1. On a daily basis we see cows and pigs roaming our street where we live. Often we see a cart drawn by a huge ox idling past carrying wood for a family down the street. One day we saw a horse carrying spare tyres!! Our dog Petey, unfortunately, loves to chase them and bark at them, which we are annoyed about. Something in his country blood? What is common place in fact are cows and horses on the major roads connecting the two large towns. They are a real road hazard, but like all commuters we just stop and wait for them to pass. One night though we were driving home from Moyogalpa where the port is, and we had to stop because a horse was positioned right in the middle of the road and would not move. Interestingly, we have never seen the remains of a dead animal on the road side, though I must confess Mart has run over a little piglet that darted out on to the road at the wrong time. Poor thing!! Someone took him and it probably ended up as food for the family.
2. Our electricity and water is regularly turned off. At this time of year the water is always off from 7pm to 7am the next day. So much so that we have candles and torches always at the ready, and big rubbish bins full of water so we can wash. We just prepare ourselves and for us its routine.
3. Our house has no closed windows so bugs and animals, namely cats, enter freely. We have mosquito coils often alight when we are sitting down together, or when we are working (one on right now), so the buggers don't bite us much. But they still do. We get bitten regularly, much to Mart's irritation more than me. He is always putting on DEET, though I do apply the spray a lot. As for the cats: we often have cat fights in our house legacy of the fact that a cat came with the house we rent. She has had several litters and one of her first remains with us. Fortunately, with our dog, there are less intrusions from the moggies.
4. Food is simple here: it's chicken and beans and rice. Chicken from Marts micro enterprise is the best. We have an option of processed chicken which is always less meat, and tasteless. But there are also luxuries like cone ice creams for 40 cents, or lovely avocados, bananas and mangos off the trees. It's not quite mango season but I can't wait to have them with my smoothie! Our vegetables consist of tomatoes, potatoes, chokos, and other green veggies not available in Aus. We tend to interchange this with gallo pinto (beans and rice) for the other nights. We tend to be buying more wine this year, albeit from a cask: red is fair, but the White is nicer on ice. The brand is called Clos from Chile. And Mart has now got right into the rum, which he tells me is the best in the world. Whatever excuse.
Do we miss the big steaks, the Thai Laksa, the fish and chips, the red wines: of course, but here it just seems too hot to really crave such lovely food. And our stomachs now find it difficult to adjust when back in Aus. But we usually adapt quickly!!!
5. The church services dominate the rhythm of life. Right now we are in Lent so regularly there are afternoon stations of the cross processions with people trailing behind a life size figure of Jesus carrying his cross. And of course with that are the bombas, and the band playing trombone and trumpets and drums. It is all culturally interesting, but for us now, especially during Easter when the all-night vigils start, we get quite annoyed and bothered. Nicaraguans love noise!!! It is almost as if they need noise to break the agony of the malaise most find themselves in; a kind of distraction to their situation. And as for the faithful, the celebrations give the people hope that with God and the Saints they will be spared from disease or calamity, and will inherit a life after this world better than this. So they faithfully keep doing what they have always done, never questioning, never doubting, for this may create havoc for their interior world, not that there is much inner reflection or critical thinking here.
6. The heat and the dust!! We love the heat now, so much so that we get back to Melbourne we feel cold all the time. It is not as dry as in the hot days in Melbourne, but the humidity is high so we always sweat. We drink lots of water, but that is all. It is lovely to have a consistent climate, where the nights are always balmy and the days steadily at 34 with high humidity. But we cannot get used to the dust. It is dry season at the moment, and windy as well. Our concrete floors are regularly mopped, but they quickly gather dust. Electrical equipment cannot cope, and my computer is dying as a result!! Like Melbourne we long for temperature changes, so we are looking for the May rains which will mean not just a cooler climate, only 32 in the day, but less dust!! We reckon we get sniffs and coughs more this time than in the rainy season because of the dust in the air. Clothes always filthy. Tables, chairs dirty. Ugghh.
But even with the dust, life has its rhythm here. It's a different rhythm to Melbourne, the pace is slower, the things we achieve in the day less. Life is simpler less complicated. It's not easier, in fact we would say there are so many things that create huge stresses for us, but we have adapted. We think that too for the Nicaraguans here: there is a cultural malaise because of the deep wrestling with poverty, the heat, the dust, the low expectations for a productive future. We can leave, and so the best thing they can do is find a meaning to gird their life: alcohol or the church. We survive with plans, with intensive focus on the work with SALV, with routine, with church. It is humdrum but we feel so privileged to be here. And our time is nearly at an end. Mmm.
So what will it be like when we return?