Friday, September 12, 2008

Umm I think I have a scorpion in my pants…

So I have to start this blog off by saying we are officially entering scorpion and tarantula season. I will get into the good news on the pig project here in a minute but first I have a story for you. See I thought I was lucky after killing around six of each (scorpions and tarantulas) in my first 4 months here last year that maybe they were dying away. Maybe they had met their match and decided to leave this town. Well I was wrong…

Everyone always hears the story of their friend that went down to Latin America for a short little adventure vacation and gets one of the scary critters in their pants. But that’s the thing…it’s always the friends that it happened to. How reliable is a story when you hear it from a friend of a friend of a friend? Well you can all now eliminate those long stories…I had a SCORPION IN MY PANTS!!!

See I have been here over a year, yeah it has gone by fast, and I have seen the darn critters but they are always on the walls or crawling on the floor. I kill them and go on with my day, no big deal. Statistically speaking it is extremely rare to get one in any of your clothing. At most you might have two scorpions in your house at one time, however, they are usually in your roof or some place you will never see them.

Well this morning I woke up in an unmotivated mood and just wanted to sit in my hammock and listen to my ipod. Good music to forget the tough times usually does the trick. Well I felt a little twitch in my jeans and at first thought no big deal, we have been walking a lot lately working on the pig project, it’s probably just a muscle twitch. (Note- I am now literally creeping out feeling twitches all over)

So anyway, two seconds go by and I’m proud of myself, I’m working so hard that I’m getting muscle twitches. But then a thought starts creeping into my mind… ¨I really haven’t been working THAT hard that I should get muscle cramps¨.

Well now let me set the scene for you; it is eight o’clock in the morning. I am sitting in my hammock in my living room with my front door open. Kids are passing my house to go to school and I am freaking out tearing my pants off trying to find what the hell is in my pants. I get my pants off to find a freaking SCORPION in my pants. The kids then get to see the best part… I am chasing this scorpion around my house in my boxers with one sandal in my hand to kill the damn thing.

Big developments in the pig project…

So on to the boring stories, work is going really well. With the pig project I am working with a Nicaraguan governmental agency, which has been extremely disappointing. This organization is not run very well, always late or just doesn’t show up and always setting meetings without advising all included parties. Well finally they came through and decided to put someone in my community for the next three months so we can get this project done.

So for the next three months I have a lady out here working on the project with me. Last week we went around and interviewed all the members of the group, 42 in all, and checked out the locations they want to build their pig pens. This week we are putting in the four corner posts and distributing the materials. This means, cross your fingers, during this next month the pigs should be here! Needless to say I am quite excited to get this project going and the pig pens built.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Big ol update...

So as many of you know I haven’t blogged in awhile, well the problem was the computer in my community was broken. However it is fixed now, so hopefully Ill get back to writing. This one is going to be quite long. The plan is first an update on what has happened in the last six weeks and then I’m going to write up a packing list.

Why a packing list? Well since I have now been down here almost 10 and a half months that means the next group of Ag volunteers should be heading down in a little over a month. This first year has flown by so quickly it’s incredible. Peace Corps does provide us with a packing list, however it is not sector or country specific, in other words it’s about worthless. So anyway in my planning last year it would have been extremely helpful. Also I think this ill give everyone else a little peak into what it takes to get by down here.

So up first the monthly update…

First off, the horse is still awesome. The only problem is I think I will put back on some weight because of him because it has definitely cut my walking in half. But that’s a good thing. I have been surprised though by two things though: First, I thought traveling would be a lot quicker. However, that is not the case. Let’s just say my horse is missing the gas peddle, the break peddle works great though. On the normal hour trek he cuts off about 10 minutes. I guess that’s good, however not quite my like my old Mustang. Second, riding a horse is still a workout, its not quite like sitting in a car. I’m past the point of finding new muscles, which is good. Now I would equate it to riding a bike, your first sore from trying a new activity and then it’s the pain from actually exercising. See you still get an abs workout from balancing in the saddle and a leg workout both when the horse runs; it is more stable standing, and also climbing or going down a mountain.

Second set of news, my host sister got robbar´ed. What is robbar´ed? Well, I would compare it to running off to Las Vegas and getting married back in the US, however, minus the marriage part. See here in Nicaragua there is a strict set of rules that the daughters live with their family their entire life, or until a guy sweeps them off their feet. This includes two options, the traditional way where the guy asks the father of the bride for permission to marry his daughter, or in this case robarr´ed. When the boyfriend robbar´s the girl he essential asks the girl to run away with him, the problem is the guy doesn’t have enough money or desire to get married. Being robbar´ed is slightly scandalous and disrespectful to the girl’s parents.

