Thursday, August 23, 2007

Clavo the clavo.

August 20, 2007: Clavo’s bone is still broken and wobbling around. We have tried a lot of vets here in town and they each have given us wrong or bad advice, which has further prolonged his suffering. Two days ago I was riding with him in a Tricycle taxi and the driver told me his father is a “witch doctor” who could heal Clavo. Apparently he learned from his father who was well known for his craft all over the country. The driver told me we could go to his house and see if his dad could help. I decided what the heck; it will be interesting if anything. So we get there and the man is in the shower. A few minutes later someone else comes out and tells me in all seriousness that the dad refuses to work on Clavo because Clavo’s soul will go into the body of the next person he works on. So I pleaded with them and finally the man comes out and decides to do it, though against his beliefs. I put the dog on my lap and he gets to work. He first gave me an old pair of tighty whiteys to hold around Clavo’s snout in case he tried to bite! The man pulled a lot on his leg and Clavo hated it, but finally it was over. They put four pieces of some sort of strange bark on each side of his leg and wrapped it up. He said to leave it on for a month, and the leg would heal. Also they said not to get it wet to keep bad spirits away. To make a long story short, after the ordeal we were home for a few hours when we saw that his paw was gigantic and swollen, so we immediately loosened the bandage and probably undid all the work the healer did. We’re taking him to a real vet in Leon tomorrow.

So Clavo has been looking for trouble once again. Everyone tells us his name (slang for trouble-maker) has been well deserved recently. We went to Leon for the day yesterday and left the dog and cat outside in the backyard. We figured Clavo wouldn’t try to get out since last time he tried to escape an iron fence fell on his arm and he broke a bone. Well, we got home yesterday afternoon to find the cat solo in the backyard. We both of course immediately set off on the trek of the enormous backyard calling his name and looking in every possible space. We saw no sign of him or of where or how he could have gotten out. So we naturally came to the conclusion that he got stolen. In the States that possibility would never even cross our mind, but here it is unfortunately commonplace, especially if the dog is healthy looking. People tell us they steal dogs and cut their ears and tails and make them mean. So knowing all that we get back in the house and I sit down on the hammock and have a good cry. I’d call it a break down. Once I was over that, we decided to hop on the bikes and begin a search, hoping for the best, but knowing the whole time someone had grabbed him and was now claiming him as their own. That wouldn’t be such a horrible prospect if the people here actually fed and took care of their animals. We both imagined him tied up in someone’s yard wasting away from a rice-only diet, being eaten alive by ticks and getting kicked around here and there. Not a happy thought.
So we spent about two hours up and down streets asking everyone we saw about him. No one had seen him, which we thought was strange because since he currently has a broken bone, he walks really strange and is very noticeable. As the search went on, the number of searchers grew. By now, Clavo is well known in the community. We take him everywhere with us, so most people know him. Mas and I often joke that people like him more then us because we walk by and people say, “Clavo, Clavo, Clavito…” and not a word to us. So by the time it was dark, we had about 12 kids on bikes and on foot, plus everyone we knew in every barrio of Malpaisillo. Unfortunately, Clavo was not found last night, and we went to bed worrying about him.
One nice thing that came out of all this was the help we received from everyone. We went home after the search and within minutes we had a stream of friends at the house trying to cheer us up. We didn’t say goodnight to the last friends until 11:00. They knew that by keeping us company we wouldn’t be all alone and thinking about the poor dog. We woke up this morning feeling crummy, but I managed to get out of the house and bike around again for a few hours. Mas stayed home to wash clothes. (We can only wash in the mornings these days because the power goes out at 7:00 every day and a few hours later the water goes out too.) After a few hours of no leads, I pull up to the house to find our old neighbor at the front door talking to Mas. She came to tell us that CLAVO CAME TO HER HOUSE! I was so happy I cried right in front of her! She said he showed up and went right under the bed. So we went to our old house and there he was, crying like mad when he saw us. We discovered two huge wounds on two of his good legs, which lead us to think he had quite a night. He’s now safe at home and the whole ordeal is over. Now we just have to find a decent vet to fix his bone…

