Lťon, Nicaragua               September 17, 1998

Greetings:

I always knew Lťon had an active anti-mosquito program, even though mosquitoes here arenít bad.  (This could be because they work at it so consistently.)  The rains have been heavy the past several days, eliminating their Independence Day parade, even.  It was pouring down at about two inches of rain per hour when the parade was scheduled.  Ordinarily they would go ahead and march in the rain, but this was a deluge.

Thereís been a lot on TV about malaria and dengue fever and donít-leave-any-standing-water-outside-for-mosquitoes-to-breed-in.  But today I saw the ultimate in mosquito control.

The weavers were still eating lunch when a guy came in and told us we were going to be sprayed in 20 minutes.  ď°Vamanos, Elenita, vamanos!Ē Mirna packed up my stuff and we went out one door as a guy in a mask came in the other with a spray gun fogging the building.  Inside!

We went up the little street where a woman brought out chairs for us to sit on until, in a matter of minutes, the masked man went up the road, walking into each house and fogging it until all the openings had spray fog pouring out.  Sometimes people came piling out of their houses just as the sprayer went in.  They couldnít tell them not to do it.

It sounds drastic and is certainly the most intense spray program Iíve ever seen, but I donít fault them for it.  Malaria is so prevalent here, and now they say dengue; they have to do something.

Lee Cruz is going back to the states after 12 years working in Nicaragua.  Heís going to be missed here.  This morning he brought out his successor, Harold Chavarria, to meet us.  Harold is Nicaraguan and doesnít speak English, but theyíve hired an interpreter to work with him.  Heís had experience working with this type of enterprise before.  Heís charming and interested and Iíll be getting better acquainted with him because weíll be having meetings starting next week.

Iím staying with Mirnaís family now.  This is my first time at her place.  This family is really poor.  Though the house is the biggest one Iíve stayed in, it has fewer amenities.  Iím staying in Mirnaís room, and I was touched by some little decorations she did to enhance it.  One and all, if these women lived in our houses, they would be lovely and they would be clean.

My current room has a dirt floor, although the room at the front has a concrete floor.  My bed is a link-springed metal cot.  The mattress is pieces of not very thick foam rubber pushed together, covered with coarse feed sacks and topped with a sheet.  I sleep just fine.

They donít have a flush toilet and one has to hook up the shower every time one wants to use it.  I feel somehow honored that Mirna felt comfortable enough with me that she wanted me to stay with her family.

They are evangelicos, and I went to church with them Tuesday evening.  Itís the Filadelfia sect.  I liked the minister and even understood a funny story he told about a norteamericano in Matagalpa.  There were people in church that Iíd met before, and relatives of some of the weavers who knew who I was so I felt right at home.  It was like going to the Church of God when I was a kid: lots of music fast and loud, lots of testimonials, lots of men (surprise!).  Iím really glad I had such varied church experiences as a youngster.

Many of the bicycles here have side-saddles.  A side-saddle is a long contraption about four inches wide that fits on the crossbar between the seat and the handlebars.  I suspect itís the invention of some guy whose wife jawed at him all the time about having to sit on a piece of pipe. Or maybe it was the woman who invented it.  Itís really a practical item.  There are many more bikes than cars here, unlike in the US.  Youíll see dads taking three little kids to school on a bike: one sitting behind the seat and two sitting on the bar in front, or on the side-saddle if theyíre lucky.

Sunday Mirnaís God-father took us, a half-dozen kids, and a couple of young women (I didnít get the relationship) out to his motherís place in the country.  It was lovely Ė there was a creek behind the house and we went for walk in the woods along the creek.  Later we walked to another part of the river where there is a lovely swimming hole and several groups of teenagers were swimming.  The boys joined them right away.  The river divides around a giant spread of rock Ė on one side is the quiet pool with a narrow stream flowing out, on the other side is a running stream piling over and around rocks that made me homesick for Puttís Creek in Crown Point, NY, the spot near the fish hatchery.  It was beautiful to listen to and to watch.  It wasnít my idea of Nicaragua at all, so I learned something else new.

This family has one of those rope and wheel pumps (a Bomba de Mecate).  The little boys were pumping water for washing clothes, and they let me try it.  I was surprised at how easy it was to get a good stream of water coming with the pump.  
As I understand it, they are installing pumps like this all over Nicaragua.

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