In this case the guy lives in my community and is the leader of my youth group, which made it quite the sticky situation. See the couple has been dating for several months and everyone knew they were going to get married. But, I guess they just couldn’t wait until September to get married. Why September? Well September is the town’s patron saint day and thus the day for all baptismal, marriage or other religious ceremonies. She claims they will get married in September; however, the interesting part is now the church has restrictions on the marriage. For example, unlike the traditional wedding the veil can not go over the face also I believe their will be restrictions on the wedding dress.

Let me take a second and explain the running away part. Well the girl is a teacher in a town that is about an hour away from me. They were supposed to have a teacher appreciation day and thus no school. However, instead of returning home she ran off to Estelí, the closest major city, with him and had his family relay the message to her family. (Easy to see the disrespectful part!) An interesting little side note is that his family member that told her family was the preacher of our church, essential the preacher helped him get away with this. Doesn’t seem too religious now does it, which comes first God or family? Being that she is a teacher she does not spend the weekdays in the community, however, when she does come home for the weekend it is to a new home. See they must live with his family now until he is finished building his house. So I guess the next two months in their life will be quite active, finishing his house and planning a wedding. I am excited though as wedding equals…big party!!!

Well on to the work update. Being as we came into the rainy season the beans have been planted and we are actually about only two weeks from cultivating them. It seems like its going so fast, but they need to get the second planting in so it sounds like it will be an extremely busy month coming up.

As for the bean cooperative, I believe we got extremely lucky. For most of the past six months we were seriously losing money, about 20 to 30%. However, the market took a strong turn in the past month and we ended up making about 15 to 20% profit. The problem was that the president overpaid for the beans we bought. I tried to explain to him that if we would have wait a week we would have doubled our profit, however being the new guy in town he was not wanting to listen to me. Part of me is happy that they made profit; however, the other part of me wishes they would have broken even as it appears they will stick to their current buying strategy.

See the market is quite easy to understand it is a pure supply and demand market. As they cultivate their beans and take them to the market the price goes down. As we get towards planting season and people eat all the beans, the supply goes down and thus the cost goes up. The president of the cooperative purchased the beans early in the buying season and thus paid a premium for the beans. This was good for public relations, everyone loves that they got paid a good price for their beans. However, it takes away from the profits for the cooperative.

How do we fix this? Well we can still purchase the beans early in the season; however these should be sold immediately. You don’t win with high price merchandise in your stock room. Then purchase the beans a month later from the markets when the price goes down, store them for five months and sell them as we go back into planting season. Thus, you have the farmers happy for getting paid top dollar for their beans and the cooperative happy for maximizing profits. Now we will have to see if they will put my ideas into work.

Good news on the pig project!

As you might remember one of my first projects was a pig project for the entire community. This project was extremely delayed as the person from the organization that was in charge of the funding was either fired or quit. Thus the project was put on the back burner. Well good news, a new person was hired and just this week they came out to the community and gave the first of three presentations on maintenance of the pig. The plan is one more presentation on how to build the pig pens and then we will start the construction phase. Once we receive the pigs then we will receive the last presentation on health concerns for pigs. (I can’t say this is a presentation I thought I would receive during my life but I must say I am excited to get to working). Thus it looks like the project will be coming together and I will be getting extremely busy with that.

Biogas project…

The biogas project has been a little slower. Right now we are researching the prices for construction materials. I am making them do this part so I can see how interested they are in the project before I front the money to go visit a site with the technology already in place. I figure if they are delayed in getting the prices they aren’t as interested as they say. The ball is in their court now…

Soccer field has crawled to a stop…

Well after two meetings to gather support to build the soccer field there was little interest in building the field. Thus I am still working on it however it is not project number one right now. Also, with the rains comes extreme weed growth. Right now, the land looks like the median of a highway that has been forgotten about for the last three years. I might just wait until dry season to get back to work.

Here’s some tips for the future volunteer…

This a combination of a list things I either brought down with me, have had friends bring down, or things I wish I had.

Clothes- As this will be what takes up most of your suitcase this is what I will talk about first. Bring clothes that are lightweight and quick drying. It is hot and during the rainy season it is extremely wet. Make sure all clothing is extremely durable, what an oxymoron that is but the truth is there are no washing machines down here. Thus, all clothes will be hand washed and thus beat up. After three months most of your clothes will have small holes. Plan for it and bring down durable clothing and extra clothing of things that wear easily, think socks.

Shirts- Bring lightweight shirts, I brought down two under armour shirts and I wear them all the time. Most Ag volunteers have at least a 20 minute walk to their site, or in my case an hour. Thus, the traditional cotton shirt is just way too hot. Also, bring a long sleeve shirt you can use while planting, whether your in coffee country or bean country it always good to get out in the fields some and to do this you need a long sleeve shirt.

Pants- The pants of choice for locals are jeans. I do wear shorts however I stick out like a sore thumb. One interesting note, many of the men wear dark colored pants, often times black. At first I just thought it was horrible fashion sense, not saying I have much fashion my self but come on…black colored jeans? Well since I got my horse I have found out why, see saddles are often tinted black and not to mention quite dirty. Well after an hour of riding, you pants are quite dirty and well black jeans do a great job of hiding that. So if you’re interested in getting a horse, a pair of dark pants isn’t a bad idea, I just don’t know if I would go as far as the black jeans.

