Thursday, May 24, 2007

What can I send you?

Hello everybody...

It has been great to hear from many of you and we are happy to report that the rainy season has begun, so now instead of always being hot it is either raining, cloudy or kinda nice. Although, it is also much more humid now. Also, we are seeing that living in a town with mostly dirt roads is just as bad in the wet season as it is in the dusty season. Our street turns into a chocolatey looking river during each storm. I find myself wishing for a kayak...

The rainy season generally means that it isn't nearly as hot as it once was, which leads to many changes. For example, I (Mason) have started running again, we don't wake up to sweat in the mornings, our clothes take more than 45 minutes to dry on the clothesline, sometimes we sleep with the fan on "low," we only have to take a "cool down" shower once a day. It is getting nicer, but many locals warn that this is going to be a very strong rainy season. It has, apparently, started much stronger and earlier than usual, and all of the hurricane experts are predicting a big year. In case you are unaware, hurricane Mitch destroyed much of the country in 1998, so there is obviously a big hurricane fear for the people here. So far, we are really enjoying the rain, but if it continues as frequently and as strong as this week has been, I'm sure we'll gladly welcome the end in October or November.

So, many people continue to ask us, "What can we send you?" or "What do you need?" or things like that. We are exremely grateful for the wonderful magazines, candy, snacks and other random things that people have sent. These things really do help us out a lot. Even if it is a month or two old, it is really nice to lay in the hammock and read a U.S. magazine, or eat some sunflower seeds or other things (Hot Tamales). So, over the last few days we just wrote down any little thing we could come up with that would be nice to have. I'm sorry if it is a bit long. Also, some of the things probably just aren't practical, but we can dream...

Food/snacks: Craisins, cous cous, quinoa, almonds, pecans, tahini, parmesan cheese, Annie's mac & cheese, trail mix, apricots, sunflower seeds, dark chocolate(not Hersheys), m&m's, cookies, hot tamales, skittles, macaroons
Beverages: Gatorade powder, Tea, New Belgium beer
Things for pets: Dog chew bones, one of those thick pieces of rope with a knot for a pull toy, pig skin things, any sort of animal treats
Things for kids: colored pencils, easy puzzles, marbles, kid's books in Spanish, basic school supplies
Periodicals: Climbing, Rock & Ice, National Geographic, The Economist, Runner's World, Rolling Stone, Mountain Gazette (free), High Country News, interesting newspaper articles
Other: DVD's, an air conditioner, cash, visitors, letters, funny things that we would never think of

And, here are some pictures:

We climbed Cerro Negro again recently. Here is Brenna and some other people in our group descending the mountain. It is not as fine as sand, but not much coarser and the best and most fun way to descend is to run. I have decided that it is the closest to skiing that I will have while we are here.
Here is one of the banana plants that we planted in the yard. The leaves grow straight up out of the middle all rolled up like that and then they unroll to become these huge leaves.
The requisite pet picture. Here Clavo and Poster are playing under one of our rocking chairs.

Some of Brenna's students in school. This is a typical shot of one of our classes. Except that this girl has markers (they're Brenna's).
This old lady walks by our house every morning. She has to be at least 200 years old. Her upper back is almost completely horizontal. Really nice lady.
On this trip to Cerro Negro, we went down into the crater. It is full of plumes of sulfur smoke and chemically stained rocks. This shot is from in the crater looking up to the rim.
Here are some of those chemically stained rocks. Its like those crystal making kits we had when we were kids, except these smell like rotten eggs and are really hot.
This is the group of people that we hiked up there with. We were 3 Americans, 2 Spaniards, 3 Swiss and 5 or 6 Nicas. We're sitting on the rim looking northeast. If it weren't so cloudy you could probably see the ocean behind us.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Nicaragua is Funny

Here's the kitty curled up in Clavo's food bowl! She's tiny!

Here's Mason and our friend Raul watering our big and successful tree nursery.

This is a photo of some of our Peace Corps buddies carrying in multiple buckets of water into Elliott's house. We got it from a nearby well because his town rarely gets running water.

1. April was the month of mangoes. They were everywhere, so many that people wouldn’t take them as gifts! So what does an innovative and slightly bored Peace Corps volunteer naturally do? Yep, we made a whole gallon of mango wine. We simply had to step into our backyard and collect about 25 mangoes, boil them with some raisins and put them in a sealed gallon jug with some yeast for 8 days. The seal didn’t quite work, so thrifty Mason simply patched things up with some well chewed bubble gum. We took the first drinks with our friends this past weekend and found it to be a huge success.

2. Going to the bus terminals is always such a funny experience. There you will find for sale anything and everything you never wanted, but somehow the vendors make you feel bad for saying no. Our favorites are the plates of fried pork rind and salad walking around on the top of some woman’s head. We also laugh at the woman who makes laps around the waiting busses screeching, “Agua helada, gaseoooooosaaaa…” (Ice water and sooooodaaaa…) Somehow each inquiry always ends with “amor,” no matter who they are talking to. “Que te doy amor? Jugo, fresco, gaseosa? Que te doy?” (What do I give you love, juice, soda? What do I give you?)

3. See through tops. This is such a strange phenomenon. Women young and old seem to think that wearing see through shirts is highly attractive. Sure, their bras are nice and lacey, but do we really need to see them? And their fat rolls? The funny thing is women will do anything not to let their bra straps show because that’s slutty. But showing the entire thing? No problem!

