Monday, December 7, 2009

Two weeks and one long blog entry

We have been gone for two weeks and had many different adventures. The first thing we did was participate in the All Volunteers Conference, wherein all 170 or so Peace Corps volunteers in Nicaragua get together to learn and share ideas. I was asked to do a session on healthy cooking techniques with some other volunteers.We taught how to cook vegetarian tacos and homemade whole-wheat tortillas, hummus, babaganoush, yogurt, sandwiches, coconut pancakes, squash soup and bean burgers. It was awesome! We also promoted my new cookbook ¨Cocinar Simple¨ that right now, mostly has only my recipes and a few of Kory´s, but will soon become a cooperative collection of recipes from all volunteers who want to contribute. It will grow and be an awesome collection of what you CAN cookin Nicaragua.

We also had the opportunity to learn what other volunteers are doing in their sites. We attended sessions on bio-digesters (which are giant poo bags that make an oderless methane gas which you can use to hook to your stove and cook with for up to 6 hours a day). We plan on making one for our house when we get home (someday when we are actually homeowners). Another awesome session we attended was how to use trash to make things.
We learned how to use plastic grocery type bags to crochet purses, wallets, bags, belts, you name it. Now we just have to learn some fancy crochet moves (we are a bit rusty).

We also had the chance to learn about options for working in international development, which for Heather was quite good, Kory… not so useful. We had an awesome talent show the last night by the pool, where most people got drunk, but there were some really good numbers. Kory read some of his poetry that he has written about Nicaragua (and will hopefully be published when we get home). He also did a very sweet thing and read one of my recipes as a poem to showcase my cookbook. It was very darling.

We ended on a Thanksgiving message from the new Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams and another speech about Food Security (which was the theme for the conference) by PC Nicaragua Country Director George. Overall it was really fun to get to know lots of other volunteers.

The next day happened to be Thanksgiving day and we had arranged to eat at the home of a family who works at the Embassy. We had dinner with a Mormon family with 4 kids. We felt right at home with them. They let us call home, lent us a bed to sleep in for the night and prepared a nice dinner for us vegetarians. It is really amazing that they would open their home to total strangers. Mr. Black was just getting into watercolor, and it just so happens that Kory is a professional in this, so we had a watercolor class with him and his 3 girls.

It was very fun. We watched movies, played “Set”, a card game favorite of Kory’s and we stayed overnight there. It was really interesting to see how a family can live in different countries. For us it was really nice to experience a different socio-economic level in Managua for a day.After that we headed up to Madriz to hang out with other volunteers. We really enjoyed being with other people as we are most often alone and isolated. Near Somoto is a famous canyon that really resembled Utah. A fat slot canyon I would say. It was beautiful. We, and 12 other volunteers, piled in the back of a moving truck with 17 other foreigners that our friends know there and drove to the canyon.From there we hiked about 2 ½ hours over rocks and through water. The last 2 hours we got in the water and floated down. When Matt said we were going to “float” the canyon, I, being from Utah, imagined a large raft with paddles and life jackets and rapids, but this was NOT the case here in Nicaragua. We put on life jackets or tubes and got in the water and swam/floated slowly downstream. It was super fun, but it got a bit cold near the end and it took several hours before I could feel my fingers again.
This is a picture of most of the people who are left in our group (Health 46) that arrived here in Nicaragua with us.

That night was the huge Somoto Carnival festival where they have lots of bands in the street and dancing contests. Almost everyone went but us. We were too tired and didn’t want to spend the 120 c√≥rdobas (6 dollars!!!!) to get in and dance for an hour, so we watched episodes of “The Office”.

We then decided to go to the Miraflor reserve, which is a jungle/organic farm protected area in a cloud forest.

We had the amazing opportunity to sleep in a TREEHOUSE!!! The tree house was in a very old strangler tree (it’s a parasite tree that surrounds other trees and kills them, the original tree dies, leaving a hollow cavity inside). Here are some pictures.

The only problem was that the toilet was quite far away, which along with the fact that we were drinking homegrown, fresh chamomile tea, makes for a rather humorous story. The tree was off by itself and in the night, the clouds came in and rested over the jungle making it difficult to go pee in the latrine some distance away. So going pee in the night was going to be difficult. I found this awesome spot that was sort of a hole in the tree with a tiny little seat that would allow me to pee all the way to the ground, a PERFECT midnight potty, right outside the door. Not knowing that chamomile could act as a diuretic, I didn’t know why I had to keep peeing, but one time I got up in the night and decided to try the hole. My candle was not light enough to show anything and then it blew out, so I just pulled down my pants and sat down on the “seat”. I went and then when I stood up, my but cheeks felt quite stingy. I thought it was just from sitting on a tree branch. I pulled up my pants and then realized that I had fire ants on my bum! I went inside were there was a candle and we tried for a long time to get all of them off. OUCH! They hurt. I had ants in my pants for another good hour and the welts to prove it!

You wouldn’t think that a place in the middle of nowhere with no electricity, could have such delicious food, but the woman who ran the farm was an AMAZING cook. We ate fresh, organic vegetables prepared in the most delicious ways that I have eaten in Nicaragua. It was like being in Europe. NO ONE stared at us, which you don’t realize is a luxury until you haven’t been stared at for a good two years straight. Anyway we highly recommend Reserva Miraflor.

For the last bit of adventure we headed back to the office to have our final oral Spanish exams, which will tell us at what level we speak. It was stressful but we are now glad we have it over with. (no results yet). The next day our group (health 46) was whisked away to a beachside resort on the Pacific coast for our Close of Service conference. We learned about all the paperwork we have to do, the rigorous medical exams including pooing in a cup once a day for three days, decisions about flights, resumes, how to find a job, apply for graduate schools, etc. It appears that it is just as hard to get out of Peace Corps as it is to get in. The good thing was that we were treated like kings. I had not been less than stuffed with food for the entire two weeks, and this was not helping. We swam in the pool after the first day and then we sang karaoke until 1am. When we went back to our luxurious beach-front bungalow, I had a feeling I should go out on the patio. I was sitting out there a few minutes when I saw a guy in the Turtle hatchery, which until then had not had any movement. I went over and saw that there were baby turtles in there and he invited us to go and release them. What LUCK! We have wanted to do this for many many years and have had no luck. The only bad thing is that our camera battery died and we couldn’t take pictures, but it was a full moon and the turtles were so little and darling. Again with luck, the next morning we woke with dreams of baby turtles and found they were releasing more, so we went crazy with the pictures.

That about sums up our awesome trip, except that we also asked special permission from the Embassy to go to the Corn Islands for Christmas and we were approved!... But we may not have enough money to go. We will see, because we also have a ton of work to do in these last 3 ½ months.

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BEFORE CHRISTMAS!!!!

1 comment:

B and Matty said...

Fantastic! Through this whole post I was like "oh floating down the river, fun! sleeping in a treehouse, I want to sleep in a treehouse, then the turtles, I am so glad you got your turtle experience. Wonderful, all of it sounds so great! and I am so glad you raised your money.