Saturday, April 3, 2010

Leaving Home

As you can see by our little gage to the right of your screen, our peace corps service is now 100 percent complete. The last week of our service was pure parties and getting the house ready to go. This party was a particular favorite because it began with a pinata modeled after kory complete with tie, hat and sandles (professional sandles of course). Everyone was quite honored to take a wack at him. The rest of the party consisted of speaches made in our honor and long silences when no one wanted to say anything. We found out later that many didnt want to speak because they thought they would cry. (I swear I'm not making that up.)
This was the third going away party we had from the members of our church. We were very touched, but made sure there were no uncomfortable speaches this day, instead we made everyone sing the national anthem twice and dance and play games. We had a presentation with Dr. Lia and Panchita, the team of our big charla project, that hopefully they will finish. Even our boss Pilar, George the director of Peace Corps Nicaragua and his wife came. (Ps, those are the baners in the background). A final good bye dinner at the casa materna followed by more speaches.
The ringing of the bell in the Peace Corps office is the official end of service ceremony. It means you have finished with honor (i guess) and that you are on your way home with no more work to do. I love this picture of Kory! He is so cute! He was very excited to finish all the way to the day we were supposed too.And even though we left our home in Nicaragua, we arrive in a home much more engrained in our souls. And in this new home lives all our families whom we adore. We were greated at the airport with tons of people and love and have enjoyed every second of being with the people we love.
Don't think its all fun and games though, its hard. Though a fluke we found ourselves in the super Walmart in Evenston Wyoming, standing in front of the deoderant, mesmerized by the shear selection of brands and scents and the lovely packaging on every single one. We had difficulty making the decision. Then we were at a birthday party for my cute little niece, wherin she had a pony and a pinata.. and just feast your eyes on how calmly the children are picking up the candy. We were used to a sight much more similar to a chunk of meat thrown into a pirana pond. Everything here is so luxurious and clean and orderly. Even the outsides are clean. Even the dirt I think is pretty clean. You buy it in sacks here at the store. Its weird. Being jobless for the first time in our lives is unnerving but we are trying to enjoy all the company we have since we are living with Heather's sister. Heather will be pursuing a career in community based social work.. whatever that means (she doesn't even know what kind of a job that will land her) but she has big dreams and is not sure the common social work job is going to cut it. Kory also has big dreams, the first of which include buying a new computer to work on. He will be designing a computer program which he has never done. We are people who need that creative slack that Peace Corps fostered so well in our jobs there. We want nothing more than to keep doing Peace Corps, but here at home. Hopefully we will find our niche in this big strange world full of stuff and order.
We are thinking this will be the last blog entry as real life just isnt as interesting. We thank all of you who followed our blog and kept up with what we did. We created it for all who wanted to share in our adventures. The next adventure is parenthood and beyond! Wish us luck!
!Adios y que Dios les bendiga!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Host Family Goodbyes

We spent the weekend with our host families for the last time. Going back to Carazo is craziness. The difference in ones personality from when you first arrive in country, unable to speak, stunned at the way things are here, and returning after everything is completely normal, is difficult to explain. This time, instead of them showing us the ropes, and teaching us how to wash clothes and eat fruits, we were showing them how to build ovens and better their buisinesses. It was really rewarding to see our personal growth juxtaposed against itself and to remember the kindness of people who have looked after us.

Me in the pulpuria
Panchita- Mom
Me, grandma, mom, and cousin pedro
Marvin, Kory's mom and dad, Claudia and Javier

Kory and Javier making popcorn.

Attention Attention, Vegetarian of 5 Years Goes Back to Eating Meat! Read All About it!!!!

After 5 years, vegetarian gets... hungry. It was decided that he should eat tantalizing tidbits of meat when desired, but not in excess. So those of you who have been saddened by Kory's vegetarianness, will be pleased to know that he will welcome any fine cutlets, but only of the finest. Example, Matt is authorized to share a steak that only he has cooked. Anyone is authorized to buy a pepporoni pizza for him or chicken strips. Meats that will not be accepted include fish, boney kinds, skinny kinds, guts, snakes and slugs.

PS, no the wife is not saddened by this new turn of events, but she reports feeling happy that her sweetie is content with eating style.

BIodigester, a Poo Miracle

How, you ask can poo be a miracle? Well, you take a cow and a bag of plastic and you get food. Simple.. missed one step.. gas. This is another awsome project that peace corps volunteers are doing here in Nicaragua. We (being health volunteers) havn't had the pleasure of being trained in biodigesters, but we decided to go and observe one so that when we get back to the states, we can impliment this low tech miracle when we build our straw-bale home.

