The families we are placed with are better off than average. Luisa has electricity, a desktop computer (no internet), a house phone, a television and her daughter has a laptop. However, we only have water three days a week, for about 6 hours in the evening. There is a sink with a tap and even a bathroom inside with a toilet and shower. But there isn’t running water by counter, so they wash dishes in the sink with water from a bucket filled outside. There’s a space lined with tile in the corner of the L-shaped counter that is about four feet deep and filled with water. There’s also a huge black water tank outside and two big metal drums- one by the lavandera and another by the inordoro. The lavandera is the big stone table where Luisa washes the clothes and the inordoro is basically an outhouse.
And yep, there’s no A/C. Thank goodness it’s “winter”, though during the day the sun is brutal. And the metal roof just heat up until being inside the house is like sitting in an oven.
Later, mi mama washed some of my clothes, which was no easy task. I stood in awe watching this little brown woman working my t-shirt against the grooved stone surface. She rubbed a round brick of soap on the fabric and then scooped some water out of the “pila” (a sunken space filled with water). Then she commenced to work the clothing against the stone with strong, sure strokes that spoke of years of experience. She didn’t pause from her work as she asked me “washing clothes is easier in the United States, no?” As I watched her bent over the stone, her arm muscles straining as she vigorously scrubbed, I was at a loss for an appropriate response. The answer was a definite “yes” but I hated to emphasize the already obvious economic disparity between our lives.
Afterwards, I hung the clothes up on thin wire lines strung between trees farther from house, while chickens ran underfoot (not hers, someone stole hers). I got to try at the back-breaking lavandero and worked up a sweat as I washed my underwear. While hanging that up, there was a hard thud nearby, then another. I saw mangos on the ground from the trees 20 feet in the air; it makes me scared to walk outside. I asked Luisa if she ever ate them and she gave me a response equivalent to “duh, all the time” (that’s a paraphrase). She went out among the fruit trees by the house and gather some, which then we washed from the tank outside and ate with our hands. Standing outside eating fresh mangos, surrounded by tropical trees and plants as we took a break from hand-washing clothes; I think this is when it really sunk in where I was. I’m in Nicaragua.
Then it started to rain (surprise) and we had to run out and hang the clothes on the porch. It rained long and hard for hours. I tried my hand at washing dishes without running water- not easy feat but oddly soothing- and took a nap. Sure why not, I am in Nicaragua.
After a dinner of cooked verduras (like squash or cucumber) and tostones (fried plantanos bananas with salty white cheese), I was sitting in the living room, watching their little TV with Alma, when there was a hard boom. She didn’t even blink, telling me it was the mangos hitting the roof. Towering trees dropping hard baseball-size fruit on a metal surface over our heads- well, you can image the sound. A little later a hard thud next to me on the couch- a black bug the size of a freaking egg had dropped beside me. I had just swallowed my scream when it took off in flight around the room. Luisa assured me it wasn’t dangerous (el conchico) before non-chalantly picking the winged beast up and putting it out the window. It was inside flying around again in 5 minutes. Oh yeah, I’m definitely in Nicaragua.
Side Note: No one speaks English here and I’ve been talking Spanish for 2 days. I think I’m doing ok, I’ve been able to tell jokes, unless they’re laughing at my mangling of the language. Luisa and Alma say my Spanish is better than the last volunteers but it might be because I talk more. Talking in Spanish is really important to becoming fluent. Well, anyone who knows me, knows I’ve never been afraid of talking…
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