Buñuelos were one of my first favorite Nicaraguan foods. I used to order them pretty regularly when my training group went out for drinks. But then I fell in love with tostones and batidos, and the buñuelos fell off my radar for five months.
I was handed a cup full of fresh, homemade buñuelos and I swear they’re by far the best I’ve ever had. Hot. Crispy on the outside. Soft and doughy on the inside. Dripping in honey. I ate most of them before I thought to take a picture.
According to the child of the house, the family makes them every year on the first of March. I asked why and she said, “it’s the start of Easter.” That puzzled me because yes, today is technically the first day of Lent, but that date changes every year.
In my last post, I mentioned that some friends and I were planning on going to a beautiful location, hiking, and eating cheesecake.
Turns out, none of that happened.
On Tuesday, I received a text from the wonderful safety and security team, who said that all volunteers would need to leave their sites and consolidate in Managua on Wednesday. Tropical Storm/Hurricane Otto had slightly changed course, and there was a chance that it would affect some of our sites in Nicaragua. They wanted us to all be together to ride out the storm, so to speak.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t at all upset that I had to ditch my plans and go to Managua. Embassy families had invited us to spend Thanksgiving with them, but I’d declined because I didn’t want to pay out of pocket and go to Managua, and I really didn’t want to sit on a bus for ten hours over the course of a couple days. So a few of us had made our own plan, and we were excited about it.
When Otto destroyed the plan, I was a little bummed that I’d miss out on homemade cheesecake (like, they make the cheese there) but I was pumped that I’d not only get to see five of my friends, but ALL of them, and have an actual Thanksgiving meal.
Apparently, this is the only time in about six years that all of the volunteers from around the country were together in one place. I think there are over 150 of us currently in country.
Anyway, thanks to Peace Corps and the awesome people at the Embassy, I got my name on a list so I could have Thanksgiving dinner. I ended up at Ambassador Laura Dugu’s house with about 40 other Peace Corps volunteers. Thanksgiving started when she greeted us at the door and we were immediately offered an assortment of beverages. (I chose white wine, because red would have been an invitation for disaster.)
Thanksgiving continued with food that rivaled my mom’s (which is really saying something.) I was honestly impressed that they could cook so well for so many people.
The ambassador sat at my table, and maybe a minute after we started eating, I felt the table shake, and very calmly realized that we were having an earthquake. (Apparently, it was a 7-point-something in El Salvador. We had a tsunami warning in Nicaragua for a while, but all is well here.)
I ended up eating a couple plates of food. There was no pumpkin pie when I went for dessert, so I ended up eating some sort of delicious apple concoction and drinking cafe con leche out of fancy gilded cups.
Before we left, all of the guests took a picture with our gracious host.
Then, when I got back to the hotel, I sent my sisters some maternity-style photos of my food baby, as one does.
I spent the rest of the weekend with friends: Playing Cards Against Humanity, playing ERS (I lost, so Thomas is now a game up), and talking Harry Potter with Adrian.
Hurricane Otto made landfall on the coast, but it mostly missed Nicaragua. There may be a little damage, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. All we got in Managua was a little bit of rain, so on Friday we were allowed to go home.
Most of us ended up staying an extra night in Managua and going to a fancy mall where we couldn’t actually afford anything. The prices were so high that they were in dollars.
We saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and then we got some sushi that was waaaaaay over our budget.
I’m back in Matagalpa now, but I’m very thankful that I was able to spend my first Thanksgiving away from home with people who feel like family.
On Saturday, after a little over a week in my new place, I headed back to Managua for some Access Camp planning. I live a good 4.5 hours from Managua, so I ended up going to Managua on Saturday, doing Access planning on Sunday, and going home Monday. On Saturday night, we went to a restaurant in Managua for dinner. I got a panini, and the price was in dollars (I know things are not Peace Corps-budget friendly when the prices aren’t listed in córdobas.) The food was great, but I always end up spending too much money in Managua.
After our meeting on Sunday, we decided to go to the grocery store to buy food to cook. I’ve been craving fettuccine alfredo for weeks. (I’m serious: About two months ago, I had an actual dream that I was in a kitchen cooking fettuccine alfredo.) So I dropped that suggestion, and my friends suggested some sautéed veggies, so we spent a few hours looking for ingredients (“Where is the heavy cream? Why isn’t it with the milk? How do you say ‘heavy cream’ in Spanish?”), cooking (“you should really wait until it boils to put the pasta in.” “I know, but I’m too impatient.”) and drinking wine (“I got a fifth bottle. I know us. We needed a fifth bottle.”)