Shoes- oh how crucial a couple pairs of good shoes and sandals are. You can buy shoes down here but besides from boots made in Estelí, which run for $50-100, the shoes down here are of poor quality or used. I brought down a pair of sandals for around the house, shower sandals, a pair of cross trainers, hiking boots and a pair of dress pants. Where I live it is extremely rocky, the land eats up shoes for dinner, the cross trainers lasted about six months.

Dress clothes- the manual calls for two or three pairs of dress pants, three dress shirts and a couple of ties. What a waste of suitcase room. While you do need to dress up for such events as swearing in, weddings or other special events these are few and far between. I recommend one pair of pants and two shirts, and screw the ties. This is more then sufficient. During training your family will do your laundry and you can easily find someone to do your wash in your community. I currently pay $7 per month for all my wash, bed sheets and all.

Rain Jacket- this is quite important. During the rainy season it rains EVERYDAY. Personally I think an umbrella is useless down here because the rain comes down in all direction and with extreme force. Thus an umbrella just won’t hold up down here; however some ladies do use them to block the sun.

Sweatshirts- I know most are thinking this is just unheard of down here in Nicaragua, its Central America. Well I can tell you the last thing I put in my suitcase was my favorite hooded sweatshirt, and that is one of the best decisions of my life. See I figured if nothing else it is comforting and I can use it for a pillow in dire situations. Well during the rainy season it gets COLD. I would definitely recommend one if not two sweatshirts. Many nights I sit in my hammock with my sweatshirt on and big smile on my face.

As for more of the comfort type items, as they say in the Peace Corps guide this is more important. You can buy clothes down here, they may be lesser quality or used, however you cannot find the latest copy of you favorite CD at the local Wal-Mart.

Water bottles- I would think for most of you its pretty obvious to bring a water bottle or two, I would recommend two. However, one thing to think about, I brought down two water bottles. The first is a traditional Nalgene, which you just can’t go wrong with. The second is a new fancy Camelbak, which I got for the fancy no drip mouthpiece. Well, it seems like the little kids like it as well as they are always trying to find out how the water comes out and thus trying to play with the mouthpiece, not the cleanest thing I have witnessed.

Computer, Playstation Portable, DVD player or other entertainment tools- I put my old computer in my suitcase knowing that during my two years down here it was probably going to die or I would just give it away if it was able to make it. However, on my first day down here I turned it on and it immediately died. What a waste of space and weight. For the first time in my life though I was lucky and the volunteer before me had a computer and left it in the community, thus I use that. Down here there is a really strong, shall we call it movie copying industry, and thus you can purchase most movies for only a dollar. Not a bad buy to get your mind off the fact that you’re in the middle of nowhere Nicaragua. I know other people have Playstation Portables or Gameboys and I can say I am extremely jealous, you can only read so many books before you get bored of reading. More then likely you won’t use these during training however they are life savers in the community.

Rechargeable batteries- I highly recommend these. Batteries are quite expensive down here and rechargeable batteries are just so easy. They are also great presents to give out to members of your community as well; they will love you and you also helping out the environment. Just keep the charger and they can bring you the batteries when they need charged.

Flashlight- flashlights are crucial as well. Those late night latrine runs are not fun when you forget your flashlight. I would recommend one classic handheld flashlight and one headlamp. Also make sure they take AAA or AA batteries so you can use rechargeable batteries.

Pocket knife/ multi-tool – I recommend bringing one of each. I use my pocket knife all the time, especially in the kitchen and a multi-tool can be used in an infinite number of situations.

Cell phone- many old cell phones work down here once you get them unblocked and put in a chip of a local provider. In most cities you can find places that unblock cell phones for as little as $10. Thus if you have an old cell phone sitting around it’s well worth bringing it down here to see if it will work.

Books- Bring as many as you can, yes Peace Corps has libraries for volunteers in Managua and Estelí. However, unless you like Danielle Steele and James Patterson these libraries are quite short on quality books. I brought five books and went through all five in my first week in my community, this is quite common too. Magazines are great as well especially during training. You do not need to bring a Spanish dictionary as Peace Corps provides you with one; we received a behemoth of a dictionary.

Money/ Credit Cards- First, credit cards are about worthless down here. I would recommend a debit card that has a low international fee. You can use them down here to take out money; which you will need if you plan on exploring the country at all. Peace Corps fund just barely cover the everyday costs.

Medical Supplies- Peace Corps gives us a great med kit and thus there is no need to waste space in your suitcase with medicine.

Dailies- while you can buy most stuff down here it can be of lesser quality or expensive. I went to Sam’s Club and stocked up on such things as deodorant, tooth brushes and tooth paste.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

It's about time...

