Up with the dawn – as usual – Bob and I walk the waking streets of Dario. See it cool and quaint. Men with oxen make their rounds delivering lena (stove wood) gleaned from all nearby bushes and trees, for the breakfast fires. No wonder there’s a sparse treeless environment surrounding every village. Women with children carry straw baskets on their heads filled with the day’s wares; fruits and vegetables, fresh baked bread and rozquitos (flour cakes filled with cane syrup), pork and chicken; looking for the perfect location to set up for the day.
The small colonial houses are set close together on the decorative cobblestone streets, like almost all the streets we travel that are not dirt or newly paved asphalt. As the doors open to the morning we get a voyeur’s glimpse of life inside: beautiful antique tile floors, sparse stucco walls with an occasional painting of an old sailing ship or decorated ancestor, a pharmacy selling everything from hula hoops and junk food to drugs and bottled water.
The heat of the day is not upon us yet. Give it a couple more hours. It’s the dry season or verano, a good time to be checking water levels and functioning of the wells put in by El Porvenir. We meet up the our El Porvenir crew at the favorite local restaurant down the street from our hostel Seeds of Learning. Elaine gives me ‘a lick and a promise’ on the alien aspects of PC’s and Excel. Both totally frustrated, we hope it’ll all work out in the end, when we must post our data.
We switch vehicles. Elaine, John, two larger members of El Porvenir, and the luggage are crammed into a tiny Suzuki and off to Wiwili in the far mountainous reaches of the country bordering Honduras. Elvis drives our truck, Jimmy shotgun, Bob and I on the benches in the tarp-covered back with the gear. “Three hours to El Sauce with a stop in between to do our first surveys. I’m ready,” I’m psyched.
“Yea. And we’re lucky. It’s cloudy and breezy,” smiles Bob. We’ve checked the weather of our destination on line and it’s one of the hottest driest areas of Nicaragua. We leave the paved road to the isolated communities of Caracol and Monte Grande. Jimmy and I do the household surveys in the former, while Bob and Elvis check the water systems in the latter. Slow going until we get our ‘sea legs’. The process goes like this: An El Porvenir staff member introduces us and asks if they will answer some questions about the functioning of their water systems and/or latrines. They all agree and have no problem letting us check them, take GPS readings and photos. Though the families are poor with few amenities, they seem content. Most have animals and small gardens surrounding their neat simple handmade brick or wood homes. I thoroughly enjoy getting to know them and seeing how they live. It’s like subsistence farming communities of years ago.
We finish by late afternoon, still under a rare cloudy sky, and head for our final destination of El Sauce. The sky darkens. Thunder rumbles. Sheets of rain slash through the slits in the tarp. We’re soaked, and it doesn’t stop until we pull into town. Jimmy can’t believe it. “This is the dry season. It never rains this time of year.”
“Guess we’re just lucky.” I sigh, exhausted, again. We arrive at the only hotel in town, get dry and fall into bed.