A night like any other night in El Bramadero waiting with my host family before Birmania (our translator) and I headed up to Casa de Doña Dolores to spend some time with the other volunteers. The strange smell of burning taints the air and invades the nostrils. Unlike the sweet scent of the pine burning in the stove, it was akin more to the aroma of burning hair. The sudden presence of this smell brakes the calm and comfy atmosphere and a more serious feeling takes over all of us. At this moment Sixto, our host father, leans forward and tells the tale of ‘El Cadejo’ the two ghostly dogs that accompany that scent. Unease walks with us as Birmania and I head out into the night, the words of our host father still with us. The legend of other worldly hounds, one black and one white, who trail behind travellers after the sun goes down. The white hound, I’m told, is a demon bent on making you lose your way and drive you insane, while the black hound is a virtuous spirit sent to protect you on your journey. They sound far away when they are near, and near when they are far away. They mimic your every action and grow larger the longer they follow you. The tale of these creepy entities that roam the Nicaraguan night are just some of the things that you could never predict would happen on a placement like this, in the weird and wonderful place named El Bramadero.
In the land where the chickens catch and eat mice and everyone greets you with cries of “Oye, Luis!”, because you look like someone’s brother, it’s not hard to imagine that many things that you could never predict to happen on this placement, happen. Experiences I have always believed don’t have to be enjoyed at the time, but will always be enjoyed later when you come to remember them or tell others. For example, you may not enjoy finding a fist sized tarantula in your cosy Baño (toilet), but later you will enjoy animatedly telling others of how you squashed it with your shoe, or even, thinking that your room was struck by lightning but realising you would actually be dead and the host family is laughing at you. Other experiences are enjoyed at the time such as swimming by waterfalls or being peed on by the youngest in your host family. One experience was so unpredictable and surreal that I won’t even begin to try and describe it, but it involved waxing strips and tweezers and trust me it was weird. Good and bad moments make the experiences and the experiences make the adventure, so hopefully all the volunteers, both Nicas and Brits, have something good to hold on to when we return to our normal lives in two short weeks.
The Brits have supplied me with some anecdotes of the bizarre to amaze you with, and I shall attempt to do them justice with dramatic summarising. One film night, after enjoying Slumdog Millionaire dubbed in Spanish with the community children, we survived a 6.2 magnitude earthquake as we were trying to drift off to sleep. The epicentre was a few hours away in the capital Managua, so only a few heavy vibrations were felt in El Bramadero but it was still something to write home about. A few weeks into our placement one of the host fathers, a 70-year-old man who can barely walk, wrestled a highly venomous mountain snake off a roof and preceded to turn it into three snakes with his trusty machete. In our adventures with the Health Brigades in El Jocote (a town close by) tales of horrors from the translators of peoples’ ‘down unders’ not functioning as they should, return for unwelcome visits to our imaginations every so often when we close our eyes. These are just some stories from our time here that will be shared with family and friends on the drive home from the airport.
The penultimate week is upon us with only a short time left in the community we have come to call home and precious little time is left to spend with the people that have become our second families. Things have begun to wind down, all the eco-stoves we aimed to build have been completed and the materials for the water-filters rapidly disappeared from the corner of our team room as the days passed this week. Still a great deal of work to be done.
Our fourth and final event was on Friday and, rumour had it, it was our best one of the cycle. As the Olympics in Rio are in August, the final Charla was Olympic-themed combined with the ever looming topic of climate change. We had a blast and so did the community as we competed in the long jump, hammer throw and a relay race, ending with an ‘up and coming’ local team taking the podium. The fun of the day trailed off into a relaxed melancholy as the team felt the tug of heart stings realising that the great adventure was soon to come to a close.
Written by ICS volunteer Robert Cutting