What Is This?


Guess correctly and win a prize

Ron showed me a handful of these the other day…and I don’t mean the quarter. If you are the first person to guess correctly, you will win a prize shown below.

Seed dolphins

A ten-year old friend carves little dolphins out of these seeds. He’s very talented. So, guess away!

I will be in the states for three weeks. If you are the winner of the correct guess, I will email you for your address, so I can send you a seed dolphin.

Hang in there with me while I am in travel mode. I won’t be able to post regularly for three weeks. Thanks for your patience.

Sharing the Light


Francisco, Esther, and baby Sayid

When Nicaraguan women give birth, they say, “Da la luz.” It means give the light.” I adore that phrase. Three simple words that signify hope, love, and anticipation of a bright future…a shining star is born.

Esther went into labor right on schedule. I was hoping that she would bring forth the light on Cory’s birthday. On our walk to the local hospital I asked Francisco, “Can you attend the birth of your baby?” “I do not think I can help Esther because men are not permitted in the delivery room,” he responded. What a shame, I thought, because a birth is a family affair. “Maybe you can ask the doctora if you can be with Esther when she gives the light,” I said.

We parted a blue sheet that separated the waiting room full of coughing people from the patients, and entered the labor-in-process room. Six beds lined the light green room, each with an assortment of bed linens the women were required to bring for their beds. Frayed posters hung on the walls displaying various birth-control methods and the importance of breast feeding. Francisco wasn’t allowed to enter the room, so he stood at the doorway.

Esther was sitting on the bed close to the open window. “It’s so hot in here,” she panted. I looked for a fan. Nada. The beds were full of women in an array of labor or post delivery. Two mothers-to-be were chatting with their families, another mother was nursing her newborn, and one woman, in heavy labor, was moaning, while her mother stood behind her cradling her limp body.

“I brought you water, food, and a few gifts for the baby,” I told Esther. There are no cafeterias in the hospitals in Nicaragua. In fact, the patients bring everything…sheets..pillows…food…everything. Esther called to Francisco standing in the hallway. “Did you remember to bring rags?” Rags? My imagination was running wild. Rags? “Did you remember to bring me a loose dress when I give the light?” she yelled. ” I forgot to bring rags and a dress,” Francisco lamented. “No problemo,” I said. “I’ll call Ron and he can pick you up on his motorcycle and take you to your house.”

Meanwhile, the sweat was rolling off my eyebrows and into my eyes. “Esther, let’s go outside and sit under the mango trees,” I pleaded. I called Ron, he was on his way, and we settled into 3 metal chairs under the mango trees eating ice cream. “Francisco, ask Esther if she knows how to breathe and how the labor process works,” I asked because Francisco speaks English, too. “She says, the doctora told her to breathe deep and she will tell her when to push..nothing more,” he translated. So, with Francisco’s help, I explained everything in vivid detail, and we practiced breathing through her contractions.

A friend of Francisco’s delivered a plastic bag with more food and a special cactus drink for Esther. Apparently, this Pitaya cactus juice lubricates the birth canal and it is also good for a man’s prostate. “Francisco, when Esther gives the light, will they give her any pain medication or anything?” I wondered. “No,” Francisco stated emphatically, “It is illegal. The baby is delivered naturally with no pain medications.”

When Francisco returned from his house with all of the necessities, Esther was in heavy labor and it was getting dark. Francisco asked the doctora if he could attend the birth, and she replied with surprise and delight, “No man has ever attended a birth before. It will be a first!”

Ron and I returned home, and Francisco lovingly attended to Esther. Sayid was born early in the morning on Cory’s birthday. Esther and I now share a special bond. We both gave forth the light on the same day, 28 years apart.

Francisco spent the night at our house. Esther’s family spent the night with Esther and baby Sayid at the hospital.  I made a big chocolate cake to celebrate our bonds and births of our children on the same day. We invited our neighbors and sang happy birthday in Spanish, then in English. Once again, I am humbled and awed to be sharing our lives and our lights with my gracious Nicaraguan community.

The Human Termites


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Last night, at 2:30 am there was a loud crash that interrupted the sleep of most of my neighborhood. The flashlights scoured the area like a well-cleaned cooking pot, but nothing looked out of the ordinary. Ron thought it was a crash landing of the German satellite, due to hit Earth last night. “Space junk,” he yawned and fell back into a deep sleep. Cory thought it was a spaceship. I guessed the Mango tree had fallen into Cory’s house. Our neighbors thought maybe Vulcan Concepcion had erupted.

