Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Surrogate mum and a mouse in the house

I'm a bit behind on writing I'm afraid because we spent a few nights on an island not only with no Internet, but also no running water and intermittent electricity, in a house with a non English speaking family.

This was the homestay part of my trip, the part I've been most nervous about. We were all paired off and allocated a family in a village called Los Angeles (yes, really) on the island of Ometepe. Ometepe is a volcanic island composed of two volcanoes (Concepcion and Maderas) in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.

The ferry ride to get to the island was awful. It was quite windy so it was really rough and the ferry we were on felt like a slave ship. We were below deck and each time we hit a wave water came flooding through the cracks in the sides. There were quite a few sick bags being passed around and my stomach jumped out and slapped me in the face a couple of times!

Mine and Christine's 'mum' for the stay was called Doña Carla (Doña is a term of respect, a bit like we might say Miss or Madam. Men are called Don. To attract the attention of someone you don't know you can call 'Don!' or 'Doña!'). 

Carla is 42 with 3 children and (I think) 3 or 4 grandchildren. She was 15 when she had her first child. We didn't meet her husband, we're not even sure if she had one but we met her Dad as were leaving. The whole family live on a little plot of land, each with their own house and share chickens, pigs and a couple of dogs. They also seem to share children as we could never work out who was whose Mum.

In the photo is me, Carla, Christine, Carla's Dad and some other guy. I've no idea if he was Carla's son, someone's husband or a neighbour but he gave us a lift to the ferry on our last day.

The house was a simple brick structure with a tin roof and concrete floor, one bedroom which we slept in, another living area which we never saw and an open outdoor kitchen. Carla was very hospitable, despite the huge language barrier, between us we did a lot of miming and she was very patient as we tried to explain in very broken Spanish what our plans for the day/evening were. She spoke very slowly to us and you could see she was trying to work out the very simplest way to say things to us.

On the first evening we had a street party where each family brought some food and drink and some of the local girls demonstrated the typical dancing. Or guide then attempted to teach me some Salsa and the local dance the bachata (I was terrible at both). Our family went home early and when me and Christine tried to sneak through the kitchen at 11.30 Carla and her Dad were sat up in the dark in complete silence and scared the living b'jesus out of us. We felt like naughty teenagers trying to sneak in holding our flip flops.

The following day we had a tour of some of the island and visited Charco Verdi (literal translation 'green puddle'). It gets its green colour from the algae living inside it. To get there we had a short trek through herb gardens and plantain groves where we got to see a little vine snake and some howler monkeys lazing around in the trees.

We had dinner with Carla and tried very hard to make conversation but again the language barrier was a problem. Dinner was a very simple but tasty dish of grilled chicken, rice and beans. As we were talking/sitting in awkward silence I spotted a tiny mouse running to and from the kitchen area. He was quite cute! 

In the evening one of the host families invited us to a house party where there was a lot of rum and loud music. Some of their dancing was amazing, they didn't stop all night and were sweating so hard they looked like they'd just got out of the shower. Watching was exhausting enough for me!

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