Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hi everybody. Kory again.

Vignettes

Nicaragua

We have been in this country for over 9 months now. Almost 10. Sometimes during our time here, we want for Nicaragua to be something else. Someplace else. That is, we want it to be colorful, like Guatemala. But what makes Guatemala colorful are the Maya. The Native people here, Mesquito, live primarily in the two autonomous regions on the atlantic coast, which make up for about half of the land mass of Nicaragua and are restricted areas for Peace Corps volunteers for dangerous drug trafficking and violence. The colors here are hidden, secret colors that are hard to find through the green. Sometimes we want it to be spicier, like Mexico. But it isn´t. The Nicaraguan tongue is more sensitive and their flavors simple to our North American salt, sugar, and MSG overloaded tongues, but decidedly "rico" to theirs. Sometimes we want a strong music culture, like Chile or other South American countries. But we just have to accept marriage of the Regaeton and evangelical preaching-screaming-speaking in tongues at superhuman levels and all hours of the morning, day, and night as a music culture. Sometimes there is no Spanish and English, just communication. Sometimes we are in the Nicaragua that is that strange place away from home and family and things familiar. And sometimes it just is. We just are here and it is what it is.

Money Talks

I thought I would mention a little bit about the money situation here for a Peace Corps volunteer. The currency is the córdoba. There are almost 20 córdobas in a U.S. dollar (19.5). The Nicas usually just call them "pesos", even though they are not. Gringos usually call them "cords." The symbol looks like this ... C$ (or a "c" with a dollar sign within it). We are each paid C$3,600 each month, or about $180. Before you all go running to Western Union to wire us money, let me explain some things. First of all, as we walked to church today we complained about the price we had paid for the bananas we were eating. They were two for a córdoba while in La Dalia they are four for a córdoba. In other words, the bananas at the high price were about 2.5 cents a piece, where they are usually 1.25 cents a piece. Fresh pineapple is on the rise. Now one can expect to pay as much as 10 pesos, or about 50 cents. You see where I´m going with this? An expensive mango might cost C$7 (35 cents) but it is about the size of a cantelope. Rice is now a whopping 10 cords a pound (50 cents) while beans are 9.5 to 12 pesos a pound. We buy tortillas from the neighbor for 5 reales. This means 50 cents in córdobas, or half a córdoba (2.5 cents). The 2 hour bus ride to Matagalpa that we take at least once a week, sometimes more, costs 30 pesos each person, each way ($6 round trip for two). In otherwords, we don´t make Jack here. But we don´t need much either. The rub comes from a $40 pricetage on a bag of cheap hershey bars.

El Gatito

I have conceded to let Heather get a kitten, provided that it is super cute. For those of you who know me and my feelings about pets, I´ll explain. This does not mean that Heather wears the pants in the family. On the contrary, we share the pants (which we may be able to litterally do since I am only a little taller than her and I have lost 30lbs. here on a diet that lacks Doritios and pizza ... mmmmm ... Doritos and pizza...) and if she were wearing the pants we would have had a cat long ago. It´s like this. This is probably the only time that having a cat might actually work out for us. I never liked having a cat around because it leaves hairs in my paints. This is intollerable. Here, however, we live in a cement hut and can hose it out to clean it, and I am not doing much painting really. Also, the pigeons´feathers are a constant bother, raining through the gaps between the wall and ceiling. Furthermore, we have a mouse problem. They love the poison we leave out for them and everything else they can get their filthy little paws on. All of this being said, what it really comes down to is that Heather has a lot of love to give. In the abscence of family and friends I have held a comfortable monopoly on that love for over nine months now, and frankly, I just can´t take it anymore. Her motherly instincts are kicking in and we can´t have a child until we come home. Incidentally, my wife´s happiness means more to me than a lousy pair of proverbial family pants anyway.

The Conductor

The bus driver this morning had only one hand. His other arm terminated in a nub with four little finger starts, his body´s aborted attempt to form a hand. Although it was obvious that it was a developmental problem and not an accident, it reminded me of the woman in April. In April I was translating for a skin doctor who was here with a U.S. airforce medical brigade. A woman came in from the campo for a skin condition. I think it was scabies. She was missing one hand and the other was horribly disfigured. The doctor asked me to ask her if she was born that way or if she had an accident. "La doctora quiere saber si naciste con los manos así o si tuviste un accidente," I asked, trying to be a little warmer than the sub-zero doctors the people here are used to dealing with. "Me machetiaron" she replied. "They machettied me." "They" could be field workers, or her parents, anybody. Judging from her age, it was probably the police or army, or sandinista rebells in the 80´s. The bus driver handled the curves and holes and mud and bridges expertly with his one hand.

