January, A Very Eventful Month!
The month started off with another trip to Guachipilincito. R was still in town, and I told him that I couldn't be his girlfriend. He was very worried for me, since I was single and 24 years old. He thought he could save me from a horrible lonely fate. It was unheard of to live alone as a single women. His mother saw dollars signs, when I came into his life; so she was angered that I turned him down. The whole meeting was extremely uncomfortable, especially since there were a bunch of little kids watching the conversation.
Next, I visited Don F and his wife, and we had a positive discussion about the work that he wanted to do. It was always nice to visit this dreamer, even though he only talked a good game, most of the time. On the way home, I visited C who asked me for a loan of 100 Limpiras. I told her that I couldn't comply with her request, as it seemed like a rather large amount of money. I was also very disillusioned in our friendship, since I'd heard that she'd been complaining about the gifts that my mother brought. I had brought the family many photos, and a necklace for C, but it didn't appear to be enough for them.
When I got home, I went to tell Dona T about the loan request, as she knew C from when she'd been a maid at their house. Dona T told me that C was leaving Guachipilincito, and moving to the big city of Siguatepeque, where she was going to work in a factory. She was also moving, because her son's dad lived there, and he had given her reason to think he wanted her back. Unfortunately, he was a married man, and things didn't work out for her. She came home pregnant, shortly.
I had planned to give a lecture or charla to a group of farmers from Jiquinlaca. They lived about an hour east of Concepcion straight down the road. My Recursos Naturales counterpart, V, had introduced me to these people, and they seemed interested in the information I had to impart. I taught them about the level A, which is a tool made of two one meter long sticks, and a cross-bow. A string is tied at the top where the two legs join, and a rock is dropped down the front. You turn it from one side to the other to find the midpoint on the cross-bow. With this, one can make level rows of cultivation on a hillside, and then dig it or make a ditch or barrier to keep the soil from washing away. The picture below is an example of a Level A on another day. Imagine there is a string with a rock hanging from the top of the A.
At the class, I did a demonstration showing my new techniques with the Level A, as opposed to traditional planting. I then talked about the erosion that is caused through the traditional planting practices, and why we need to curb it. The farmers seemed interested and wanted to discuss it. We finished with a birthday celebration for the main farmer. Even though I knew my Spanish still had something to be desired, i was content with the day.
I planned a meeting for the next week, also. Unfortunately, the main farmer in this group stopped farming, and began working to pave the road from Siguatepeque to La Esperanza. I never saw him again. All the others weren't as interested, so Jiquinlaca turned out to be a dead end. I also had a meeting in La Guaruma where V's husband was the only one who showed up. This was a common occurrence, and I quickly gave up on them too, especially since no one had their own land.
I had a little side job, while I was waiting for the planting season. I was the photographer for a wedding in town. J N and S C were getting married, and I was invited. I made an album from the pictures. They were thankful to have this momento.
At this point, I felt lonely and disillusioned with all my admirers being liars, and quite a few of my friends not turning out to be friends at all. I had found some nice families in town though, and one of them was the DC family. Don T and Dona T had two daughters and three sons. Their middle son N was a very serious and intelligent young man, who I had met at the feria in December. I bought corn tortillas from this family everyday; so, when he came home from the normal school in La Esperanza, we started a relaxing friendship. One time, I was talking to some little girls at his house, when they reached out to touch my hair. He did the same without realizing. I thought that was sweet. Our eyes would meet across the room, and we would feel a special connection. Sometimes, we would have lengthly conversations. This went on for a couple of weeks, but then something really huge occurred to change everything.
The evening before my 24th birthday, I heard a huge commotion, and looked out my door to see a brilliant, flickering light, where there shouldn't have been one. There was no electricity, so this didn't make any sense. I immediately ran out to the street to see what was happening. Down the street from my room, the store and house were on fire. There were no fire trucks or hoses; so, the whole house went up in flames. Helplessly, we all watched as people tried to put out the fire with buckets of water and garden hoses. We didn't know it at the time, but my landlord's shoe store was being looted, as were other's houses. It was completely horrible chaos! As a child, I had experienced a recurring nightmare about my house burning down. It seemed that this premonition was coming true half a world away! As I stood there, I talked in English to D, a man who had lived in the US for three years. I really felt I couldn't talk in Spanish that night, which was unfortunate, since N was nearby. I could tell he was disappointed and jealous, that I would rather talk in English to another man.
After a while, G's family helped me move all my stuff into their house for the night, in case the fire engulfed the whole block. There were nine children, including four nieces and nephews. the youngest niece was crying, when we went to bed, and her aunt wasn't there. They were still working on putting out the fire. Finally, everyone got back to the house, and we tried to get some sleep. The next day was my birthday. They baked the traditional Honduran Quesadilla for me in an old-fashioned wood oven, like the one at Sutter's Fort. In true Concepcion form, they threw water over my head. I still don't know why this is a tradition, but it is. Maybe, because it's so hot! It was very nice of them to celebrate with me that day. I will be forever grateful!
After that, I moved back to my room. I spent a lot of time organizing and transporting my stuff that afternoon. I have a memory of a whole bunch of kids just looking into my room and watching me. They didn't say anything, just watched me, like it was the most exciting show ever! the night before, I ended up having some money and other things stolen, because there were lots of looters. I will never know who stole it, which kind of bothers me. It could have even been my friends. That was the real problem, because I never knew who my real friends were. That day, my friend D from La Esperanza dedicated a song to me on the radio, and I didn't even hear it. What bum luck! It was my worst birthday ever.
After all this excitement, I really had to get out of town, and I didn't want to leave at 4:00 am with the truck that always left from Concepcion. I decided to start around 7am, waiting at the entrance to town. The first driver to come along was the merchant who lived off my courtyard. He was always asking me to be his girlfriend, but at least he gave me a free ride, after pestering me again. Half way through the ride, he stopped at a cafe for breakfast and a beer, which he drank off in five minutes. After that, he jumped into the car, and continued driving and pursuing me mercilessly. Fortunately, we had picked up another rider who was riding between us. Towards the end of the ride, he took his pistol out of his bag and put it in the holster. At this point, I almost cried, but we made it in one piece by the grace of God!