With the light of dawn, I saw that a giant limb had fallen off an enormous tree behind our property. The heavy rains must have weakened the tree. “Time for the human termites to do their job,” I yawned.

Last September, after a strong wind storm, a huge dead tree fell into the lake obstructing my view and messing up my beautiful beach. I hired two men to cut the tree and they arrived early in the morning armed with machetes, strong backs, and an ancient ax.

They parked the horse cart beside my beach chair hoping to load the wood into the wagon and cart it off for firewood. “How much will this cost?” I asked apprehensively because it looked like a huge job. “Five dollars,” they responded.

At dawn’s first light, they waded into the warm water and proceeded to whack at each limb with their well-worn machetes. Machismo at its finest!

Meanwhile, Marina, my neighbor, ran over to my house wearing a black velvet party dress and smelling of strong flowery perfume…at 6 o’clock in the morning. Her 77 yr. old husband, Don Jose, has been in Rivas all week with his sick sister. “What are they going to do with all that wood?” she asked. “I told them to haul it off,” I said. “How much are you paying them to cut the tree?” Marina inquired. Discovering that I was paying them 5 dollars, she screamed, “Oh, muy caro!” Very expensive.

“Don Jose isn’t here, and I need wood for my cooking fire.” she exclaimed. “Can I help to pay if we take the wood?” Knowing that my neighbors are very poor ( I had to lend Don Jose $10 to visit his gravely ill sister in Rivas) I said, “I don’t want you to pay. I’ll tell the machete men that you can have the wood.” So, the machete man sent for his 7-year-old to take the horse cart back home.

Within an hour, they had most of the small branches cut off the dead tree and hauled ashore. “How much more do you want us to cut?” they yelled across the dead tree to where I was snapping pictures of their toothless grins. “I want more of the dead trunk cut.” I yelled back. After much debate and a demonstration of where I wanted the trunk cut, they said, “Oh, but it will cost you more money because the trunk is very thick.” “How much more?” I asked.” Five more dollars,” they said kind of apologetically.

So they grabbed the ancient ax and began to cut the thick trunk. Within another hour, they had most of the thick trunk hacked away. The wood was piled up on the beach and Marina’s father,and her son, Julio, carried the piles of wood to their house.

While they were hacking away at the trunk, Marina brought refreshments for all of us, warm bread from the local tienda and pinole drink ( Marina drinks this every morning instead of coffee).

A few more whacks with the ancient ax and their work was done. Not a bad day’s wages for 2 hours of work. Soon, the little termites swarmed to the beach to collect the wood for their cooking stove.Grandpa joined in the collection, and in no time at all, the beach was cleared.

The human termites were remarkable. For $10 I had my incredible view and a clean beach. My wonderful neighbors had enough firewood for a month of cooking. And best of all, we shared our blessings with our lovely community.

Looks like we’ll have to hire the human termites again!

 

Warning! Ultima Hora! Ultima Hora!


I thought you all would enjoy an email I received from my friend, Dr. Tabatha Parker, who lives on Ometepe Island.  She graciously allowed me to share her adventure with everyone. Thanks, Tabatha.

Dear Friends,

So I am hear to tell you about a recent event that happened to me.  Yes I am already completely embarrassed, but here it goes.

I am the first one to tell all foreigners to get a guide if your going to hike the volcano – don’t be a stupid gringo and think you won’t get lost.  I have told a thousand people this.
So last weekend I go to Maderas with a group of friends. Our mission is to hike to Las Cuchillas from Finca Magdelena. We have a competent group, guided by a very competent guide who is a friend of many of us. Great! We are good to go.
The weather was not good. It was awful in fact.  Nestor, my husband, in no uncertain terms is getting out of the car – he decides to stay in the car with Luna and wait for us all — he tries to warn me the weather is going to only get worse, but I am determined to hike, and so Maximo (my 3 year old) and I get the kids backpack on, grab a jar of peanut butter and get ready for the adventure.
mistake #1 (aka listen to your campesino husband who knows weather much better than you!)
For those of you who have done the Finca Magdelena petroglyph walk – well that is where we all started from. We hiked maybe 30 minutes – maybe 10 minutes past the petroglyph gardens, maybe less.  Regardless – we got to a point where it was very apparent that this had not been the best choice for me. Maximo was getting wet, it was raining on and off rather hard, and the nice petroglyph path had quickly turned to a muddy rocky mess that was getting more and more difficult to maneuver with a small child strapped to my back. We had at least an hour ahead of us, so I decided it would be best to turn back before we got too far out.
When I informed the group I was going to go back, immediately someone offered to come with me – but I assured them it would be quite easy for me to return and not wanting to ruin the day, I refused accompaniment and assured everyone I would be just fine.
mistake #2 (aka dumb white girl in the forest that thinks she can tell directions)

