Please see the page Apply to the Philippines Trip for the two applications you will need to fill out for our upcoming trip from Nov. 20th to Dec. 3rd, 2013 to Luzon and Mindanao, Philippines.
Our partners, the Philippine US Solidarity Organization (PUSO) held a fundraiser for the upcoming trip to the Philippines. The fundraiser was entitled PUSO Fest 2013: Art, Food, and Music. It took place on Saturday July 20th, from 1-8pm in Robert Hayden’s backyard at 1836 E. Hamlin St., Seattle, WA 98112. We had a silent bid art auction, Uli’s sausages (w/ a veggie alternate) and beer, and acoustical music with vocals for your entertainment. We raised almost $2,000 for our trip to the Philippines in November 2013.
We will meet once per month (the second Tuesday) from June through September, twice in October, and once in November in the Library at St. Mark’s from 7 to 8:30pm. Please mark your calendar for these meeting dates June 11th, July 9th, Aug. 13th, Sept. 10th, Oct. 8th, Oct. 22nd, and Nov. 12th. The tabling over the summer will supplement our omitted meeting dates.
Countless documentaries have been made about the children of La Chureca, Managua’s notorious dump, where children and parents scavenged for scrap metal, cardboard and anything else they can sell or use to build huts to shelter themselves.
Previous Transformational Travel groups have seen it. We didn’t. It’s closed.
Rows of pastel-colored cinderblock houses now line the streets leading up to the hill where the dump has been covered with dirt. In one house, a woman is starting dinner for the children who drop in there. An old Coca-Cola sign forms part of the fence around the corner yard where nothing grows. Inside, two children are coloring while a televangelist preaches in the corner.
We were there to observe, but many groups have come to this part of Managua to run schools and community centers. One such organization, Los Quinchos, has several programs for Managua’s poor children in La Chureca and elsewhere.
We visited Proyecto Filtro, Filter House, one of the other Los Quinchos programs, which helps street children and teen-agers leave street life. Some shined shoes or sold things – or themselves – on the streets. Some were addicted to glue-sniffing.
At Filter House, they can wash up, eat, receive treatment for wounds or illness, play, and sleep. When they move in, the children are signed up for public schools. Some of their mentors are former street children themselves.
During our visit, several drew pictures and wove colorful bracelets, which Los Quinchos sells to help support its programs. As we toured the two-story building, excitement grew and they danced around us and posed for pictures.
A third group that got our attention was Los Pipitos. We spent the first night in Nicaragua in a hostel run for this organization of families with children with physical and developmental disabilities. The Nicaraguan government does not have the programs richer countries have to help the parents and their children, so they’re doing it themselves.
Los Pipitos has branches in many Nicaraguan cities. Besides the hostel and a recycling program, it supports itself with Teletón, Nicaragua’s answer to Jerry’s Kids.
By Ann Holiday
Cornish Pasties, Chinese Jiaozi, Nicaraguan Nacatamales – every nation seems to have its own special dish, and some, like Jiaozi and Nacatamales become a family affair.
Pasties were made by the women for the men to take down into the mines. In Beijing, I made Jiaozi for New Year’s with the family of a co-worker. We wrapped a combination of meat and vegetables in rounds of pastry folded the edges together and crimped them. They boil in a deep pan until they float, and they’re ready for the celebration.
Pasties are made with a sturdy crust of flour and shortening (my great-grandmother used suet and lard), filled with meat, potatoes and rutabaga and crimped together like Jiaozi. Then they’re baked in the oven.
Nacatamales have a little in common with Mexican tamales. They’re wrapped, but Nicaraguans use banana leaves. They’re based on a corn meal mush, but they don’t taste strongly of chili. Recipes can be found on line. Banana leaves can sometimes be found in grocery stores that cater to Latinos.
Our group of five learned how to make authentic La Corona Nacatamales under the guidance of Don Mauricio’s wife and daughters. While they were mixing the ingredients, we were softening the banana leaves over one of the fires in the open-air kitchen.
A major ingredient is corn, ground to a mush. I noticed a grinding stone and asked Doña Juana if she’d show me how she used it so I could make a video. She moved some things off it, washed it down, went across the kitchen for a cup of what looked like canned hominy, and began moving the grinder across the stone. I later learned that she actually ground the corn in a meat-grinder.
