The following is a journal entry from about halfway through my stay in Chacresecra. Side note: one of the requirements of my volunteer internship with GSE was to implement a needs-based project with my host family. My fellow intern, Gabby (who I lived with), and our host family decided a garden would be the best fit for our project. This journal entry describes some the steps toward creating this garden with our host family (building a fence) and specifically about my host Mom, Petrona.
Petrona is one of the strongest women I have ever met. She helped us make her garden fence today and I think she is just as strong as a man. She cut wood, carried it, and hammered nails better than all of us (me, Gabby, and Memo[my host brother]). She is also very smart and knows exactly what she wants, how to do it, and where to get it. Because I viewed the people of Chac as poor at first, I misjudged them as unintelligent and deprived but I am learning far more from them and their way of life. We, Americans, live an over extravagant life that needs reform. I have nothing to offer Petrona but my gratitude for her hospitality and my help with garden and around the house. I am very comfortable here and try to help out without asking them – doing dishes, sweeping the house. I really admire Petrona’s work ethic and everyday smarts. She does everything around the house and supports herself. She built her own cooking (wood burning) stove that is made of white tiles. Her kitchen is never smoky and her entire house is very open and clean in comparison to most houses in Chac which are dark, tight, and smaller (short roof and not very open). She is well off by Nicaraguan standards – she earned it though. Her children help support her too. Her daughter currently lives with while her most of the time. She is a school teacher at Alberto. For the next 2 weeks, Gabby and I are volunteering at the Conception school garden. I feel like I’m gaining good leadership and teamwork skills. I like to listen to others’ input but also share my own suggestions. I also feel like a role model to the high school interns but also like their friend. I’m buddies with everybody in the group. Fact about compost piles that I learned today – you have to flip them and it takes 3 months for them to fully decompose. We will finish our fence tomorrow – have to reinforce the barbed wire fence sides (other 2 sides are mesh we hammered to wooden posts). A neighbor will help with laying down long wooden boards along barbed wire to keep chickens out tomorrow. Then double digging and planting!