Mother's Day and a visit to the school.

Leon Nicaragua

May 27, 1997


Remember last year I told you about the old gentleman who sells bananas, chiclets, and things from a little push cart by the bus stop? He asked me if I'd take him to the U.S. when I returned and I said "No" which cracked Ana up. Then he said, "Porque no? (why not?) with a twinkle in his eye.

My first day here, after Lee had brought me to my grand welcome with the weavers, as we headed for our walk home all the weavers were with me as we passed the bus stop. I went over and shook the man's hand and his slow recognition was a delight to watch-total amazement. "I came back to get you" I said in English, and in Spanish he said "You're going to take me to the U.S.A." with a big grin. All this to the great laughter of the weavers. He is a nice man.

The short sewing table for the sewing machines is made and varnished and all the women want one like it. How simple Cecilio makes the construction seem. This morning he made a little wooden box to replace the broken plastic base of the sewing machine Lolli sent down. He's working on stick shuttles, which is hard. He can't figure out why I want them, but I've an idea for using them here and some are to get Diogenes started. He (Cecilio) shows what he's doing to the women and they want me to explain it-and they shake their heads. I expected that.

The women weavers are hesitant to try new things and are set in their ways. It looks mostly like fear to me" fear of not understanding, fear of being unable to do it. But many of these women are reaching an age when they will be faced by their bodies to stop the strenuous weaving they are doing now. I hope if I can convince Diogenes to learn hand-shuttle weaving, his mother Danelia will see it's something she can do. Her shoulders are about to give out on the fly-shuttle, so maybe she'll be able to extend her weaving and income years. And of course teach the others when their time comes.

Yesterday, Cecilio showed up with a sling-shot. Shades of my childhood! I expected him to try shooting birds and I was going to protest. I saw him aiming at t tree in back-and he hit his target. Three mangoes fell down. Mangoes grow in clusters on long stems looking for all the world like they're hanging from green ribbons, eight inches long more or less.

This morning I went and picked a couple of jicaros. I'm going to see if I can figure out how they carve them. It turns out they are edible, but I guess its a kind of survival thing-you only eat them if you have to. Naw-can't do it. They tell me you have to boil the shells first.

Friday, May 30th

It's Mother's Day in Nicaragua, and a National Holiday here, I'll have you know. La Dia de la Madre. But the weavers are all here at work anyway.

I slept in this morning so I was awakened at 6:20 by singing. Mirian's three kids and some cousins-seven kids in all-were in my bedroom serenading me with the Mother's Day song. Spanish, of course. Then I was presented a gift. The card on the package said (typed):

Happiness Mother In
You Day Whith Many
For Elena Layke
Of: Gretchen Martinez
Happiness Mother Today
30th of May of 1997
Happiness Mother

(Her English is better than my Spanish.) But the sweetness of the whole deal was overwhelming. The gift is a little (10 inch) heart pillow of red velvet trimmed in white lace made by Gretchen.

Here at the Coop, Ana Maria presented me with handmade ceramic beads and earrings from Masaya. Lovely, but she shouldn't have.

The women are getting new warps on all the looms while Mirna is turning out colchas domesticas, several a day. Yesterday Ana took a bundle of those under her arm and went out to sell them, but no luck. Well, at least they now have a stock.

We've had a rain-wonderful and heavy, two days ago. It was raining lightly as Mirian and I headed for home, but she apparently reads weather signs better than I. She flagged a taxi and we got in, joining two other women. The windshield had a big spider-web crack in front of the driver, and try pulling on them as he might, he couldn't get the windows closed more than half-way. Thanks be, I'd rather be damp than suffocate. The driver was a polite, earnest young man, trying hard to please. The rain started coming down hard and soon the intersections were awash in deep water. When we got home the back yard was a flat pool and the ducks were swimming happily. The rain quit, and two hours later there were only a couple of small puddles left. I don't know if it soaked in or ran off.

Yesterday we went to a Mother's Day program at Yenifer's school. Its a private school, small, from pre-escolar (pre-school) to secondaria (secondary). Its not a church school. The buildings are small so the program was held outdoors. We sat on side-armed school chairs across the road too watch. There were a couple of boys playing keyboard and singing, recitations of poems to Mothers, and a girl did one of those lip-synching with gestures-can't think of what that mimicking is called. Then a boy in an undershirt and little round dark glasses did the same thing to a song in English. It was one of those songs you might hear on MTV and I couldn't help wondering if he had nay idea what he was acting to, and I'm sure his teachers didn't. Cecilio had come along to take pictures for Mirian, and pretty soon from four seats away I heard "Malo! Malo!" He understood-Arnold Swartzenneger videos had taught him those words in Wenatchee, and while he may use the words himself he does seem to have a sense of what is appropriate. Myself, I was laughing inside. I thought it funny as heck. Cecilio even told all of us not to applaud. "Malo," he insisted. Prude.

