Interruptions of a Third World Kind


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Very little has changed in six years since I wrote this story. The kids are older and mama has returned from Costa Rica. We remodeled our house, but we still have a broken plastic chair.  Patricia is still a feast for testosterone-drenched eyes. Walter, our neighborhood fumigator, continues to rid La Paloma of pesky bugs hiding in the crevices of our houses. I have taken him up on his offer to fumigate our house two times before we moved in. I’m still leery of the contents of the spray. I continue to gain a better appreciation for life through these daily interruptions of a third world kind. And, as a result, I’ll never lack writing material.

Interruptions of the Third World Kind

            We live in a bizarre world. I was going to describe island transportation, but as I composed my letter on my laptop, I was constantly interrupted by the strangest events. Thus, inspiring me to describe these interruptions as colorfully as possible (although to get the real picture, you just need to be here).

I enjoy the solitude of the mornings. Julio and Luvis are at school, Ron is fishing, and my words seem to flow with the tranquility of dawn. That was not the case this morning. It started with a morning downpour. In the rainy season in Nicaragua, the rain gives no warning as to its appearance or disappearance. It slices through the sky like sheets of glass demanding one’s immediate attention then vanishes. I have gotten accustomed to these daily barrages, so I knew to shut down my computer before the electricity went out. The rain broke through our tiled roof like a pirate in search of hidden treasure. I gathered the usual pots and pans and placed them in their usual spots. Then, I waited for the sun to break through the holes in the roof displacing the water.

After the mopping and sweeping, I waited patiently for the electricity to return so I could finish my letter. I heard the thump of feet as Luvis jumped over the barbed wire fence. She didn’t go to school today because she has a swollen neck. So, I questioned her about her illness in my halted Spanish. A sideline to this is that I am now able to carry on a conversation in Spanish about the facts of life with Luvis. She is 11 years old and had complained of stomach-aches and cries a lot, so we talked about menstruation.

Another thump and Julio entered the house with two baby birds that had fallen out of their nest. They were wobbling over my bare feet, while Luvis was holding her neck in agony. A few minutes later, I heard an alien sound, a motor of some sort. Luvis and Julio grabbed the baby birds and we ran out of the house just in time to see the fumigator entering their shack. Smoke was billowing out of the roof. Apparently, we have the free services of a Nicaraguan Orkin man who sprays for bugs once a month. He carries a contraption that looks like a leaf blower and generously sprays everything in his path. God only knows what the stuff is that he’s spraying. I modestly declined his services and returned to my letter.

One sentence completed and I heard the drum and bugle corp marching down our country lane. Our neighbor, two houses away, is celebrating her birthday. The band had arrived, the beer was flowing, and two giant speakers were unloaded from the back of a horse cart. The fiesta noises increased with the amount of cervasas consumed. The band’s repertoire consisted of one repetitive song screeching from rusty trumpets. It wouldn’t have been so annoying except for the fact that it was the Bull Fighting song we heard at the rodeo. Disappointed because they weren’t invited, Julio and Luvis spent the afternoon making fun of the band and talking about how mean the woman was to their dogs. They said, “When we see her tomorrow we’re going to ask her if she had a good time at her bull-fight.” “She’s just an old bull.” We laughed and made bull jokes and I tried to work on my letter.

The fishermen returned in a dugout canoe with a big haul of Guapote, rich, fat fish of the lake.  Ron was in the yard gathering the San Sapotes, which were falling from the tree like cannonballs. They are huge, brown fruits that taste like butternut squash. He offered them to the hungry fishermen who broke them open with their teeth and ravenously gorged themselves until their fruit stained faces turned a clownish orange. The wind picked up and the San Sapotes were dropping to the ground like bombs. The fishermen were dodging them like trained Sandinistas evading land mines hidden by a band of Contras.

Patricia, the fantasy of all testosterone-drenched men, arrived at our gate bearing fresh Nacatamales neatly wrapped in plantain leaves. She sat on one of my broken plastic chairs with the bowl of hot Nacatamales on her lap, while I dug into my suitcase for 24 cordobas, the equivalent of $1.50 for four of the most delicious meals I have ever tasted. Robinson, our Spanish tutor told me that our house is now considered the ‘good luck’ house. Patricia told him that before we moved in, she couldn’t sell one Nacatamale, now she can sell all of them. The islanders are very superstitious people. I guess it’s better to be known as the house of good luck, than the house of ill repute.

Exhausted from a busy day in La Paloma,  Ron unraveled the hammock that wasn’t stolen and strung it across the living room for a siesta. We always made sure to check it carefully because yesterday I found a tarantula curled up inside it. My English students told me that it was a horse and dog killer. Although I hate to kill spiders, Julio smashed it into the ground so it wouldn’t bite his four bony dogs. Ron started yelling when he opened the hammock and ran for the scissors. He snipped off the tail of the scorpion that had taken up residence in the hammock. I guess that I should have called the Orkin man.

Julio and Luvis returned our house wearing new clothes. Mama sent them from Costa Rica. Luvis repeatedly hurdled the fence proudly revisiting with new shoes, a bottle of perfume, and a pink blouse that her sister had given her. We picked fresh flowers and adorned their heads for photos of them modeling their new wardrobes. Since I couldn’t send the photos to Mama (They have no idea where she lives in Costa Rica), I amazed them with magic by printing the photos on photographic paper. They had never seen pictures of themselves before. They stared at them for an hour, and then carefully carried them home, sheltering them from the raindrops. Luvis returned to tell me that the photos now hold the place of honor, right below the TV, their prized possession ( up until now).

I think that it’s going to rain again tonight. The lights are flickering. It will be a blessing  if the power goes out because the neighbors are really cranked up now. The trumpets are squealing louder than Papa’s pig. A drunk is yodeling over the blasting speakers. I’m trying to finish my letter before we lose our electricity again.

I used to get annoyed when the phone would ring or the cable went out for a few minutes. From these interruptions of the third world kind, I have gained a greater appreciation for life. My senses are keener, my laughter is genuine, and my sorrow is more meaningful. Lacking effective communication skills, I rely on my gut reaction. I trust people who inspect their daily bowel movements for parasites and I’m leery of those who won’t look me in the eye when they speak. Wherever in the world I string my next hammock, I’m sure to take the lessons I have learned from Ometepe with me.

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6 thoughts on “Interruptions of a Third World Kind

  1. I live en the eje cafetero . Town La Tebaida and state of Quindio. I live near the international airport El Eden. We have 2 flights a week to Ft. Lauderdale.
    I retired here in 2009 when the new prez got elected.
    I have been in and out of Colombia since 1970. My wife of 38 years is Colombian.
    I am from west texas and I really like living here. We live and save money on our social security. I also nwork about 3 or 4 months out of the year in the USA. I am an oilfield drilling consultant.
    We have one daughter and she lives in San Diego Ca.
    I have lived in Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia but Colombia is my favorite.
    If you come down just give us a shout and we will help you all we can.
    I have worked International for 30 years and have worked in 20 different countries. Mostly Latin America and Africa.
    Later
    Frank & Judy Shattuck

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