Friday, August 31, 2007

Is there such a thing as too much corn??

As you probably could tell from my last e-mail, I was pretty excited about the corn season, especially because of the new corn tortillas (guirila). Well, as they always say, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Word got out about my love for guirila and everybody started inviting me over when they were making them. In fact, yesterday morning my host family woke me up at 6:30 in the morning because they were making guirila and said that I was to come eat! Yes, this was not a request. So, I got out of bed and still in my pajamas walked to the neighbors´ house to eat two piping hot guirilas straight off the griddle. I must secretly admit though that I am getting a little tired of them, the spark is starting to wear off. Don´t worry though, there is a solution. I have discovered lloltamal which is a tamale made from new corn which is just as wonderful as the guirila but with a different flare. So, all is restored again in the corn world of Llano Grande! (I knew you were worried, Matt and Tina!)

I think I mentioned before that I got a dog, Rocky, (sorry, forgot to bring the camera so no pictures this time) who just started getting sick about 3 weeks ago. My first trip in which I took him on the bus to the vet which was quite an experience. First, I had to carry him from my house to the bus stop because he didn´t have much energy and therefore, didn´t want to walk. This created a commotion on the bus because you do not only touch a dog, but it´s even worse to carry one. So, when I arrived home that day my neighbor who was also on the bus told me about all the bus gossip that occured that day. The people said that the gringa was a chancha (pig) for carrying the dog and that the dog crapped and peed on the bus, which he did neither of! I was grateful though for being a gringa because normally they put the dogs on the roof of the bus, but since I bathed my dog he was allowed to ride in the bus. The first vet I took him to said he had a fever and an infection in the lung because he was coughing and had difficulty breathing. He also has lost quite a bit of weight so he´s looking pretty similar to the street dogs that wander around. The doctor prescribed an injection of penicilin, which are extremely popular here in Nicaragua and this seemed to help a little. He still doesn´t have ganas to eat his food, but he has a little more energy and seems to be breathing better. A few days ago I took him to another vet just to get a second opinion and she said that he has anemia. So, she prescribed another injection of vitamins, as well as vitamins that he takes orally with his food. We´ll see if this does the trick.

This whole sick pet experience has been a very interesting cultural experience being that most Nicaraguans I know are disgusted at the thought of showing an animal affection by petting him, etc. Their first reaction when he started loosing weight and was very sluggish was immediately that he was going to die...and I mean almost everyone I talked to about him. This didn´t really help me feel better! Then, after returning from the vet the people laughed at me for first taking him on the bus and then, for taking an animal to a doctor. One woman last night told me, ¨Wow, I can´t believe that a dog can have the same illness as a person,¨ because her son had anemia as well. Finally, I got looks of disgust from the people for the outrageous amount of money I spent on the vet visit and meds. for a dog- 100 córdobas=$5.

It´s been raining like crazy here and I am enjoying every minute. And, the thunder is incredible. When it begins to rumble it´s so strong that it literally shakes the house. I´ve always loved thunderstorms, but I must admit that a few times I´ve ran to the neighbors´house out of pure fear! A few nights ago it rained so hard throughout the entire night that it filled my house with water. I am currently in the process of digging a ditch around my house. A few days ago, a neighbor, her daughter and I took a trip to a neighboring community, El Tule, up in the mountains. It´s a beautiful town, but the trip there is a bit challenging. First of all, it´s a path that cuts right through the woods and climbs up into the mountains; if you weren´t with someone who knows the trail well you wouldn´t be able to detect it otherwise. Because we are right in the middle of the rainy season, the trail was covered in mud and the river we had to cross was about ankle deep. We made it up with minimal difficulty about an hour later and spent a relaxing day chilling in a hammock, playing with the kids while they served just about every food typical of Nicaragua, including lots and lots of watermelon. Around 2:00 p.m. it started to storm and downpour which meant and slippery trip home! We waited out the heavier part of the rain and finally decided that we had to go around 4:30 before it got dark. It was still raining, but only a light drizzle. I don´t know how the two women that I went with did it, but in their dress shoes and chinelas (flip flops) they were flying down the trail, meanwhile there´s me way behind them slipping and sliding everywhere. After 15 minutes or so, another man who was from the town we had just visited caught up to us and was following behind. Thank goodness for this man because he actually stayed with me the entire time. At one point when I lost my balance and fell on my butt in the mud, after we all stopped laughing hysterically, he found me a nice, sturdy walking stick that pretty much saved me! About halfway home, it started to pour, but luckily I was wearing my glasses (yes, I´m being sarcastic!) which were quickly covered in rain drops. I couldn´t see a thing and the mud was getting thicker and deeper. Once we finally made it to the river which was now about knee deep we were home free! We arrived home soaked to the bone, but thanks to God, safe and sound! Needless to say, I don´t think I will be visiting El Tule again until we reach a dry spell (yes, it was a little scary)!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I love this time of year!

