As always things continue to cruise right along in my site and elsewhere. It is surprising that it has already been a year since I was swore in for the first time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bolivia. Not quite the halfway mark of my service (because of transferring to Nicaragua) it is still a milestone in my book.
Some of you might be wondering what I did on my birthday and Easter this year. Of course my birthday happened to land on the day before Easter which is a very important time for most Latinos mainly because of a huge percent of the population being Catholics. In Nicaragua it is very common to go to the beach or just swimming in general. Since there is a lake in my site, we spent a majority of our time there relaxing, swimming and playing soccer. People came from the nearby pueblo and one day there were about 200 people which is a huge increase considering I am the only one there most of the time when I go swimming.
Of course on Semana Santa they don’t eat meat (fish and other seafood not included) and work takes a backseat for a while. Not eating meat is not really a big deal considering it is a rarity when I get it in my site anyways but it lead to some interesting experiences. Since it is a special week they tend to eat special food, during Christmas it was killing and eating a cow… for Semana Santa it was sardines and snails. Sardines are common here and I was expecting to eat them but snails?!?! This one caught me off guard a bit. I saw a bucket full of snails, quite large too. The shells were about the size of a quarter or bigger. I have heard of other cultures eating snails but it never would have dawned on me that Nicaraguans do. Can you guess how my host mom prepared the snails? I bet you did not guess in scrambled eggs. Yep, just good old fashions scrambled eggs and snails. I ate it but definitely don’t think I will ever have to indulge a craving for snails. So, my birthday finally rolled around (happy 24th) and I must say that it started out much better then my birthday in Bolivia which consisted of me lying in bed with dengue fever feeling like crap and not wanting to do much of anything. We did not get to kill a chicken on my birthday (custom with my host family) because of the no meat religious rule so maybe next year. The sardine substitute had to do instead. We decided to go the lake and join the hordes of people. I decided to play soccer for a bit the only downside was that I only had sandals so I ended up playing barefoot. Usually this is not a problem; I have done in numerous times before and nothing has happened. This time though the sun and was so strong and the ground so hot that I got a huge blisters on the bottom of my foot (strangely only of my left foot) the largest being about the size of a silver dollar. The only problem was that I did not realize that I was getting blisters and the big one broke and then it got filled with dirt and dead grass. Needless to say I quit playing soccer and limped home. The most interesting part about the whole thing is what happened next was when I got home. My host mom asked what happened so I told and then she said she had something that would help. She immediately comes back with an old coca-cola bottle filled with a yellow color liquid. I am thinking that it is some soothing ointment or what not. So she pours it on and it turns out that it is not a magical ointment but rather gasoline. I don’t know if pouring gasoline is doctor recommended but my foot has yet to fall off. I am not really sure what purpose it served but the next night my host mom put a ball of cow fat on it and smashed it down. The campo recipe to heal an open wound… gasoline and cow fat. The cow fat worked wonders and in the morning my foot felt a lot better and it was free of all dirt and dried grass. I figure next year I am just going to lock myself in a room so nothing bad can happened to me on my birthday. I guess we will have to wait until next year. While you guys were enjoying March Madness in the States there was a little basketball action down here too. The pueblo that I live close too held their first ever basketball league. A friend of my asked me to play and of course I accepted. There were only four teams (basketball is not that popular down here) but the competition was decent. There were several people who played at the university level in Nicaragua. I would compare that level of play to that of a medium sized high school in the states so definitely not the best but fun none the less. Nicaraguans take their recreational sports seriously down here. They buy uniforms of professional teams and then put their own names and numbers on the back. We are the Miami Heat so now our team is equipped with knock off Heat jerseys. Not only do they buy knock off jerseys but they have a finals like the pros. In our case it was only a five games series but still in a season that was only nine games some would say that it is a little overboard. My team actually ended up winning the championship and of course a trophy which is about two and a half feet tall. Each player also won a medal which is a nice memento from Nicaragua. I also play on a soccer team which plays every Sunday. My team consists almost entirely of people from my community but we never practice so there is very little team unity but we still manage to win every now and again. I don’t think a championship is in our near future but it helps pass the time.
As always, Brandon