But when we arrived in Nicaragua, settled in on Ometepe, met some of the folks we'd be working with, I could settle in. It was right - it was why I came. The relaxed culture, the friendliness, the shared joy in everyday life and in meeting new people - all are things I have learned to appreciate.
We finished our work on Ometepe and were off again, and the feeling came back. We were heading back to El Jocote, and it had the potential to be very awkward. We're not going to be working, we're only going for a day and a half, and we're just going to be visiting from house to house - to say what? Hello? We remember you, but we're too busy to stay long?
When we took off from Managua, I was still feeling like I'd rather go back to bed. We got to Teustepe, the bus change place, and had a little lunch at the grill in the park. It was delicious, and served with a smile, but nothing out of the ordinary. We bought some bottled water for ourselves, and a pineapple and two liters of cooking oil for our hosts. We boarded the truck that's replaced the bus for the low travel season, and an old lady smiled happily at us. We bumped along, with people laughing and joking with each other, many many stops, and an average speed of less than 10 mph, and my spirits were rising.
We arrived in El Espino, the final destination for the bus, and got our bags on for the half hour walk ahead. We saw a horse and rider that we recognize at the turnoff to El Jocote – it was Franklin, the son of one of the farmers who works most with AsoFenix. Seeing him lifted my mood from happy to excited, and grateful when he said he was there just to meet us and to carry our bags. He kept his horse walking slowly to match our pace, and we asked him about how things had been going in El Jocote in the last six months. Unsurprisingly, not much had changed.
The big news, that we already knew, was that Franklin's grandfather (and, really, father/grandfather of probably more than half of El Jocote's citizens), Juan Valerio, died three months ago. He had been not only an important part of the community, but a wonderful person for us to know as well. Every time we saw him, he had a huge smile and encouraging words about how much we were appreciated in the community. His death from cancer in his early 70s was a painful blow to everyone, and it was evident that it's still felt strongly. By chance, we were there on the three month anniversary of his death, and attended a service of the rosary with his family and friends. I think they appreciated our presence; I certainly appreciated feeling a part of the community again.
We spent most of our day and a half there visiting from house to house, showing pictures of our time away, eating silly amounts of corn-based foods (my stomach took a full two days to recover), and enjoying the company of very happy folks.
|Pictures of my new nephew and our tortilla making endevors in the US were the biggest hits.|
|Mi hijo, Jose Ines.|
|Baby Escarlin is twice the size she was when we last saw her!|
|Not two weeks old, and without a name as yet, but already the center of attention!|
|Angelito in awe.|
|Julissa and Jeff juggling together.|
|The magic of digital cameras.|
|The best cook in the village! With 14 kids, plus grands and great-grands, she's had lots of practice.|
|Doña Inés and some of her troop of kids invite us into their garden, which they have expanded since we left in April.|
|Angela is working hard to restore her soil, and is having fun with a variety of vegetables and even flowers.|
|Santos has a good contender here!|
We even saw some chickens that we remembered from before!
|Topheavy's a mama again!|
|To my girls, Estel and Julissa: Thanks, ladies. You've made my year.|
|Horse poop is a big part of the Pan-American Highway and all other parts of this metropolis.|