Look, its like this. You have a cow, or maybe you don't. You can find cow poo in the streets, or you can use other kinds of poo, including human. You mix the poo with 1 part water, well blended. Then you put it in a bag, where the gas is collected and goes through a pipe that lands at your gas stove. This gas is oderless and can provide about 6 hours of cooking a day based on the size of the bag.
This day, we went to a very small and dry community in Leon, where there were plenty of cows, dirt, rocks and jicaro trees. They already had the hole dug, so the volunteer showed up with her bags, and pipes and we put it together. I wont bore you with the details, but its a pretty nice biodigester and we were pretty excited at the concept. now we just have to figure out how to insulate it against the Utah winters.

Poo in hole.
Poo out hole.
Nice lady makes you fresco de cacao.. my favorite. Dont worry, Im going to make some for everyone who comes to our party. I dont think I will be ablet toast the cacao like she is in utah. But i will do my best to make it authentic.

Crochet with Plastic Bags Project

This is a project that a few volunteers are doing. Did you know that you can crochet or knit using plastic bags that you get from the grocerty store? It is a fantastic way to help kids here make money and help the environment. I thought that we were plastic bag over users in the states but it is much worse here. If you tell the vender that you dont want a bag, he or she stops, looks at you in this sober and confused way and without questioning, they nervously slip your item into a bag and give it to you. Its funny. Anyway, this is my second bag, I taught the youth group at my church how to do it and they struggled a little, because they didnt know how to crochet. But it was fun.

Anyway, I think many of our friends may be interested in this. The plastic bags, once they are cut are called Plarn and I have included a youtube video on how to cut them.
There is lots of info on the web about how to use the plarn to make all kinds of fun things. Im working on a rainbow bag now. I tried making a sun hat, and it didnt really work out that great. You have to learn to crochet, but this takes about 1 hour. Seriously. Also I have found youtube to be very useful in learning crochet techniques so I can follow patterns. TRY IT OUT! Maybe when we come home we can do a little peace corps activity and learn how to do it!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tangential Chocolate: A Chocolate Story Shamelessly Used as a Vehicle to Say Some Other Stuff

The great chocolate adventure continues. For those who don’t know what the great chocolate adventure is, let me catch you up. A little while ago—translated from “hace un rato,” which in Nica Standard Time is ten years, two years, yesterday or ten minutes ago depending entirely on the context, which may not exist (in this case two years ago)—I decided to dispel a long held, albeit erroneous, belief of mine concerning the making of chocolate. I believed that the mysteries and apparent difficulty surrounding chocolate production were nothing more than carefully contrived lies intended to keep chocolate expensive and maintain the general ignorance of the bovine public (a theory which, despite my recent discoveries, still holds true in some respects, none of which said respects involve cattle). This quest—I say “quest” because the journey from I-don’t-have-chocolate-ness to I-made-chocolate-ness consumed much of the scant economic resources I had and nearly all of my considerable mental concentration—lead me to Guillermo, the chocolate man. Guillermo, the self-professed poet, scholar, doctor (without title)…(and practicing), chocolate maker and jokes teller, entered my life as a novelty. He managed to further confound my notion that making chocolate should be easy, gratifying, and memorable. Don Guillermo Castillo told me some great jokes that I didn’t get and all about the secret world of chocolate making, with such specific phrasing as “it’s quite difficult,” “very complicated,” “super delicate,” “you have to test and classify each bean,” or “guaro killed my father so now I’m going to finish it all,” (though I think that last one may have been the punch line to a joke about a man who was asked to explain why he answered “vengeance” when asked why he drank so much, but could have been about chocolate too). He spent hours telling me nothing about chocolate. Everything was cooked, cooled, stirred or fermented for “un rato” (in this context, probably ten minutes or a day). He did bring out a plate of chocolate to bathe (this is frosting, to bathe a cake he meant) and spoons. It tasted like smoke. Anyway, to sum up Guillermo, after a year and a half of waiting for the right belt to come in he finally repaired his chocolate machine (from which he intended to extract the fruits of a secret recipe for chocolate butter, …for toast) following which he disappeared from the face of the earth. I can only hope that he is in a better, chocolaty-er place. Not heaven though. I don’t expect to find chocolate there any more than money or pornography.
I found Guillermo by shopping around for a hand mill. For those of you who live in the modern age of electrical appliances, or anywhere in the developed world, post 1950, a hand mill is a medieval torture device, about which it was discovered at some point in the past that, as a byproduct, things could be ground smaller. Here I must mention that my wife told me to take the cacao to the town mill instead, rather than purchase a hand mill for several hundred córdobas, as a test. Although I say “town mill,” this may be a bit of a misnomer. It makes it sound exclusive, like there is only one. To better understand the frequency of mills in any given neighborhood of, say, 400 humble citizens, a paltry seventy percent of whom make tortillas to sell daily, I recommend going to and searching “Starbucks,” then cross-referencing the search with a random word like, I don’t know, “Manhattan.” I was ashamed to take my cacao to the mill. I honestly don’t know why. It may have something to do with the fact that it was not corn, but could have been due to a number of other contributing factors as well (such as having receive the “bad face” for standing in front of a long line of hard-working women with several pounds of wet corn on their heads waiting for me and my hummus). The mistake of not listening to her suggestion this time would cost me dearly in the two years that followed. I should have listened. What can I say but sometimes they know. This isn’t to suggest that women know everything and should be followed blindly. To say so would be folly, and a damned lie. It is actually against my very religion (The First? Church of Women Don’t Know Everything But I Wish That They Did So I Would Know Who to Ask Stuff in La Dalia). That last part of the name of the church is what is known as an ambiguously placed modifier. Is the church in La Dalia? Or is that where you ask stuff? The membership has decided that this would be the first question for women …if they were to know everything.
Incidentally, the chocolate making experiment failed because it turns out that it is a very long, complicated process. At least to get commercial quality, smooth chocolate it is. Also, cleaning out chocolate liquor (or the chocolate paste which comes from grinding toasted cacao beans) from a hand mill is what I would liken unto cleaning petroleum jelly from a bucket of space Legos, which I can only imagine is similar to washing cold butter from a janitors key ring, which, having not had the experience, I suspect would remind me of cleaning cocoa butter out of a hand mill in Nicaragua. Processing chocolate in a hand mill is a lot of work, and it sometimes comes out kind of purple and tastes like grass. If it is not properly toasted, the resulting chocolate is extremely foul to the taste. Not just bitter, like cooking cocoa (which can’t kill you), but much worse (because you would swear that it could). Eventually I settled for making hot cocoa pellets, or ground up cacao and sugar hand pressed into a cake to be dissolved in a cup of hot water.