So Maximo and I turn around and head back. It becomes very clear to me very quickly that we are totally screwed. I come to the first fork……
and…..
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by……

ah yes – the proverbial “oh shit” moment……..
I realize that this task is not going to be as easy as it first appeared. At first I think I am “tracking” our tracks well – looking for the dogs paw prints, boot prints. Who do I think I am “Indiana Jones?”  But with all the rain, it starts becoming nearly impossible to decipher the mud, a stick scratch, leaves, a footprint – it is all one big muddy mess.  The other problem was that due to it being so rainy our way out,I had my head down alot of the way. Now I couldn’t tell what was what…..was this familiar? had we come this way? I did not remember seeing x, y or z…but maybe that is because my head was down.  Was I THAT unaware. I kept looking for the giant Nettle plant that had been pointed out to me…..where the hell was that NETTLE PLANT!!
And then I suddenly realized I have traversed too many fields and fences that we DEFINITELY did NOT see and I had to accept I was completely lost.  I was so disorientated as to which direction was which, where would be best to walk – what to do….was it the duendes my husband had warned me about (the magical elves that get people lost on maderas?) that had gotten me so turned around?
Then it began to sink in. Lost with a 3 year old, with no water, a stupid can of peanut butter, pants that were now completely soaked and weighing about a ton covered to my knees in mud in a friggin tropical storm, no raincoat, no idea which way to go. How very white of me.
So I decided I should try and get back to where I knew we had been (if that was even possible at this point), maybe put up a shelter and wait for the rain to stop or my friends to return….visions of the headlines on canal 10 flashing in my head…….gringa doctora y su hijo perdida en cerro maderas…..ULTIMA HORA, ULTIMA HORA!

My heart at this point is racing and I start yelling AYUDA!, AYUDA!  Someone has to be out on this mountain somewhere!
And then between explaining to my son that his dad WAS coming to help us, that was why I was yelling AYUDA, trying to yell AYUDA in a happy voice so Maximo didn’t freak out, and trying to calm myself from hyperventilating while walking with my son on my back— I see a young man on a horse!!! AYUDA!!!! AYYYUUUUUUUUUUUDA! Can he NOT hear me???  I start running, and he stops and looks at the crazy white girl. Donde esta FINCA MAGDELENA?  He calmly points up the hill. Just up this road – just head that way. I ask him if he will please bring me, porfavor – that I am afraid I will just get lost again as I know I did not come down this road. He agrees without saying a word and I begin following him and his horse and his bucket of fresh cow milk, my legs sinking into thick mud with each step up to my knees. About 20 minutes later we come out under Finca Magdelena. I had completely overshot the farm…..to far south. WOW – I couldn’t believe where I had ended up. How did that happen?
When I finally got to my husband – he said in his so sweet way- I’m not sure why you don’t listen to me sometimes……then he laughed and said, “the duendes got ya!
So there you have it. I won’t ever again think I can figure the volcanos out on my own. Not even for what seemed like just a jog around the corner.  What couldn’t have been more than 20 – 30 minutes became a nearly 2 hour return….
plus its way cheaper to pay a guide $5 or $10 bucks than the $20 I paid the kid with the horse for saving our life.
Happy hiking,
Tabby

 

Vampire Bats, Scorpions, and Tarantulas, OH MY!


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Halloween..blood oozing from the necks of peacefully sleeping victims..eight legged hairy monsters rising from graves weaving their evil doings..stinging devils ambushing the unsuspecting with a venom so powerful that the prey’s tongue is numb and unable to cry out for help.

Who needs to decorate for Halloween when your worst nightmares surround your every move in the tropics? Four vampire bats are sleeping in my coconut fronds, waiting for the dead of night. When they awake, a heat sensor in their nose will lead them to Princessa’s neck ( the pregnant cow sleeping in our yard) where the warm blood is closest to the surface. Walking on all fours with their bodies lifted off the ground, they will approach my magnificent sleeping beauty like an army of waddling miniature ghouls.  With their razor-sharp incisors, they will make a neat incision without waking her. Then, the vampire bats will lap up her sweet blood with their tongues. Princessa will bleed for hours because the vampire saliva has an anticoagulant which causes the wound to seep for several hours.