August 21, 2007: Well, that good vet was thankfully found. We owe a lot of thanks to a fantastic vet at Leon’s veterinary school, Dr. Daniel Morales. This man is the first vet we have consulted (he’s the fourth) who actually knows what he is doing. Early in the morning he took one look at the foot and told us to go get an x-ray. Well, easier said then done, as we soon found out. The first place we went refused to x-ray him because he is a dog. So after much searching, we found a place that was willing but they of course had no power until 2:00. (Yes, even a medical clinic in the city of Leon is affected by the power-outages.) We found a nice restaurant to wait with the dog for four hours, and then we went to get an x-ray. By the way, the whole day was really rainy due to hurricane Dean out in the Caribbean, so getting him in and out of taxis all the time was a mess! The lady at the x-ray clinic almost refused to help us because he didn’t have a muzzle, but we convinced her that he is nice and she finally agreed. The x-rays were easy and once we got the results it was obvious even to a three year-old that he had some very broken bones. Both the radius and the ulna were badly fractured, and he had developed a lot of calcification due to the fact that the breaks happened so long ago.
Off in the rain we go, back to the Doctor’s office. By now it’s around 4:00 and of course, once we get there, he is gone. They offered to let us leave Clavo there in their operating room overnight. We left him there and headed back to Malpaisillo, where our sweet site-mate Brie had soup and quesadillas waiting!

August 22, 2007: Mas and I headed in to Leon bright and early to arrive at the school at 8:00. The first thing we did when we got there was let the dog out for the longest pee I have ever seen. We think it was over a minute and a half. The doc told us his plan, which surprised even us! He explained in great detail that since so much time had gone by since the fracture occurred, he would have to operate. He planned to take out the mass of tissue that had formed, as well as cut a centimeter off his radius bone since it was healing improperly. He would also put in two nails (clavos in Spanish!) and then wrap it all up. So we said okay, and four hours and $100 later, Clavo had gotten himself into another clavo and now had two clavos in his leg! He’s home now resting and sleeping off the anesthesia. We’re not looking forward to all the stares and questions once the neighborhood gets wind of what the gringos did to Clavo!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

It´s been a while

Yes, we are still here. I know it has been quite a while since we posted anything, but we’ve been busy so back off!

For almost the entire month of July it seems as though someone was visiting us from the US. First, our friend Marilee came to see us and spent a few days in Malpaisillo helping us out with some projects and getting to know our friends. We left her in Granada where she stayed to study Spanish for some time and we met some other friends from back home (and Chile), Mandy and Pablo, who were traveling in Costa Rica for a while and came up to Nicaragua to see us for a weekend. We came back home only to be visited a few days later by our other friends from CO, Jacqueline and Mike. They spent a few days in town with us, helping us plant trees at a local high school and they also went to some of our schools with us. After a couple of days with them here, we headed to the island of Ometepe (in Lake Nicaragua) where we again met up with Marilee and Ryan, who had just flown in to join her and us for a little over a week. So the six of us spent a weekend on this island where we stayed at a hostel/organic farm and were able to climb a dormant volcano covered with rainy cloud forest called Volcan Maderas. After this trip, Jacqueline and Mike flew home to Denver and Ryan and Marilee went to other parts of the country. We went back home to work. Some days later, we met up again with Ryan and Marilee to climb another volcano (this one active) called Telica, which is really near our town. That was a great trip, spending the night on the slopes of an active volcano and being able to peer straight down a couple hundred meters into the crater. They say that if it is clear and dark you can see lava in the crater, but when we were there it was putting off a lot of sulfery smoke and we saw no lava. Still, it was really cool. After this, Ryan left, Marilee went back to Granada to study Spanish and we went back home to work in our schools and whatnot. A couple more days later and Brenna’s parents came to visit. With them we spent two days here in Malpaisillo where they got to meet many of our friends and students. We then went to a beach town called San Juan del Sur for the weekend and then headed to Granada for a couple of days. It was really great to see both of them and also really nice to stay in some nice hotels and take hot showers and eat good food for a few days. When they left, it was really sad for both of us. I think they may come back down next year though.

