Once again it's been a while, but I'm still here melting away. At the beginning of the dry season I didn't quite believe all of my neighbors' ominous warnings about the temperatures in March. However, unlike their overly dramatic preparations for the December cold, their predictions have been nothing if not understated this time around. The wind is no longer a refreshing respite from the heat, but rather comes in superheated gusts while being in the sun has gone from moderately unpleasant to intolerable. On the other hand, I am not altogether sure that the seasonal change has as much to do with my recent climatic discomfort as with the recent addition of a wall thermometer to my house. Now I can monitor the mercury's every move and I am convinced that 105ºF feels significantly hotter when you know it's that hot. On other climatic notes, I have recently discovered that at certain temperatures duct tape melts and I was faced with the realization that I have become almost fully adapted here when I embarrassingly found myself clutching for a second blanket during a frigid 75ºF cold snap. In other news around the house, I have seen, but not caught, a spider larger than my hand three times (I hope it's the same one), and am only encouraged by the idea that the very large scorpion that has been living in the tiles of my ceiling will catch it before it bites me. Here is a picture of the scorpion, for scale I should mention that it is standing on a two by four.
I've had a rather eventful last couple months and I'll try to sum it up as best as possible. As far as work goes, my community bank is up and running and I've been doing a lot of work with a women's group to improve their bread baking businesses. In addition to this, although we are still in the middle of the dry season, I managed to plant a small garden with the help of a drip irrigation system I have installed for demonstration purposes. My house is in the perfect location for this, and I plan to use my roadside garden to teach a few sessions on home gardening and organic fertilizer making. So far, I have planted Jamaica Rose, a couple varieties of tomato, Swiss chard, okra, summer squash, collard greens, and watermelon in the main space and I have planted mint, menthol, wormwood, lemongrass and aloe (outdoors!) in a smaller space nearby. There should be more pictures later, but here is a picture of the beginnings of my drip irrigation system.
The barrel is filled with water then is routed to a special hose (not pictured) which drips. Many people have passed by expressing interest in organic fertilizer/pesticides, drip irrigation, and in planting gardens of their own, and I'm very excited to get started on some projects as soon as the rains come in May. Not only can home gardens help with the quality of nutrition of the family, but they can also be a very helpful and sorely needed second income stream. While the people here seem very motivated to plant gardens, access to vegetable seeds is a big problem. They are hard to find and prohibitively expensive when you do. I have a small stock of seeds here now which I plan to use to start a community seed bank with my harvest, but we could definitely use more here. I am going to go looking for seeds in Sebaco sometime next week, but your help would also be appreciated. Please send seeds (especially tomato, green pepper, squash, cucumber, carrot and onion seeds) to:
Ocotal, Nueva Segovia
Nicaragua, Central America
Thank you very much for your support, one packet of seeds can make a big difference in the nutrition of a family here.
In addition to the gardening project, I am working on a proposal to make a good number of improved wood stoves here. The stoves that most families use now are very primitive and burn more wood than is necessary. In addition to this, they lack chimneys and therefore, the kitchen is often filled with smoke causing a high number of respiratory illnesses. The improved stove is rather cheap to make ($25) or so, uses less firewood and has a chimney to reroute the smoke away from the kitchen. I'm hoping to make a good deal of these, and am planning on requiring the recipients of the stoves to plant a small tree nursery to offset the amount of wood that the stove will burn over its lifetime. We'll see how it goes, but I'm planning on having the proposal ready within the month.
In other matters, my parents came for a visit last month and it was a great time. We made it to a good variety of places, while still managing to be in my site long enough for me to continue getting work done. It was nice to get to spend time with them and I don't think I realized how much I missed them until they were here. This a picture of my father next to one hell of a tree in a cloud forest at Selva Negra (no, it wasn´t raining, he´s just that sweaty).
Easter is the culmination of the biggest holiday in Nicaragua, Semana Santa. While the festivities are mainly centered around food (a lot of people have been eating fish lately despite the elevation), it is also very common to make pozas (wells) by damming the small, shallow rivers. I spent a couple days this week cooling off from the heat by going for a quick dip. I played some water baseball and had a nice picnic with a few of the local youth, getting out just in time for the drunks to take over the swimming hole.
Along with the swimming I have been spending a good amount of time with the neighbor kids, who have been out of class for the week and generally seek me out when they are bored. I have a small (and ever dwindling due to loss and theft) stock of toys that I loan out and they come knocking on my door as early as 6am to ask for them. Here are a couple of pictures of the kiddies and one of my neighbor Nedi doing his best “Nica face”
That's about all I have for now, but I will close with a quick anecdote which I think says a good deal about the relaxed nature of the local culture. I was walking home one day and a large truck pulled up along side me full of Nica men. I recognized the driver as someone who works at the mayor's office and we began to talk. He offered me a ride and I told him that I lived just up the way and it wasn't necessary. Then he asked me which house and how I had been and we kept talking like this for another five minutes or so while the truckload of men was waiting. Finally I asked him what they were doing around here and he asked me if I had seen any smoke coming from over the hill in the distance to which I replied that I had. He continued to tell me that they had received a call at the mayor's office that a field fire had gone out of control and that they were the fire brigade sent to put it out. This is a bit of an extreme example, but truly indicative of the manner in which everyone is always friendly and never in a hurry.
Well, until next time I hope everyone is doing well, and like always I will try to be more frequent posting in the future.