Saturday, May 7, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Disclaimer: you may not want to read this if you are eating right now.
Life at the Hogar consists of eating lots of less than satisfying meals. I’ve got a pretty strong stomach, though, and have been a trooper. I’ve had plenty of liver. I’ve eaten a duck rib cage that still had the lungs and large blood vessels intact. I’ve had pork that still had the hide attached (and it was hairy). Soup with chicken feet. Soup with chicken feet the following day, which means the feet started to fall apart and I pulled a chicken claw out of my mouth. Bread with hair baked in. Cartilage can be found in any chicken dish. The beef is sometimes more tendon than meat. Sardines. And a traditional corn tea that they add starch to here at the Hogar to make it gelatinous and call it a meal. But I’ve eaten all of this.
Today, I met my match. I peaked into the dining hall and got excited. It looked like cucumber salad, rice and fried chicken. That should have been my clue. We only have individual servings of meat on Sunday. I thought maybe it was a holiday I’d missed. So we pray outside with the girls and in we go. I immediately realize that not only is it not fried chicken, it’s not even really meat. It looked like chicken skin folded, breaded and fried. One bite in and I smell and taste sheep. Not mutton or lamb. But a living, breathing sheep. Ugh. I gave it two more tries, but then gave up. I felt like I was eating a sheep barn.
When a five year waved her piece at me and yelled “Barriga!” or belly, I figured out that we had been served the omasum of some animal (probably sheep or cow). For those of you who don’t know what that is (and, to show my past professors that I didn’t forget everything), the omasum is the third chamber of the stomach in a ruminant animal. These are the animals that you have been incorrectly told that have 4 stomachs. They have only one stomach with 4 diverse chambers. Ruminants include cattle, sheep, giraffes, etc. The omasum has many folds and functions to remove water from the fermented material of the previous stomach chamber. And it tastes awful. I would tell you to try it, just to say that you had, but it might be hard to come by in the States.
All in all, not a terrible experience. At least I have a good story. So…enjoy your next meal!
Monday, January 10, 2011
So many celebrations! Christmas was wonderful here. We started with mass on Christmas Eve, which was preceded by a live nativity. That began with a kid with a donkey mask walking down the aisle, very closely followed by Mary (so it was like she was on the donkey maybe?) That illusion didn’t last very long though, because Mary stopped to talk to someone and the donkey kid kept walking. The most important part of the Nativity scene, of course, is the baby Jesus. And because there is never a shortage of babies in this country, they always use a real baby, which makes for some noisy Nativities.
|Isaias with Papa Noel-that's not his happy face.|
After mass, we returned to the Hogar where we had a traditional midnight meal to welcome Christmas. They really love fireworks here, so those began at midnight and continued well into the night. On Christmas morning (after a few hours of sleep), Melia and I got up to put out stockings, then cooked breakfast (chocolate pancakes!). Papa Noel came after lunch to hand out gifts. We got hoola hoops for the 5-10 year olds (
dormitory) to share, but they immediately began fighting over them, so we took them back for a few days. Aidee (sassy 7 year old who lies out the wazoo) came to our kitchen that night and asked when they would be receiving the rest of their gift. When I told her not yet, she responded “Well, you should know that EVERYONE in Santa Ana is crying right now!” and stalked off. Love her. Santa Ana
New Year’s Eve found us with another late night party and, you guessed it, hours of fireworks. For this one, we gave out bags of candy and a pair of yellow or red underwear (for money or love, respectively, in the New Year! Those were a big hit.) Then, on the 6th (the Epiphany), a rich family came, brought a DJ and HUGE speakers and threw a party for all of the girls. Lots of fun, lots of sugar, will be followed by lots of trips to the dentist. What’s the next holiday? President’s day? I don’t think we celebrate that one here. Thank goodness.
Aside from parties, there have been other things to occupy my time. One of our dogs, Afra, became deathly ill and immediately began sleeping directly outside my door. Which is ironic because, as of right now, the only thing I could do for her was not step on her on my way out. I really thought she was going to die, in which case I was going to beg to be allowed to cut her open. But she made a miraculous turn around. Completely on her own at that, because I saw what the vet did, and that didn’t have any effect at all.
