Today Lynn and I took a drive out past Caña Blanca to a new place (for us) called Cerro Paja. Or Straw Hill. There, among jungle and farmland, we found another small school where 29 children attend classes. We had heard of the school, and the old man who taught there, so wanted to see for ourselves.
We arrived at the one-room school house as the children were changing classes – the young ones were going home and the older children were just beginning class. The teacher was a very old indigenous man. He was somewhat taken aback by two gringos coming to his door with gifts, but was polite and courteous. We had prepared a box of school supplies, including a jump-rope and a soccer ball and pump, some coloring pages and colors, pens and pencils. We really did not know what we would find, so just got together general things they might need. He did not look in the box while we were there, but said thank you and we turned to leave. When we reached the gate we realized that we had not introduced ourselves, just said hello and offered the box of goodies. So, we asked a young boy outside the classroom to take one of our cards back inside and say if he needed anything to let us know. It is probably best that we did not catch them at recess, or stay longer. My heart goes out to these children, and Lynn had already made it clear we could not begin helping another school, especially when it was over 2 hours from our house, and so hard on the truck.
We had moseyed into the area, and planned to mosey out, but as we were turning around in front of the building there were 5 adorable small children sitting on a rock watching us. Lynn stopped and gave them all cookies, and then one of the girls asked if we could give them a ride home. We clarified which direction was home and then said of course, as it was on our way back out. We enjoyed their company on the way out; it must have been 20 minutes driving to get the last to her house. As we were coming down one hill a group of men with baskets on their backs was walking up. Two of the children said” there is my dad!” and so we stopped and spoke with the group for a minute. They were quite friendly, and did not give a second thought to their children being in our car. Lynn commented that we could easily have kidnapped those children had we wanted to. It was kind of scary. No-one there knew us, but they were completely trusting. As we dropped the last child at her house I shared more of the conversation with Lynn. Sometimes I am so busy trying to understand and communicate that I forget to translate for him, but fortunately he is getting a lot better at understanding, so he gets a lot of it.
When we were turning around at the school I asked if I could take a picture of the group, and they said yes. After I had taken it I showed them the digital image. They loved it. As we were driving them to their homes one of the girls asked if she could have the picture. I told her that I could not take it out of the camera, but that I would try to get her a copy. She thought a moment or two and then said “Well, can you just give me the camera then?” I told her no, I was sorry but I needed the camera. She was pretty dumfounded for a few minutes then her buddy (about the same age of 6 or 7) said “You just need to be patient, she will bring us back a copy when she can”. I almost laughed aloud at the contrite, correcting manner the little girl used. But that satisfied the first one, at least for awhile. When there was just the one little girl left she asked if she could have another package of cookies. I said no, that we only had one package for each child, so she pointed at my open bag of pretzels and said “what about those, can I have them?” Mind you, she was not hungry. All of these children looked well fed, and were well dressed and clean. There was corn and rice and all kinds of things growing on each side of the road. I told her she would not like them, that they tasted ugly (an expression here) and so she finally stopped asking for more things.
We dropped her at her house and continued in our hunt for the elusive ‘calabasa tree’. I must digress for a moment – When we were in Santa Marta, Sister Anita had serving bowls, colander, and other bowls made of what appeared to be wood, but more like gourds. They were beautiful and I asked her about them. They grow on the calabasa tree. She explained to me how to cut, cook and clean them so that they can dry to be used, and I was hooked and on a mission to find them. We had seen one tree in Bugaba, but no others, and that one is right down town, in someone’s yard, so we didn’t think we could just go get it. We felt sure we could find some in the vast open spaces around Caña Blanca. We have tried to designate one day a week to get away from the house and relax, and today was that day, so we were out Calabasa hunting!
We stopped by a creek for a picnic lunch. I was headed down to the creek itself when I asked Lynn to join me, but when I turned to see him he was doing a jig like I had never seen him do in all our 25 years! He danced and danced, and then he started stripping. Right there in the middle of the road. He was doing a strip tease dance, but was having trouble with his shoes being tied, or something, so I headed back up to the truck to see what was going on. He had gotten in an ant herd of some kind – we never really saw it, but he got bitten several dozen times. His legs were covered in whelps, with a few on his hands as well. We ate fast and went on our way. Sorry! I was too worried to get pictures of the dance!
We had been out for over 5 hours without seeing a single tree (as if we knew what the tree looked like). I finally asked one old man in the road who shook his finger at me (the universal sign for their ain’t any) then as we were pulling away he yelled and we stopped. He actually could not speak, but he motioned that there were some further up in the direction we were going. I yelled back a ‘muchas gracias!” to which he smiled a big toothless grin and waved. When we saw another group of Indians working beside the road we asked again. They pointed us down a yet unexplored road. We had been told that Olmedo, our neighbor’s dad lived down that road, but had not idea where. We carefully picked our way down the road (okay, Lynn was doing the driving, but I was giving him advice the whole time) then finally stopped again to ask a young man if he knew where we could find the tree. He said "no, but ask the next house down." We did and they pointed us on forward, further down the road.
We ended up at the end of the road, at a lovely farm place where a man was cutting his grass with his machete. I told him what we were searching for and he stopped his work to show us his two trees. He said one was not the right kind and the other had no fruit, but he showed us all the same. He was quite nice and friendly, and suggested a place back up the road toward Caña Blanca. As we were walking back toward the truck I told him where we lived and he said, “Oh, my son lives near you” his name is Olmedo” I then introduced myself and Lynn and told him that Dani worked with us and his grandchildren were in our house all the time. We chatted a bit more, and then headed back to find the blue house that had the tree with fruit. Just a short ways from his house we found a grove of the trees right on the road. We had gone right past them earlier. Lynn climbed trees and fences with his machete and we harvested 6 of the kind that are not exactly round –they are called the ‘long ones’, and 1 round one. I was tickled!
In the process, I must tell you that Lynn climbed over one fence and was trying to reach one of the fruit with the machete. He finally cut the stem, but when trying to catch the fruit to avoid scarring, he grabbed the barb- wire fence instead and cut his finger. As he yelped and jumped back from the fence he fell backwards and landed flat on his back with his feet flailing in the air. I did not laugh until he said he was ok, but my! What a sight! I climbed up to help with the others.
A bit later we found the blue house and ask the lady if she had any calabasa. She was reluctant to talk to us at first, but when her daughter came out she took us to her tree where we found only 1 calabasa ready. She gladly gave it to us, and when I asked if we could pay for it she said of course not. We thanked her and headed for home. We had really enjoyed the day, but Lynn was a little stressed from the difficult driving, the ants, and the fall. We were dirty, and itchy, so we were glad to get back to the house and a shower! Okay, well Lynn got his shower. Then the electricity went off for an hour or so, so I got my shower a few hours late, but it was good!
Sorry this is so long – just wanted to share a fun day in the life!
We pray that God will bless you with peace today!