Well this is going to be short because I need to catch a bus...but good news! I finally got my horse. I have had it for about 10 days now and it is a STUD! Ok well not a stud in the true definition but for down here it is a pretty damn big horse. He's around seven to ten years, didnt come with a birth certificate so im not positive, and is super laid back and well trained.
It ended up costing a little more then I wanted but still extremely cheap. In total around $300-$325. Im not sure on the exact amount because I am still buying him vitamins and other vaccines. See down here we are coming out of the dry season so hes a little skinny now so Im giving him some vitamins to bulk back up.

So what do you name a horse?

Well if you have any names send them this way. But, right now I am thinking of Sale, in spanish it is pronounced more like saleigh and means he leaves. I like this name for two reasons; number one, he is now my transportation or my way to leave the community. Second, many people remember the classic song "Mustang Sally". Many of you also remember that when I left the states I had to sell my old Mustang. Well now I can change this classic song title a little to come up with a name for my horse.
Other ideas are big red (you will see why below, check the pic) or Ed. You all remember the classic TV show Mr Ed.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Nothing creative...

Blog 28 of May

Wow so it’s been a while since I last posted and while I haven’t been doing too much the country has been quite active. I know some of you are reading other peoples blogs so you have heard the news… There was a transportation strike for over 12 days throughout the ENTIRE country. So what does this mean? There were absolutely no busses or taxis traveling throughout the entire country. I could not leave my site for the entire 12 days, VERY boring, and most of the commercialization throughout the country was slowed to a crawl. This caused prices for everything to skyrocket and inevitable some upset people. The reason for the strike as I understand it is the drivers wanted a cap on the price of gas and also an increase in the gas credit that they receive.
Well as I’m sure you can imagine in a situation like this there was some rioting. Though as you remember I live in the middle of nowhere, with only two trucks, thus if I had no inclination to leave the community I wouldn’t have noticed the strike at all. However, as I was itching to get out of town the days wore on. But back to the rioting, it was mostly between the drivers and the police and rarely was violent; I believe it only reached violence two days. There was however some property damage, burning tires and other junk in the streets. It did make some big news though when they burned a couple of big rigs. That was some exciting news down here.
Anyway the strike is over now, ended the 17th of May, and most things are back to normal in the country. There are some rumors that the government is slow to put in their side of the bargain and thus there is a threat of another strike. But, so far this has not happened. It was interesting sitting here going through this. Just one year ago I was sitting in Richmond, VA with my car waiting outside to take me wherever I wanted to go. Often time I drove the 100 meter walk to my work, have I mentioned I am lazy? However, during this past two weeks to reach a real grocery store or internet I would have had to walk at least 4 hrs. Oh and I was quite tempted to do this. To think of all the differences that I am experiencing and I am only a three hour plane ride from the states.
So what did I do during the time in my site? I had plenty of time to study Spanish, to start projects in the community or to go meet the community members I haven’t really met yet. All great ideas, however, great ideas are not always achieved. Nope, instead boredom struck and I spend most of the time in my hammock and read a couple books in English. Unfortunately I did not have the computer the previous volunteer left me. I loaned it out to someone who said they had a school project, instead they took it to their girlfriend’s house 30 minutes from here. Then when their motorcycle got a hole in the tire they decided to walk back….without the computer. Thus no movies or playing the one game this computer has. But it was good because it put me behind in work and thus has got me working hard again this past week and a half.
I have started working on the soccer field more frequently. Let me clarify this, when I say I am working on the field I am not calling the local landscapers to come out and take care of it. I am actually out there raking the rocks, carrying the bigger rocks, making a fence. This work is tough and so far I haven’t had much help from the little kids in the community and the older ones are planting beans right now. Thus it is quite the slow process. However it’s forming some biceps and causing pain in areas I haven’t used since my glorious football days. I worked on the field two days the past week and had to slow down after I got a blister on my left hand. So I will take a couple days off and then get back to work after that.
Also, I have been pushing a larger project using biogas to cook with. With this project you build a box type structure using bricks and cement. Inside of this, mix cow waste and water to create methane gas. Cover with a special elastic type plastic that expand and collects the gas, which is perfect for cooking. Just pipe it into the oven and you can cook all day. This project could be very successful for many reasons. One the community will dramatically cut down the exploitation of trees for firewood, thus saving the environment. Second, the community will be cleaning up the street and other places that are covered in fecal matter, thus helping with community health. Third and one of the most important things, when you cook with wood there is an extraordinary amount of smoke. With methane there is none, thus cleaner lungs and less asthma. Thus a great project to push and I have had some great interest sparked throughout the meetings I have had.
Other projects, Saturday I had scheduled another cooking class. However, as with all meetings the presence of rain, or even threat of rain, can end any meeting. Thus I was left cooking by myself. I had a great menu planned, mango jelly and cough syrup. The mango jelly is great because there are a bunch of mangoes in the community. Thus the community can make some jelly and eat with the tortilla for breakfast, or possibly sell in the town. The cough syrup was more because people are constantly asking me if I have any cough syrup. Thus it was an opportunity for them to make it themselves without spending much money. I ended up making it on my own and made a half gallon and spent only $0.75. It is quite simple to make, essentially boil water with various leaves, garlic and cinnamon and then mix in sugar. The leaves have various vitamins which help speed up recovery time. So my plan is to give away the stuff that I made and hopefully it will work and inspire them to make it themselves.
Well like I mentioned earlier the beans are being planted as we speak. It has actually been a nervous period for many of the families here. Many were scared they were going to lose the crop they have planted. See the farmers have two options, get a head start and anticipate the rains and plant when the soil is dry or wait for the rains and then plant afterwards. Well in my town everyone plants dry, however this year the rains are extremely late, almost two weeks late. Luckily we had huge rains two of the past three days and it appears the beans will be good to go. However, if we had to wait another three or four days many people think the beans would have been lost and they would have had to plant a second time. So we don’t know for sure but it looks like we got lucky and everything will be alright.
Now to the exciting news, I have decided I am definitely getting a horse. It is not a matter of if, now it is just when… This though has been quite the developing story. See I finally decided about two weeks ago that it was a go on getting the horse. The first volunteer in my site had a horse, thus I was planning on doing everything the same as here. My plan was to use the same person to buy the horse and keep it in their farm land. Well after waiting a week, the person used the entire week to get wasted everyday, I decided I didn’t want to wait any longer. Thus I decided to ask the family that I stayed with my first month in town to purchase and store the horse. This actually works out better as their farm land is closer to my house and thus I don’t need to climb a mountain just to get my horse. Thus I talked to the father of the family, Pablo, and we worked everything out and he’s in the process of searching for the horse.
The plan is that I am going to buy the horse and the saddle and then keep it on his land. Thus he will be in charge of feeding it and all that. Then when I leave, I will give the horse and the saddle to him as a going away present. So far I have purchased the saddle and all the riding gear, just waiting on the horse. Being that gringos (Americans) get charged almost double the cost of thing, I ended up giving Pablo the money to purchase the saddle. I figured this was easier anyway because I know absolutely nothing about saddles and because I am going to give it to him anyways he would have a better eye for a good saddle. Thus I have a beautiful black saddle with a blue riding blanket, like I said just waiting on the horse.
So what does it cost to own a horse? Well depends on how big of a horse you want. Being that I am well built American, this means I am HUGE for Nicaragua. Thus, I need a big horse. Also, the trails that I will be riding have a roughly 80% incline thus I need a strong horse for this as well. First option was a horse on the small side, thus I turned it down. However, it was being sold for $150. In recent talks with Pablo we have decided that $175 to $200 should be enough to purchase a horse big enough for me. The saddle, spurs and various other ropes needed to ride the horse ended up costing a little over $75. Overall $275 will be my maximum costs, now tell me you can find a horse in the US for about that much money. Also, with Pablo feeding the horse I should only have minimal costs for vaccines and other small things.

