Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Barter System

In a place that doesn't have much money, and in a job where you don't take money from the community, people find their own way of repaying you for the work you do, or for helping them with their English homework, or what not.  More often than not, and especially in the campo, it is food.  I got a lot of food gifted to me over my three years.  Produce pulled from the ground or little napsacks, fresh eggs, baked goods, and almost a chicken once...that was when I had recently lost enough weight that someone was worried she might have to send me one, to which I said that no, really, I'm ok, please don't give me a chicken.  Please.  Some of my favorite were the sweet things people would give me, like these buñuelos.

They are sweet corn or yucca that has been deep fried and covered in a cinnamon sugar syrup.  They are incredibly unhealthy, and exceptionally delicious.  My neighbor in San Carlos, Carlos, gave them to me after tutoring him in some English, and it was a perfect little dessert.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Day at the Zoo

On a free day in Juigalpa, I decided to go to the zoo they have there.  Before I went, I was worried about what kind of conditions the animals would be in, but it exceeded my decidedly low expectations.

The puma was my favorite.  She had another section to the left that she could climb to.
While I was there, there were also about five staff wandering around with a thermos and lassos.  It didn't take me too long to figure out that two of them were vets, and they were vaccinating some of the animals.  I went to watch them as they entered the sheep section, lassoed them one by one, and vaccinated them.  When they left, one of the staff looked at me and asked if I would like to help with the goats.  After learning the basics of throwing a lasso (throw, then pull to tighten the loop) I went into the goat pin with the rest of the men, and started to be the good little cowgirl I knew I could always be.  Except, most of the time I would just get part of a horn or hoof, so they kept on getting away from me.  When I finally did manage to wrangle a catch, though, I got two at the same time.  Everyone cheered me and then laughed at my disappointment when they told me they had already vaccinated those two.
The vets marked every animal after vaccinating them.
So ended my failed career as a cowgirl.  It was a lot of fun, though.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Drunkday

The twins started dancing to the movistar's music, then the drunk guy in the background started at it too.  A perfect storm.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


Managua is not my favorite place in the world.  After it was devastated by an earthquake in 1972, it was rebuilt as a sprawling, unorganized mess of a city, and one of its least appealing spots is where I spent a good deal of time.

Mayoreo is a major bus station for Nicaragua; buses heading north to the mountains, and south to the Rio San Juan all leave from here, and because my buses were so infrequent and crowded, I would have to show up at least an hour and a half beforehand if I didn't want to stand the seven plus hours.  It is noisy, dirty, and hot, but it became a comforting place for me to be while waiting.  It is noisy because so many people are traveling to different corners of Nicaragua; it is dirty with all the travel and accumulated dust blowing around, but employees are always coming by to mop under your feet; and it is hot because it is Nicaragua, what else would you expect?  Mayoreo means you are going somewhere, either home or on an adventure, instead of staying still, which is something special.
Now if I can just get my face to agree with me...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Boat Travel

As I have previously written about, travel from the Rio San Juan to other parts of Nicaragua can be a bit of an ordeal.  Fortunately, there are other options besides the long haul on a bus.  One of them is the ferry that leaves San Carlos Tuesdays and Fridays at 2pm and 5pm, respectively, to arrive in Granada the following morning at 5am.
Bye San Carlos
You will also travel with a good amount of cargo.
What the trip lacks in efficiency, it makes up for in relative comfort.  Unlike on the bus where you are lucky to get one bathroom break, you can use the bathroom any time you choose, visit the itty bitty cafeteria, and if you are quick about it, hang up your personal hammock to hang out in for the trip.

Look how casual this selfie is.  I'm not at all straining to keep one side of the hammock down while also trying to get everything in frame, and keeping my face at a flattering angle.

Feet selfies are much easier.
If you dont' know how to hang up a hammock, there is bound to be someone willing to help you, which is better than trying it on your own, and then having your hammock slip and fall as I've seen happen.  It looks like it hurts.
Or just pick a spot on the floor.  There's also an air-conditioned section inside.
Now, something about this ferry, there are two levels, the upper being more spacious and expensive.  In the past, anyone was able to pick which level they wanted to go on, now only Nicaraguans are allowed on the bottom level, and foreigners are required to go on the upper one.  It costs about 200 cordovas, or $7.70.

The dock at San Miguelito

Before, the ferry would spot at two towns along the lake shore, San Miguelito and Morrito.  Now, they only stop there on Tuesdays, and on Fridays they head straight to the island of Ometepe.
People will crowd around to board, dock, sell snacks, or just watch the ferry.  After hanging out a few times here, I know that the ferry's arrival is one of the town's highlights.
These two drunk men really really wanted to make sure their friend got on the ferry.
The sun will set not long after leaving San Miguelito, and you will get a great view, right on the water.
Even though you will only arrive at your destination about 12 hours later, it is still a wonderfully scenic trip.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Maria didn't remember the date of her last period, and we don't have an ultrasound machine in Los Chiles to see how far along she was.  Even when she did travel the two hours to San Carlos to the hospital for her ultrasound, the doctors were indecisive, so she ended up staying more than two months at the Casa Materna.  She was a distant relative of my host family, so I would often see her at our house, and then later at the Casa Materna.

And then, sometimes when she sneaked out of the Casa Materna, like this time she took another panzona with her to the independence day celebration.

Another day, she decided to have a photo shoot at the Casa Materna.

The women doing their hair and makeup before the shoot.
There were wardrobe changes.

Different angles

They asked me to get in the photo as well.  Please note that I am 5'4" and wearing flats in this photo.

When I went back after my one month of homeleave last year, Maria was at abuela's with her son.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Whoa Boa

I was on my way to the health center one day when my friend Evelin called me over, and told me she had something in her backyard she had to show me.  I thought it would be her new guinea pig, or her neighbor's pet monkey.  I was wrong.

She had it hung up so that all the goo inside of it would fall into that pail she's holding, saying that it is an oil that cures a lot of illnesses.  So the goo is actual snake oil that Evelin will go on to sell.  This was a totally normal day.