Leon, Nicaragua

July 2, 1996
 I have less than two weeks to go here, and I desperately need another month.  Things I hoped for my first week are starting to happen.  You should have seen their delight yesterday when they experimented with the Ms y Os and saw how much variation they’ll be able to get with it.  I asked them to put on a white warp for printing the screen Lolli brought down last year, when they seemed eager to do some printing.  I had them thread it to Rosepath (I translated that to them as “Pistas de Rosas” and hope I was right.)  My idea was, when they used up this warp and tied on another color, they’d have a pattern to weave.  “Linda!  Linda!” they cried when they wove the pattern.  They may not want to do the plain weave.

They are threading, right now, a dark green warp they cut last November and brought out to show me.  I wish we had some of the same for weft.  But we’ll manage.

I love the yarns we got from Susan Druding.  Just wish we had more.  I dread to think they are nor re-orderable.  I’m working hard, trying to get them to blend colors, and to get them to use subtle  colors as well as the brights.  It ain’t easy.

I told Ana I’d like to have her use some of the slubbed cottons for the napkins.  The next day she balked when I handed her a tube of ecru.  “Es malo,” she said.  “Es falta.”  She took my arm and walked me to the loom to show me all those slubs she’d woven the day before.  She was incredulous when I told her in the EE.UU. It was “preferible.”  But like a good scout, she’s been weaving away.

For the printed mats I’m asking them to use one ecru thread with the white for the weft, to give the mats an “old” look, to go with the pottery designs in the prints.

They are really quite efficient in the way they thread their looms, but I did manage to introduce one new thing.  Nancy Biggins had taken me to see a friend of hers in Ukiah who has a computer store.  He gave me a “nibbler” and some scrap pieces of metal.  Nancy’s idea was the weavers could make their own reed hooks.  The nibbler nibbles off little pieces of metal at a time, and it works fine.  I made a reed hook one day when Mirian’s husband was there.  He took over and made a bunch of them.  At first there was resistance but now they use them all the time.  They are rigid and easy to handle.

Two Sundays ago Danelia planned to take me to San Jacinto, but that Saturday after work I found her in the kitchen crying from hurting all over.  I told her not to worry about me, and to please stay in bed all day Sunday.  She did get all the meals, though she kept them simple, thank goodness, and did spend most of that Sunday sleeping.    

This Saturday she told me she’d like to have one of those “pequeña” looms in her house to weave with hand shuttles.  Her arms and shoulders were just hurting too much.  I suggested we could take the smaller of the two looms Cecilio had cut down, in Diogenes’ Jeep, to her place.  She apparently thought that over and asked Cecilio if he would build her a loom.  She didn’t want any problems with the other weavers at the co-op.  Cecilio jumped right at it.  Sunday morning he came to Danelia’s house with his arm in a sling and a plaster splint.  He’d not broken it but had injured the ganglion.  He’d been going to fix Danelia’s door that day.

Monday we – he and I – went to buy some lumber for the loom.  We got most of what we’ll need, and it’s mahogany!  The only wood I’ve found here.  But if there is any place to buy planed lumber, I haven’t found it.

By mid-morning Cecilio was in real pain and I despaired of ever getting the loom built at all, but this morning he was here, took off his splint over everyone’s objections, and started cutting the wood to size and hand-planing it.  He’s pretty good with the plane.  He took my plane up to the local carpenter and had him show him how to sharpen, set and use it.  One really needs to know how to use a plane here.  I about had a fit one day when Ana and her sons started playing with it, but I restrained myself.  They did discover that it wasn’t nearly as easy as Cecilio made it look, but he had to sharpen and re-set it when they got through.

I’ve been expecting all along to be eaten alive by mosquitos here, but they aren’t nearly as bad as in Crown Point, NY, where I used to live, or Redding, California.  Only four to six bites a day, usually.  If you’re interested in my “ranchero piojo” (lice farm): Saturday, when we got home from San Jacinto, Danelia gave me a thorough treatment with the shampoo.  The next morning she spent two hours going over my scalp hair by hair, it seemed, making sure there were no live nits or piojos.  Every day, she and Mirian check me over till they declare me free of nits.

I brought $80 worth of seeds down with me for their garden.  They don’t plant until the rains start.  Then they talked to a man, Juan, who lives in the neighborhood.  They showed him the seeds with their English labels but beautiful pictures and he said he had to come and shake my hand, all smiles.  “Mañana,” he said.  Two weeks later he showed up with a machete and cut the grass and weeds.  Now there are melon and squash vines galore, some with buds.  They plant something almost every day.  Corn is up, beans, etc.  They plant in holes – concave hills – and put a few dry branches over them once the seeds are in to keep the neighbors’ chickens from eating them or the sprouts.  I try to explain what spaghetti squash, Armenian cucumbers, New Zealand spinach and zucchini are and am glad for the seed-packet pictures.  Rosa Maria is an ardent gardener.  She goes out and cultivates around the trees in the banana orchard, and if anyone is planting, she’s right there.  Rosa Maria was sick and absent when I first came.  She’s a good weaver, works hard, has a great personality and disposition.  She lives in a house with three sons, one daughter, two grandkids and a dirt floor throughout.

Gawd – Cecilio’s going around with a scorpion wrapped around his thumb.  They say it’s poisonous.  It sure is ugly.


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