Elaine, Leon, Nicaragua

August 31, 1999


Today is the day of the great Mexican taco feast.

Mirna and I went to the supermarket to buy the stuff. First thing I noticed was that shelf full of Herdez Salsa Casera was down to 2 jars. But they were both hot. Well, tough, I decided. Of course that's my preference, and I won't force the others to use it.

We got the lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheese, and hamburger, too, and did a bit more shopping.

When you go into stores here, you check whatever you're carrying and get a chit with a number on it. Id's checked my tote bag with the Kleenex in it. Then I realized I had to use the servicio. The first time ever that I was in town in Leon. I didn't even know if the "super" had one, so I asked a clerk. She pointed to the corner across the room.

There was a door, locked, that said "Servicio Higienico." Pretty soon a young woman came and unlocked the door to a group of small rooms. "Aqui," she indicated. The stalls higienico wouldn't have passed muster today in the States, exactly, but the toilet did have a seat. I haven't seen another of those since I've been here. And the toilet paper holder was empty.

Since my Kleenex was checked with my tote bag, I was thinking I may have to use my shopping list when the woman who had let me in said, "Senora," and passed me a big was of toilet paper under the door. I thought it was both sweet and funny.

I'm not trying to be indelicate, but these are the things no one ever tells you, but you really need to know when you travel. Number 1 hint: don't go anywhere without Kleenex in your pocket.

I think the Mexican tacos went over okay. For me, the problem was the tortillas. Here they are hand-patted, not made with a press, so they are at least twice as thick as the ones I'm used to. Even so, I loved my taco, and they ate enthusiastically. The weavers are so well-mannered they wouldn't say they didn't like them even if they couldn't stand them. It surprised them, so easy to make. I pointed out, to, how the tacos had all the necessary foods in one thing = grain, meat, cheese, vegetables.

I bought a 5 pound sack of red beans at the store, too, and they are now cooked and cooling. I told them tomorrow we'd have burritos. ?Que es un

August 31, 1999 page 2

burrito? they wanted to know. "It's a Mexican sandwich," I said. Tomorrow we fry the beans. I hope they aren't slated to death. Well, they wouldn't be to them, just me.

Sept. 3

Well, the burritos as burritos was a big fizzle. No way could we bend these thick tortillas around the beans. I finished mine off with chopped tomatoes, salsa, onions, and lettuce but they dished theirs up on plates. I ate mine like a taco, they ate theirs, the same stuff as I had, dipping it off their plates with bits of tortilla, and they called that a burrito. Lordy. When they find out what a burrito really is they're going to think I don't know anything.

It was during this little cooking session that I discovered the only eating implements here are two spoons and one fork. It doesn't inconvenience them a bit, except when they are trying to find one for me.

The Minnesota group that has a Sister-City relationship with Leon donated about 300 pounds of yarn to the weavers this week. I gave it a burn test and it's cotton with a twist of shiny rayon through it. Beautiful stuff. It's in skeins, too.

So right away we did a couple of dye jobs. First we were going to do avocado green and Ana had been insisting we needed to do orange and yellow, so we did orange. I had them put a teaspoon of fuchsia with the orange to cut the harshness of the color (well, that's my opinion, anyway.)It made a beautiful color, almost salmon.

But the avocado didn't do so well. Instead of putting a tablespoon of black in with the yellow, Danelia got confused and put in a teaspoon, so we got a nice gold instead. It is pretty and to my mind better for the purpose than clear yellow. Today we do have a proper tub of avocado green going, and a light salmon. Lovely.

The newspaper says that American army reservists have completed the building of a primary school and a health center in Esteli. They will go home and another group will come to another town and do the same. They have been doing this since Hurricane Mitch and I think it’s the best thing they could do. Clinton pledged 100 such schools and health centers.

The Japanese government is planning to build 78 primary schools in the Lon-Chinandega area, it was just announced. These will replace schools devastated by Mitch. This is the area that was hardest hit.

September 3, 1999 page 3

Schools, schools, schools-- they are what this country needs more than anything. And they need well-trained teachers to go with them.

Things are looking up, I hope.

Bayardo's been having trouble with his loom. The edges keep getting soft on his weaving. Yesterday when he took off a run of colchas, I noticed that the cloth beam had a definite warp in it that causes the trouble. Now we're trying to figure out how to replace it. We have a warp beam that is long enough, but it's too big around for the holders. How to make a bigger, strong holder is the problem.

I'll think of something.



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