Leon, Nicaragua

Leon, Nicaragua
June 29, 1996

Hola todos:
This may be north of the equator but I just found out it is winter here: “Invierno”.  They have seven months of winter, May to November.  That’s seven months of rain.  And lush greenness.  The leaves on the banana trees are twice as big as they were before the rains started.  Gorgeous.

Their summer is December to April, with April being the hottest month, and this April was hotter than usual, they said.  I asked Danelia if it got cold in December.  “Si.  Frio,” she said, hugging herself to empathize.  But January is much colder, she said.  “Do you wear coats?” I asked, thinking of the open-grilled, not glassed, windows.  “Si,” she answered.  Sometimes in the evenings.  But they call the high seventies cold.

I’ve had an itchy scalp for a month and it kept getting worse.  I thought at first it might be an allergic reaction, then I thought of lice.  I felt silly about asking my hostess to check my scalp.  Then after lunch today I combed my hair with my white comb, and there it was – a little squiggly critter on the comb.  My first thought was to head for the supermercado in hope of finding some Rid.  

But how could I treat myself without telling my hostess?  After all, I’d been living in three different households, infecting who knows how many.  But my sense of decency overcame my embarrassment.  Fortunately only Mirian and Danelia were there at the time or I may not have summoned up the courage.  They were in the process of tying s new warp on the loom.  I got out my dictionary to look up the word, then went to them and said, “Tengo problema.”  They looked immediately concerned.  “Piojos,” I said.
    “Pobrecita!” they said in unison, swung their legs down from the loom bench, walked me to the lightest place in the building, sat me down on a low stool and started going through my hair.  I was so embarrassed I could have cried.

Pretty soon Ana came back and joined in and then Cecilio.  So there I was, with four people picking nits and lice out of my hair and smashing them between their thumb nails.  The practiced expertise with which they worked soon made me lose my embarrassment, along with the good-natured kidding.  I suggested that some Nicaraguenses were trying to hitch a ride to the U.S.  Mirian said No, these were too blanca to be Nicaraguan.  They had to be piojos gringos.  They were the blondest lice I have ever seen.  Then Cecilio went to the neighborhood farmacia and got shampoo for lice.  It’s from Honduras, has no instrucciones or ingredientes on the label, just pictures of great big lice.  I wanted to rush right home and use it.  But no, it was Saturday so we quit early and got on a packed bus for San Jacinto.  I tried to keep my head away from the other standees so I wouldn’t give anyone my critters.  That could well be how I got mine.
San Jacinto broke into the news a couple of weeks ago.  It has geo-thermal disturbance going on that resulted in some deaths, many ill people, dead trees and vegetation.  I’m guessing, but it’s not far, maybe 15 or 20 miles.  We got off the bus on the highway and walked through the little settlement.  One could hardly call it a town.  The people were obviously used to sightseers and directed us to the site.

There was steam coming up through the ground over a wide area, and a strong smell of sulfur.  Tourists were walking around close to where most of the steam  was emitting.  When we got close the heat was oppressive and the ground was so hot underfoot it was uncomfortable to walk on, at least for me.  Little cracks in the earth, and what appeared to be ant holes, spewed steam.  There were ponds of boiling water and bubbling, sometimes spitting, mud.  I’m sure sights like these are what inspired artists’ and writers’ descriptions of Hell.  No me gusta, not one bit.

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