So, we came back to Malpaisillo and immediately had to move to a new house. Our landlady decided that she wanted her house back and we knew all of this ahead of time and already found a new place. We just had to move our few things over there. Apparently, the day before we cam back to town, there had been a big storm and the town water pump had broken. They said it would be out for about 3 days. We had been gone and had hardly any water in storage (a fact of life here is that the water could go out at any time and almost everyone has some water in storage) because our water rarely goes away, in comparison to other Nica towns. So we had to move from one dirty house into another dirty house without being able to really clean either of them and without being able to clean ourselves at the end of the day. Needless to say we were really dirty and sticky and we felt bad about leaving our old house with a partially mopped floor and a toilet that could have been cleaner. As we neared nightfall, somehow Brenna heard about a big well just outside of town where people were going to fill up water. She quickly grabbed every bucket and jug we had and jumped on a triciclo(a three-wheeled bike taxi) to fill up the water. She was gone for about a half an hour and when she returned she was soaked and had about 15 gallons of water for us. Showers!! Apparently there was just a huge gushing water flow at this well and throngs of people desperately filling what they could. The owner was theoretically charging people, but it was the family of one of Brenna’s students so we got our water for free. The next day the water came back and we were able to clean a few things. (Oh yeah, we had been traveling for so long before all of this happened that almost all of our clothes were really dirty and we were unable to wash them.) Within a few hours of the water coming back I was doing some yard work in our HUGE new yard (more than an acre) and I accidentally stepped on our main water line (1/2 inch PVC pipe running above ground) breaking it in half. There went our water. We quickly found out from the neighbors who could fix it (after about 7 people came over to look at it) and luckily this guy only lives a few houses down. He’s a high school kid of course. He told us what we needed to go buy from the ferretería (hardware store) and he sent a neighborhood kid to his house to bring his tools. Within an hour it was fixed and we were back in business. Also that day we paid another neighborhood teenager to clean up our yard with a machete. A lawn mower could have taken care of it in 20 minutes, but since there are no lawn mowers here this kid spent about 5 hours swinging a machete. He charged a whopping $6 for a half days work. Once the yard was all clear of the weeds we discovered a huge pit in the back where the owner put all of her trash. Since the city just takes all of the trash it collects and burns it, we are thinking that we will use this pit instead. Sort of a personal landfill. We are thinking that environmentally it will be better than burning, since almost all of our trash is plastic (we compost everything else).

Speaking of our new yard, I love it. We have so many trees and there is so much potential for making gardens and doing cool things back there. There are approximately 7 mango trees, 15 papaya, 25 plantain, 4 orange, 2 lime, 1 cacao, 3 avocado (too young to fruit) 2 tamarindo, 2 guava, 1 cashew (I planted that one), 1 almond, 1 nancite (a little fruit that everyone here loves, but I have yet to meet a gringo who thinks they are anything but disgusting), 1 mamon, and a couple of other non-fruit trees. We have already made a few compost pits where we put all of the leaves that fall constantly (since there are almost no seasons here, leaves are always falling and growing) and our kitchen waste. We have plans to make a vegetable garden soon and also have some worms and will start to do some work-composting. I hope to take a lot of what we do in our yard and share that knowledge with my students and our neighbors. Also, with all of those trees in the yard, I was finally able to sting up a slack-line in the yard. As if people didn’t stare at me enough.

One negative about this huge yard full of fruit trees is that it is relatively unprotected from the outside world. There is a barbed-wire fence, but that doesn’t really hold back anything but livestock. So, we are spending a good amount of time telling the neighborhood chavalos (kids, but much more naughty than normal, US kids. Although it is all cultural and they are usually sweet and respectful, just in a different way. Also they usually have a slingshot.) that they can’t just come into our yard whenever they want to hang out and climb our trees to get fruit. They are slowly learning to come to the door and ask permission to take our fruit. I have no problem giving it to them, I just want them to learn to ask and to say please and thank you. Also, with lots of fruit trees come bats. We have a couple living in our ceiling. Not much we can do about that though. We also have a big iguana that lives in our ceiling. We hear him running around occasionally, but don’t know what we can do about him. We don’t want to kill him, despite the advice of the neighborhood chavalos with slingshots who would love to make soup out of him, seriously. He sure does drive Poster (the cat) crazy.

Clavo was a bit unsure of the new yard at first and the first few times we left him, he escaped from the yard and was in the street in front of the house when we came back. We have a big iron gate leaning against a tree that separates the front yard from the back and he tried to jump over this gate to escape again and it fell on his leg. It weighs somewhere around 80 pounds and he yelped and cried and didn’t know what to do. It swelled up and he hobbled for a day but seemed to be ok the next day. Later he and the cat were playing and Clavo went to pounce on him and he landed wrong on that leg and started yelping and crying louder and longer than the first time. This time it swelled up more and stayed that way for quite some time. This was about a week ago and he still isn’t using that leg. It is swollen a bit and looks deformed. We have had 2 vets look at it and both say it isn’t broken. We gave him some anti-inflammatories and also used the Nica method of making a tea from mango leaves and chamomile and swabbing that on the injury. I think that worked better than the drugs. So he hobbles around now and spends most of the day lying down in the corner. He is scared to go out now too. We hope he heals soon and can start to enjoy this big yard to play in.