The Funny Thing About Gringos

Gringos are a currious creature. They do things that are very unusual. As we all know, it can be very difficult, if not completely awkward, to get a close enough look into a gringo house to properly judge their excentricities and see what can be borrowed. Fortunatley, with this handy guide, you too can experience a gringo house. Gringos don´t seem to open their doors readily to Nicaraguans and therefor it is difficult to ask them for stuff, because as everybody knows, they are here to give stuff away. You can save time and embarassment using the simple manipulative tools in this book. For example, just yesterday, a local woman was able to negociate this tricky endevour by using the following method: 1) Being pregnant. 2) First stating to the husband gringo that she wanted to talk to the wife gringo. 3) When he tried to keep her out by stating that the wife gringo was on the phone and would be out shortly, and asked what she wanted, she simply told him that she just wanted to come in, which threw him off. 4) When the wife gringo came outside, she used her status as pregnant woman to cover some ground. She asked if she could "prestar" or bollow, the latrine. 5) Falling for the pregnancy scam the gringo wife allowed her into her house with her small child. The mysteries of gringo living revealed themselves as she passed to use the toilet. After (pretending) to use the toilet she was able to stay in the house for some time visiting and rubbernecking at all of the oddities before having to leave. You too can experience the wonder!

To Market, to Market

The women in this country, as well as many women from many other under developed countries around the world, have, for lifetimes, carried their wares to market on their heads. These wares have been anything from vegetables, carved wooden crafts, bread, "cosas del orno" or things of the oven (any of various baked things), children, and pig´s heads. This morning, on our way to the bus we passed a woman walking to market. On her head was a wooden rack, about 1 1/2 by 2 meters in size, full of pirated DVD´s. Hey, wares are wares.

Creencias Falsas

The other night we recieved a visit from a neighbor girl. She had come to seek advice about a pregnancy scare. She was late to recieve her one month "anticonceptivo" or contraceptive injection and the Health center would not give her a test to see if she was pregnant right away, nor would they give her the shot, in case she was. She was scared. Her mother threatened to kill her if she was pregnant, as moms will, and her boyfriend lives in a comunity that is an hour bus ride away, in El Tuma. That is not all. Aparently the doctor had filled her head with all kinds of nonsense and myths. Considering that not more than two months ago, a fifteen-year-old who got pregnant went home and tried to abort the baby (abortion is very illegal here, regardless of whether or not the mother´s life is in danger). She drank several cups of household cleaners and died. We were glad that this neighbor girl was wise enough to come over and talk to us to clarify some of the things that her doctor had told her. She turned 15 last week.

Anger ...(not anger, pronounced "ain ´chair")

"Deme una foto!" we heard from a tiny voice a short way behind us. Give me a photo. "Gringos, deme una foto!" The tiny person was waving. "We don´t have a photo."
"Adios!"
"Adios."
After this greating on this particular road for the first three months of our service, we decided to learn the kid´s name and teach him ours. His name is Anger (see above). He is about five and a tiny little guy. Now that he knows our names we cannot pass his mother´s stand in the market without a greating that somehow carries across the open intersection of all the roads. We recently took a photo of him (with Flat Stanely,...more on that later). He was very proud to have a photo taken and as soon as we can find somewhere to print it, we will in fact "dele una foto."

Well, I hope you have enjoyed these little vignettes. More photos to come, including: The Nicaraguan Adventures of Flat Stanley; The bamboo cabana on the patio; Sweet and sour sauce; Bamboo carved cooking utinciles and other fun things!

I hope all is well!

4 comments:

ben said...

Nice post mang

Matt said...

You guys should totally get a cat, or maybe a bunch of cats. You could be Los Gringo's del la Gato's or however it would sound the coolest in spanish.

Lizzzabeth said...

A kitten is a nice, albeit temporary compromise. You know the saying - "The thing about kittens is they grow up to be cats!" Let us know when Heather will be due. I'm sure it won't be too long! You really are a talented writer, too, Kory - love reading the posts. I'll send more Gummi Bears soon. xoxo Donnie & Lizabeth

Megs said...

Hi Heather and Kory! Kory- please write and illustrate a book. You are so talented. I will babysit the kitty wile you paint the illustrations so there is no hair on your paintings :)
I am so so sorry about the high price of Hersheys. It seems a terrible shame I have two large bags for halloween candy sitting within arms reach and can't share with you both:(