So I am officially settling into my new place. I have almost been here a month, this I know because next week rent is due. Also I had a small gathering as a housewarming, marked by Raly bringing gifts of glasses, Spanish study cards and flowers from her garden. Originally it was to be bring your own glasses or a game of pass the bottle or box, but Raly saved the day and got me a very lovely set of glasses which I really enjoy having. The story of the glasses is that when I moved right before the brigade it involved a Nica mototaxi for my 2 bags and backpack and then from Los Angeles after work my clinic bag and a Thai bag filled with kitchen utensils, pots and pans and plates from Tony. This last bit happened on the back of his bike, so I thought it was wise to leave the actual dishes that might be breakable for another venture.
Another sign that I am settling in is my growing relationship with the family I am renting from. The houses in which we live are quite literally a walkway apart. The woman whose house it was that I am renting now lives with her sister, mother and father in the house next door. Her brother, his wife and daughter live right behind them. There are 2 dogs (Dukkie and Panthera), a cat with no name (like the horse only without the desert or the song, and apparently it’s soul purpose is to eat “rattones” – not to be confused with the “ratas” that would eat the cat!), two parrots (who for the first 4 days I lived here thought was the family yelling at me or the little girl being tortured, turns out it was the parrots at the corner by my living room, they have been moved even though they were a great alarm when mine didn’t go off), 2 pigs from what I can tell, an assortment of chickens and roosters (anyone that tells you roosters only crow in the morning has either not been to Nicaragua or is lying to you), and the occasional horse that gets chased past my window from the garden. Another brother lives next door to the mother and fathers house but they don’t talk with him much.
The first week and a half I lived here I kept to myself a bit more due to trying to be quiet and not bother them and being tired when I got home during the brigade. I had only had a few interactions between setting rent, moving, getting gas for the stove (yes it is all gas, and yes I still have my eyebrows and haven’t badly burned my fingers from using a lighter to light it and finally yes this is likely because I haven’t been brave enough to actually bake anything yet) and the electricity going off. So it took me awhile to meet everyone and know their names (I am still working on this last bit).
Since I have been riding my bike to work and coming home earlier, somewhat closer to daylight I am more apt to chat with them for a bit, or usually longer. They seem to be most fascinated with me and my food. I honestly believe that they don’t think I eat and that I can’t cook. The first time I had the doors open and was cooking I think almost everyone was at the door watching. The other night when I cooked they literally came in to stand over me and watch. I am not exaggerating in the least. Another note about living here, doors are always kept open – both for light and for fresh air. This means that it’s basically an open invitation for people to pop in and out and snoop about. Back to cooking and eating, the little girl Neyelli will often come in while I cook, snoop in my fridge and ask for random food. And then if it is hot the family insists I eat outside in the fresh air, where they usually watch me eat and comment on whether I like the food here or that they didn’t think I ate. The day they saw me preparing chicken breast fillets from the bone was another very well-attended moment, which if I was being completely honest I’m sure would have been filmed back home. They also like to chat and tease me about my poor Spanish, ask about English or French words or tease me about my habits and sayings. I am sure I am a constant source of amusement here. Especially to little Neyelli, who insists on speaking to me at night and plays with my hair, clothes, jewelery, pats my skin and repeats almost everything I say. Her family teases her that she is in love with me, and I’m not sure if it’s more a joke or she just is fascinated. Her aunt Ashley is becoming quite a good friend, she helps me with Spanish words, invites me out walking with her and is really patient. Although for the record she has a habit of cheating at cards. Her sister and brother (Rubenia and Gorman) are also really good to me, but tend to tease me more openly but invite me out a lot as well, for instance tomorrow we are going for soup. Their mom and dad (he is known as Peter Pan, no joke) also like to chat with me, the mom about food as I have asked her to teach me some local dishes and the dad about Ashley and English as he is taking lessons. The family also helped me hang my clothes up last week when I used their pilla to do my laundry. A pilla is a cement sink with a one half being a cement washboard used for washing clothes and dishes and preparing meals.
This brings me to chores. I usually like to think of myself as clean and fairly tidy, maybe a little disorganized, but also that I can manage myself. I realize and can admit that I have always had help, be it my mom when I lived at home or friends who insisted on doing my dishes (and yet never letting me do theirs hmmm) but I didn’t think I needed hired help. So it came as a surprise to me to think of hiring someone here to help me look after cleaning my house, laundry and cooking. I have talked to many people, both before coming here and then once I arrived on whether it was a good idea/ necessary or not. Finally I was convinced it was. I figured ok maybe once a week, or once every two weeks would be good, apparently I was wrong. Here it is more customary to do a full clean everyday because of the open ceilings and the dust and wind. So we (Tabby and I, mainly Tabby due to my rudimentary Spanish) talked to the family about this, they had offered previously as 1) it’s a way to make extra money and 2) as the mom said Rubenia would be cleaning the house anyway. So we made the deal, daily to sweep and dust, once a week for a more intense clean and possibly laundry. I opted to cook myself as I was hoping for one way in which I could take care of myself. And today was the first day. And it was splendid to come home to. But it was super awkward at first, mainly because I was here as I didn’t go into work until later today while she cleaned, and apparently it’s weird to offer to help out when you are paying someone to clean (I checked with Tabby on this earlier). Of course last night I did a little straighten up and made sure the dishes were done so they would not think I’m a complete disaster. I am sure it was a bit weird as well for her this being her house and now with my stuff all over it.
So it is life here, settling in and getting into a routine. A view of the lake from my front door, the moon rising over the volcano my back door (have to stand a bit on your tippy toes to see the volcano). Ride to Los Angeles or the hospital in the morning and then come home to open doors, open conversation, a curious kitten and an even more curious little girl.