Another component is rice, seasoned with raisins and other mysterious ingredients. Chicken legs, red sauce and a slice of tomato finished the composition.
They showed us how to fold the banana leaves in layers over the innards, then one of the daughters tied them up with the familiar yellow nylon cord. She put a different decoration on each so we could tell them apart after they cooked in water over the fire for a few hours.
We helped the Doña Juana and her daughters make more with pork – for dinner that night and for leftovers.
After the singing, dancing and games, we fished the Nacatamales out of the pot and unwrapped them, one leaf at a time. The final presentation puts the Nacatamale on top of one banana leaf on a plate.
We sat down with family, hosts and, apparently, neighbors to enjoy our Nacatamales.
I liked mine so much that I ordered one for breakfast at the ecological resort at the end of the trip.
And when I got home, I looked on line and found several different recipes, with a variety of ingredients called for. Not all are used in any one recipe, but here they are:
For the masa (dough):
Masa Harina, lard (or other solid fat), salt, sour orange juice (or orange juice with juice of lime), chicken stock, Knorr chicken powder bouillon, pepper.
For the filling:
Achiote or annatto spice, rice, onion, green bell pepper, tomato, potato, peas, raisins, capers, olives, pineapple, mint, cilantro leaves.
Cubed pork butt or chicken marinated in salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, sour orange juice achiote.
Google “nacatamale recipe” and you should be on your way to culinary delight. Plan ahead – Preparation time: 24 hours. Cooking time: 3 hours.
The rain is tap-dancing on the corrugated roof 10 feet above my head, and I’m getting tangled in my mosquito netting. It’s 3:30 a.m., and I really want to pee. But the toilet — yes, it flushes — is two buildings up the hill, and it’s muddy and my raincoat is in Matagalpa.
Now it’s 4:30 am and the rooster choir begins, with the soloist crowing outside my window and the backup chorus echoing down the road. It’s so dark I can’t tell if my eyes are open or closed.
But I really have to pee, so I get up, put on my aircast boot, shoe and headlamp, and start up the path. My host appears out of nowhere, dressed and ready to help me up the hill.
That was partway through a 10-day visit to Nicaragua in February. It was organized through Matagalpa Tours for my church’s Transformational Travel team. Our goal is to learn from the Nicaraguans. We don’t go down there to paint schools that other groups have painted three months before, as happens too often. Instead, we stay with families on various rungs of the economic ladder. Most don’t have much, but none of us considered our host families “poor” in the American sense.
My first homestay was in a barrio in Managua. It was overrun with grandchildren when I arrived, all very curious and active. What joy! What noise! They didn’t all live there, and by dinnertime they had mostly cleared out.
Dinnertime, I found out, was not a sit-down family affair. The daughter spoke English quite well (she’d studied in Iowa), and she had to tell me three times that dinner was ready. I didn’t realize the whole family wouldn’t head for the dining table. It was one plate of food, just for me.
The family lived near a cultural center that offered adult education, vocational classes, music, dance, health care and other services and amusements. The walls were decorated with murals, including a large one behind the stage that pictured Nicaraguans and their allies in peace and revolution — including Che Guevara.
The rest of the group had a dance lesson, and we had a tour of the Batahola Center before being taken to meet our host families.
One surprise was a group of signs scattered throughout the complex with quotations from Chief Seattle of the Duwamish Tribe, whose longhouse is in West Seattle not far from where I live.
Chief Seattle, or Sealth, is known for his words of wisdom on the environment … “The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.”
The mother didn’t speak much English, but she could read some. I’d brought three books as hostess gifts, two small picture books of views of the Puget Sound area and one of those cardboard baby books called “Good Night Seattle.” I immediately knew this family would be the one for “Good Night Seattle.”
In the morning, the hostess was slowly reading through it. I think she understood everything until she got to “Good night, Seattle. Sleep tight.” She didn’t know what “sleep tight” meant, and we had a hard time explaining it!
After posing for pictures, the daughter walked me to the Batahola Center. As we stood out front, she told me “I love this neighborhood. I can go two blocks in any direction and know almost everybody. When I lived in the dorm in Iowa, I didn’t know anybody.”
The second family lived in a middle-class neighborhood in Matagalpa. The hostess worked hard to make sure my CPAP could be plugged in (Nicaragua electricity is just like ours, when it’s working). “Mi casa es su casa” (my house is your house) said a plaque on the bedroom wall.
