It’s a tired old cliché: time and tide wait for no man. But it’s undeniably true, and over the course of my last few weeks in Intag, time seemed to fly by faster and faster the more I tried to hang on to it, to slow it down – even if just for a little bit.
The time hadn’t come yet to say our goodbyes, but I (together with my host family, my kids, Ned, Patricia and her family, etc.) was keenly aware that that time was almost upon us.
My 5th and 6th graders, especially, started asking questions like: After you leave, when are you coming back? Why can’t you live here?
Kevin, the 5-year-old in my host family, is a very affectionate kid and people kept asking him if he would miss me when I left (yes, he said). One day, he turned around and asked me: When you leave, will you miss me? It was all I could do to keep it together as I looked him in the eyes and said: yes, Kevin, I’ll miss you so much.
For these reasons, those last few weeks took on a special poignancy and looking back now, they seem almost bittersweet.
But what did I actually do in that time?
Dances and earthquakes
Another week, another dance by the kids. This time it involved dancing around a pole: weaving in and out while holding onto these strips of cloth. It was pretty complicated! I acted as pole-bearer, which made me feel very tall for once.
The other day there was apparently a tremor, although I didn’t feel a thing. Some of the kids and the teacher did, though, so we all left the school building and went to stand in a relatively safe spot (out in the open, as far away as possible from buildings and poles) for a while. Those earthquake drills really come in handy! The teacher was fretting about the lack of a really suitable evacuation spot in the event of an earthquake, though.
Old-school hot showers
The water heater has been working sporadically recently – I really don’t know what’s up with it. One day it’ll work fine, and the next it won’t. I’ve taken to asking the others if they’ve taken a shower that day so find out if it’s working or not. When there’s no hot water, I take a hot shower the old-fashioned way: boiling some water and then mixing it with tap water in a pail to arrive at a comfortable temperature. It definitely cuts down my water usage!
One Saturday I went down to Patricia’s mom’s place to help make panela (unrefined cane sugar) – at least, that was the idea.
Ned and Patricia went down with 3 guests of theirs: 2 American tourists (Holly – the daughter of Diane, the Alaskan volunteer I met back in November – and her boyfriend) and Alexandra, a volunteer from Germany.
One of the reasons I really enjoyed those days at Señora Rosa Maria’s place is getting to meet many of Ned and Patricia’s guests – they’d often come down to her place with whoever happened to be staying with them at the time, and I got to meet many fellow volunteers / tourists that way.
First, we went to harvest some yuca and also tried to harvest some pumpkins, but were unable to find any big enough. My first time seeing pumpkin plants!
Yuca is one of the many foods I’m going to miss terribly when I leave South America. It’s a starchy root, like potato, but it tastes so much better (to me, anyway). When you boil it, it becomes all soft and buttery. And when you fry it, it’s even better!
It is really hard work harvesting yuca, though. We have to manually uproot the entire plant to get at the roots (which is the edible part), and those plants are at least as tall as me and very tough!
And if you’re unlucky, some of the yuca roots will break off as you’re uprooting the plant and then you’ll have to dig around in the earth with a machete (if you happen to have one with you) or your hands to get at the rest of them. Working this hard for your food really makes you appreciate it.
Washing the freshly harvested yuca, which we were going to have for lunch:
On to the panela-making: first, the sugarcanes were harvested and cut (removing all the branches, leaves, and stray hairs on the canes). I found out the hard way that sugarcanes have a million tiny thorns which are almost impossible to remove from your hand! It was more annoying than painful, though.
Then it was time for the sugarcane-pressing machine (which I wrote about previously):
The idea is to squeeze the sugarcanes until juice comes out, but this time around there was something wrong with the machine and it was barely pressing the sugarcanes. I was getting bitten to death by insects, in any case, so I wandered off indoors to help with lunch.
We grated the yuca to make these yuca tortillas:
It was my first time trying these yuca tortillas and they were downright scrumptious.
As was the rest of the food, as usual:
I don’t know what Patricia puts in her guacamole but it is so good, I always eat way too much of it.
After lunch, we went to the vado (bathing-spot by the river). It was my third or fourth time at this spot but it’s so pretty, I was happy to make the 10-min trek there and just chill out. No bathing in the river for me – it was way too cold!
Back at home (which is how I’d come to see Rosa’s place), we made quimbolos (again!). I love quimbolos, so I definitely wasn’t complaining. She makes quimbolos with a twist – a little dash of chocolate in the middle!
I’d love to try recreating this at home, but the achira leaves that are used to wrap the quimbolos are going to be impossible to find. Rosa has them growing right in her backyard, which is ridiculously convenient:
One of the perks of living in the countryside!
Another perk: being able to go for walks with views like this –
But you have to be careful about where you put your hands and arms! The plant below is known as uñas de gato (cat claws) – you can guess why.
Blackberry-picking for the last time
As my time in Intag was drawing to a close, Anthony and I decided it would be a good idea to go blackberry-picking again – one of my favorite activities.
Unfortunately, as I later learned, the season for blackberries is now past. There were very few blackberries to be found, and those that we did find were horribly sour. But don’t get me wrong – it was in no way a wasted trip.
Not with views like this:
And with company like this:
Besides, there were other fruits to eat! I don’t know the name of this tree, but its fruit is delicious.
After that, the boys went “fishing” for worms in these tiny holes in the soil. This basically entailed sticking tiny stalks into the holes, waiting until the stalks jiggled a bit, and then pulling the stalks out quickly.
If you’re lucky, the stalk would come away with a worm hanging onto the end of it.
Did you have any similar childhood past-times? What were they like?