Leon, Nicaragua

June 20

These letters are my journal.  It’s the only way I can write one.  If I kept a journal I wouldn’t write letters.  I’m sorry they’re so long but I’m trying to write with a pen that will photo copy well, large and dark.

So far, only Cecilio has been has been able to weave with the hand shuttles.  They’ve asked him to widen the beater and make it fly-shuttle.  They are resistant to change as Lolli knows, though in their heads they know they need it. Lee says they can’t conceptualize new things and I’m finding that true.  Except, of course, Cecilio.  He can take an idea and fly with it.  I guess you’ve figured out by now that I’ve “adopted” him as a grandson.  He has such promise; I hope he gets a chance to do something with it.

Everyone was interested in the dyeing when I first introduced it.  We had a rush of pantalones to get dyed.  Seems it isn’t fashionable here to wear faded jeans.  I thought they were perfect the way they were.
Then they got a request from a woman who has a leather business.  They make handbags, wallets, briefcases and such.  She’s been using inserts of cloth from Guatemala in her bags, and said if they would produce it here, she would buy from them.  So Mirian and Ana asked me to show them how to dye it.  They’ve got this gorgeous striped warp on now, 30 yards of it, and will be weaving it in a few minutes.  I hope the lady likes it.  It’s the last of the 3-ply Nica yarn.  We dyed every inch we had left, but I wanted to leave them with local yarn, something available to them.

Monday Mirian came to me with a catalog picture and asked if I could teach them how to dye Guatemalan ikat.  I said yes, but we’ve only got about two tablespoons of soda ash left.  I could teach them how to do the simple “spots” with that.  They thought that was great.  I’ll have to use the yarn from Mendocino for that, I think.  It’s amazing how fast we go through yarn.  So much product has gone to the States there isn’t much stock left here.

The “Frosty” yarn we got from Susan is the two 100-yard warps for napkins.  At first I had my doubts, but I really like them.  I’m calling them “country style” napkins.

Everyday Life:
Lolli had told me she didn’t eat with the family, so I wasn’t surprised when I first got to Mirian’s and was seated at a table by myself.  There was a place mat, a glass plate, a fork and spoon and a glass tumbler (does anyone still call a glass a tumbler?)  I sat on a wooden chair, dining-room style.  There was another chair just like it.  One of the kids, usually Hector, would eat at table with me.

I had the only glass dish in the house.  The others ate off odds and ends of plastic bowls.  There were a few assorted spoons but only one fork in the house.  When that was misplaced at my mealtime, things got in quite a tizzy.  They scoop with tortillas or eat with their fingers.  This is a clean, well-mannered family I’m talking about.

Ana went out of her way to prepare for me.  She had two new sheet-sized cloths to cover the mattress of the bed and had pieced-together remnants of striped flannel to make curtains for the doorways to the two bedrooms.  The boys were so proud.  They kept saying, “Bonita, si?”  I answered, “Si, bonita,” and I could have cried for them.  This valiant effort illustrated too well their normal life.

Ana had two glass plates and three glass tumblers.  One fork, one knife, some spoons.  If Ana had any money she’s live elegantly.  She likes nice things.

When Lee moved me from Mirian’s to Ana’s, he brought the two dining-room chairs with us.  Then I realized they had been borrowed from the cooperativa especially for me.  At no time have I seen a family eating gathered around a table as we used to do in the U.S. in the days before television.  For one thing, no chairs.  They sit out in the back yard in metal chairs.  The conviviality is good, though.  It’s meal time and they’re together.

Danelia has several china and glass plates, at least a half-dozen drinking glasses, and I think she has a fork.  I usually get a spoon to eat with.

We try to send mail with someone who is going back to the States.  Someone is going in three or four days, so I’ll send this along.

On to the next leter

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