It’s been a week of all things new in Parcila. There was much excitement on Monday when a two-metre-high cardboard box, sitting on a wooden cart pulled by two heaving bulls came into town. The monstrosity was unloaded and sat clumsily in the living room as we stood in anticipation waiting for the grand unveiling. As news of the new box spread, the living room started to fill with ardent viewers, all giggling and smirking cheesily.
“Es muy bonito.” “It's very pretty” were the comments when the new contraption was finally revealed.
The brand spanking new fridge freezer, sparkling white with a neon yellow safety certificate attached, seemed a bit incongruous in the sparse surroundings. Under normal circumstances, a fridge wouldn't excite me greatly, but having been in Parcila for over a month, such luxuries seemed like a world away. Excitement ensued as conversation turned to what could be kept in the strange cold box. We could keep chicken and Pepsi and even chocolate! It was all too much to bare.
The following day was equally as thrilling. I opened my window to be greeted by my usual morning scene - a mule, a horse, two cows and two feeding calves, several cockerels, pigs, hens, chickens, a few dogs, a cat and a six-year old riding an oversized adult mountain bike, all within a five-meter square radius. However, today nine bright pink piglets made a new addition to the scene. The huge ‘chancho’ (pig) had given birth to nine babies at 3am in the morning, however only seven had survived - apparently the reckless mother had rolled over and squashed two of them.
The mother pig wobbled, the tiny creatures suckled, the British volunteers ogled and the Nica volunteers looked on bemusedly, wondering what all the fuss was about. It was a bit touch and go when a local boy attempted to pick up one of her two-day old babies and the crazed mum nearly rammed him into a ditch. Over the days, the little creatures got bigger and braver, straying further away from the overprotective mum. One even made its way into my shower, a fact which caused me no end of amusement.
Wednesday saw a bigger addition of new things - just shy of 500 fruit trees arrived in the community, which were to be distributed to Parcilian families, giving much needed food security. The fact that not one of the trees was labelled didn’t faze our Nicaraguan counterparts, unlike the nine baffled Brits, who smelled, tasted, prodded and generally fondled the trees, none the wiser to the different species and varieties. One of the many things I’ve learned in my short time in Nicaragua is how to distinguish between ‘naranja dulce’ and ‘naranja agria’ (sweet orange and bitter orange), a fact which may or may not come in handy when I am back in Glasgow.
The final surprise came at the end of the week, following a two-day trip to Estelí. Having arrived rather sweaty and dishevelled from the half hour uphill slog from the bus stop, I was greeted with warm ‘holas’ from my host home. I was paraded me through the house and out into the patio with excited chatter, letting me know that I was in for a treat. The newly build stone path was the first surprise. Under normal circumstances this would not generate much delight, but to me this was a godsend. When it rains in Parcila, the patio fills up with so much rain that a trip to the loo requires wading ankle deep in mud, making it feel like an ordeal of epic proportions. This new path would save this monumental effort for the whole family.
The second surprise and the icing on the cake was a newly constructed open topped black box at the end of the path. A new bucket shower, almost three times the size of the old one had been constructed in my absence. Again, to a newcomer, the three metre square wooden frame covered in black plastic would not cause much excitement at all. However, for the previous few weeks, I had been having a bucket shower in a neighbouring tin box, about the size of a portaloo, which had a three-inch gap on either side of the hinges, meaning that the entire family could witness me absurdly throwing buckets of ice water over myself, while simultaneously trying to cover myself at the same time.
The new shower was open air with beautiful views of a hickory tree, which towered above it. A white barrel filled with water stood on one side, whilst a mound of stones piled waist high, stood on the right, its purpose to wash clothes on. It was the Nicaraguan equivalent of a brand spanking new bathroom and top of the range washing machine. Following a few days of water shortages, I finally got to try out the new bathroom. I splashed myself contentedly with buckets of freezing water in the spacious new surroundings and I could not have been happier.
Although these new things may appear relatively insignificant, they all contribute greatly to improving the lives of Parcilian people. A new fridge allows a family to open a shop and bring in much needed income, a few fruit trees provide much needed food security for families who may have lost their entire years’ worth of crops because of drought, and seven new baby pigs bring much needed financial stability to families. As for me, this week of new things has brought a renewed appreciation for the generosity of my host family and their desire to share the little that they have with me. It’s both heart-warming and humbling at the same time.
Written by ICS Team Leader Laureen Walker