******* Extra Special Critters Update

I just killed my first snake. Yup that’s right I killed my first snake. It was an epic and dangerous battle. I went out to my latrine, aka my closest tree, and sitting right there was a HUGE snake, like anaconda huge. I’m talking like 16 feet, and before I knew it, the darn thing was biting my ankle and we were in an all out wrestling match. I was gasping for air and fighting off its rib crunching squeeze. For a couple seconds it had the upper hand, until I poked it in the eye. As I was yelling for help I looked to my left and luckily there was a machete there. I grabbed the machete and I managed to cut it, and when it whenced in pain I managed to grab the head and take control. We rolled around in the mud for another five minutes before I managed to cut its head off. I was lucky and escaped fine, just a couple broken ribs and a nasty cut on my ankle.

Okay so I might have exaggerated a little bit, just a tiny bit. In actuality it was a two foot garden snake and I killed it with two rocks to the head. But it’s not the most fun thing to have to go to the bathroom and fight a snake first. So much for thinking that I might escape Nicaragua without seeing a snake up-close. I have seen snakes before but they were always eight feet away or more and running from me. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes as it was not running away. So now I’m just hoping this isn’t the start of the snake adventure. I killed like 4 scorpions and 3 tarantulas in my first three months here and then hadn’t seen either for over three months. That was until I just killed a HUGE scorpion a week ago. So yeah I’m hoping this wont be the snake killing month.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


These first two photos are from when I made a Pinata with the 1, 2 and 3rd graders here in my town. I have mentioned before that I teach english classes to the 4, 5 and 6th graders. Thus the younger kids kept asking when I was going to teach them stuff, well teaching them english would be way too difficult so I made a pinata instead.
This kid here on the left is Everette, he is my neighbor and the sweetest kid ever. He is always hanging around my house and will do anything I ask him to do, such as run to the store and get me food (gotta love the child labor). However, he always knows he will get food out of it so it all works out in the end. The kid on the right is Eduardo and he is the biggest brat ever. They are cousins and neighbors so its amazing how different they are...
Here are the kids taking a whack at the pinata and hoping for some candy...
Here is the church in my town...
This is a picture of my host dad (the one from Las Tablas) speaking at the chuch. He is really involved in the church and is an overall great guy. The part I love though about this picture is take a look at the clock on the wall behing him....haha

Friday, April 25, 2008

Round two of cooking classes....