4. Nicas have an extreme fear of the sun. This is an unlucky fear, given that they live in one of the hottest places on Earth. They will do anything not to expose themselves to the sun. Umbrellas are essential for walking around mid-day, as well as shoes, socks, jeans and long sleeves. I don’t know how they do it. And they don’t sweat! Then there’s Mason and I. We sweat from just sitting down to eat a bowl of oatmeal. Or just towel drying is too much work sometimes, and I’m wet with sweat before I even dry off!

5. Nicas love to gossip. Sometimes it’s funny but usually for us it’s quite boring. Everyone knows everyone’s business, and if someone is walking down a different street then usual, there’s something to be talked about for days! The downside of all this gossip is that it carries over into the workplace and can really hurt careers. Sometimes Mas and I think we are living and working among little kids, because that is often how they act.

6. High heeled shoes are the only way to go here with the Nica ladies. They don’t seem to notice the dust and rocks and puddles everywhere, and they just go for it. It fascinates me how they are able to stay standing while also maintaining clean feet! I go out for five minutes (in Chacos, which the Nica women eye strangely) and my feet are black!

7. Nicaragua wouldn’t be so charming without its scores of chavalos. This is the term for kids here, but we like to think of them as little Dennis the Menaces all over the place. They are everywhere! They stroll into our house unannounced, they hang from the trees, they eat our mangos. The other day we were sitting on our front porch enjoying a rare sweat free evening while watching a group of chavalos play a game of marbles in the street. We both commented on a certain chavalo who completely fit the role: He was absolutely filthy, shirtless, he had a huge bloody gash on his back that he didn’t notice, he was barefoot and he was yelling strings of insults at his friends. Ahhh, chavalos…

8. I’ve had more then one lucky occasion to chase chickens. They are everywhere (like chavalos) where they shouldn’t be. I’ve gotten quite good at cornering them and holding them upside down by the feet to return them to their owners. Maybe Mas and I will get lucky enough to be given one as a gift. Our friend Sandy was recently given a fighting cock as a thank you gift! He named him Tyson.

9. I’ve become quite proud of my hand-washing abilities. I'm not talking about washing my hands, but washing clothes with my hands. I actually kind of enjoy my daily clothes washing time at the pila (sink).

10. Reggaeton. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, it is a new type of music that is supposedly a mix between reggae and hip hop. It is all the rage with all ages. We’ve been to many a party where the reggaeton is blasting so loud you can’t even hear the person next to you speak. It also makes the average bus ride a whole lot better when you’re sitting next to an abuelita (grandmother) moving her lips to the lyrics.

So there you have it, Nicaragua is funny. Thanks for reading…

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A lot of pictures

This posting is really just a bunch of pictures. We have been pretty busy lately, building nurseries at our schools and giving classes and attending and giving trainings and what-not. Hopefully in the next week or two one of us will actually write something to put on this blog, rather than just posting a bunch of pictures. We'll see.


So, a few months ago we received a huge package from our friend Brian, that was awesome. Lots of CDs, magazines and an amazing dog bed for Clavo. Clavo took to it right away and spends a lot of time there. Here he is on his new bed, chewing on a bone. Thanks Brian!

This is me at a fritanga (mostly fried food that people sell in the streets) stand in León. These are very common and usually feature tacos, enchiladas, gallo pinto and all sorts of other fried goodies. Note how much bigger I am than the woman standing in front of me.

We went to León for Good Friday because they make really cool colored sawdust "paintings" in the streets. Here is a group putting the finishing touches on theirs. There were dozens of them over many blocks of street and that evening, they had a parade in which they just walked right over all of them.

Here are members of our old host family at their daughter's baptism. Francela (the baby) was baptised by the priest and her madrina (mother-in-law) who is hoplding her in this picture. Her parents (Javier and Cela) are on either side and her aunt (Gloria Elena) is the 5 year old at the bottom.

This is a parade that passed in front of our house the Sunday after easter. We still don't know the significance of this day, but the parade was pretty big. Parades here are mostly just members of the community walking through the streets. There is usually some sort of music system or a band. This one also had a statue of Jesus and fireworks.

A tree covered in brilliant yellow flowers. We don't know what kind it is, but they drop their leaves then flower a few weeks later, but the flowers go away after a day or two, leaving only bare branches again.

A baby chicken got into our yard (not uncommon) and Clavo had the best time trying to play with it. I ended up returning it to its owner after I saw Clavo put it entirely in his mouth a couple of times.

Last week we had our yearly In-Service Training for a week at a beautiful hotel in the mountains of Matagalpa. Here is Brenna and I with our counterpart, Melva Castellón, who is the principal of one of Brenna's schools.

We visited our friend Elliott for his birthday and went on a hike since he lives in a rather hilly region. These are succulent type plants growing right out of a rock. They were beautiful.

Elliott's town, Santa Lucia, Boaco, is surrounded by mountains. Here are a couple of our friends on top of the one we hiked to. Elliott's town is below.

There is Elliott, who is now a year older. I checked out the cliffs behind him with binoculars and think that there could actually be some rock climbing potential there. I'm sure it will never happen though.

Our friend, Jessica, relaxing after the hike. She's from Long Island and had never worn Chaco's until this hike.

And finally, a picture of Brenna with our new cat, Poster. She is about 3 or 4 months old and has gained a lot of weight in the 3 weeks we have had her.