"Somos sus hijas, Elenita, somos sus hijas."

Leon, Nicaragua

Date: June, 28 1997


Mirna's sister Pselda came to work at the co-op a week ago. They put her right to work on helping to thread a loom. It's such dim light in the co-op they need younger eyes to do such things. I can see very little, myself, in there, when it comes to threading the looms. So I went hunting for a clip-on light for them, and ended up with a trouble light on a long cord that they'll be able to use when they need it. And they did put it to work the minute I walked in the door.

Now that Pselda is there and has learned to fill the bobbins, Ana Maria is now weaving domestic colchas, so that's good. More production. After we told them Alan is expecting a big load to send up on a container in August, they have really been turning out the stuff. And wait till you see the white-on- white place mats Danelia has been weaving. I love them. Mirian has been batting out the striped warp for Macasa, and colchas and tablecloths keep piling off the looms. They asked me to keep an inventory, so as I get things ready for sale (tying fringes, etc.) I write them down for them. I'll get everything listed soon.

I've only got two more weeks left here, and there's so much to do. I just know I'll be leaving with things undone again, no matter that we work six days a week.

Chapter four in the lizard saga: Danelia has a garrobo that lives in a hollow tree in her back yard. She tried to get me to see it in time yesterday, but I missed it. The tree is alive but the center is gone, from the trunk on up to the high branches. So what did Danelia do but climb the tree to try to run it out. I was amazed. Later her son Hubert climbed high in the tree but had no success, either. Diogenes said he'd try to catch one at work today, with a snare, and bring it to me. I'd hate to leave without seeing one up close, now that I've learned about them. I've reached the point where I don't care if I eat it or not, but I do want to see it.

Diogenes has a job now, for a short while. He does welding and burning at a place that is making a large truck body. He works from seven in the morning to seven at night and is paid 25 cordobas a day. That's $2.70 a day, American.

We went out to the Ceiba School last week to deliver some children's books I had brought down. I'm so pleased with what I see happening there, so much improvement. There's a new sidewalk from the street to the main building, and instead of the barbed- wire-on-posts gate, they were installing a new, high wrought iron entrance gate. Shrubs had been planted along the sidewalk, too. And out in the field where once upon a time was an old cotton plant, that building area has been replaced with a concrete base and made into a basketball court, with the backboards installed. No basket rings yet, and they don't have any basketballs, but they are ready for them if any show up.

Some men and women were working on the new pre-school building the Sister-Cities Project is helping with. It's a community project, being built by the people of that community. There had been an old well by the old cotton plant that had been open for years, containing who knows how many cows and pigs. The New Haven/Leon Sister Cities Project told them they'd help them with the pre-school, but the well had to be filled in first. So people in the community filled it in, and now a community pre- school is being built. Bueno!

A couple blocks down from Ana Maria's house lives a gringo from Los Angeles. He sent word he wanted to meet me, after he heard me speaking English as I walked down the street. So he started coming up to talk English every evening. He'd been married to a Nica woman in San Francisco, and moved here in 1985. No, he didn't come to help with the revolution. I asked him why he stayed after his wife died. He said in Nicaragua he has no arthritis. He lives on Social Security, has a young couple staying with him to take care of him and the house. Soft. He's 72, and has a sister in Mount Vernon, WA.

I've had an introduction to Nicaraguan health care. Many mornings I would awaken with blood spots across the shoulders of my nightgown from bug bites in the night. I never thought much about it. Then I started having my back bother me, but I thought it was from the way I was using my arms; I was just breaking in new muscles. One day I had some kind of pressure in my back, but didn't think too much of it. I kept scrunching my shoulders together. Mirian noticed and gave me a neck and shoulder massage. Then Cecilio said, "What is it? What is it?" Something on the back of my shirt. I couldn't see it, of course, but I showed Danelia. She called the others to see. They got cotton and started swabbing. Cecilio said, "Are you going to the hospital?" "No, I'm not going to the hospital."

"Are you going to the hospital?"

"No," I repeated. Then it dawned on me he didn't have good English. "Are you saying I should go to the hospital?"

"Yes!" he said. "Es malo. (bad). The women joined in. "Es malo. Es rojo (red)." So they called to Ana and told her to take me to the hospital. So Cecilio, Ana and I headed first to Lee's office. He wasn't there, but the woman in the office said go to this doctor and gave us an address.

The doctor hadn't come in yet when we got there, but in the 15 minutes before he arrived a woman swept the floor of the waiting room, then mopped the floor, then mopped it again with disinfectant. The doctor came at five, riding his bike which he brought in with him. He appeared to be in his forties. He looked at my back, took my blood pressure, my pulse, which were okay. I told him I'd been having these bug bites. He gave me heck for not coming in two weeks before. I tried to tell him I couldn't see what was on my back. His English was very good, but not perfect, and he said something that began with Are you, so I thought he was asking me a question and I tried to explain. He cut me off. "I am the doctor. I am telling you you have a serious infection and you need an incision. I am a doctor of internal medicine and I cannot make the incision but I will find a surgeon for you who will. I am concerned that you do not have a fever. You should have a fever." He then proceeded to call eight or ten numbers that didn't answer. He told me this would be better taken care of by a private doctor than in the hopital, I shouldn't go to the hospital. He finally gave me the name of a surgeon who speaks English and could take care of me. "But if he tells you you need to go to a private clinic, tell him no, you do not have enough money to go to a clinic."

That guy wasn't in when we got there, so Ana said, "Hospital, Elenita?" and I said yes so we started walking. We walked by a sign that said Doctor, so they asked for him and we went in. He was an older man, much like the wonderful old GP's we used to have in America. He looked at my back and started swabbing, then made an incision and swabbed some more. He talked all the time to Ana, but I couldn't understand many of the words. He dressed the spot and said it needed redoing the next day. Gave me a prescription for an antibiotic and an unguent and said take 500 mgs of Vitamin C every day.

The next day an American from the office came to check on me and took Ana and me to the same doctor. I had no idea how serious this was until she said, "God, I can't look. I have a weak stomach. It's bad." The doctor squeezed and blood and pus splattered across his shirt. He worked and worked. Said I had an infected sebacious gland and would have to have surgery when I got home. Said I'd have to have this cleaned and a new dressing put on every day or the same thing would recur. It's now okay.

The gringo near Ana's said he talked to some of his friends. They said there is an insect not a mosquito but like a mosquito that bites and lays eggs under the skin. To get it out, you have to get behind the egg and squeeze hard; that was why the doctor got blood all over his shirt. I don't know if that is true or is an old wives' tale.

But Ana took good care of me until I moved to Danelia's house for my stay there. The first day, she insisted on doing the dressing to show them how. After all, she had seen the doctor do it twice. So in the office at the cooperativa, Ana Maria mother-henned me while Danelia, Mirian and Rosa Maria watched as she squeezed out gunk, cleaned and dressed it with latex gloves on, having someone else open the gauze packets so she didn't touch anything that wasn't sterile. To start with there was much "Pobecita! Pobrecita!", and I felt terrible being so much trouble. I tried to tell them so, and it was almost as if they had practiced it: they said in unison, the four of them, "Somos sus hijas, Elenita, somos sus hijas." (We are your daughters, Elenita, we are your daughters.)

Is it any wonder I love these Nicaraguans?



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