More often than not, days at Jacinta and Roger’s house start at the early hour of 4:30am when my new nemesis, the rooster, decides to try and out-sing his barber shop quartet. For the next hour, I struggle to get back to sleep as the remaining farm animals begin to rise and also continuously check the mosquito net is firmly closed. At 6am its time for the much enjoyed early morning workout, and like most other days we have an audience. The locals watch on fascinated by the way we exercise on the floor to blaring music and attempt to do pull-ups on a tree branch.
Tired and humiliated by 7am, it’s time for the first visit of the day to the Glastonbury-esque porta-loo. This is followed by ‘desayuno’ (breakfast) containing rice, beans, tortilla, a weird orange vegetable and some delicious and much needed coffee. During breakfast we are also treated to some entertainment in the form of several members of our host family hilariously trying to catch a crazed turkey in search of his Mrs. After a brief play with the kids and washing our dishes it’s time for a shower, and by shower I mean using a bucket of cold water and repeatedly tipping it over your head. While it’s not quite the same as a relaxing bubble bath it’s incredibly refreshing. At 7:50am, its time to apply the factor 50 and hope I don’t end up looking like a tomato before we head to Mama Rosas - our base of operations.
Having taught an English class for the Nicaraguan volunteers the day before I almost immediately regretted offering a helping hand with today’s lesson as it would have meant an extra hour in bed. Fortunately, I am mostly needed for the role of designated photographer, as it’s a revision session, but I also help to recap feelings and emotions through the use of charades.
At 9am, our Parcila team splits into two groups, with one half focusing on preparing our talk for an upcoming climate change meeting. The rest of us spend some time brainstorming ideas for teaching school children about climate change, with face painting a popular suggestion. We also focus on a series of activities for the locals who expressed an interest in learning and remembering their English from previous cycles with more charades and a spelling ‘bee’ competition the notable mentions. A quick break is taken at 11am to see some new born pigs before the real work begins… spreadsheets. More specifically spreadsheets determining the allocation of fruit trees based on our survey the week before. Despite my eyes being permanently square from Excel, we update the spreadsheet and sort the allocation, spending 10 minutes to hunt for digging tools before returning home for lunch at 12pm.
However, before ‘almuerzo’ is ready our second workout of the day begins… playing with the kids. From somewhere they have managed to find a skipping rope and the carnage begins. Once they are bored of that (about five minutes later) it’s on to tag and the profuse sweating that comes with it. Thankfully we are saved by the call that lunch is ready. Lunch consists of more rice, beans, tortilla and cheese, unfortunately it isn’t Red Leicester. With the break lasting until 1:30pm, I try to get some peace and quiet down by the river just minutes from our house and where I start chapter two of my first book. A second coat of factor 50 is applied before heading off for an afternoon of hard labour.
This starts with the arrival of our fruit trees, all 477 of them, ranging from mango to lemon and everything in between. Safe to say they take some time to unload, which leads to a macho competition about who can carry the most at one time. Three trees prove the winning score, although several are dropped in the process. Muddy and exhausted by 2pm we are then shown a demonstration of how to plant the trees before planning the best way to divide them up. Eventually we form a plan to go in groups to a set number of houses and determine exactly where the trees should be put based on the copious criteria. We also inform the families how to maintain them and that we would then be round later in the week to plant them.
Next up at 4pm its time for the UK volunteer’s Spanish lesson and a frantic rush to complete the homework set the day before. Without copying (mostly), it gets done and we learn about using different tenses and congugating verbs, based on my attempts it’s unlikely I will becoming bilingual any time soon.
Despite now being mentally and physically fatigued at 5pm, it’s time for some football with the locals on the school pitch (imagine a small Wembley stadium without the grass, with lots of rocks and on an incline). Despite the conditions, we try our best to keep up with the impressive Nicas. Dinner is at 6:30pm preceded by another quick once over in the ‘shower’. For ‘cena’ we are treated to fried plantain (slightly resembling chips) with rice and egg soup. With it getting dark shortly after 6:30pm, it’s time to drown myself in mosquito spray. Its then time for a night trip to the porta-loo. While at first this was a nerve wracking experience (not knowing what might be lurking inside), two weeks in and using the toilet in the dark is a normality.
At 7:30pm, the evening is spent teaching several UK volunteers and locals how to play poker, although half way through I realise I don’t know entirely how to play. With dominos and matches being used as betting chips it proves a confusing affair at first but fun nonetheless. At 10pm, we walk back to Jacinta and Roger’s house in the dark, watching a sky full of stars as we go. Its then time for bed but not before a quick check around the bed for scorpions. Thoughts then turn to the schedule for tomorrow, interspersed with plans to murder the rooster…
Written by ICS volunteer James Hayward