First off I must apologize to my Aunt; she said I use some inappropriate language in this blog, haha. Seriously I do try to keep the language tame however; some stories just lose their flair when you lose the language. Sorry Aunt Jacque, had to call you out.

Alright some new topics, second cooking class is under the belt. This class I deemed quite a success as probably 10 women and over 10 children showed up. I’m teaching class about every two weeks so I’m trying to do two recipes per class. To me this is just easier and more involved then doing once recipe per week. As many of you know during cooking there are often times where you just sit there and stir noodles or wait for something to bake. Thus, I am trying to use two similar recipes that can be made at the same time and thus cut out the akward silences. Thus this class we made some Macaroni and Cheese and then a mix of some soy meat and some vegetables mixed with lots of spices.

First the soy meat was a mix of success and failure. Soy is tough to cook with because it literally has no flavor or a slightly bad flavor, thus you need to use a lot of spices to make it taste good. Also the texture is not the most enticing, you never hear anyone craving some soy. This is why you don’t see it on too many menus back in the US. But anyways, this is also what made it difficult to cook here as Nica´s do not see the value of spices and thus don’t purchase them. Well I managed to use some cheap spices and lots of chile and the crowd was about 50-50 so I take that as a success.

Well the Mac and Cheese was a huge success. I know many of you are thinking that this is the easiest thing in the world to make but remember that they only make rice and beans here. Thus it’s a cheap easy alternative to rice and beans. Oh, and that’s another thing I am trying to emphasize in this class is that there are dinner alternatives to rice and beans which costs the same or less money. I think the main reason rice and beans are such a staple is that they grow the beans here, thus they have what equates to an unlimited supply. I am trying to demonstrate that they can sell these beans and use the profit to make a dinner that costs less. Well I think it was a 100% vote in favor of the good ole American classic.

Oh and I actually had a request for the recipe on how to make Peanut Butter, thanks grandma for reading. Anyway it’s amazingly simple and even easier for you people back in the states with electric grinders. First you buy unsalted peanuts without the shells. If you’re making just for yourself a half pound should be good, for a larger family go for a whole pound. Second, toast the peanuts on the stove top. You do this for a couple reasons, one it helps bring out the natural oils of the peanut and second toasted peanuts taste so much better. Once you have finished toasting the peanuts, grind the peanuts. Depending if you like smooth or crunchy you can change how long you grind the peanuts for. Then you just mix the peanuts with either sugar or honey to sweeten the peanut butter. My recommendation is to use honey as it allows use to use less oil and I think a better flavor. Then add oil to help the spreadability of the peanut butter. (Yes, spell check is telling me that spreadability is not a word, but you know what I like it so Im leaving it). There you have it, can´t get much simpler then that for a product they charge an arm and a leg for in the grocery store. Three simple ingredients and you get heaven…

Ladies and Cowboy

So I was thinking the other day of interesting little tidbits I could include about Nicaragua and it hit me as I was walking into the bathroom. See I walked past the ladies bathroom, easily translated as Damas. Usually I don’t even look at what’s written on the door, rather I only look for that universally known picture for a men’s bathroom. Well I happened to look up and saw ¨Cabelleros¨ which caught me a little off guard. See the translation for male would be ¨Hombre¨ or ¨Masculino¨ among many other possible choices. Cabellero instead means… Cowboys. Yup, I can truly say I am a Cowboy, I have finally accomplished my goal of when I was three years old!


I know I have mentioned it before as a spectator sport. Well, I walked out of my house last week and heard a group of guys making some noise about 100 feet from my house. I thought what the heck, why not check it out. See it was a Tuesday afternoon and work had been finished for the day so there wasn’t much to do. Well boys will be boys, and boys in the campo of Nicaragua ride bulls for fun. They aren’t like the bulls back in the states, rather large cows. But, yes they do give a good ride and need a large pair to hop on. However, as we are over 40 minutes from the closest hospital, bull riding will remain a spectator sport for me. Oh, and for you that believed me about a month ago when I said I actually rode a bull, you gots to be crazy!


