Sunday, May 25, 2008

So much has happened...


Well. So much has happened since we last had our camera, so now we have pictures of our house and making cocoa and all sorts of things. Unfortunately I dont feel so hot right at this moment so I have to make this breif this week. So I can try to get on the bus back to my site from Matagalpa without puking.

Yes our house is pretty good. We now have tv. I know this might disappoint some of you. Or surprise you. but its good practice for spanish.

We bought a molino and kory has been in grinding heaven. I will attach more pictures later. Plus here are some pictures of town. Ok. Just one. I gotta go to the bathroom. Chow!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Messed up Address....

Sorry, but I messed up the address to the left. I put managua instead of Nicaragua! Please advise! I have now changed it!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The great internet famine

Well. Im sure our groupies out there are wondering where their favorite superstars have been. Yes, yes, I know. This is the gig. For the last two weeks in Nicaragua, there has been a strike of public transportation and taxi system. A few buses have been burned in Managua and the buses have stopped running. Peace Corps told us we couldnt leave our sites. So, we have been stuck in our little town for two weeks. This wouldn´t have been so bad if the only internet option we have here hadn´t been sans internet for almost the whole time. Finally we write however. And it looks like the strike will be coming to an end as Presidente Ortega has subsidized the price of gasoline at $72 a barrel for public transport. We will see. We plan on buying a sizable portion of beans and rice soon because you never know what will happen here and when you will be without food and money. Plus we are mormon which pretty much mandates that we have a sizable amount of food in the house just for these kinds of situations right? We better get our mormon on as kory would say!

Anyway. We have just now got our camera card back and can resume taking pictures. Unfortunatley we have seen some pretty sweet stuff this last two weeks including a huge beatle.. which I have preserved for photo ops, and lots of chocolate making experiments. Plus we FINALLY moved into our house! It is pretty darn cozy and we like it a lot. We will be sending pictures of the final product soon. That is, if the strike REALLY is over and we can go to matagalpa next weekend.

We have started doing our community survey, in which we have to interview 200 households about health related topics. Its a measure of knowlege really, and its really lacking. But its pretty funny to ask a mom to explain the process of fertilization and she has no idea. Or says she doesnt, and is too embarrassed to say anything. Which is usually entirely possible. We also get to ask them to name the reproductive organs of males and females. We had to simplify the question to ¨Name the parts of the male body that are used to make babies¨because the former question was a little too complex. Even still we are getting blank stares and red cheeks. Its humorous and sad at the same time. People here have no idea how their bodies work or what they are even called. So we have our work cut out for us. Usually we end up chatting with the people for some time about whatever. Its a good way to make friends with almost every household in our community.. or have people turn red when they see us in rememberance of the girl and boy that made them say penis out loud. HEHE

On that note, we are starting to teach in the highschools next week. We will be doing a 10 class series about sexual health. This i find somewhat amuzing. When I was in 4th grade one time, I was out on the playground with my friends talking about the upcoming ¨maturation¨lecture. I said how bad I felt for the teacher who had to teach it. It must be so embarrasing right? Well. Who knew that 20 years later I would be teaching sex ed.. and not just once but for two years. Ha! Who knew I was such an expert! I would like to atribute my conocimiento to the years I spent with the tassone family.

¿Que mas? Kory has been absolutley stark raving mad on cocoa beans! He´s worked himself into a frenzy and is foaming dark matter from his mouth. He is laying on the floor in a fit of rage and is shaking. He is asking me to buy a hand grinder for 350 cords so that he can attempt to make something useful from all the beans he has purchased. I, being the reserved and controled woman, have told him that it would not be wise to use up all our money until the strike is over and we can actually get to a bank. He´s wimpering softley now. Ok just kidding. We actually started doing a bit of whose your daddy research around town on our quest to make chocolate from a raw bean. Nobody here eats chocolate. there is one chocolate factory in the whole country which makes a somewhat raw product (hence the plea for real chocolate to the left of the page). The people here use this precious gold-like bean to make the most putrid drink you could imagine. A blaspheme to the bean really. They grind cocao beans and toasted corn and then mix it with a little sugar and water. It looks like when you mix dirt and water and some chunks of grass or bugs get in it and it tastes about that good too. My point is that it was hard, but we finally found this guy in town that has the chocolate making equipment. I will let kory describe it for you as he can do it WAAAAAAAAY better than I can.

