Thurs, Jan 12
Up at about 6:30am to do a wipe shower – too cold for a bucket shower this morning too! Breakfast was at 7:30am and it was an egg and rice patty, beans, potatoes and tomatoes, coffee, and tortillas. Very good again! The group met us at Lucia’s house at 8:30am and from there we went coffee picking for a bit. Next we went on a hike down a hill to have a tour and explanation of the coffee process and hike and tour of the wet mill with Henri Acuna.
Henri explained that the coffee processing takes many steps. Along the way he pointed out various medicinal plans (trees) that he community uses for things like minor scrapes, infections, sore throats, etc. We got to the mill and he pointed out the many different machines and structures that process the coffee beans. Henri explained that this particular mill had not been in use for about 3-4 years. When it is in use it is spotless! After that we hiked back on the hill and I was majorly sweaty! We only hiked about 4000 or so steps, but it was all up hill on the way back! I’m happy that the bugs have really not been an issue here at all. It is cooler in the mountains and I’m comfortable in 2 long-sleeved shirts.
We come back from the mill tour and had lunch with our family. First, Corey and I had the opportunity to cook plantain chips for our lunch. It was so fun to help, but also to see how Lucia works in the kitchen. There is a big concrete slab counter with 2 big holes in it that big iron pots fit into. Then, a wood fire is lit underneath and that is how she cooks. The plantains are sliced really think by a slicing tool and then fried in oil until they are transparent. Corey and I each tried it and enjoyed doing it! Our lunch consisted of a vegetable-squash type of patty with onions in it, our plantain chips, rice, beans and orange drink. It was very yummy, but even better than the food was the conversation! Lucia and her granddaughter joined us for lunch and we talked about how almost all of the food they eat grows here. Everything grows here except the rice and the oil – which they buy. Now that is farm to table!! No processed food here! Lucia was also telling us how she is like the “medicine woman” of the co-op and has learned how to use plans that grow around here for many purposes for health. They cook with them too, but have learned out of necessity how to use them to help with infections, cuts, rashes and many other things similar to what Henri had talked to us about during our hike to the coffee mill. She learned from the training provided by the co-op. The bus only comes to Mirflor twice a day – once in the morning, and once at night so the people have to know how to take care of a lot of things themselves.
She then was taking about how she was grateful we were there staying with her and about how all the religions should be all together and not fight. That is how God wants it, she explained. She said that before the co-op started she and the other women were really shy and would never want to come out of the kitchen to talk. But now that so many city people have visited them, she feels okay to talk to anyone and she is proud that she can do that! Even though we had Jeanine there as a translator, I was happy that she backed off a little and let me stumble and use my Spanish more this time which made me feel good. Jeanine even told me that my Spanish was improving!! Yay! We helped her wash and dry dishes and then Bianca brought us out a treat. It was this warm banana mushed with vanilla and it was heaven in a cup! Amazing!
Side note – I made the toilet work today! Someone had cleaned it so when I went it was in good shape. I used it and was determined to make it flush. One of our group’s family’s had told them to hold the full jug of water at eye level and then dump it in (rather than at toilet level). I tried that and it worked like a charm! Victory! I know this might be too much information or, at the very least, might sound silly, but I felt like a major success after this! I made the toilet work! I can survive here! Happy for small victories.
Next we went on an awesome hike to a look out point (Mirador) with Henri as our guide. It was beautiful up there! It was about 45 minutes up and 45 minutes back on a pretty technical trail, but not as challenging as the one in Guatemala in 2013 (Rostro Maya)! It was a pleasant temperature the entire way. When we were at the top Henri told us his story about growing up as a 5-year-old when the Contras attacked. He explained that he used to wear his shoes around his neck in case he had to run away quickly from the soldiers. His story was really heartbreaking.
After the hike we went to a soccer field to play futbol with the community youth. The JCU group lost 4-2, but they gave it a good fight and had fun! I cheered from the sidelines and took some pictures. The dogs are all so skinny here and it is really sad. A couple of the women students broke down about it today at the soccer fields as we watched one of the dogs who could hardly walk, stumble and then squeeze through the barbed wire. I remember being really sad about the dogs in Guatemala too so it wasn’t that much of a shock for me here. It is still really sad and disturbing, however. I wish the country could do something about it, but it is hard to care for the animals when there is barely enough to feed the people. The dogs are always scratching and you can see their ribs. The come up to me and wiggle their tails a bit, but they don’t really engage that much. They just seem to exist here; they don’t seem happy. They aren’t allowed in the house, but every now and then one will scratch at the door of the house.
Tomorrow we leave at 7:30am to leave the mountains. This has been a really cool experience, but I’m ready to go, I think. I’m just a little outside my comfort zone, although I have adapted much more to life here today than yesterday. It is just so hard to believe that families live here in these conditions all the time. For a weekend “camping” experience it was doable for me, but that is really my limit. No shower again tonight – I’ll shower once we get back to Batahola at around 3pm.
We had dinner and it yummy again, of course. We had these mustard seed leaf patties that were amazing. Jeannine explained that they don’t waste anything here. Lucia smashes the mustard seed leaves, takes all the water out and then adds egg and flour and makes them into patties. We also had rice-n-beans, tortillas, and avocado. Tres Bien! We had dinner with Bianca, Lucia’s granddaughter and her two friends, Maladie and Katherine. It was fun talking with them about their studies and general stuff. They all live in Esteli and go to the university there. Katherine is studying medicine and Maladie is studying business. Jeanine translated some, but we tried to speak a lot too. After dinner we found a deck of cards and played a bunch of games with them. We played Spoons, Burro and Lie. They were all somewhat familiar to me from Zach, but just with different names. It was really fun, but we decided to get to bed by 9pm. It is chillier tonight than last night, I think. It is also so dark when I turn my headlight off. No light pollution here! Unfortunately we could not see the stars tonight because it is cloudy. Bummer because it is supposed to be amazing skies up here with the stars! I’m turning out my light with the hopes that I don’t meet my scorpion friend in the middle of the night, again!