While I have finally managed to take some photos of the community, they´ll have to wait to make it onto the internet as I loaned out my card reader last week and am still patiently awaiting its return.
Anyways, I´ve had another varied two weeks including the construction of another barrel oven, a picnic, a dinner party and the successful first taste of the orange/ginger wine that Victoria and I made with the yeast I received from my father. For the picnic we went to a sulfur hot spring, which while being too hot to bathe in (although I can´t imagine ever finding myself enjoying bathing in a hot spring in this climate) is perfect to cook with. Along with about 10 Nicaraguan women and children, one man and his truck, Victoria and I spent the day by the hotsprings with a lovely lunch of boiled eggs, potatoes and sweet potatoes augmented by a salad and kebobs grilled over a fire (and of course the ever-present grand heap of tortillas). The springs are very remote and completely non developed. We were the only people there outside of the occasional campesino passing with a backpack sprayer full of agrichemicals.
The dinner party was hosted at my counterpart Don Ramon (Moncho)´s house and was meant to launch his barrel oven. I made a pan of roasted sweet squash covered with pepper and dulce (raw sugar sold in half pound blocks), some roasted potatoes and onions, a coleslawish salad of cabbage with a homemade mayonaise based dressing (nice and spicy) and a butterflied chicken (which entered the oven still warm from meeting its final reward) with a rosemary/lemon/garlic based rub under the skin. Moncho´s house is especially remote and tranquil and was a great place to have the dinner. Everything came out well and it was particularly nice to eat some roasted vegetables (or roasted anything for that matter) because ovens are almost exclusively used for bread and pastry cooking here (mainly due to the fact that the traditional ovens need to be heated up for a long time and then the baking done all at once with residual heat) and there´s nothing like an oven sweetened roasted onion. The wine also turned out very well - strong and acidic, but without the yeasty taste that the Red Star packaged baking yeast they normally use imparts. The evening also featured some of the best stars I have ever seen. There was no cloud cover or moon and the severe deforestation of the surrounding mountains makes for a clear view of the night sky.
To make good on my promise to describe a bit of the dardevilism of Nicaraguan men, I should first mention that the women are also daredevils in their own way. For example, the night before picnic-ing at the hot springs we made a marinade to put the pork pieces in overnight (which was followed by a 36 hour pour outage - meaning marinated pork unrefrigerated overnight - ¡A la gran puchica!) and Maritza, who was cooking at the time, kept tasting the marinade to make sure it was tasting alright. This would be completely normal to me, but she added the dangerous element of tasting it once it was on the raw pork. I, for one, consider that a brave act of daring. The daredevilism of the men manifests itself in a different manner. While it does happen in concert with the machista culture of dominant masculinity, what I am more impressed by is the dangerous behavior that is not meant to prove anything, but rather is performed in an offhand, aloof manner that makes it seem normal and not worth a second look. Some acts that I have noted include: the common practice of riding motorcycles (more often that not with noisily bad brakes) without a helmet or back from the bar, spraying agrichemicals without the slightest pretense of protective gear (especially daring in a country whose capital has hosted a plastic tent city of squaters protesting the continued use of nemagon since the late 90s), tapping into their speciously run electrical system without turning off the breaker, climbing to the top of a moving run down school bus and constructing a platform over a 80 foot deep well while standing balanced on a small tree trunk resting across the opening. While these acts are all very dangerous, they are approached withouth the blink of an eye as just another day to day reality. While they are not active risk seekers, these small lifestyle choices have not failed to wow me.
On another note, I have some rather embarassing news to report, although on the plus side I do believe it is a positive sign of my adaptation to Nicaragua. It is the winter here, and while I have mocked the Nicas for their heavy hats and coats at times, I too last week fell victim to the deadly chills of the Nicaraguan nighttime. It is not very easy to tell the temperature here (there is a distinct lack of LED bank thermometers), but the normal daytime highs in this region are around 90, while the nights can dip down to around 70 degrees. The other night I found myself chilled, rapping my sheet tightly around my body unable to shake the cold. Coming from the northern reaches of the States, I had not thought this overnight chill a possibility before coming here, but I have to confess that I truly felt it. To my credit, while I was busy wrapping a sheet around myself, the Nicas were busy throwing a second blanket on their beds. However, I am still embarassed about my new found climatic adjustment and fearful of my return to the Great White North in the future.
I was also recently reminded of my geographical heritage a couple weeks ago when I remarked to Victoria that the smell of a particular part of the community reminded me of the beach. She looked at me with a perplexed gaze, not having the faintest clue what I was talking about. She is from California and beach smell to her (understandably) signifies a salty breeze. However, what I was referring to was a streach of sandy road covered by fallen pine needles which, when warmed by the midday sun, emits an odor that makes me think that I should be approaching the shores of Lake Superior in short order. So, as it turns out, I am getting American geography lessons here as well.
I have a busy couple weeks coming up as I have to travel back to my training town area to take a week of Spanish Classes as well as get started on a couple of projects in my community and travel to Estelí to attend a meeting with my counterpart organization INTA. Hopefully I´ll have a chance to post soon and include pictures as the internet is considerably faster where I´ll be travelling.