After asking some questions at the local hardware store about the capability of a small hand-grinder to make chocolate, I was told of a man down the street, past the sports arena and a couple of bars who is known to make chocolate. Later in the afternoon we sought him out armed with a general direction, a raw lust for the secrets of chocolate, the knowledge that he was a fat man, and his name--Guillermo. From what we know of the Nicaraguan people, we knew it wouldn´t be difficult to locate him if we could only find someone to ask for a fat man called Guillermo. As we approached what we believed to be the approximate location, the answer slowly presented itself. Protruding from a doorway was a waning moon of blue-green and navy, split accross the middle like a limon from a Sprite can by a black belt, rising sideways over the verticle horizon of the concrete door frame. There perched in a doorway raised above the sidewalk by a cement walkway, sat a beachball-round man staring down at us. I asked if there was a man nearby called Guillermo. ¨Here to serve you, come on in,¨came the reply. Inside the tiny office was a desk on one end and several wooden countertops surrounding against the walls. A few chairs lined up along the opposite wall were vacant and two were promptly repositioned to receive us. ¨Sientense,¨he said. ¨Sit yourselves down.¨ We sat. Behind the desk was a bookshelf filled with encycopedias and medical dictionaries, folders, and loose papers, and books of poetry. On the wall hung a dusty old stethoscope and a few medical tools which appeared slightly medieval. Half on the desk before us and half on one of the side counters was an ancient typewriter which appeared half dismantled, but most of the instruments of craft appear as such in this country. The only sign of anything related to the craft of making shocolate was the machine in the center of the room. Supported by a few rickety-looking wooden beams and some metal scaffolding stood a large drum, or tank of some sort. It looked like a water heating tank. Above it was a motor and wheel attached by a belt to something concealed inside the tank, too high to see into. From the apparatus ran two wires shich were stapled to the ceiling and spliced into the main line, (typical wiring here, our house is the same). The whole system had a fresh-(ish) coat of brown paint, uniformly applied to all parts and bolts and feathering softly into the scaffolding.
Guillermo sat. True he was fat, but I have not yet described the man. His hands can only be described as thick and gooey. Not that they were sticky or wet or coated with anything visible, but rather, that they appeared solid enough, but to look at them moving, making gestures slow and deliberate, stopping with only a slight lag, one would think that they were made of Devil´s Food cake, with a tough coating that looked like it would melt in the sun. His hands alone, however, might not give that impression exactly. But to see them perfom in practiced gestures beneath his face, even the most logical or reasonable of people could interpret their material as nothing other than chocolate. His face was heavy and well worked. It carried maybe fifty-five years or more and bore at least one line for each. Not wrinkles though. Wrinkles are for clothes or sheets, bed linnens or plastic grocery bags. No, these were folds, and the exact color of chocolate, dark, but still with a generous helping of cream and sugar. His sagging features gave him the appearance of melting before our eyes. His heavy brow seemed to be poured over his tiny marble eyes, and his cheeks melted into his body where his neck should have been. There could be no doubt that this was Guillermo, the chocolate man.
¨We´ve heard you know how to make chocolate,¨we began. He described for us various types of chocolate he was capable of producing, from simple bars, to beverages, chocolate for cake, not to frost it, but to ¨bathe¨it, chocolate for ¨choco-bananos,¨ and a new breed of chocolate introduced to him by a foreigner that is a chocoalte butter. Pure chocolate and spreadable. He called for his wife to bring out a plate with a mountain of chocolate frosting and two spoons for us to sample during the discourse. He explained how the beans have to be roasted, and then classified. When we tried to get him to talk about the actual process he would only say that it was quite difficult, until I began to get the impression that the big secret of making chocolate was keeping the process a big secret. His new machine was lacking some parts so he was unable to demonstrate until next month, but he welcomed us to observe. Finally, he fished through his folders and loose papers for a recuerda, or souvenier. Literally, a memory. He flashed some of his ¨medical¨drawings of disected humans figures and explained that he is a ¨medico sin titulo¨or a doctor without a degree or license. Finally he found what he was looking for: a poem about Peñas Blancas, the natural reserve nearby, that he had written. We left with guts full of frosting, ¨Cantos de Peñas Blancas,¨ and our heads full of cocao beans. With luck, we will have chocolate soon.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

La Chocolata

So last week we left our memory drive hanging out of the side of the computer in Matagalpa, so there are no pictures to add this week. Fortunately we were able to arrange for its sound recovery or there would be no more pictures ever.

After the brigada left town, we went out on the jornada again. We travelled to a village called La Chocolata, so named for the color of the dirt there, where we waited around for the nurse to give vaccines to the children of the campo and I (kory today) chatted up one of the men from the area. I got him to gift me a cacao tree (baby) to take back to our house to plant. I hope it lives. Later I was chatting with another man from the mountains and he was asking me the english word for horse. We got to talking horse, not that I know anything about horses since I had never ridden one even though all my cousins have horses and are rodeo queens and such, and he offered me a ride on his horse. He disappeared down the hillside and after a few minutes returned with his stud. I climbed aboard and he gave me a quick lesson. I rode down the hill to his house and then back up to where we were working. It was a blast. Ultimate Peace Corps. The reason for all of this man chat was that we were planning to corral the men that stand around waiting while their wives get the screaming kids vaccinated so that we could chat with them about VIH/SIDA (HIV/AIDS). After a few more minutes of waiting we decided to start with what we had (five men and a boy of 15). We chatted for a bit and broke out a wooden penis for its maiden voyage. All was a success. Later Heather was chatting with someone about some bamboo (horse guy) and he said there was some up on the hill. She volunteered to go get some but was denied the experience by the reigning machismo, so I got to accompany him to acquire some to plant in our yard. (good thing too, the hike would have killed her). We walked to the bottom of the mountain and then back up the other side. It was amaizing, pastures, fields, and jungle. We chopped down one stalk about 30 feet tall with his machete. He hacked off the top and some of the latteral braches. Refusing my offer to help carrie some, he hoisted the twenty-foot bamboo pole on his shoulder and we headed off into the jungle again. When we got back he chopped it up into plantable sections and we tied it up and headed home. All in all, a great Peace Corps journey.

Also, we painted our house. The first coat looked too peach, so we applied a ¨cacao¨wash over the top of it. We may be the first Peace Corps volunteers in the history of the world to faux finish their home. Pictures to come when we get our card back.