The vampires will ambush Princessa night after night. The amount of blood that they ghoulishly lap won’t hurt her. However, diseases such as rabies and Chagas’s disease may kill her, if an infection from the bites doesn’t ravage her pregnant body first. The vampire bats quench their hunger with blood…all kinds of blood. It makes no difference if it is human, cow, chicken, dog, or cat. Blood…sweet blood…it’s all the same in their books. That’s why we sleep with nets over our beds. There are many blood seeking critters in the tropics. The vampire bats, though, are my worst nightmare.

If you have arachnophobia, visit the tropics for a big adrenaline rush of fear. It beats walking through a haunted house where fake, black plastic garbage bag tarantulas are hanging around on clothes lines. Come to our house for Halloween, where you can experience fear without paying a cent. We have hundreds of the hairy eight-legged creatures creeping around our porch, and burrowed in our garden. They are usually harmless to humans; the venom they inject with their fangs is no worse than a bee sting.

Actually, I have come to admire these slow and deliberate moving nocturnal predators. They are fascinating to watch. They spin a trip wire at the entrance to their burrows, alerting them of prey. Then, with their long appendages, they seize the insects, inject paralyzing venom, and liquefy the remains. They suck up the insect milkshake with their straw-like mouth openings..a tasty midnight snack. Yum!

I have nightmares about the stinging devils. I awake in a fearful sweat, unable to cry out for help because my tongue is numb like I just received a shot of Novocaine. Scorpions…hardy survivors of the fittest. They have an incredible ability to adapt to the harshest of environments. When food is scarce (insects mostly), they can slow their metabolism to a trickle, enabling them to use little oxygen, and wait out the insect drought. Yet, when prey is near, they can spring into action quickly. Did you know that if you put a live scorpion in the freezer, you can thaw it out in the sun the next day and it will walk away like it was just taking a little siesta? I’m on the hunt for an ultraviolet light because scorpions are fluorescent when placed under an ultraviolet light. UGH! Scorpions…my worst of worstest nightmares.

Happy Halloween everyone! If you are looking to be scared out of your wits, you are welcome to visit us anytime. Vampire bats, tarantulas, and scorpions celebrate Halloween every day of the year here!

The Legend of El Chupacabra


El Cupacabra and El Duende

Legends of bloodsucking creatures are present all over the world and throughout history. Seven years ago, I read in La Prensa that a young man was lost on Vulcan Concepcion. He had attempted to climb the volcano without a guide and was ill-prepared for the dangerous trek. Those foolish enough to scale the 1610 meter slopes without assistance are usually seriously wounded, lost, or as in the case of the 24-year-old Salvadoran, eaten by El Cupacabra.

My English students told me that the guides found his body a week later.  His head was wedged between two rocks, his leg was broken, and an arm was missing.  Luvis pounded her fist on my plastic table when she heard the news and emphatically stated, “It was the Chupacabra.”  “What in the world is a Chupacabra?”  I asked curiously.  They all looked at me astounded because I had never heard of the creature.

“The Chupa Cabra is all over the world,” Francisco informed me. They began arguing when I asked for a description of the monster.  One of my students said he was half goat, half man.  The other said he could fly and was probably an alien.  Luvis described him with fierce, pointy teeth and an amazing ability to jump from volcano to volcano.  Francisco said he only sucked the blood from goats.  Luvis said, “No, he eats many people on the volcano because that’s where he lives.”  They all agreed that the monster was dangerous and called him “The goat sucker.”

What I did learn to be fact throughout this strange conversation is that the islanders are very superstitious people.  They attribute any unexplained death or illness to creatures such as duendes, women that turn into monkeys, monsters that leave the dark lake bed at night in search of blood, and the famous Chupacabra.

Halloween is coming.  The children don’t celebrate Halloween in La Paloma.  Seven years ago, it was different.  We taught Luvis and Julio how to say “trick or treat” and helped them make masks.

Luvis was a duende and Julio was the Chupacabra.  We taught them to knock on our door on Halloween and say, “trick or treat.”  We were undecided whether to treat them or trick them, so we did both.  We stocked up on cajeta de leche (sort of like fudge) and Ron made no bake chocolate cookies with oatmeal. I dressed up like a fairy ( I even made a tin foil wand) and Ron dressed up as a monkey with a machete.

