Parties and Pinatas

Hard to believe, it’s our last night in Miraflor.

A last ice-cold cup-shower, standing naked and shivering in the little cement room looking up at jungle trees and turquoise sky, as the dirt of the day washes from my body.

I have never felt more tired in my life. But follow Martina to Marlon’s parents home, across the street. They are incredibly well-off, by Miraflor standards, she tells me.

Martina has brought them a blue plastic water filter, and after kisses and greetings, sets up the terracotta filter and spigot.

Marlon’s mom takes me for a tour of her garden, piles of roses, and the freshly planted amaryllises that line the path to the outhouse.  She gives me the tour, speaking no English, and somehow my exhausted brain pumps out bits of Spanish in response with a series of tired smiles.

When we return Martina is resting in the hammock. She sits up, smiling, “There you are. I’m really impressed, one minute you’re snapping photos, the next minute in the garden I find you laughing and conversing in Spanish–I never have to worry about you. It’s so nice.”

She waves off my excuses that my Spanish is pathetic, “But you try, you’re learning. It’s means more than you think. To them, and to me.”

I appreciate the compliment more than she knows. It’s been so wonderful having Martina as a tour guide, knowing full well she has her hands full with her “day-job” that the last thing I would want to be is a burden.

As the sun sets we feast on a dinner of Myra’s amazing fried chicken with our frijoles and tortillas.

After dinner, fresh lemonade is spiced up with a little rum, the pinata in the shape of a red car, is pulled out and filled with candy, and hung from the living room. Everyone has a turn, blindfolded, spun around and then swinging. When it finally bursts, candy rains from the ceiling and adults and kids dive on the floor in one sweating, laughing mess.

Then the music is cranked up. We all get up and dance, sharing dance moves and goofing off, until we collapse on the living room bench. One happy, smiling heap.

I climb under the mosquito net, guarding my rock-hard bed, one last time. The pig settling down for the night grunts like a frog, being stepped on and sends Martina and I into fits of tired giggles. And, eventually, sleep.

Interview with a Nicaraguan Coffee Farmer

We stop our horses in front of a narrow path, leading up a steep hill, through stands of banana trees.

Horrific high-pitch squeals screech from massive, mud-covered pig, as farmers in dirt-covered shirts and rubber boots, drag it’s front legs, inches at a time, towards a waiting truck.

I feel my breakfast churn in my nauseous stomach as the clumsy, but determined, farm animal drags the farmers backwards and the scene starts again, from the beginning, with horrific high-pitched tortured squeals.

No one seems to notice. Spencer and I grimace. A shared joke about our relative inability, as city-dwellers, to survive were we ever left to our own devices. At least, we’d probably have to go without bacon.

In a dirt-floor room, Martina sits down to talk with the first farmer. Their faces are light by hazy sunshine, fingering through the inch wide slats between slabs of rough wood. The room empty, but for a bench, a chair, and the people within.

The farm, a community leader, with a careful mustache and soft voice, patiently answers Martina’s questions, as I slink around the room, self-consciously playing the part of the photographer while my camera clicks mercilessly through their interview, trying to interpret the soft light, the cool shadows, and the other farmer (with massive handlebar mustache that screams “machismo”)  and woman (who will later, shyly, let me photograph her kitchen — which I will learn is the Nicaraguan standard, wood fire “stove”, a wood plank of mis-matched dishes and the very non-standard luxury of a blue-canister water-filter which Martina secured for the family), listening in the shadows of opposite doors.

My ears listen, jealously, as Martina comfortably switches to fluent Spanish. She asks fluid, detailed question after question while never missing a word from her farmer.  I, on the other hand, with my four years of school, catch a word here or there and have to remind myself to not drown out the unfamiliar sounds, but do the work to grasp at the syllables. I want understand more Spanish, not leave it just to Martina to interpret for me.  But it’s a constant struggle (to learn and not grow lethargic in growing heat of the day, the sore back muscles from the ride, the lazy melody of Spanish spoken much too quickly for me). When I put down my camera, I force myself to listen for the sounds long after my head aches and my ears feel like they will bleed, searching for one more familiar word, one more new word I can look up when we get home to my little travel dictionary.

And, Martina, with a tired smile on her face, just as sleep deprived and sore as I…keeping up conversation long after my head has shut off. I listen to her carry the conversation further and I try again to understand, as I orbit around their interview snapping photos. A stream of clicks trying to find the right light, the right angle, intensely worried I will come nothing close to what being here, now, feels like.

Standing in the dusty, silver-gold light of a Nicaraguan kitchen, listening to coffee farmers.