The dog stood patiently outside the back door, large and quiet. This house was on a hill above a very steep street. The patio had a good view of the city of Matagalpa.
Again, dinner was without the family, although the hostess seemed to enjoy looking at the photo book I’d brought, showing my family (two cats, a brother, a sister, their spouses and kids) explained by Clarke Reid, who is fluent in Spanish. He and his sister Carolina, also fluent, also stayed at this house.
Here the living room furniture was fancier, the house had a nice yard with a concrete table and stools on the patio, and the kitchen was bright and modern, and that’s where we spent most of our waking hours.
Much simpler were the farmhouses in the coffee collective of La Corona in the mountains above Matagalpa. Most of the red-brick houses sat alongside a road of packed dirt. The farms were in the hills behind the houses. The town had a school and a clinic.
My host appeared to be something of the mayor of La Carona. His wife made school uniforms for the local children. Two sewing machines, one old, one new, both electric, stood in a corner of the living room. The television was in another, and a large table with a plastic cloth and plastic chairs stuck out from a wall. Another corner had a kitchen counter, refrigerator and water purifier. The cooking kitchen was out the door and up a short path, in a separate brick building.
That’s where we had lunch. Most was cooked on a concrete woodstove. A bottled-gas stove handles the short-cooking dishes, but wood is cheaper, so that’s where most of it is cooked.
A little further up the hill were two more brick buildings, one containing two bedrooms and a bathroom (flush toilet, with a bowl floating on a rain barrel for filling the tank). Above that was what appeared to be a storehouse.
And of course there was a chicken coop, with exit door so the rooster could crow outside my window well before the break of dawn.
“Mi Porsche,” Mauricio said with a laugh, as we bounced along the main road through the coffee cooperative of La Corona. “1970.”
I could believe the 1970. Unless Porsche made jeep-like vehicles in that year, I had to assume it was something else. Really something else. There were no seat belts, and the passenger side door swung open three times, but there was a picture of Jesus where the speedometer used to be, and I didn’t fall out.
We pulled up to the wet mill at the entrance to Mauricio’s coffee farm. He yanked a frayed yellow cord that was sticking through a hole in the dashboard, and the motor chugged to a stop.
The wet mill is the first step in coffee processing. Here the freshly picked beans are separated from their pulpy covering. A noisy gas-powered machine sends beans through a pipe to a tub and pulp out the pulpero chute to the pulp pile, where they obviously were well on their way to rotting into compost. The beans are washed through a trough where they’re sorted by size.
The rest of the group hiked into the hills, crossing a concrete weir I didn’t dare try to navigate with one foot trapped in a walking cast. They came back telling me even some of them had found the going tough. I was content to look at the coffee trees growing in a layer under the canopy of banana trees near the “Porsche.” The season was over, so there were red cherries to photograph. I wondered how the pickers managed to get them from the bushes that hung over the creek.
I sat in the shade of the wet mill with Arturo, Mauricio’s father. As we sat, two younger men made occasional appearances on the trail, delivering chunks of trees to the clearing and heading back for more. Then a young woman and a little boy appeared. She wore a pink dress, and he carried a machete almost as long as his 5-year-old legs. He dropped the machete in a clump of grass, and they came over to sit with me on the edge of the sluice that sorts the coffee beans by size.
We talked the way you do when neither speaks the other’s language. She said her name was Maura. Her brother is Eduardo. Eduardo took on a look of delight as he listened to music with my earbuds. Maura tried to ask how old I was, and I finally understood and wrote 69 on my palm, although I was a couple months short of that at the time.
Just before the rest came back from the jungle, she asked me something, which I didn’t understand, then climbed a tree and picked a large grapefruit. The others arrived in time to share the juicy wedges.
We headed back to my host family’s kitchen for lunch – another group was dining at the large table in the house. When I told that group I was staying there and asked if they’d like to see my room, I didn’t think they’d take pictures, unmade bed, open suitcase and all.
After lunch we gathered with another host family, made nacatamales – more about that in another post – listened to three men playing stringed instruments, played games with the children and watched three of the daughters dance in red dresses borrowed from their school.
Clarke had left his little 10-stringed Bolivian Charango at the house, and started to walk back to get it. One of the hosts offered to drive him in the pickup truck. Before Clarke could accept the offer, the truck’s bed was filled with children, eager to go for a ride.