Yesterday we went to the beach at Corinto.

Leon Nicaragua

Monday May 26, 1997

Carinos, todos:

Yesterday we went to the beach at Corinto for an outing especially for me-but I suspect it was also a chance for everyone to take a break. We went in the truck, which is a Toyota diesel and bigger than a pickup. They put a couple of benches from the Coop in the back and Danelia, Ana, Mirian's daughters Norma and Yenifer and niece Cecilia sat in back with the ice chest and lunch, and Mirian and I rode up front with Marco, the driver. We passed through Chinandega as we went and San Cristobal was emitting smoke as we passed but there was such a haze it was too dim to take a picture. By the time we got to the beach it was quiet and wasn't emitting anything. Guess I'm just like those nuts that used to hand around Mt. St. Helens before she blew. Ah well.

The beach is lovely. It was Sunday and there were lots of people in the water. We found a place under a ramada-they seem to be public accommodations, and were certainly welcome for their shade. They asked me if I liked mariscos and I said yes. (Seafood - Shellfish) Pretty soon I was handed a plate with a tortilla and a bowl of dark liquid with clams and chopped tomato and onion. Raw. The liquid was lime juicy and salty, so I dipped the clams and vegetables out, draining the "sopa" away. They were delicious!

Later I saw a woman working under the ramada. She had a table less than 20 inches square on which she was opening clams with a huge knife that looked like a cut-off machete. She chopped the vegetables with it, too. There was a small pile of plates and bowls and no running water close by. I decided to quit looking. If anything was amiss it was too late-I'd already eaten. But nothing was amiss-no queasiness in the stomach at all. I'd like some more of these clams, actually.

The beach is fabulous, the water warm. The day was hot but there was a fresh breeze all the time. Danelia, Cecilia, Yenifer and I walked up the edge of the surf to the burned-out hulk of a freighter up the beach and back collecting shells for me to take home. I wanted to ask where it was the C.I.A. "advisors" had blown up the big molasses tanks and other things in the 1980's, but I decided not to bring up the subject.

This morning Cecilio is making a small table for the sewing machine. It will be 25 inches high-we had Danelia sit for a measurement, and the base for the other sewing machine is almost 4 inches high. The tables we have are 31 inches high, which puts working on the sewing machine at an impossible 35 inches.

The temperatures since I've been here have been around 40 degrees Centigrado. Cecilio has really browned since he came back from Wenatchee. His arms were sunburned when I first came and he'd put "crema" on them. The weavers had much to say about it at first, too. I guess winter in Wenatchee had returned him to his natural color.

I'm not having food problems this year. Aside from their now understanding I don't eat salty foods or many sweets-particularly with meals-they don't give me those great heaps of food as they did last year. Maybe one of my biggest problems was, last year I tried to be polite and eat everything they put before me, to start. Nobody can eat that much. This year I take what I can eat and leave the rest. Since they always feed me first, they can always salt down the rest and feed it to the family. They may still think I'm a nut but they're very understanding. They've been getting the best pineapple I've ever eaten, too.

Cecilio and I went down to Danelia's house to look at her loom. He saw something that needed adjusting and took off his white T-shirt and started to work. Banelia picked up a cloth and started dusting away the "polvo" from Cerro Negro that keeps blowing around everywhere. It wasn't till later we realized she'd used Cecilio's T-shirt, to much laughter. And of course, she'd wash it and bring it to him the next day. So Cecilio returned to the Coop bare-chested. I never thought anything of it-we see bare-chested men here (in the U.S.) all the time. Later that day I took a picture of Cecilio and Mirna, he still shirtless and you should have heard the reaction. "No camisa (no shirt), Elena, no camisa." Later, at the end of work, he was walking Mirna home and Rosa Maria stood outside calling "Cecilio, no camisa!"

So I guess they have their own etiquette. I guess the bare-chested men I see are working or sitting outdoors in front of their houses. The last time I went to town I did notice none of the men were shirtless. In this heat, too. Today is particularly muggy.

The weavers had someone make up a Leon, Nicaragua silk screen while they were waiting for ours. It's pretty bad-its too big for the purpose and the lettering goes to the outside edges of the screen and there's hardly any room for the pigment. I can hardly wait till we get some fabric woven to print on. I have high hopes for this project, the screen Lolli sent.

The 80 inch loom with the warp Alan doesn't like isn't bad; I think it has possibilities. With wider bands of different sized stripes on the ends, I think it would make a great tablecloth for a wide table. Cape Cod casual. If Cape Codders have tables that big.



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