Leon, Nicaragua

June 14, 1996

Iím living at Daneliaís casa now and Iím in my third month here.  This is luxurious living.  Daneliaís front room is bigger than Mirianís or Anaís whole house.  Iím back to a flush toilet once again (still no toilet seat but by now I could not care less).  There are two inodoros at the back of the yard, too, in case of emergency.  

Daneliaís house is divided into thirds; two other rooms rented to other families.  She has a color TV Ė Iíve watched two Sonics games so far.  She has a 3-burner gas hot plate in her kitchen.  But she still has a fireplace block out in the patio (back yard) for long-time cooking.

Moises is wearing one of those tee shirts I told you about, remember?  I asked him if he knew what it said and he said No so I translated it for him.  It has a picture of two cute little black kids on it and says ďYoung, Gifted and Black.  Know your history.  Free your mindĒ.  Itís a beautiful shirt.

Ana Maria supports seven people besides herself on her meager earnings at the co-op.  Her house is several steps downscale from Mirianís.  Ana would be chopping wood for the fire to cook breakfast before 5 a.m.  And her daughter Joana would be washing clothes.  On Sunday the two women washed clothes at the concrete sink from 5 a.m. to past 5 p.m.  The boys did nada but run a few errands.  Maybe did a half-hearted job of sweeping the floor.

Ana really was good to me; went out of her way to do things for me.  Cooked special, no salt, no sugar.  Boy, I really got what I asked for Ė no seasoning at all:  ďSimple.Ē  Iíll survive.  

I was going to cook beans my style for the weavers and bought five pounds of red beans, onions, black pepper and garlic.  I planned to cook them on Thursday.  That was the day Cecilio took me to his uncleís funeral.  When I got back the beans were all cooked and everyone took some home to fry for dinner.  But there was still plenty left, so the next day Ana wouldnít let me cook my own but insisted on doing it for me.  Whatís so unusual about onions and garlic in beans?  And black pepper?  Poquito salt.  And liquid.  They called it soup, which was fine by me.  I dished some up for Danelia, she deemed it ďsabrosaĒ (tasty), Cecilio said he liked it, I loved it, and no one else would eat my beans.  So there!

This kind of thing does weird things to my appetite.  Can you guess what Iíve been dreaming of?  Iíd love two slices pf fresh Wonder bread with a slice of Kraft singles in between.  (Grandchild food.)  Maybe Iíd eat a whole loaf that way. With a Wenatchee apple on the side.  (They still have Stemilt apples here.)  I donít think Iíve had Wonder bread for 40 years.

When my day to move came Danelia came out to Anaís to get me: Weíd go to her place in a taxi since I had too much stuff to go by bus.  Danelia put my suitcase on her head, Marvin carried my garment bag, Ana took my camera and incidentals.  They wouldnít let me carry a thing.  As we walked down to the highway to get a taxi, people Iíd only seen to smile to as I passed their houses, going to or coming back from work, came out to give me a goodbye hug and tell me ďregresar.Ē  To come back.

Amazing.  You know, itís the funniest thing, but I donít feel as if I were in a foreign country here.  I know Ė I donít speak or understand  the language much, the climate is like nothing Iíve experienced before. The vegetation, the houses, the streets, the markets, everything is different but I donít feel like an outsider.  I guess itís because everyone makes me feel so welcome, so cared for.  Itís nice.

Another thing thatís different about Daneliaís: she has regular wire for a clothes line, and she has to use clothes pins since the wire isnít barbed.  She doesnít have a refrigerator but she does have an ice chest she keeps bags of ice in.  Mirian had nothing.  Ana kept my yogurt and orange juice in a half-gallon Coleman drink container, with ice.  Resourceful.

For lunch today I had a special treat: huevos de galapagos., turtle eggs.  Danelia demonstrated how to eat them.  They are round and soft shelled and are dug from the sand.  You bite a little hole in the skin of the egg, top it with a bit of finely-chopped onion, suck out the interior and enjoy.  Only I didnít enjoy.  The taste wasnít bad, especially with a dash of Tabasco, but it tasted Ė felt Ė sandy in my mouth.  The others watched my face and told me I didnít have to eat them if I ďno les gustaĒ and they dug in with relish.  There were eight of the darned things!

I was hand-delivered a letter rom a teacher who asked me to visit her school.  Itís in a poor district and very small.  There is no roof and the niŮos are exposed to the rain and sun.  They sit on rocks or on their heels.  Would I please, with the generosity of my heart, visit the school and see if it is possible to help them.

Iím going to visit the school with a friend who will interpret for me.  See for myself.
Danelia said two of her kids went to schools where they sat on rocks, pobre niŮos.  She shook her head over the letter and didnít doubt the truth of it.  Neither did the other weavers and they are anxious for me to go see.  Pero, yo no tengo dinero.  They know that.  

I just thought of something: Andy has a whole bunch of Ross Perot tee shirts he doesnít know what to do with.  I know exactly what to do with them.  Wouldnít that shock Americans, to see Ross Perotís name all over Leon!

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