Winter has finally started here in San Dionisio, and with them come some new challenges and opportunities. Last year, there were sporadic rains during summer, and it seemed less hot. By the end of this dry season, it was really dry. This year however, I have been periodically without water for about a month and water storage has been a problem. I try keeping two 5 gallon buckets filled with water- one for drinking, one for bathing and cleaning - but that has not been so easy. The water sometimes came on for a few hours during the day or night, but I live alone and am oftentimes not home during the day. So, I had few opportunities to fill up. I bathed in the river a few times, not a bad proposition because the closest river to me happens to be the town’s best swimming hole, where a small creek cuts through a layer of rocks and there are some jumps and shade at all times. However, by the time I got home I was usually muddy, dusty, and/or sweaty.
Doing laundry became a challenge. I wash my clothes at my host family’s house, and when nobody is there, they naturally keep it locked. On several occasions, their water resources were too low for me to use. Other times, when they were home and there was water, someone was washing for them, making use of the limited times water was available. Now that the water is back, I have quite a bit of clothes to wash, and hope that the aquifer recharges and the issues come to an end. I live near the top of the community, and friends living “abajo” say they have rarely lost water, so it must be some sort of pressure problem, which keeps the water they do have flowing only downhill.
Now that the rains have come, there is another problem in that hanging clothes outside does not guarantee they will dry. Rains inevitably interrupt the drying process, and cause mildew and mold to accumulate if not watched carefully. Sometimes my host family is on alert and will take my clothes off the line when I am not home, but sometimes they are not there to do me that favor. Several pants and shirts have small black splotches on them, some sort of mold that is next to impossible to get off.
After just a few rains, there are already some large puddles around town, and pools of standing water where runoff goes. In larger cities, the sheer volume of trash thrown on the ground blocks up the feeble drainage systems and can cause flooding if not attended to. The radio station in Managua plays a public service message telling people how many millions of Cordobas they are wasting each year by continually cleaning their drainage system, and I assume they do not include flood damage or other losses in their estimation.
Rains also are loud and keep me up at night hitting my thin tin roof. They make casual trips to town or even the local convenience store harder because you risk a soaking when stepping out of the house. I am in the middle of a stove building project, and I can no longer leave concrete outside to dry. Bugs and other critters are looking for new homes away from a flood prone place, and some flying ants seem to think my house is up for grabs. I have also found a small snake in my house recently, and the frogs are everywhere on the street. This time last year, I found a scorpion in my house, and I am on alert to flip shoes over before putting them on.
With all that said, I have been really looking forward to the rains coming back. It is a much needed change in pace from the heat and I no longer feel like I am being baked alive in my house midday. The dusty, hot and brown summer is over after it seemed to drag on and on. While it remains almost unbelievably bright, infinite shades of low grey clouds hang over the tired slopes around town, occasionally showering the land in live giving water. The rains mean that the fire scorched fields in the countryside sprout new life - corn, beans, sorghum, millet or simply grasses. The scrawny cows have food again, producing more milk and lowering the price. Farmers will have something to bring to market in a few weeks, renewing their yearly economic fortunes and providing for some disposable income.
For me, it also means that one of my jobs- planting school gardens, will come to fruition. Although we could have started planning and building fencing etc. earlier in the school year, the rains have changed people’s mentality and teachers are much more interested in planting now. This past week, I got some good calluses digging post holes with a 6 sided iron bar with a wedged end. At another school, we reinforced their passion fruit trellis, and I gently pulled the clinging curly parts of the vine off a mango tree and twirled them to the new scaffolding while the kids did the real work attaching metal wires across the expanse.
Although I never ended up buying a fan, it was hard to sleep without showering first, and my house has no shade from the midday sun. The project house that I live in was built after hurricane Mitch by my host dad, the former town engineer, and was somehow kept by my host family, along with theirs. It seems like an afterthought for them, and has not had a tenant until me, so nobody really planted trees or kept it up too much for the last 15 years (I finally got one of my windows to open after living here over a year). When I got there, there were no trees planted, and the ones I did were sometimes killed during weeding.
I guess that’s all I have to say right now, I am thinking of the states and especially the food as of late, even the lemonade on a TV show made my mouth water the other day!