Wednesday, October 18, 2006

La Chelita

A new addition to our life here...La Chelita. After two weeks of stress (and neglect of the blog), we finally found and bought a camioneta, or pick-up. It is a very manly mobile(big tires, no power steering). Honoring the Nica tradition of naming your automoble after your loved one, we named it La Chelita. This translates roughly to¨little, light (skinned) one¨. It is common here to have nicknames based on your appearance, for example, el gordito (fat one), la negrita (dark-skinned one) etc. So, La Chelita both suits the white color of the car and the name of Brad´s loved one.

Top 10

Top 10 favorite things about Nicargua so far (in no specific order)...

1. Maduros (fried, matured plantains. Very sweet.)
2. The Italian Restaurant in Matagalpa (nothing is better than homemade ravioli after eating rice and beans, in different combinations, at every meal).
3. Fruit, fruit, fruit...bananas that taste like apples!
4. Las Vacas (the cows). They are really cute, and its not because I´m a vegitarian. They have big ears (Cynthia).
5. The great love Nicaraguans have for American 80´s music
6. Veggie burger made from the flower of a banana tree
7. Our neighbors, especialy their daughter, Sareta who yells ¡Hola! and ¡Adios! whenever we come and go from the house.
8. The smell of clean floors (Brad).
9. The smiles of people who get rides (after a long and drawn out process, we finally bought a pick-up truck).
10. Diminutive language...Nicaraguans love to add ¨ita¨on the ends of words. There is no equivilant in English, but basically means smaller than small. So instead of saying ¨frijoles¨, someone might say ¨Frijolitas.¨
Bonus: Seeing green in October!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Catching up...

Last Friday Cynthia stayed home instead of going into Matagalpa for her class. She spent the morning with our house assistantVeronica who took her around town to buy some staples: frijoles (beans), cuajara (a type of local cheese), crema and arroz (rice). These four things, in different combinations, are used for every meal of the day. Veronica also taught her how to clean and cook the beans San Ramon style.

[Cynthia]: That morning I learned another important bit of local knowledge. Our arch enemy...the parrot, has a name. Lora (actually this is what parrots are called in Nica). And, Veronica talks to and whistles with it while she is working. This may explain why the Lora feels so comfortable making a racket and practically sitting in our living room. This is where the enemy sits for most of the afternoon (the view is looking up from the courtyard in our house) taking advantage of the sweet acoustics.

Things have been moving along here in Nica. Brad´s work is gaining momentum, while I´m perpetually frustrated by the fact that I am not fluent in Spanish immediamente! I did not realize how tiring it is to learn another language (as many of you know) because your brain is always doing double or triple its normal function in a conversation (recognizing words, figuring out the context and a response). Still, we are having lots of adventures...

[Bradley]: Lets begin with our first hike led by a friend and neighbor William. William came by the house around 8:00 a.m. to invite us on a long anticipated hike through the mountains surrounding San Ramon. San Ramon is in the base of a bowl of mountains rising up to 22oo meters. The town rests at about 800 meters. William suggested we go "up there" (pointing in the direction of a large mountain in the distance) which would only take "a little while." You know about 1-2 hour walk on a fine sunny Sunday afternoon. was the most beautiful day we've had so far. Oh, and the hike took 5.5 hours and we covered about 18 kilometers. Peter (Cyn's Dad) would've been proud.
Here's Cyn and William on the road from Ciares toward La Garita. Cyn and I weren't prepared at all. You see in Nicaragua folks who live in the campo - countryside - have a different sense of distance and time. When you ask somebody, like a local, where something might be, and they explain that its right over there, you may not understand that "right over there" may mean half a day's walk. With smiles and no particular place to be we just lugged along up to the top of Cerro Apante home to many local farming communities and a natural bioreserve. Apante separates San Ramon and Matagalpa. In fact, Matagalpa is seen faintly in the next foto.

So Matagalpa is about 8 kilometers away in this foto, abd you can barely make out the cathedral in the center right. Hiking isn't the only thing tiring us out lately. Cynthia is still pushing the envelope with her workout vids and Bradley just joined a local soccer team - The Pumas. Although Cyn's work out vids are SUPER exciting, its earthshattering that Bradley has put the cleats back on again... He started in his first game last weekend and had one assist (tie game 3-3). He played the first half in defense and moved into the center forward position in the second half. He's playing with a bunch of whipper snappers who can run...he's still recovering. Below are some pictures from the first days ceremonies - a parade of league teams (Brad's team is in black and white stripes) and a photo from the local pitch (field).

Brad's work is coming along. He was recently invited to participate in the 15th Annual Assembly of the UCA San Ramon - the local cooperative business that helps find coffee markets for its members coffee. He also facilitated the first of many youth forums bringing together 15-25 year olds from the farming cooperatives. He has been asked by the cooperative to help develop a youth-based curriculum for community service and to find a strategy for supplementing the rural education system with alternative courses. He has just started talking with the local university about collaborating. The picture below is from the elections at the UCA San Ramon's assembly. The picture is of the newly elected members of the committees which oversee the work of the directors and make all the key decisions in the organization regarding loans and repayment, technical education and outreach, and transparency. As you can see they are swearing to an oath overseen by a lawyer, municipal official and the delegates. This day was very impressive for the formality and professionalism exuded by all in attendance. A very special organization. (First on Left is a friend Harold and Third from the left is my neighbor Sebastian).

Cynthia has been busy with classes (of course) but still finds time to paint some beautiful works of art. See her below working on a new experiement in our living room. And look at the product! And bids?

We love the fruit here in Nicaragua. Everyday we eat fresh produce and drink yummy tropical drinks. Below is one of our favorites...Pitaya. Its a purple fleshy fruit from a cactus like plant. The seeds are crunchy and the flesh is like jello. The flavor is not too sweet, its the texture that is soooo good. If you make this into a refresco (refreshing drink) you might add sugar and some lime juice. Or just cut it in half and eat with a spoon!