Date: Thur, 24 Jul 1997
I'm having quite a time with myself. The withdrawal is fierce this time. Last year when I came home I was angry when I saw all the waste here. I really resented it. I don't mind people HAVING things, most of them earned what they've got. But do they have to waste so much?
This year--I don't know. I feel so intertwined with the people in Nicaragua that I worked with, I can't cut it loose yet. I think my time there was better this year than last. I mean, I think because I didn't have to get acquainted first I was able to accomplish more, and they to accomplish more, too.
Remember when we were teaching the textile program and I told the students at the end of the year that they'd be better weavers when they came back in the fall even if they didn't do any weaving at all in the summer? Because they'd be thinking about what they'd learned, and if would fall into place in their minds?
That's the way it was with the cooperativa. By the time I got back down there, they had accepted all the things I told them last year and were acting on it, or had questions on how to do this or that. I think they had discussed it among themselves, too. I had little explaining of "why?" to do this time. It was all how.
You should have seen them correct errors in threading. Something simple that was hard to see, even, if I spotted it and showed it to them, without my saying anything, they'd set out to correct it. In some cases, they'd pull the whole colcha threading and re-do it, and you know how hard it is for them to read drafts. How hard it is for them to do a
They automatically put the 1 first, no matter where it is on the draft. Fortunately Rosa Maria had no problems with it and she'd come to their rescue.
I've got them weaving almost everything at 24 epi too. Last year it was hard, but this year they know it's easier to weave once the warp gets on. The Americans and others who are working in Nicaragua for a long time, the ones who bring delegations in to buy things to take home (including some Spaniards) all commented on how much the weaving has improved this past year. The weavers feel it, too. They work hard at it, and this year there was no more asking me if a small mistake could pass; they just corrected it when they found it.
I saw more houses with new paint, and some getting new construction of one type or another. I asked Lee if things had changed any that he saw. Yes, he said, things were even more difficult for the poor than last year. Except for Ana, who has new affluence (slight) that I attribute to the new boy friend, the others, Danelia and Mirian and Rosa, had it rougher than last year.
Because of the way they took care of me, being such wonderful nurses to my infected back, I bought some nice yardage for them as thanks. The kind I would buy for myself if I wanted something nice but still washable. It came about because Danelia brought in a shirt she'd got from her brother that she was cutting down to fit herself. She'd cut out the sleeves and cut down the sides, but she really had no idea how to sew the sleeves back in since they were smaller than the arm size. I'd hunted till I'd found a couple of boxes of pins like those you'd brought down (they'd said "No hay in Nicaragua" but I was sure there were). So I pinned in the sleeves and did the shirt so Danelia could wear it when she went to see the lawyer. I heard her telling Mirian, "No tengo ropa, no tengo nada."
My idea was to show them how to make a short tiered skirt and a sleeveless scooped top, because they are simple and no patterns are required and they don't take much yardage. Danelia was in Chinandega at the hospital with her husband when I went with Mirna and picked the stuff out. And guess what--they all wanted to make dresses out of the fabrics! So Butterick pattern books showed up the next day and everyone went through them, pro-and-conning each design.
Since Danelia wasn't there, I went ahead and made hers up; I was still trying to demonstrate a point--easy and not much yardage. I actually made two outfits for Danelia, and when she came back she loved them and they loved them. I think Mirna learned how to do it, she was beside me for the step by step. I'll send you a picture of Danelia in one of them. The two pieces look like a dress. I'm planning to make each one an outfit and send down. Mirian needs something fancy because Yenifer is going to have her Quinziana or whatever that 15th birthday thing is called, in November. It's a big deal and they couldn't believe we didn't do that for our girls in the USA.
I got the measurements of all the weavers. Ana Maria has a 25 inch waist. Mirna has 28 inch hips. I don't think I was that small when I was six.
Did I tell you Cecilio wants to come back? But this time I can't help him, I don't think. And I hate it that I can't. He just shone when he was here--he has such talent and competence and learns so quickly. I may have done him a disservice. I shouldn't, perhaps, have shown him another world. I know it was difficult for him when he was here, but then he didn't really know what Nicaragua was like. He missed his family so much it was painful. When he went back he could see the difference. I have the insight of my cousins explaining what it was like for them, how tortured they were to be away from family the first year, how they forgot how they'd been hungry at home.
Cecilio did tell me he went without eating two days one time when he came back, because there was no food in his house. He had to sell his bike. That must have hurt--he was so proud of it. But he took off the handlebars with the gadgets and kept them, replaced them with others. His mother wanted me to bring him back, too. I became very fond of her when I was there, and it hurt, the day Lee came to take me to the airport, to see her standing in front of Danelia's house with tears pouring down her cheeks.
A lot hurts. There is a lot I could do for these people that wouldn't take much money, mostly teaching, mostly example. I grew up learning survival arts because I didn't know I wouldn't need them, that my world would change. I go through a lot of melancholy now and find myself crying sometimes, mostly about Danelia. I keep telling myself in two months I could change her life. I could do it in less, but first I'd have to un-teach her. That would take time. She needs to develop self-confidence first.
Danelia is having such a god-awful time physically, and there are so many ways that could be taken care of. She fights the body pain and just keeps going. One day she's not going to be able to pull that cord any more. I have such a simple solution for her, and down deep she knows it but has no confidence in herself. Lee says it's because these women have been told all their lives they are stupid and worthless.
I need to quit worrying about my Nica family, because I do think of them that way now. I must try to get my apartment swamped out. I've applied for a larger apartment in front, overlooking the river. They say they'll move me this winter, which isn't so far off. There's a lot of turnover in these apartments, which is sad but inevitable, considering what kind of apartments they are. Many changes while I was gone those two months. Actually, I'd like to have a house, but the way I keep traveling I don't need one of those. I've been gone so much I haven't even had any house plants, let alone a garden.