Well you know every once in a while you hear your doorbell ring and you think, who in the hell is ringing the doorbell; either that or you think ´I didn’t even know we still have that annoying thing´. Then you open the door and you see two little dorks wearing short sleeve white dress shirts and ties, and yes matching pocket protectors. You wonder if they are coming to fix your computer or what and then you see they are carrying bibles. Yes it’s the infamous Jehovah’s Witnesses, well im sorry to inform you that even out here in the middle of nowhere Nicaragua you cannot escape them. I know what your wondering right now is how do you translate Jehovah into Spanish, well it’s the same, Jehova, I know this because they asked me to read from their bible and it was the only word I understood. (A little side note, God in Spanish is Dios, can someone answer me why ´the Creator´ of all has to translate his name in different languages, don’t you think he’s a little above that?)

Anyway the Jehovah witnesses here are not dressed in the traditional white shirt and tie, instead I was greeted by one beautiful girl and what appeared to be her mother. Oh and yes both were Latin American. So I was tempted to ask if I convert if the daughter can stay and teach me the good book. But no, instead I was a good little boy and pretended like I didn’t understand Spanish, which is at least half true. It’s funny sometimes when I don’t want to be part of a conversation I can just claim I don’t understand and easily get out of it. Anyway, its funny to then hear the mother figure tell the daughter in Spanish that I am a foreigner. Like duh, I’m sitting here in the middle of a community where my skin is much lighter then everyone else’s and I am a good six inches to a foot taller then everyone and she’s not quite sure if im a foreigner. I just about cracked up, it’s amazing they actually believe I live out here and can’t speak Spanish. So back to the point, you can’t get rid of them you just have to live with them.

(Please don’t take this as putting down the religion, rather take it as the funny story that it is. I don’t think I have any Jehovah’s witnesses reading this blog but if there are, I have nothing against the Religion. As a matter of fact I couldn’t tell you anything about the religion.)

What is that eating my flowers?

So I know a lot of you reading this have gardens or flowers and sometimes complain about insects or on rare occasions deer eating your prized flours. Well today I think I managed to top all those stories. Today I am sitting in my hammock and I hear something out in my yard. Not a big deal as there are usually some chickens or dogs who enter my yard and look for some food. As I never really have anything they like to eat they usually are just passing through, not a big deal. Well this thing sounded a little bigger then a dog and was eating what sounded like my flowers. Well take a minute and go back to the picture of my house... look closely and you can see that to get into my yard you have to climb four stairs. Well I get out of my hammock, and as you can guess when someone ends your relaxing time your not the happiest camper. Well I go out the front door and I am greeted my a big fat ass, yes a COW climbed my stairs and was eating my flowers, did you know cows can climb stairs? I sure didn’t.

Well that was only my first problem as now I have to figure out to get this huge thing OUT of my yard. See there is only one entrance and exit, the front gate, and when I walked out of the house I spooked the stupid thing and it walked away from the exit. My first thought is where are some of those little rug rats that are always bothering me, the same ones that leave my front gate open to let this thing in. Of course, none in site, which ended up being a good thing as no one was there to laugh at me trying to get this cow out of my front yard. So after about five minutes of me waving my arms like a crazy man and hitting it with a couple small rocks if finally left my yard. Just another experience I will never have back in the good ole US of A.

On a sad note…

I gave away my puppy, Torpe. See I was given it as a gift from my host family. In total here were four puppies, the family kept one and gave away the other three. Well four days ago the families puppy died, thus the eleven year old daughter was quite sad. Being that they only live two houses away I offered to give them my dog. I figure this saves me three headaches, first I am out of my house a lot for Spanish classes and visiting friends and thus the family was taking care of the dog quite frequently for me anyways. Second the cost of food is quite expensive as she continues to grow and third the cat and her were beginning to fight a lot as the kittens are starting to grow and roam the house. Well the girl was quite happy to have a new puppy and quickly accepted. So I figured if she’s just two houses down and going to a good family it won’t be a big deal.

Well my puppy is quite prized in the community and that same day four people heard that I gave them my dog and asked the family if they could have the dog. They immediately turned down all the offers. However, the next day they decided that the dog was too accustomed to my house and would just keep coming back to my house. Thus they decided to give it away. The family they gave it to is a good family, the wife is the youngest sister of my counterpart. Her parents are actually the previous volunteers host family and thus when I visit them she is usually there. However now instead of lying around my house all day she will be working in the fields. Luckily the dog is still in my community but it’s a good five minute walk from my house…

Send some more questions or writing prompts in…

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Questions, Questions, Questions...

So here are the questions that I got….

Do the kids wear uniforms?
Yes, the kids all are supposed to wear navy blue pants or skirts for the girls and white shirts. However, in some of the poorer towns such as mine the dress code isn’t enforced.

Do they go a normal day?
The kids (grades 1 through 6) have school from 8 am to 12:30 Monday through Friday. The high school age students have the option to do the same, however, where I live most high school age kids work on the farm or in the house and thus choose to go only on Saturdays which go from 8am to 2pm. Don´t ask me how this equates to a full week of school otherwise though.

