Elaine Lackey, Leon Nicaragua

July 30, 1999


We had our first rain since I've been here and it was a nice one. Yesterday, shortly after noon, we had a 10 - minute cloudburst that came with a fresh breeze and lots of darkness. Afterward it was coolish (for here - low 80's) and it even was pleasant all night.

Today is sunny and hot but it's tolerable. It's not overcast and muggy. Yet.

Leon has a McDonald's now, it opened earlier this year. Managua got one last year. There hadn't been a McDonald's since the contra war in the 1980's, when some guy from Boonville wrote a book that said it was the only McDonald's in the world where the workers wore camouflage and kept their rifles handy, and you couldn't be sure what the meat was. Or words to that effect. I think the name of the book was "Darkness at Noon".

Anyway, after his kind words McDonald's closed it up. J

I'm dying to see the McDonald's here. They advertise "Supreme Burgers" every night on TV ( mas tomate, mas lechuga, sas something else, maybe carne ) It sells for 36 cordobas - at the current street rate of exchange, that's $3.03. It doesn't say you get fries and a drink with it.

I want to see the décor, too. But if you don't get fritas and coca, that's an awful price for a hamburger. I would like to take at least the kids there, but one gets awfully conscious of what one buys here, where they are trying to get enough money together to buy rice, say. I can't buy something frivolous. The price of a hamburger would provide a meal for the whole family.

Bill and Florence gave me a bunch of nice reading glasses to bring to the weavers. They are Foster Grants and such, in a variety of strengths. I distributed them to the weavers and had them try them on and asked them to read my dictionary ( it's the only book here with Spanish words ). I think they all tried them all, then chose.

Danelia chose a pair with strong lenses and reddish frames. The next morning she came to work and exclaimed "Ay Elenita, anoche pudo ver todo! Todo! (Last night I could see everything! Everything!)

She had been wearing some old beat up glasses that the ear pieces had broken off from. She kept them on her head with string and some elastic. These new ones are cute on her, too.

Ana got out her glasses with the bright red frames ( I think she chose mostly by color ) and is using them to sew buttons on the first blouse she ever made. (Mirian instructed her.)

Mirian is using hers while she's threading a loom. They all look so pleased. Many thanks to B & F.

I brought some Spanish language magazines that I got in Shopko. They really made a hit with the younger ones. They can read about Rickie Martin, Shakira and Thalia and other favorite stars, get beauty hints, read glamorous ads. At night, in Mirians house, there are usually three or four youngsters, usually girls but often boys too, reading the mags and making comments back and forth.

There is no reading matter in these houses. No books, magazines or newspapers. The only ones I've seen in four years are ones I brought. I am concerned about this because they have little contact with printed Spanish. Often their spelling is phonetic - I often decipher their letters by reading them aloud to myself.

Mirna painted my fingernails this morning. They are now a soft, transparent orange with glitters. So there! At my age, too.

We've got some really lovely colors dyed. I'm trying to keep track of the dye recipes for them, but we're going so fast it's hard. Nothing's dry yet, (the humidity) so I can't take snips of the yarn to put with the recipes.

I've had so many pretty glasses to drink out of and lovely plates to eat from, it took me a while to realize Norma had gotten out her wedding presents for me to use. There's even one of her sunflower plates here at the coop for me. I wish she wouldn't do that. I'd hate to break something that special.

Their family still eats off assorted plastics as I suppose they all still do. There's one fork at the coop, the same one is used for cooking and for my lunch.

The weavers have cautioned me to buy food only in the "super", never should I buy in the street. That leaves me wondering what I should do when one of them buys me a slice of watermelon in the street. They mean well and I just eat it, try to enjoy it, and hope for the best. These women are clean and are always washing and washing things. But the street vendors don't have any running water and who knows how long that knife has gone unwashed?

But so far, so good. I'm okay.

The government has a sanitation program going. There are lots of programs on TV talking about keeping things clean and being careful about food. Then they'll show vendors in the public market flipping cloth at flies to keep them off the food, then shots of flies on food. They talk about temperatures and keeping food from spoiling.

It's tough. Seldom do the venders have ice, but more and more are showing to have Coleman ice chests. They are heading in the right direction, but that takes money.

For three days the weavers have been fighting a warp with a lot of problems. It's one of the ones the thieves fouled up and they thought they had it fixed, but there are serious twists in it. I finally told them to cut the twists and re-do it, and that's what they are doing. It seems to be coming along well. But, oh, so much work!

Danelia's son Diogenes is working on the bridge going in at Chinendaga. He does cutting with an acetylene torch and works as a mechanic on the trucks when they break down.

Bernardo, Ana Maria's youngest son, is working here as a weaver. He wants to be a mechanic. Last year he was happily working as an apprentice mechanic (that may mean no pay, but I'm not sure). He's shy and quiet and does pretty well at the weaving. For one thing, he's young and strong. That helps.

Mirian's daughter Norma is also working here now.

She's a sweet young woman and always works hard. I don't know how good her weaving is because she's been mostly putting on warps and threading heddles since I've been here. I guess it's a case of using her good young eyes. She'll be weaving soon, and I have confidence she'll do well. She does everything well. But I hope she gets a good job.

A man came by today selling brooms. They are those beautiful round witches' brooms, complete with crookedy handles. I bought four of them for $3.20. I don't think it's fair for one person to have to sweep this whole big floor all by herself, so now whoever it is can have help.



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