I asked Ron if we should teach all of the little ones that came to our house for English lessons, about 20 of them, about Halloween and invite them to our house for trick or treating.  But, thanks to Julio and Luvis, we had a better understanding of the superstitions surrounding our community,and we decided it wasn’t a good idea.  Our house was the good luck house in the neighborhood.  Who knew what the parents might think if we told them to wear scary masks and come to our house for candy.  We may have ruined our good reputation in La Paloma.  So, it was only Luvis and Julio that came.

Now that Halloween is approaching again, we decided to forgo the annual pagan tradition. After all, our house is still considered the good luck house in the neighborhood. We have a reputation to keep up. But, I do miss all the fun surrounding Halloween, so I’m thinking of making a poster to hang on our front door:

Wanted: El Chupacabra

Name:         El Chupacabra
Nickname:  The goat sucker
Height:        4.5 to 5.5 feet
Weight:       Unknown
Eyes:          Very large, very red
Build:          half goat-half man, very agile, can hop from one volcano to  another, fierce pointy teeth
Likes:         goats, blood, people, chickens, pigs, dogs, cats, travel
Favorite hangouts:  The volcanoes on Ometepe Island
Reward:     Come to our house on October 31st and receive a piece of candy for any sightings or known whereabouts of El Chupacabra.

Pizza Dreams


Pizza and calzone

It may not seem like a big deal to you, but pizza delivered to our door on Ometepe Island is an exceptional treat! In fact, when we moved from the Ozark Mountains to the Smoky Mountains, we searched for a place where pizza could be delivered to our house. No kidding!  In the Ozark Mountains, we lived 60 miles from the closest red light and beer distributor. Pizza delivery was only a spicy dream. Moving to a tropical island in Nicaragua, we had no expectations of fulfilling our dreams for a hot, spicy pie loaded with anchovies and delivered to our door, until we met Francisco.

Francisco dreamed of pizzas, too. Six years ago, he worked in a local restaurant in Moyogalpa making pizza pies. He learned the art of making pizza from an Italian visiting the island…and he’s never stopped perfecting his craft. For five years, he saved every penny (cordoba) to buy a pizza oven. Then, last year he opened his own pizza parlor, Pizzeria Buon Appetito.

It’s been raining steadily for a week. We are inundated with rain and holed up in our house watching movies, wearing long-sleeved t-shirts, and sharing our Gortex rain coats with our neighbors. “Cory, please run up to Carla’s pulperia and see if she has any chicken for sale,” I begged. But, he returned empty-handed. “No hay pollo,” he said.

That’s when I pulled Francisco’s business card off my refrigerator magnet. “Do you think he will deliver pizza to La Paloma?” I wondered. I ran outside with my cell phone to get a stronger signal. Sheltered from the rain under our closest mango tree, Francisco answered my frantic, hopeful call. “Francisco, my dear friend, can we have a pizza delivered to our house?” ( Francisco used to live in our house before we bought it, so he knew where we lived.)

“Of course, no problem,” he responded. Thirty minutes later, in the downpour, Francisco delivered a steaming hot pizza and calzone to our door on his dirt bike. You gotta love Nicaragua! Where else in the world do pizza dreams come true?

Tepe Time


Unloading my new furniture

If you have been following my posts, you know that it is very difficult to buy lamps and high quality furniture on Ometepe Island. We hired Marvin to make the iron work for our wrap around porch. It was clear that he was very talented, so I hired him to reproduce a baker’s rack to house my TV. My Iron Man

Marvin arrived yesterday hauling my new projects; four bar stools and a lamp. He carted them to our house from Moyogalpa, a distance of almost two miles….with a sprained ankle! ” I have been very worried,” he said. “I am worried that you will think I am irresponsible because I sprained my ankle and couldn’t deliver your furniture on time.” He continued, “With all of the rain, I couldn’t paint them, and then it took forever for the paint to dry.”

I love this man! I reassured him that time was not important to me. I told him that our son refers to time on the island as Tepe Time…slow, deliberate, and tranquil. But, I was concerned about his sprained ankle. He showed me the high top boots he was wearing and replied, “I laced my boots tightly to prevent more swelling and support my ankle. It feels better now, thanks to the grace of God.” What a man!

My finished lamp. Isn't it incredible?

I was going to cover it in mesh and add my pottery shards I find on the beach, but I think this looks better. I just wrapped it in a beach wrap.

 

 

Wow! It sets off the room!

When I go to Costa Rica, I usually buy a few beach wraps. Now, I can change the lamp to suit my moods. I need to find a place in Nicaragua that sells cheap beach wraps. Costa Rica has them in all the tourist shops.