What all do they study?
Generally they have five classes; Spanish, Geography, Social Sciences, Math and one other class I can´t think of. The high schools also teach English.

How many are in their classes?
In the school in my community there are 50 kids, thus they divided them into two classes. One teacher teaches first through third grades and another teaches fourth through sixth.

Do you have any girls you are interested in?
Short answer, yes, the Latin ladies are quiet attractive. Long answer; dating routines, language and the lack of in-depth conversations have thus far ended any real pursuits.

How are your pigs coming?
Pig project has been incredible slow. We were supposed to get the pigs around March, this has been delayed and the latest I have heard is that we should get them sometime this year. I’m hoping that we will start building the pig pens in the next two months but who knows. Nicaragua bureaucracy has put a whole new definition to the word slow.

What do you do in a normal day to day routine?

Easiest answer is there is no daily routine, however I´ll try to give you something of an answer.

8:30 am Wake Up
9:00 am Eat breakfast, usually some oatmeal with raisins and honey or a jelly sandwich.
9:30 am to 11:00 am Study Spanish or read a book. (I have now read 24 books in 4 months, so you can tell which one I do more of.)
11:00 am to 12:30 Two days a week I go to the school and help out. With the older class I teach English classes. With the younger class I do various activities such as making a piñata or help out the teacher any way I can, which usually ends up just trying to keep control of the class.
12:00 to 1:00 pm Visit a family that just happens to be eating lunch. This is where I get my daily intake of rice and beans.
1:00 pm to 3:00 pm Walk around the community talking to families and playing with the kids. Also, try to throw out ideas to various families for future projects and seeing what interests people.
3:00 pm to 4:00 pm Go to my host families house to watch a Latina America dating show. The show is actually based out of Los Angeles but is in Spanish and usually has some pretty attractive women. Thus I am killing two birds with one stone, practicing Spanish and remembering what a TV looks like.
4:00 pm to 6:00 pm Visit other families in the community. If I have a cooking class or an activity with parents then it would take place during these hours.
6:00 pm to 7:00 pm Make dinner and usually entertain some of my neighbor’s children. About a week ago the truck to my community stopped coming to town, thus it looks like there will be a lot of spaghetti dinners in my future. Also, Ramen Noodles have reappeared from my college days and I have learned how to cook some pretty good dishes with soy meat, including sloppy joes or hamburgers.
7:00 pm to 8:00 pm Play some cards or pool (surprisingly there is a make shift pool hall here).
8:00 pm to 10:30 pm Hang out in my house and listen to some music, watch a movie on the computer the previous volunteer left me, or read a book. Luckily they don’t really enforce any pirating laws, thus you can get movies for around one dollar and they usually are pretty new movies.
10:30 pm Bedtime

How many animals do you have?
As of right now, I have one dog, one cat and three kittens. The kittens though will be given away as gifts here in three weeks. I also decided to give my dog the surgery so she wont have puppies but that wont be for another 4 months.

Are you still allergic to animals or with everything down there are you just more accustomed to the allergies?
Surprisingly my animals don’t bother my allergies. Don´t know why but I definitely checked into it before I took ownership. Its weird, but in different locations allergies can be more active then others, or so I have been told.

Do they celebrate Easter?
Easter is a HUGE celebration down here; everyone quits working in the fields or takes the week off from work. For the most part it is a religious celebration; however, quite a few people take the time off to head out to the beaches. This has become quite dangerous actually as over 70 people died during Easter week in Nicaragua this year. See most Nicaraguans can’t swim, also some use this time to drink absurd amounts of alcohol. The combination of these two, led to around 30 people drowning. The liquor led to another 20 people dying in alcohol related violence and 10 people died in car accidents. Thus, we are advised of these dangers and most volunteers stay in their sites. Religious activities in the sites include about 10 church services throughout 5 days. The biggest day in my opinion was Friday where the community meets at the church and the men carry a large cross throughout the community street to symbolize Jesus carrying the cross. This terminates at the church where they proceed with church service. They then do this all over again in the afternoon with the women carrying a much smaller cross.

Is there TV or Radio?
Yes, about 30 to 40 percent of the families in the community have a TV, however TV´s only have about or 5 channels. Some people throughout the community do have radios but needless to say there is not great reception, thus it is more the minority then the majority. Also, it is usually only the people that got big stereo systems to blast their ranchero CD´s.

Do people play music – guitars and things?
Guitars are quite expensive for the average family down here, thus the only people in my community that have them are the people that play in the church band.

Are there books?
I brought down five books with me, which I went through in my first two weeks at my site. We do also have a book exchange in the Peace Corps office however good books do not stay on the shelf for vary long. Thus, it is usually better to exchange books with other volunteers.

Also, look for some pictures included in the next blog, I am going to get some pictures of families in my community, the school, church and a picture of my community from the mountain above it. Send me an email if there are any other things you would be interested in seeing pictures of.