs being set out for us.
- The fact that "stress" is not part of their vocabulary.
- Unscheduled social time.
- Seeing kids running around freely.
- Patience with my slow, stuttering Spanish.
- Not having to carry a jacket.
- Angela Velasquez's pinolillo (chocolate-corn drink).
- Angela Velasquez's pure happiness.
- Chicks, piglets, and calves.
- Fake brand name stuff (Holistar!)
- Hearing kids yell our names excitedly when we come to town.
- Lack of needing expensive stuff.
- Having lots of moms making me chicken soup for my cold.
- Recognizing the yell of one of the girls, Julissa - she has a very distinct voice.
- Hearing the constant shooing of animals: "Sssshhht! Vapafuera!" for the dogs, and "Hoosha!" for the pigs.
- Angelito yelling "Jeffley!"
- Our ugly chicken contest.
- Kids' toys, like scrap paper that can be five hours of fun.
- Watching the rain come in on a hot day.
(Note that some of these things can be found in Stehekin, such as community, but not in many places in the US. Here, they are the norm.)
List #2: Things I will not miss.
- Nicaraguans on buses (bus rides tend to bring the worst out in a normally very patient and polite people).
- Rice and beans.
- Not having private time.
- Being nervous about getting sick from food and drink.
- Not being able to cook for ourselves.
- The music, especially the synthesizers and the volume.
- Being richer than everyone else.
- Living out of a suitcase (well, backpack).
- Latrines, and their flies.
- Not understanding the language all of the time.
- Being a girl, and therefore being weaker and being assumed to not understand "men's work."
- Being "better" because we're white.
List #3: Cute short memories:
- We were fortunate enough one morning to find that our bus ride leaving El Jocote would have a kid we knew on it. This happens surprisingly rarely, since most El Jocote-ians don't leave El Jocote much. Jarito is eight years old and very friendly. We asked him if he had ever been to Managua, and he surprised us by saying he had. We asked him what he thought of Managua, and his eyes got big - it was beautiful. We said, really? We think it's too big and kind of stinky. He said no, there are these beautiful glass doors there that open and close without anyone touching them, just by machine, whenever you get close to them. And there are big machines that turn and turn, and people's bags move around and around. It turns out that three years ago, he went with his family to pick up his uncle at the airport, who was being deported from the US. To him, and to several people we've met, Managua is just the airport - they haven't seen the rest. Lucky them.
- Everyone agrees on cures to everything here. A tea made with seven (not six, not eight) eucalyptus leaves, plus cinnamon and lemongrass if you have it, cures a cough. Honey from the nice kinds of bees (not the mean ones!) can be put on a bruise to reduce swelling and discoloration. Anyone that notices that you have a cough or a bruise will tell you the same cure, and will be absolutely sure that it will work. Apparently, it doesn't work as well for gringos, but we're appreciative of the sentiment when they give us tea and honey.
- We were visiting at the house of Jose Inez, another eight year old boy who is one of the cutest kids in the world. His mom proudly showed us a picture of his novia (girlfriend), an American girl that had worked with AsoFenix in El Jocote last year. Jose Inez's blush was one of the cutest things I've ever seen.
- Early in our work in El Jocote, we were working with a service learning group from the US to build a patio garden. During lunch, I was sitting at the table with the rest of the group, chatting away in English. A little girl ran up from behind me, stuck her head under my arm so she could see my face, smiled, and ran back to her mom. "Yep, that one is our gringa." She knew there were a lot of gringos around, but she was pretty sure I was the one that she had seen a few times before.
- Everyone here is surprised that Jeff and I have been married for six years, are in our thirties, and don't have kids. The funniest of these incidents was just a few days ago. I was talking to Juana, who lives in the house highest up the hill. Her husband is in the US working as a kitchen helper in Miami, and sends back a fair amount of money, but she's raising four kids (ages 14, 11, 8, and 4) by herself until he gets back. He's been gone for four years, and expects to come back in December. Juana and I realized that I am exactly ten days older than her. She was surprised, and said I look very young, but that the reason is probably that I don't have kids. She then said I really should have kids, at least one. We had to laugh at that - is she trying to make sure I catch up to her in age?
(Another surprising thing - I don't have a picture of Juana! I will have to fix that on our next trip.)
- Another funny six-years-no-kids moment was at Angela Velasquez's house. She's an 80-something firecracker who walks every day to stay in shape. She's had seven kids of her own, lived through revolutions and counter-revolutions, outlived her husband, and never had much money, but she's the happiest person I've ever met. Her laugh is one of a kind, frequent and full of joy. When she realized that we don't have kids yet, we prepared for the same discussion of why we should have some and why we don't have any. Instead, she said, "It's really better to not have them if you don't want to." We were actually so startled that we laughed. She is absolutely the only person we've heard that sentiment from here.
- Last night, we were watching a telenovela (soap opera) with Angela Fuente's family. This one featured a Romeo and Juliet story set in Italian cow country. The mother of Juliet discovered that her daughter had escaped. She ran to her sons, who were relaxing in the barn, and told them to chase after the girl. They jumped on their horses and galloped off, and Angela's whole family laughed. Who would have their horses sitting around fully saddled up and ready to go? These folks live the life of using horses for real work - they know a lie when they see it.
So there are my most recent lists. I'm hoping that by writing this down here, I won't lose it, and I will always be able to get a little bit of the feeling of El Jocote back when I reread it. I'll miss that place. One more trip!