León, Nicaragua              October 15, 1998

I swear I smell coffee brewing somewhere in the neighborhood this morning.  Wonderful fragrance!  I haven’t had a cup of coffee since I’ve been here.  In this coffee-growing country, none of the people I know drink (or maybe can afford?) coffee.

Today about noon Lee Cruz leaves for the US.  The whole staff is going to the airport to see him off.  I told him he’d need a boat to get to the plane, there would be so many tears.  “I wish they wouldn’t cry,” he said.  “It’s not the end of the world.”

To them, it’s pretty close right now, I think.

It’s a good thing I have a lot of planning and thinking to do here to fill my hours.  These women take much too seriously their jobs of being my hostess, and it is almost funny to watch “me” change hands.  All of a sudden, when I change from houses, someone new sees to it that I have a glass of water always at hand and fresh.  I swear they kill themselves trying to come up with something special they think I’ll like to eat.  And heaven forbid that I should even carry a chair ten feet.  “No, Elenita!” and someone runs to take it from me.  If after eating I try to carry my empty plate to the kitchen, it’s another “No no!”  I’m not used to such spoiling.  When I tell them I have no one to do things for me in my house, I carry my own dishes, they ask, “Vive solita, Elenita?  Porque?”  They with their extended families living together, find it incredible that I live alone and like it.

We had visitors yesterday, a woman relative of Daniela’s and her gentleman friend.  I tossed out my usual “Hello” greeting.  Sometimes it’s a relief to norteamericanos to know there’s someone to talk English to.

This time, the man responded.  “I speak English.  I will come and talk to you.”  He came and sat down across from  me.  He introduced himself as an Indian from Atlantico Norte, and is handsome in that angular, dignified way that makes one want to paint his portrait.

An interesting thing about Nicaragua is, they don’t have a road from west to east across the country.  One needs to fly, or one can take a bus from Managua part way, then complete the journey down a river on a boat to the east coast town of Bluefields.  The travel guides say that there is a lot of English spoken on the eastern side of Nicaragua, and it is almost like a separate country from the western side.  I’d really like to take the bus/boat trip there one day, but I’d want a lot of Deep Woods Off with me.  According to my map there are a lot of wetlands there.  Maybe that’s why it’s called the Miskito Coast.

This fellow is a seaman who works on boats mainly going to the Caribbean and East Coast ports.  He said, “Where I live is nice, very pleasant.  The air is fresh and cool.  Not like León where it is always hot.”  He also said, “The food on the West Coast is too heavy for Americans.  They can’t digest it.”

“Is your food different on the Atlantic side?” I asked.

“Oh, yes.  We eat light food.  Shrimp, lobster, fish.  Lots of fruit, lots of salad.”

This is Nicaragua? I wondered.  I really must visit that side.


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