Monday, April 26, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

Yesterday I completed another year, as they say in Spanish, and I decided to take stock with a list of things that have happened since my last birthday. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. I visited two new countries - Guatemala and Nicaragua - and lived in one of them for the majority of this year.
2. I learned how to make tortillas by hand.
3. I got really good at speaking Spanish.
4. I acquired two new families, one in the south of Nicaragua and one in the north.
5. I ate beans almost every day.
6. I rode a horse exactly three times.
7. I had my first experiences with intestinal parasites. Verdict: not as scary as they sound.
8. I read a ton of books.
9. By some miracle, I did not get a sunburn one time.
10. I ran a 10k race, my first ever.
11. I taught my first yoga class in Spanish.
12. I paid a sum total of $200 in rent.
13. I spent a full month with my younger brother - more time than we have spent together since our childhood.
14. I grew a vegetable garden.
15. I picked dragon fruits, lemons, and guanabanas from my backyard.
16. I learned that living without running water is not as difficult as it sounds.
17. I got good at washing clothing on a cement slab. (I even think they actually get cleaner that way.)
18. I made several new close friends.
19. I learned to tell time by which bus is passing by my town, e.g. The Big Honker at 6:30, The Red Bus at 7:30, Santa Inez at 11:00, and Chico's Bus at 1:30.
20. I developed the habit of washing my shoes after almost every use.
21. I ate a lot of fertilized eggs, aka huevos de amor, and I came to believe that they are many times superior to unfertilized eggs.
22. I learned to make soy milk from scratch.
23. I slept most nights underneath a mosquito net.
24. I saw 3 scorpions - inside my house.
25. I felt cold twice.

Overall, it was a great year.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Home Shopping Network

When I was in high school my mom’s side of the family took a vacation to a resort in Mexico. One of the things my cousins and I enjoyed most about that trip was that while we were lying on the beach any number of vendors would pass, selling silver jewelry or wraps for our hair or tee shirts. We loved looking at all of the wares, bargaining with the vendors, and purchasing souvenirs, all without moving from the beach. My aunt called it “The Home Shopping Network”.

At my home in Nicaragua, something similar happens. For the most part, you can’t buy anything in my town. There are a couple of houses that have makeshift shops that sell basics – soap, sugar, homemade popsicles – but for anything else I have to travel an hour and a half to one of the bigger cities. Sometimes, however, people will come through town selling items out of a truck or out of a pack.

In front of my door have passed people selling used shoes and clothing, electronics, DVDs of American movies, ice cream bars, and pots and pans. The best is the fruit truck. For some reason the fruit guys always make the biggest commotion when they come through. They’ve got huge bull horns mounted on their trucks, and they advertise their prices as they roll through town. “Avocados three for twenty cordobas! Papayas cantaloupes watermelons! Bananas ten cordobas a dozen!” Only the acoustics are really bad (and it’s in Spanish) so it sounds like that unintelligible voice that comes through the speaker at a drive-through window. “A-WA-wa ba-ba-TA-ba dee-bee-bee-BA-ba”. You can hear them coming long before you can see what’s in the truck, so I always have to ask my neighbor if it’s the fruit guys or the guys who come by to pick up old car batteries. (Which, by the way, is somewhat of a mystery. The car battery guys seem to come through quite a lot considering that no one here has a car.)

I always go overboard on the fruit. The last time the pineapples were on special, four for a dollar. “What if I only want one?” I asked. “A dollar,” the man said.
“Let me get this straight. It’s four for a dollar, and if I only want one it’s still a dollar?”
That week I ate four pineapples.