Friday, March 14, 2008

Finally, a 2008 update!

Hello again...Happy New Year, Happy Valentine´s Day, Happy Birthday, Happy Easter...I think that should cover everything. I guess since it´s been a while I´ll start with the present and work my way back.

We are just entering into our week vacation for Semana Santa (Holy Week), a time of limited working, especially for those in the more rural areas, heading to the beach, public pools or if neither of the two work to a river that may not be dry yet, and lots of food (baked goods such as rosquillas-round, hard treats made from corn and cheese that are oh so tasty soaked in coffee, almivar-fruit such as mango and jocotes (red plum-sized fruit) cooked in a caramel type substance, viejitas (yes, that means old women, but it´s a hard pastry that has caramel in the middle and are also pretty tasty with coffee), pinolío (typical drink made from ground corn and cacoa mixed with water), tamales (made from ground corn)...are you starting to see a pattern-no, it´s not Corn Celebration Week. Anyway, I am kicking off my Semana Santa here in Jinotega in the north of Nicaragua getting ready to run a 21k=15 mile 1-2 marathon, my first marathon ever let me add. I am pretty excited, especially since I actually got my butt out there and started training. I was up to about 3 miles a day and two days I got up to 5-miles without stopping. Maybe to some of you this sounds like a piece of cake, but those who know me well know that it´s a pretty great feat for me. ; ) From what I have seen, mainly from the bus window, Jinotega is beautiful, pretty similar to Matagalpa, very green with lush forests, steep mountains, lots of nature reserves...and it´s chilly here. I think you will all would chuckle at teh fact that I find 77 degrees chilly, but that is compared to the 91 degrees where I live. Yes, as I left the hotel I even took a sweater with me, actually the only one I have because when I went home for Christmas I left there anything that went below the knee or had sleeves.

Besides that, what have I been up to for the past three months since I came back from the states after Christmas break?? Mainly, I have really just been diving into my work at the schools and trying to get the library finished. We almost have it completely painted, the window protectors have been installed, well, we´re still missing one which is why we can´t put anything inside, the old door was refinished, the walls were smoothed out so that we could paint...and that brings us up to date. Hopefully, by the end of the month it should be open! I´ve really learned a lot of patience through this experience. Naively, I thought that in September/October when I took the project over from the Amigos de las Américas that it would definitely be finished before I went home for Christmas, but little setbacks such as the only man in town who could smooth out the walls had gone to work in the mountain for a month, there is only one man in the next town over that makes furniture and as luck has it November/December was his busiest times and the mother of the man who is making the window protectors became pretty sick, so all of that combined has caused some delays. But, it will be finished and open for buisness, as they say. Most importantly, I wanted to thank all of you again for your donations as our funding is quickly drying up like just about everything in my town, and at least with your help the bookshelves won´t be so bare

Hmm...what else? I had to get a new box for my worms (compost project) because the other one was rotting and had about 3 big wholes in the bottom. Luckily though, the majority of the worms survived (including the drought they experienced while I was in the states) and now, I have a new box full of huge worms! Now, I am trying to grow tomatoes in a bucket (an idea I found on the internet) using the compost to hopefully motivate the other members of my community as to it´s greatness. After the tomato plant gets to a certain size you are supposed to flip the bucket over and the plant grows upside down. Cool, huh! Yeah, my neighbors think I´m crazy, too. I really had no other option though, and at least this way the pigs, chickens, donkeys, and cows that daily pass through my yard can´t eat it. His name is Tomy (get it?) and I just found out yesterday that he has a brother that was a late bloomer and is now growing beside him.

The community bank is still a success and now, four new members have joined, including a 6-year old boy. We have started a monthly raffle (items such as laundry soap, dish soap, toothpaste, etc.) to earn some extra money for our social fund and people have begun to take out loans, including myself. I had to borrow 1000 córdobas=$40 this month-I just don´t know where the money goes.

*From my trip home in December, I really began to appreciate the Nica style of saving everything and using it is no more. For example, after I pulled my stepmom´s ¨old¨tennis shoes out of the trash to bring back with me to Nicaragua, I told the people here about how in the states (and this isn´t everyone) after about maybe a year of use tennis shoes are thrown away or donated and new, clean ones are purchased. This seems to me to be the trend with a lot of things in the states. However, here everything is saved and if it breaks it is repaired and it´s life continues. For example, plastic chairs and buckets that crack are simply sewn together again. I think given the amount of ¨stuff¨we have stored up in our attics and basements that we may have forgotten about because it´s been there so long or things thrown away each year we could really learn a lesson from the Nicas.

*I just thought this was funny. The first time we chose our winner for the raffle we had our little baggie filled with the numbers from which the winner would be chosen. The pulled out the first number, called out the name...and crossed him off this list, continuing to pull the second number. I was a little confused and asked if it wouldn´t be simpler to just pull out the first number and that person would be the winner. Makes sense, right? Well, here the fairest method of choosing the winner is to pull out ALL the numbers and the last one remaining is the winner. Yes, it takes a LOT of time, but for them it is the fairest way so that no one can accuse them of setting it up or cheating.

*Time-there aren´t many people in my town that have clocks in their homes or watches. So, you may be wondering, ¨How do they know what time it is, especially if they have an appointment?¨ Well, this definitely explains why it is culturally accepted and a norm to show up to any event at least 30 minutes ¨late,¨ but for the people in my town their clock is the buses. For example, the kids start heading to the elementary school in the morning when the 6:45 bus passes because school starts at 7:00. I really just figured this out the other day when one of my neighbors was sort of walking around aimlessly between the bus stop and the park. She asked me if the 10:00 bus hadn´t passed yet and then, asked the time. I thought it was interesting especially considering thinking about how for many people in the U.S. time is money.

Hopefully, it wasn´t too long for you, but remember, it had been a while!