I really do love this time of year! For those of you were just waiting for the right time to come visit, this would be it. The first picture just says it all: delicious, home-grown corn! Yes, now that it´s finally raining the pastures are filled with cows again and the fincas filled with corn, watermellon, small squash, tomatoes, etc...oh, and of course, frijoles nuevos (new beans)! Basically, they are called new beans because they are picked just before they become fully ripe; they are smaller in size and lighter in color and they taste oh so good!! I minimally like the fully ripened beans, but I could eat new beans all the time...with crema (similar to sour cream) and cuajada (a type of cheese)...mmm! I also never realized the different phases and products that are produced from one stalk of corn! The first thing that is produced is the chilote (baby corn) which can be eaten whole, in soup, etc. A few weeks later comes the elote (corn on the cob) which is the most exciting part for me because that means...guirila! I used to have to travel to the ends of the earth/Nicaragua to get it...i.e. La Libertad, but now it´s in my own town, in my neighbors house which is just a few steps away! It´s so exciting. Guirila is a tortilla made with ¨new¨corn and it has a sweeter taste. I think this could be one of my favorite foods...ever! Now, if that isn´t enough to make you want to get on the internet and purchase your plane ticket to come down, then I don´t know!
My neighbor, Cira, kindling the fire to cook the corn on the cob. First, it is boiled, then it is ready to be eaten whole or once the kernals have been picked off it´s ready to grind to make into guirila (new corn tortillas).
Corn on the cob with cuajada.
My neighbor, Ludwig, and I enjoying my first guirila in my town. Don´t worry, the gaseosa (soda-which is a must) is on it´s way.

Dory and I picking the new beans off the vines. After a few hours of doing this I really appreciate how easy we really have it in the United States. Some of the families here, because they don´t have the money to buy beans nor money for the bus fair to go to the city to buy them, grown their own beans to feed their families. After growing them, they go out into the hot sun and cut the stalks to bring back. It gets extremely hot because as you can imagine the stalks are pretty close together and while they are crouched down cutting them there is no air circulation. When they arrive home, they have to spend a few hours picking them from the stalks, taking them out of the shelves, washing them, then another 2 hours or so to cook them. Finally, they are ready to eat. The two bags that they collected is probably enough to feed their entire family of 9 for maybe two days. Then, they have to repeat the entire process over again.

Dory and Ingrid taking the beans out of the shell(correct term?). Poor Ingrid just couldn´t take it anymore and fell into a siesta! (actually, she´s just very camera shy)

Because of the rains, the monte (weeds) grow out of control. Here are three workers hacking away at it with their machetes. You can see that they have barely made a dent in the few hours they have been working. The average pay for this type of work is around 70 córdobas per day=$3.

It hasn´t just been all fun and eating. Here is a picture of one of my country school making a box for their garden.

The finished product!

The principal´s grandson. He is sooo cute!