Monday, August 06, 2007

The beginning of some endings

Well, we’ve finally got power again, and I have a lot of catching up to do from the past several days.

Thursday (2 August) was my last day out with the North Group. It was an unfortunately wretched day because they were foraging in a nasty spider-infested thatch area, and also I was miserable with a sore throat and stuffy nose. The day ended with me losing my focal animal (Stacy’s mom) for the umpteenth time and finally just throwing in the towel and dragging myself home. I was actually really disappointed to end my North group data collection on such a sour note. I think a part of me expected all the monkeys to come down low in the trees and form a circle around me, singing me a song.

I felt so awful that I just couldn’t face the forest again on Friday. I tried to recover by sleeping in a little bit and then distributing bracelets to the few kids who actually showed up for English class (Eduardo not among them). The kids were so excited and immediately wanted me to teach them how to make the bracelets themselves. It seemed like a simple enough project, but it ended up being a bit more complicated, as I realized I didn’t know the Spanish words for things like “thread” and “knot.” I figured these out soon enough though. I felt like it was arts and crafts time at Meli’s summer camp. The kids all wanted to make patterns like I had on their bracelets, but they were too eager to actually pay attention to the basics, so we ended up with a big mess of tangled threads and knots. There were no complaints though. I think the girls were mainly excited that they got to look through the pretty colors of thread and make a bracelet for themselves, of their own choosing.

Bracelets I made for the kids (Eduardo later chose the one near the bottom, that has the yellow "fishes" on it).

Arts and crafts time at Meli's Summer Camp: Augustina, Darling, and Fátima make bracelets.

Sometime during the bracelet-making, the power went out. At first it didn’t seem like a big deal: the power usually goes out several times a day, but only for a few minutes and then its right back on again. Well, this time the power wasn’t coming back on. Several hours passed and still no power. By nightfall it was apparent that the power was not coming back on anytime soon. The cooks lit dozens of candles in the dining area, so it all seemed kind of dreamy.

Eduardo showed up at some point in the late afternoon and was busy making friends with all the tourists. (By the way, I let him choose his bracelet and he opted for one that was not pink!) By the time he decided to go, it was pitch black out, and he asked me if he could borrow my flashlight to ride his bike home. Eduardo is somewhat obsessed with this flashlight. He has asked me at least 100 times if I am going to sell this flashlight when I leave and if so, would I sell it to him. In fact, I strongly suspect that Eduardo is so nice and sweet to me simply because of the flashlight. His tactic is working though—there’s no way I’m going to “sell” him the flashlight; I’ll give it to him of course. He rides an adult-sized rusted out mountain bike that probably doesn’t even shift gears, and he is only half the size of an adult. Sometimes his mother sends him out for errands and it gets dark while he is still out on the bike. Then he has to ride home with no light over steep, rocky hills. The thought of this makes me unimaginably sad.

He promised to bring the flashlight back to me first thing in the morning, as early as 5am. I told him I really didn’t need it that early, so he said he would bring it back at 7. I handed him the flashlight, half expecting to never see it again. After a hot night with no power (that means no fan), I heard a little voice outside the door at 6:40 in the morning, “Meli!” There was Eduardo—flashlight in hand—with his hair all rumpled and his eyes all small and still wearing yesterday’s clothes. He’s as good as gold.

For our fun outing on Saturday, Rob and I went to go see some more petroglyphs, about halfway between San Ramon and Tichiná. This was another one of those things that was more about the journey than the destination. And like most things in Nicaragua, the journey (by bike of course) was nice, except for the parts when I thought I might die. The petroglyphs themselves were nice too. They were a bunch of rocks in somebody’s back yard, and for a $1 admission fee, a little boy took us out to go look at them. He wasn’t the talkative type, so after we felt that we got our dollar’s worth, we headed out.

The plan had also been to stop at the field station in San Ramon on the way home, so that we could bid farewell to chef Don Alberto. When we arrived we found that Alberto was at home in Estelí but was scheduled to return later in the day. So we just missed him. We also had brought along my copy of The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (my favorite book), and I left it at the field station for my new friend Liz—a student who is staying there while doing a project on howler monkeys. I’m leaving the rest of my books here for the tourists at the hostel, but this one was just too special; it needed to go to someone who I know will appreciate it.

When we got back to Mérida Saturday afternoon, the power was still out, and by this point it was anybody’s guess as to when it would be coming back on. On Friday when the power went out, Rob had seen the transformer smoking and then explode in a burst of flames. So not a good sign.

By Sunday (5 August), Rob and I needed to formulate a plan. We went to nearby Hotel Omaja (about 1/2 kilometer up the road), where they still had power and internet. It gave Rob a chance check his email and strike up a deal with the owner (a super tranquilo former-Nebraskan) so that he could use their internet and work from there on Monday. It also gave us a chance to have their superb (but expensive) vegetarian tacos.