While Afra was sleeping outside my door, one of her gross, engorged ticks crawled under my door and onto my bed. This is the only explanation I will accept because I refuse to admit that it could have come off of me. Anyway, I killed the thing before I realized that it was a tick, gushing Afra blood all over my sheets. The tragedy of this is that I had just washed my sheets. Big deal you say? Well, we hand wash everything here. I almost cried…and then I left them like that for a few days.
I recently spent my first night in a hospital ever. Not for me, one of the babies had an abcess on the back of his neck. It really didn’t turn out to be too awful because we were at a private clinic (run by Dr. Clever Moron, my favorite pediatrician, and yes that’s his real name). At first, we were going to be at the Children’s Hospital. Which really would have been awful because apparently they don’t like washing sheets either, or believe in patching window screens. And there were spiders on the wall. Thankfully, the director of the Hogar pulled us out of that hospital and moved us to the clinic, were I had my own bed to not sleep in while I jiggled the baby in the one position that didn’t hurt his neck half the night. He’s fine now.
I usually find out about fun little outings with the girls 3-5 minutes before we leave, and so have grown accustomed to being fairly spontaneous. So as I was walking into the Hogar returning from the dentist and Madre Rosario stopped the truck full of girls on her way out to ask if I wanted to go to the pool, of course I said yes and hopped in. (Please note, when I say “truck full of girls” I am referring to a 4-door Toyota Tundra that already has 6 people in the cab and 20 bathing suit clad girls in the bed.) And then I went swimming fully clothed and taught one of my more difficult children to tread water. That was a really good day.
The most recent funny story is that I had chicken feet in my soup a couple of days ago. The funny part is that we cooked this for a homeless shelter in
during Spring Break a couple of years ago, and I was appalled. This time around, I didn’t think too much of it, just fished around them. I really do think it added some great flavor. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. As for the popular question, what happened to the rest of the chicken? I think we ate them the next day. That, or someone just donated a bunch of chicken feet to the Hogar. Be generous with what you have, I guess. Jamaica
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Yes, mango season is here. I love mangos. We have two giant mango trees in the back of the hogar, but they don’t have mangos. Why? Because the girls also love mangos. They get so excited for mango season, that they eat ALL of them when they are green (and then have stomachaches). Fortunately, there are also mango trees at the convent and at another nearby volunteer site. So we have a stash. On Thursdays, the volunteers eat at the convent with the sisters. This is easily our best meal of the week and I always get really excited. Especially for the bowls fruit that we eat after the meal. We’ve had mangos at this meal for the past 6 or 7 weeks. Here’s my challenge for you: go eat a mango, it’s really hard. The Common mangos here are even stringier and juicier than those that you encounter in the
. After a month of laughing at me eating these with juice to my elbows, the sisters began teaching me to eat politely. I’m getting pretty good at it. There are actually many different crosses of mangos and other fruits that ripen at different intervals of mango season. Apple mangos are wonderful and easier to eat. There are also peach mangos, banana mangos (heaven I hear) and others that I haven’t encountered yet. US
Because convent lunch is on Thursday, Melia, Tom, Laura and I are going to be cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for the sisters this week.
and all. If we can find a turkey, that is. When I asked if I could order a turkey at the supermarket, I was told that it was much too early for turkeys. Apparently you can only buy turkeys around Christmas here. I did see a live one while walking the other day though. Turkey
Last weekend, I visited some other volunteers in Yapacani, which is to the east of Montero. I saw a body of water and hills for the first time since I arrived three months ago. While visiting
, we played on a rope swing, and then hiked three hours into the rainforest to see a waterfall, which I drank from. Maybe not the smartest thing I’ve ever done, but it tasted wonderful. While we didn't see any large jungle animals, there were plenty of frogs, tarantulas, ants and a snake to keep me occupied. It was a good day. Amboro National Park
|Saray Masa Rivera|
Life at the Hogar has been going, going, going. We had baptisms in October, so I now have another goddaughter. Her name is Saray, she is almost four, and is exactly as ornery as she looks. When I tell her not to do something, she gives me a look, then usually does exactly that as quickly as she possibly can. We threw a Halloween party where we bobbed for mangos (which I learned don’t float). On my birthday, I watched the Princess and the Frog with the girls. They gave me a frog and told me I had to kiss him. So I did, and they screamed. Last week, we had seven girls graduate from kindergarten, and this week we’ll have three who will graduate from high school. We will hopefully be finishing up our Christmas shopping soon!