Mice, rice and feeling nice

Unbelievably, we are hurtling towards the midpoint in our stay in Nicaragua and are now a third of the way through. This is slightly terrifying when we  consider how much work is left to do, but having now selected everyone who needs to benefit from the projects, all we are waiting for is the materials to arrive. We might even start building the first eco stoves this week.

Last week there was a mouse in my bed. I was tucked up in my mosquito net, reading a book when I heard a noise nearby. I looked up and there, one foot from my face, scurrying across the edge of my bed and outside the mosquito net was a mouse! I jumped and yelled and the mouse ran away. I went outside and, mouth agape, said to my host mum ” there’s a mouse in my bed”. She barely reacted, nodded and said they are in the house and steal her beans. Then she vaguely said something about fumigating it.

Twice I told the kids about the mouse to see if they’d catch it for me. They didn’t. They looked confused when I suggested it.

That night I was awake for AGES scared the mouse would come back, chew through my mosquito net and curl up at my feet. I woke up at 2 am and heard a LOUD rustling from the corner. I put on my head torch (always at my side for nighttime latrine visits) and I located the mouse in our rubbish bag. I sat frozen for ages then decided to go the latrine where it was safe. When I got back my roonmmate was awake and she was also being scared of the mouse. So with all the courage I could summon, I approached the bag, picked it up by the handle and ran outside to dump it on a barrel. We immediately realised this was NOT far enough away from our room to make us feel safe but there was no way I was picking it up again! So I just went back to bed and lay awake for ages. There was a lot of noise outside but I think it was the pig. Do pigs eat mice? Anyway, I told my host family about the ordeal the next day and they were literally bent over double, crying with laughter. They kept saying the mouse was more scared of me than it, and when I told them how it had stared me straight in the eyes they just laughed more. The mouse has made two appearances since then but after the family’s reaction I’ve tried to put on a braver face.

This week has given me the chance to chat to a few more of the Nicaraguans we are working with. So far I’ve found Nicaraguans to be generally quite shy to begin with, quite like Brits, but they are very open and warm people. When we were interviewing some of the families who will benefit from our project I was paired with one of the quieter Nica volunteers. I asked him how long he’d lived in Bramadero, and he said he’d only moved there a few years go. “Did you like it when you arrived?” I asked, and he said he didn’t because where he used to live was so beautiful, on the Nicaraguan border to the north. I was surprised that there’s somewhere even more beautiful than El Bramadero, and said I’d like to visit. I asked why he had left, and he simply told me his grandfather and uncle had been killed by thieves so the whole family had to leave.

The Nicaraguan civil war ended in 1990, which means the majority of the population lived through it, and fought in it. We spoke with one of the volunteer’s fathers as a learning session and he told us about the history of the town. During the war, he said, fathers and sons and brothers were on opposing sides. The war was fuelled by the fact America funded rebel groups who were fighting the government. They did this openly at first, then secretly with shady deals and CIA agents. The Nica volunteer said not many Nicaraguans wanted to go to America, because of the history between the two countries, though they dont have a problem with England. He said they like Europe in Nicaragua, as countries like Germany have sent many development projects here.

Now I know you’ve all been on tenterhooks and, now we have been here almost a month, its about time to update you on my developing tan. Now you better sit down in case this shocks you too much. I am exactly the same colour as when I left… Almost. Every inch of me is still blindingly white except my nose which is bright red and crusty. In England this would be a turn off but the men who sit and drink in the park are still hollaring at me so I must be doing something right?

More updates next week
S. R. M. C.

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