One last thing in this way-too-long entry. We have been slowly trying to work with the mayor’s office to build a new trash management facility here in town. As I mentioned earlier, they collect trash and take it to a spot outside of town and burn it. Most people, however, don’t pay the monthly fee (less than $1) for this service and burn their own trash in their yard or in the street. Or they pay one of the triciclo drivers to take it somewhere away from there and throw it out. During training, we visited waste treatment system in a little town near our training towns that really impressed us. There they separate the trash into organic and non-organic. With the organic (80% of the trash they collect) they make compost and worm-compost. With the non-organic (the other 20%) they recycle the glass, plastic bottles, paper, cardboard and metal. All the rest they bury. We have been talking with some people in the mayor’s office about this facility for some time and finally we were able to visit it with 3 members of the mayor’s office earlier this week. They were all very impressed and are excited to try to do something like that here in Malpaisillo. We are very excited about helping them with this challenge, although we realize that with the speed in which things happen here, it will likely still be in the planning phases when we leave next November. At the site we visited, they also use their compost in a huge tree nursery that they have started there. They grow all sorts of trees (fruit, ornamental, hardwood…) and sell some and use some for municipal projects. They also sell their compost to local agricultural producers and they sell the worms from their worm composting to others who are interested in starting worm-compost projects or to people who want to use them to feed to chickens. It is a really progressive idea that makes a lot of sense and could help with a lot of the trash problems here over the long term. We’ll keep you posted.

I think I’ll conclude this entry now. But first I want to thank all of our visitors and everyone who has sent us care packages and fun things from home (especially those beers that Ryan brought down!). Adios, and enjoy the one time of year where it may be hotter in CO than in Malpaisillo. Happy 30th B-days Zac and Nic! And also happy b-day to Ryan and to Mandy. Congrats to Brian/Tracy and Dave/Jill! Maybe we’ll have to come home unexpectedly for some weddings?!?

A lot of pictures

Brenna's real family meets her host-family from training. It is interesting that even though Nicas seem to be generally happier than Americans, they don't smile in pictures.
Two women carrying a fruit called mamones in baskets on their heads. That seems to be the best way to transport large items here.
Marilee brought us our wedding gift from Zac and Nicole, which is a journal in which many of our friends and family took a page or two to write nice things and put in pictures. Here we are looking at it for the first time. To all of you who contributed, Thank You!! We love it and can't stop looking at it.
Here we are in Granada with our friends Mandy and Pablo. They were traveling in Costa Rica and came up to spend a weekend with us.
Our friend, Mike (Miguelito) from home and his girlfriend Jacqueline (not pictured) came to visit and while they were here they helped us plant some trees with some of Brenna's students.
Some of Brenna's students.
Ryan brought me a package that contained 13 beers from Fort Collins breweries. It was the happiest day of my life! I have never wanted to kiss a man more.

This is taken from the porch of the hostel/farm that we stayed at on the island of Ometepe. The volcano you can see is called Concepción and is the 2nd tallest in Nicaragua.
Ryan and Marilee on our hike up Volcan Telica. We stopped halfway under a huge mango tree for snacks.
Mason and Ryan with the crater of Telica behind us. We camped in that green patch you can see between us. (Ryan and Mar... notice the culebritas.)
Ryan standing at the edge of the crater.
A street scene in Malpaisillo. You can see Brenna, Mort and Clavo talking with a friend of ours and her daughter.
Me and a chavalo called Andres.
Karen and Mort with some of the kids at our old host family's house.
Mort, Karen, Francela, Cela and Gloria Elena. Old host family.
It didn't take Mort long to fall asleep in the hammock while visiting our host-family for lunch.
A typical bus scene in the market. The bus pulls in, people get off and on, ladies run up selling drinks and snacks, triciclos take the unloading passengers home and then the bus leaves.
Mort with a bunch of Brenna's students.
Karn and Mort rode with Brenna to one of her schools. Apparently it had been a while since Karen had been on a bike.

Here are Brenna and I enjoying margaritas in one of three infinity pools at the Pelican Eyes resort in San Juan del Sur on the beach. We spent 2 nights here with Karen and Mort. This is what the Peace Corps is all about.
best way to