And then, without any jokes about too many cooks in the kitchen, it was ready, and I tested the pasta, and no joke, had an out-of-body experience.
Several of us are having a friendsgiving on actual Thanksgiving, but we’ll probably eat at a restaurant because I don’t think our hostel will have a kitchen. (But the restaurant is farm-to-table and has cheesecake, which is literally all I’ve been talking about since I found the menu online four days ago.)
Anyway, even though Sunday night wasn’t our actual friendsgiving, it kind of felt like one. Most of us hadn’t cooked for ourselves since coming to Nicaragua, and we miss it, and we miss each other. Peace Corps is very much a community and a family, and being back together for a couple days was really nice.
We drank a little wine, ate delicious food, and immediately dove deep into scintillating, meaningful conversations about bad sex ed, gender roles, misogyny and patriarchy, adjusting to life in site, why we’re here, etc.
I feel very lucky to have ended up in this country with this amazing group of people. They share their stories with me, provide diverse perspectives, and don’t judge me when I go for a sixth serving of fettuccine alfredo. (Speaking of which, all day I’ve been kicking myself because I didn’t eat the leftovers for breakfast. We basically cleaned the pan, but it physically hurts me to think of any of that delicious homemade food going to waste.)
We stayed up late talking and telling stories and laughing until we cried, and in the morning, we went our separate ways. I’m happy to be back home, but always sad to leave my friends. Luckily, I’ll see a few of them again on Thursday for our planned Thanksgiving festivities.
Until then, look at this delicious food and my wonderful friends!
Last night, Adrian and I walked home a little after 6, and the streetlights went out. We thought maybe we’d lost power in the town, but when I got home and went to my room, prendí la luz sin problemas. And then the lights went out. And then it started storming. For the whole night. My family sat in almost complete darkness for a few hours, and I ate my dinner by candlelight. When my host mamá brought my plate to the table, she chuckled and said, “¡Qué romántica!” I won’t lie, it was one of my better dates, because I am hilarious and excellent company.
Did I mention I was eating by myself? Oh, well I was, and it was wonderful. I had a torta de papa (sin queso, because my mom has realized that the cheese is the one thing that I’m not particularly crazy about and she was thoughtful enough to make mine different, even though I would’ve eaten it regardless.) I also ate some BOMB gallopinto and platanos maduros. I know I’ve only been living here six weeks, but I’m honestly not sure if I can survive a day (or even a meal) without some kind of platanos.
For the rest of the night, I talked to my host sister and sang “All Along the Watchtower” to myself as the storm raged outside.
On Monday, we walked to a nearby town to buy peanut butter. My profe gets it from her abuela, who (I think) learned to make it many years ago from a person from the U.S. (another Peace Corps volunteer?)
When we were near the border between our towns, it started to rain. And then it started to pour. And then the streets became rivers. (I really wanted to take a picture, but I didn’t want to ruin my phone.) Anyway, we pressed onward, because…PEANUT BUTTER. (And also because we were walking up a hill and the road back home was so flooded that it was impassable. I’ve played enough Oregon Trail to know that I shouldn’t cross.
We actually had our rain jackets with us, but by the end of the walk, my jeans and backpack were soaked.
We stopped by our profe‘s house to dry off, and then we took her mom’s car the last block or two to her abuela‘shouse.
She drove us home, and it rained all night. It was actually—dare I say it?—chilly. We were warned that September would be rainier than August, but rain like today is apparently excessive, even for the rainy season (also known as winter, which I think is hilarious.)
It’s funny, when my profe dropped me off she told me “¡bañe!”(a command 😮) but I don’t really understand how bathing after getting drenched by the rain would help prevent enfermedad.
Science folks, can you Google it in your nerd brains? Does showering after intense rain exposure do anything to prevent illness? Does showering in COLD water after make any sense at all?
Anyway, here’s my peanut butter! It was C$70 (about $2.50) but worth it. I want to obtain some honey to mix it with.
I just drank some sort of cold, sweet, milky white beverage. It was really different but I recognized some aspect of the taste. I asked my host mom what it was and she said “avena” (which is a word I recognized but couldn’t quite place.)
She brought me some raw avena to show me, but it still didn’t click.I realized later that avena means oats, but her oats looked different from what I’m used to. I think my brain was associating the avena beverage with that weird cinnamon-milk rice that Mom used to make. Familia, do you know what I’m talking about? Does it have a name? It’s delicious.