Even with several days off, I was no more invigorated to return to the forest on Monday. In fact, I did not know how I was going to do it. I felt exactly like I had hit “the wall” in a marathon. Its that kind of panicked, freaking out hysteria when you need to stop running or you are convinced you will die. I’ve been viewing this whole research project as a marathon, counting down the months and giving myself check points such as “Now I would be at mile 19.” I realized that this is wrong. I reached mile 26.2 at the end of May, when the rains and the spiders returned. Since then the marathon has been over and I’ve just been going on fumes. By now I am done. I am beyond done. The thought of even one more day seriously seemed to push me over the edge. Plus, another power-less night with no fan and no cold water or cold fruits to take out to the forest made it even worse. Finally, I bargained with myself: instead of getting up at 4:20, I got up at 5:15. Just that little bit of extra sleep made it more bearable. And instead of continuing to work more days and gather precious data, I decided that this would be it. I would end the project here, just one more day.

It would have been nice to end the research on a high note, but the monkeys were in rare form today. A mysterious Arriba Group that usually lives higher up on the volcano has come down and invaded the South Group’s territory. So it was really confusing to make sense of what was going on and figure out if I was even observing a monkey from the correct group. Plus the dense foliage, the vines underfoot, and the spiders and mosquitoes everywhere. Late in the afternoon, I collected my final data point and blinked back tears as I put my binoculars back into my pack. With a deep breath, I headed down the volcano. From here on out, there won’t be any more new data; I’ve got to go with what I’ve already collected, for better or for worse. The fun part’s over; now I’ve got to organize this jumble of information into some sort of coherent thesis and return to the stifling academic world of statistics and books and articles. At least there will be less spiders to deal with.

So I headed down the volcano. As I was almost out of the forest, I heard a little sneeze and saw a patch of brown in a tree right along the path. The monkey was so low that I didn’t even need my binoculars to tell who it was. Wrinkle Belly. He was eating some unripe Capulín fruit, and as I was standing just below him, he hung by his tail to take a few bites of low-growing Piper leaves, barely 3 meters off the ground. He looked at me and hooted, like he wished I would move, but my presence wasn’t going to deter him from his meal. I stood there and watched him (and to be honest, I was crying a little bit), until finally he slunk off into the jungle and was no more than a rustling of leaves in treetops too far away to see. It was time to go home.

As I walked into the hacienda, I heard music coming from the radio and I saw lights on in the kitchen. Our power was back on! So these last few days will have the comfort of cold water to drink and a fan on in the nighttime. We will be leaving Ometepe on Friday morning and flying back to the US on Sunday. As long as the power and internet keep working, I will post a few more times before we go, so keep checking back. Thanks for reading!


At 4:45 PM, August 07, 2007, Blogger amypfan said...

If this has been the "fun" part of the project, you certainly have a drastically different idea of "fun" than I do. But then, hey, I think organizing things is fun, so getting all the data in order would probably be a hoot for me. I think it was lovely of WB to make a special stop to say goodbye to you, and if you try to smuggle Eduardo back into the States, I don't think anyone will blame you. I just sent you and your mom an email about Iris, so please read and advise. Can't wait for you to come home!!

At 4:57 PM, August 07, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was a wonderful writing -- and even though I had advance information about W/B's fond farewell, i still cried buckets when reading it ... how did he know to be in your path that day??? Wouldn't be surprised if he shows up at your door with Eduardo when you're ready to leave!!!!!
hugs, auntie

At 6:41 PM, August 07, 2007, Blogger foxymomma said...

Loved Auntie 's comment about W/B and EDUARDO waiting at your door to follow you home!!!!!!! Do you have a tree in your back yard for W/B to hang from?? The next 2 days are going to be the longest and yet the FASTEST days . Don't say GOODBYE, just tell them all, you'll be BACK someday!!! luv you both . take care and safe traveling!!! better LICK a dramamine before you leave!!! Can't wait to see you:)

At 9:19 PM, August 07, 2007, Blogger Aimee said...

What a wonderful experience you have had!
Can't wait to see you.

At 3:08 PM, August 08, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tell your mom that "YES" you do have a huge tree in your back yard - perfect for Wrinkle Belly. As for Eduardo, well, the Schofield's have lots of experience with little boys!!! Bring 'em both!

We'll see you before you know it!
Mom Scho

At 7:09 PM, August 09, 2007, Blogger Jodi said...

Yay! Congratulations!! I'll be here to welcome you back. We'll go for COLD beers & celebrate :-)

Looking forward to seeing you!!


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