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Current Location: Home with rented room, Esteli, Nicaragua

10.04.10

Price of beer in a bar: US$1.07 for the 12 ounce bottles we had the other night; then again, a liter is only US$0.78 more.
Song currently stuck in my head: Teenage Witch (The Eels), which, in turn, puts Friendly Ghost, Jungle Telegraph and Dog Faced Boy in my head…. Maw won’t shave me, Jesus can’t save me.

The weather has calmed and stabilized here in Esteli. For a few days the rain and flooding was so bad that the buses weren’t even running, but now it’s back to the normal rainy season pattern; partly cloudy until early or mid afternoon, then rain (intermittent or sustained, light or heavy) until the early evening or into the night. In my limited experience this is typical for highland rainy seasons in Central America.

We could have attempted to arrange our travel so as not to coincide with, say, rainy season in Esteli or hurricane season on a Caribbean Island, but why bother? Grid skipping like that would have made things much more complicated (not to mention expensive) and the chance of it benefiting us is close to nil. Trying to predict sub tropical weather is a fool’s game. Even the lifelong locals sitting around watching cable weather channels at Mango in Utila couldn’t guess that afternoon’s weather with any accuracy, so I’m not about to presume to plan a trip a year out playing inclimate hopscotch. And also, what would be the point? I want to see the bad weather. If I’m to make any decisions about life in a given area I *need* to see the bad weather. I’ll do everything I can to keep The Girlfriend out of the path of a hurricane, but if we’re trapped in one I’m very interested in seeing the local response.

So we bought an umbrella and no longer consider ourselves housebound. We’ve been hitting the markets (central and super), doing a little tentative cooking, watching TV and soaking up bandwidth; it’s not a bad life. I hope to go out and get some photos today and we’ve been discussing language schools in the area. My Spanish is at the level where 1) I can only speak in the present tense 2) I can navigate the hell out of a cafe or bus station, but that’s about it. The Nicaraguans speak more quickly than I’m used to; it seems like an appropriately challenging learning curve.

I feel entirely safe in Esteli. The woman who runs our house is British and has been here for about a decade, running various non-profit programs. She walks around alone after dark (as do the other two girls here) without concern and, thus far, without incident. Everyone reiterates the same stance. Our house is highly secure with multiple stages of locked entrances and thorough use of burglar bars. Such bars are the norm throughout Latin America, though they tend to unnerve Americans. One reason for them is that windows here seldom lock; they’re often glass louvers or completely glassless screens. Gaining entrance would be a trivial matter in the absence of window bars. Latin Americans also have a kleptomaniacal reputation (“don’t temp thieves” is a common preamble to written advice about how to secure your things) and the actions that earned it are largely an accepted part of life.

Don’t get me wrong, this is hardly unique to the region; it just manifests differently (hence the common American aversion to window bars). It’s not as though my parents leave their country home with their windows open. We damn sure wouldn’t have done so in Chicago unless said windows were high and inaccessible from the ground. The difference in, say, Utila, is that the burglars will bring a ladder.

I washed my laundry by hand for the first time yesterday. I’d seen this done a number of times, but it always just looked like women were very angry with their husbands pants and beating them mercilessly against a rock in the river. I know plenty of travelers who live by the “wear one, wash one” rule of packing where they carry two basic outfits and wash one of them at the end of each day, but I’ve never gotten into the habit myself. Now I may. I soaked my laundry in a bucket of water and detergent for about an hour and a half, then rubbed it briskly against a concrete washboard built into a basin here at the house. Next I rinsed it by bailing water from the wash basin, dropped it into another bucket of rinse water and then hung it on the line. I’ll investigate the results later today. I think I’d prefer using some sealable container (like a bucket with a lid) and agitating the hell out of the soapy laundry in there, but maybe it’s premature for me to offer “helpful” hints to the people who have been doing this for generations.

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