Christian Ross

When in Rome…

There are any number of reasons why one might wake up at 5:00am two days in a row beating his alarm clock by a good hour to hour and a half, I just haven’t figured out which one it might be yet. Could be that he is just excited to get the day started, it could be that he knows that’s a perfect time to make sure he gets a shower, it could be that he hasn’t adjusted the hour time difference internally yet, or quite possibly it could be that in Jinotega, Nicaragua the 4-5am time range is when everybody arises. Especially the bus drivers and their ability to lay on the horn multiple times directly across the street at the station. I prefer to think I’m doing it to show my respect to the locals.

Slight change in plans yesterday, got moved from house building to painting a church in Yanke (pronounced Yankee). We referred to it as “pintura con la leche” which loosely translates to “painting with milk” as to the fact that the paint was thinner than the 2% we drink at home. We put several coats both inside and out and felt terrible about the outcome but were assured by our drivers/translators that today they would be covering it all with an oil-based paint to finish it off. A little happier to know that we just primered the walls and weren’t leaving it at that.

My buddy for the day was Javier (not that we were assigned buddies). Javier was a Yanke local, and by local probably lived three miles down at the bottom of the hill and must have started walking up as the van drove by. He is eleven and relatively soon after he got there was asking me if there was anything he could do to help. I obliged and let him do as much milk-washing as he card to take part in. He spent the entire day with us, working more than a few of the people on our crew even, and then shared my lunch with me (my offer, he would have never asked). I am thankful that he did knowing now how far he lived I am sure he wouldn’t have eaten anything until dinner. We finished up pretty early and headed back bringing Javier down the mountain and dropping him off at his house along the way.

On our return drive, we were a bit taken back at the sight of 20 or so locals standing along the road staring into the ravine at a body down there. Now there’s a chance the person may have been just inebriated, but by the looks on most of the women and children’s faces he faced a certain different fate. Not sure if he had been hit by a car or even how long he had been there but it was an interesting sight none-the-less.

We also passed a van of about six nuns standing on the side of the road looking to be in the process of changing a tire on their vehicle. We questioned Harvey our driver multiple times about our need to stop and help but he assured us that they just had a flat tire and they would be fine. I hope the Pope isn’t mad.

A shower upon return to the Mision and then a couple of guys and I spent a couple of hours drinking some of the local coffee at the local Starbucks equivalent. Great place, good coffee. Dinner, a little time going over the day, and then dealer at the Poker table to round out the evening.

Work day numero uno was a success. Today, I build a house.

I couldn’t stay away for too long

While the brevity of Twitter is useful, it is also quite restricting.

We have arrived safely at our destination and have all began to get settled in. Two services today, the first here in Jinotega and the second this evening in a small town about ten minutes from here called Apanats.

Spent about 3 hours walking the city with a couple of guys just to get an idea of the surroundings. It’s been almost ten years since I was in Jamaica but I don’t even remember them being as poor as the people here. The people of Nicaragua take great pride in their appearance, but seem to care very little about their surroundings. You see many of the locals sweeping their shops and trying to keep them in decent shape all the while the streets, sidewalks and parking lots are completely covered in litter.

On the outskirts of town we passed what seemed to be a dump, smoke rising from the trash piles on a hillside and the tough sight of people walking along parts of it looking for what one could only assume food or treasure.

Tomorrow we begin our work and I have signed up to help build a house for one of the local church members. I was informed that our only task is to raise a structure and put a roof on it and to leave it completely unfinished. This is due to the fact that if her house is too nice her entire family/extended family will decide to move in with her without much choice on her part. The lesson was learned the hard way a couple of years ago when a house was built for a separate elderly member and finished out with interior walls, electricity and plumbing. Turned out her son actually owned the land it was built on and once finished, he had her removed from the property and moved in on his own.

I met Miguel today. Miguel, or Michael as he was practicing his English for us, is a 24-year old resident who now takes care of his three younger brothers (14-18) after the passing of his father three months ago to stomach cancer. When I asked if the residence we were standing next to was his house, his only response was “this is my father’s house.” Miguel is actually one of seven kids who’s mom left over nine years ago and was visibly upset that the youngest sibling of them all, a girl, was now being forced to live with his older sister in Managua. At 24, Miguel has seen more life than most other men twice his age. I hope to work with Miguel tomorrow.

I fared pretty well for meals today. As Meatloaf said, two out of three ain’t bad. Breakfast consisted of a cooked-to-order omlette, ham, bacon and a fresh croissant. For lunch we were served a surprisingly good breaded chicken with some jalapeno flavored rice among others. I at least made an honest attempt to try one of everything on my plate. Skipped the beats in line.

Dinner, on the other hand consisted of a slice of white bread, carrot sticks and some local chips. That was my decision in lieu of the sloppy joes that others took part in. Haven’t had one in years and didn’t want to break the streak.

Among many other reasons I wish my wife would have made the trip, all of the couples that are here ended up getting private rooms with private baths. Probably going to take Mike up on his offer to use their bathroom in the morning to get ready after they are done.

Got just a few minutes before we get locked out of the main building so I better wrap up, not excited about the idea of sleeping on the computer room tile with three less locked doors between me and the elements.

More later if time permits.

Again, smaller tidbits have flowed semi-regularly here if you care to follow: http://twitter.com/christianross

Jinotega, Nicaragua

Starting tomorrow, I will be flying out with 19 others to spend the week in Jinotega, Nicaragua hopefully helping to do some good for the people there. I am assuming that access to the modern devices we take for granted will be limited so there’s a possibility that I will be un-gridded for an entire seven days. I am guessing by day there might be a small breakdown on my part.

Due to its succinct nature, the easiest form of mass communication for me would probably be Twitter, feel free to follow along this week (and regularly thereafter) and I will do my best to post interesting finds about my stay if possible. I am not taking a huge camera so hopefully my phone will suffice and hopefully I won’t get in too much trouble for hanging on to it.
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A Meal in Venice, 1978

A boy sat playing chess with a sailor—beating him soundly by the looks of it—and another sailor sat drinking and reading a newspaper at the bar. The owner came out; he was a short but large man, balding, and he wore a rather soiled white apron. Teel asked him if he made a fish soup. The man paused, and then asked how long they could wait for it. Rick and Teel told him—as long as it took, they were in no hurry. Wine and bread was brought to the table and then the man emerged, apron-less, from the kitchen, carrying a large basket; he nodded at them and walked out.

An awesome, albeit too short, story of a couple’s dining adventure in Venice: http://www.clusterflock.org/2009/01/a-meal-in-venice-1978.html

The story also references the question of “Where/what was the best meal you have ever had?” Рwhich of course I have no answer for. If I had a tale like the one in the above, there would be no question.

What about you? Can you name your most favorite meal/dining experience in life?