Recently, my wife made a batch of hot cocoa pellets that turned out better than mine (which I had abandoned about a year ago following the third consecutive batch of purple grass-tasting muck). She had followed her own advice and taken the cacao beans to the town mill (not the one that lets the pig from the street clean up the rinsing corn-water, but the clean one whose owner often lets me pay her in peanut butter). When the batch of good hot chocolate ran out, it came time for me to try the mill (the owner of which I now owe chocolate). The results were impressive. So much so that I couldn’t bear to use the cacao for hot chocolate, but instead began creating all sorts of chocolate flavors from chili, to rosemary, to cloves, to cardamom and anise. (Fortunately I stopped just short of goat hair ginger bites. …Have you tried them? Then who are you to judge me?) From here, who knows? I made a box of assorted chocolates for my wife to tell her that she was right (this time) and let me say that life is not like a box of chocolates because unless you are as stupid does, you generally know what you’re going to get, or you can at least find someone who does. (Hint: the dark chocolate nut clusters are the really bumpy dark ones). However, life is a little like a box of homemade chocolates for a Valentines Day present: kinda pretty, a little bitter, and you might get some love for the effort. The purpose of this story is not to tell you how to make chocolate (or love). That would be pointless because it is just too hard and complicated and you would never figure it out (though you can buy some from me if you want…chocolate). No. The point is that if your wife says take it to the mill—I don’t care what it is, in the name of all things soft and sweet and spicy, in the name of all things that melt in your mouth, in the name of all things that carry endorphins and help your heart when you get old, in the name of regrets about wasting two years of your life sipping hot cocoa water instead of enjoying the indescribable gratification of dissolving a bar of semi-sweet, chili-laden chocolate made from the beans with your own two hands—just take it to the mill.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Misión Completa

Before and After pics that you WON´T BELIEVE!

Well, it has been an absolutley CRAZY couple of weeks trying to get the project done and ready for a party, but the Casa Materna project that you all donated to is officially finished. So officially that we had the ribbon cutting ceremony that was hilariously Nicaraguan... will explain. First though, I want to say how beautiful it is there in the Casa Materna. Looking at these before and after pics, I realized that I have already forgotten how absolutley ugly it was there before. Its hard for us North American´s to believe that they would have lived with it that way for so long, but for them it was perfectly normal. I would say they just didn´t know what they were missing.Wednesday we baked in our oven for the first time and baked ALL day! I was frustrated at first because all the midwives had to come from their communities and they NEVER arrive on time.. and of course they were quite late, but they DID eventually come and when they did we had a riotously good time baking up a storm. We baked for 7 hours in our little oven which worked like a charm! I am in love with it and wish I had had one when I first got to site. We baked breads that had fruits and vegetables to help teach them methods for improving nutrition. Don´t laugh at me because when I tell you what breads we baked.. you will question their nutritional value, but trust me, anything you can do to help increase variety in the diet here especialy with fruits and veg, is an improvement. We made double batches of banana bread, carrot cake, pumpkin bread and just for fun, cinnomon rolls. They LOVED THEM!!!! I had purchased cakes as refreshement for the party and we ended up not even touching them because had baked so much.