When we got back to the house, I told Hector about the guy and the song with the "palabras sucio". "What words?" he asked. I wouldn't say them, but Cecilio came up and told him. I asked, "Did Cecilio teach you those words when he came back?" Hector laughed and said yes. Then Cecilio told him that videos in the United States are full of F---- you, man, F----, F----, F---- and Sh--, Sh--, Sh--.

By the way, both those boys talk English as much as they can. This year even the girls hang around and talk English when they can. This is a wonderful extended family. I love being here.

Danelia brought a rocking chair to the studio and asked Cecilio to repair a rung. That seemed to give her an idea, and the next day she came in carrying a rocker for me to sit in while I'm here. I know she only lives 2 1/2 blocks sway, but would you have carried a rocking chair two and a half blocks? These women confound me.

I asked Cecilio if he'd go with me to the Ceiba School Wednesday morning. Marco drove us out in the Coop truck at the weavers' insistence. We had a box with two little microscopes and some school books to deliver. And I wanted to see the roof on the building for the little kids. We were greeted by a woman I met last year but the directora wasn't there. She was with her mother who is very ill.

So we explained-Cecilio and I - that we had microscopes for the school. She left and came back with four teachers and introduced one of them as their teacher of English. Poor guy. Earnest, sincere, embarrassed. With the most God-awful accent I ever heard. He probably reads and writes English well enough, but his speech---Leaves something to be desired, it does. He struggled hard to give me the greetings of the school-but you know what? I talked to him in Spanish all the time, no English, so he was probably going through the same thing I was in reverse.

The woman introduced as the science teacher left and came back with a room full of students. Cecilio opened the box and took out the books and the microscopes. I explained that the books were the donation of a professor who taught Spanish language students in a town near where I live, and the microscopes were the donation of a professor who taught science in a secondary school.

The science teacher headed right for the scopes to look them ove. They are small-one is a Bausch and Lomb 100X and one is a 150 - 600X Japanese make. Cecilio took the batteries out of his camera to show how the latter lit up, and put a drop of water on a slide. The teacher looked, said "Perfecto!" and the students clapped. The other teachers went through the pile of books, each apparently grabbing what pertained to what they taught as if it was a last chance. Many smiles and thanks.

The science teacher said something to the kids, Cecilio too some photos, then the kids left, each one coming up and giving me a hug and kiss and saying "Thank you" in English. And I replied, "You're welcome", in English.

I asked if I could visit the classrooms and we started a tour. First was the video room where there was a TV and VCR and the kids were sitting on the benches Cecilio made last year watching a video of "In The Heat of The Night" in English. It was the English class, they explained.

There is a shiny new metal roof on the ninos building and lovely grilles on the doors and windows. All the building are painted aqua blue on the outside and the interior of most of the rooms, too. The little kids have new furniture-plastic-laminated little triangular tables in different soft colors and tiny little blue-metal chairs, first-grade size. I was thrilled-you cannot imagine the difference from last year. I only take credit for the roof and the grille work-and then I bounce that credit to the people who deserve it because of their contributions.

We went from classroom to classroom and as I came to each door all the kids stood up and applauded. I was embarrassed. I'm not the one who deserves the credit, and besides I have a hard time accepting things like that gracefully. When we came full circle back to the "video room" the science class was in there watching a film of microbes squiggling across the screen.

The school has one of those rope and wheel pumps for water in the front yard, and little kids had no trouble turning the wheel to get water to drink. I've never seen such an easy-to-use non-electric pump before. I, too, went up to quench my thirst with a palm full of water and then remembered it probably is not chlorinated. But it's lovely to see something that works that well.

The weavers this year have accepted me as one of them-almost. I still get a fork to eat with but I don't get a place mat anymore. So far the food I'm getting suits me just fine. The don't salt it but its getting so they feed me what they eat, except I get yogurt too. This year the Yoplait says its from Managua. "Bueno!" Last year it said Panama.

When Mirian first started giving me milk to drink I couldn't figure out what was wrong with it. It was a few days before I realized it was because it was white, not blue-tinged. I asked to read the label on the plastic bay and it said 3 percent milk. Yes, homogenized and pasteurized.

Danelia's daughter Jasmina came home for the weekend to visit her mother. What a go-getter she is-she's studying international relations and hopes dome day to work for the government or an embassy or a multi-national business of some kind. She's 19, beautiful and has a terrific personality. She'll go far.

There are several warps on the looms now and its good to hear the clack, clack of the shuttles going. Soon there'll be trying out some new designs. I can hardly wait to get them into production. I don't have much time this year.



Back to 1997 letters.

Back Lolli's homepage