 

 

 

 

 

My four bar stools

Marvin’s mother chose the fabric and made the cushions for my bar stools. His entire family is talented. Marvin has an eye for color and design. His mother picked a different fabric and Marvin told her it wouldn’t match the colors in my house.

 

 

 

 

My bar stools close up

Now, with all the rain we are having this October, we can set around the kitchen counter, instead of our dining room table on the covered porch.

Looking out my kitchen window...waiting for the rain to stop

We haven’t seen the sun for a week! Looking out my kitchen window this morning, while waiting for the coffee to perk..I feel blessed to know the many talented craftsmen and women on la isla. Life is definitely on Tepe Time! My house is slowly turning into my Tepe Time Home….bit by beautiful bit.

El Zaguan…Best Steak in Nicaragua


                                      Filet Mignon

Last week, Ron and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary. Actually, Bill and Hillary Clinton wed the same day and the same year, too. I used to send them anniversary cards, but when we moved to Ometepe Island, I stopped using mail. We have no mailman, no mailbox, and only one tiny post office in Moyogalpa. But, this is a story about steak!

We both had a hankerin’ for a melt-in-your-mouth dainty fillet. As far as we are concerned, the best place in Nicaragua for a tender filet mignon is El Zaguan in Granada. The service is impeccable, the house wine is dry and perfect for my tastes, and the steaks…well take a look for yourself.

We started our celebration with wine ( Wine isn’t Nicaragua’s forte, but Flor de Cana Rum is! I recommend the seven-year rum.). A crunchy, delicious salad was next with real lettuce. ( When you order a salad in Nicaragua, usually it is shredded cabbage.) Then , the mouth-watering, juicy, filet mignon  arrived smothered in mushrooms. After the main course, we ordered mountain grown Nicaraguan coffee and chocolate cheesecake.

My taste buds tingled for a week after the meal at El Zaguan. Now, how much would you pay for a meal like this in the states? Possibly $100 for two when you throw in the tip and the tax? Maybe more?  Our bill, including the tip and the tax, was $48 inclusive. And best of all…we could use a credit card! It is difficult to find places where a credit card is accepted on Ometepe Island.

Have I told you how much I love Nicaragua?

Traveling Salesmen


I bought a bra on our beach!

I was cleaning and raking our beach one day, when a traveling salesman trudged through the deep volcanic sand swinging an arm load of bras. He held out the bras, like a rack in a department store, so I could compare them. “They are very beautiful,” I commented.

“¿Cuánto cuesta?” ( How much?)

He responded, “For you, beautiful lady, only 75 cents. They are on sale.”  Well, who can pass up a bargain like that? I usually don’t wear bras in the tropics…it’s too damn hot. Maybe he noticed. Six years ago, the only Christmas present I received was a fancy bra from my neighbor. I know that she noticed. Since we were making a transaction on my beach, there was no fitting room, so I took my chances and bought a pretty little brown bra. As luck would have it, it didn’t fit. It will make a fine present for my neighbor this Christmas.

Traveling salesmen come to our house almost everyday. The word is out that two gringos live on the beach. They arrive hauling encyclopedias, fruits and vegetables, kitchen tools, clothes, vitamins, and tonics. We try to buy something from each vendor. After all, they walked over two miles along the rutted, volcanic beach path to get to our house. The day the vitamin salesman came to our house, I bought calcium tablets. He tried to sell me vitamin B 12. He said that it would make my husband virile and strong. Jokingly I replied, “Oh, believe me, my husband doesn’t need those pills.” It was my first joke in Spanish. I think I embarrassed him. He blushed, and thanked me for my purchase.

Bargaining and bartering are arts in Nicaragua. I don’t think I’ll ever learn how to bargain or barter because everything is so cheap here. Francisco told me this joke one day about a traveling salesman.

A Nicaraguan traveling salesman is riding his bike home after a long day of selling his wares. He sees a friend walking along the side of the road and picks him up on his bicycle. His friend notices a plastic bag wiggling on the rack of the bicycle. “What’s in the bag?” he asks the bicycle driver. The driver says, “It’s a piglet. I got it for my wife.”  His friend is silent for a moment, then says, “Good trade.”

The mattress vendor

The mattress man walked past our house the other day. When the planting and harvesting season is over, the farmer’s take to the roads to sell their wares. We never know what to expect. Next time, I’m going to buy one of his mattresses. It’s the least I can do to lighten his load. Maybe, he’ll trade for a piglet.