So on to the ¨inaguración¨as they call it here, as I said it was VERY nicaraguan and I cannot go into all the details here on the blog or it would take forever. I wrote a short story in a book Im writing called ¨The Birth of Eva¨ and it was like 4 pages long. Lets just suffice it to say that we started 2 hours late, and after we had started the guy from mayors office decided we should sing the national anthem and should do a ribbon cutting, oohh, also that our speakers were not big enough. He said we had to send someone up to the radio station to get the disc with the song. We waited around another 2o minutes or so in which time, a kid brought bigger speakers (we already had big ones) and then later the guy from the radio station came and had the song only on his memory, so we ended up singing it without music after waiting for 20 mins. Ahh these are the things I will not miss. But if you can stay calm, they are decidedly amusing.This is a cute little girl that came to dance for us. It looks pretty exciting in this picture but the dance was just her stepping back and forth back and forth for the whole song. It was cute anyway and I will say that she and her family were the only ones that arrived on time. Here´s the last minute ribbon cutting ceremony, I was honored to do the honors.Kory and Doña Alicia serving up the gaseosa.

Well, here is the donor list I painted on the wall there. All those who donated are on it and will be there forever. Thanks again for your help in making this dream come true for them and for me. I could not have done it without you guys.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Before we start with pictures and fun, I would like to share that we have our plane tickets and we will be returning home on Friday the 26th of March at 830 pm! So get your party ready cause we want to see you ALLL!!!!

In other news, I will be paying the final payment to the contractor to finish the PARTNERSHIP project in 1 hour! He finished 1 week early and did a really great job! I am sooo incredibley pleased! One of the midwives said, ¨It feels like we are in a different country!¨ (That is a nice compliment considering that nothing is ¨pretty¨here.) I made a 7 hour trip yesterday to tell the lady at the nursery that we wanted plants. There is no cell phone reception up on the mountain and so I had to go and tell her in person. It was a trying day. I will have to make the trip again on the 2nd so I can pick up the $13 dollars in plants that was included in the project. (yikes) She asked me why I dont buy more so I could make the trip worth it, which miffed me. But what can you do. We are planning the inaguration of the project for the 4th of february and on the 3 we will spend all day baking breads to share at the party. I hope all works out nicely and that they are impressed by the breads enough to want to bake them and sell them. Thanks to all who donated. I will be sending or bringing home gifts for you from the women here. I just have to think of something cool to do. I will post more pics when we get more plants!
In other news at church our womens group had an activity where we learned to cut hair. I was worried that noone would come, and then the 1 sister I asked to come from Matagalpa and teach us, brought 4 other girls and we had a blast. Hardley anyone dared to try it out, but two of the young women here went right home and proceeded to give their sister a major haircut that was pretty bad. hehehe.
Also I taught the women in the casa materna to crochet the other day and when I came back on monday they had made a WHOLE bunch of little things! I was pretty excited!

ps, I got bit by a dog last week and forgot to mention it. It was all due to the maldito gato. Its probabley better that I did get bitten or my peacecorps service wouldnt be complete. Now I feel like I can come home. It wasnt too bad anyway.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cats, birthdays, progress and homecoming plans!

Well, I (Heather) turned 31 on saturday and it was pretty ordinary, but its good to be alive! Kory and I have started a ritual where you have to earn your birthday or you dont get to add another year of maturity to your life. So on your birthday you must justify it. I won´t bore the general public with details, but just suffice it say, that I indeed DID turn 31 and am proud to be 1 year more mature.In other news, we now have our 3rd orange kitten, who after many days of failed namings and deliberation was given the name Sidecar. Yes sidecar.. like a sidecar on a scooter. Its the best we could muster Im afraid. We dont have any idea what to do with him before we come home, but he has the best spots ever and a really cute face with green eyes, so that is winning him some possible ¨bring home¨points. We have to look into the process first but we will see.

As for the projects, I am happy to announce that both of our big projects and our radio show are going well. We have transfered management of the radio show to a local organization called Rainbow and are now just sort of watching to make sure it continues. We had a meeting with the team of charlas listas yesterday in Jinotega and you can see that the Nicas get pooped out a bit after lunch. Panchita on her cell, and ohh, Kory appears pooped out too. It was a difficult meeting but we left confident that we could leave on the date we had proposed, so we will almost officially be planning on coming home on the 26th of March! So get ready...

My project at the Casa Materna here in my site is going swimmingly as my sister would say. Here are some pictures for your enjoyment!