Part 4 – Jinotega Adventure: Cardboard Breakfast

Hey y’all!

I’m here to continue the Jinotega Adventure series!

Wait, where were we?

Oh, right. After church.

So we hung out at the church a little after an altar call, and then went back to the little white house.

We had previously discussed the accommodations – and decided they probably wouldn’t be that fancy – and decided that would be fun.

And we were right – on both of those things.

Oh, wait – can I detour for a sec? The stars were <sing-song voice> gorgeous!

Back to the story:

We got back and found two bedrooms side by side – and of course, automatically assumed that one of them was for us and the other for our friends.

This time around, we were wrong.

We also thought we had the house to ourselves.

Once again, wrong!

So apparently, this place is a farm. They have horses, cows, roosters, hens, and hogs – all within 20 yards of the house. At most. They also have a coffee and banana plantation in the valley.

Of course, this was in the middle of the night and we couldn’t see all that, so we thought we had the place to ourselves.

The owners of the place quickly redirected us to our one bedroom.

We quickly assigned one bed to Isaac and Jessica, which meant the other went to my parents. Which also meant that all four of us kids, unless we got creative, would be sleeping all together – on the floor.

Elisha and I quickly began to formulate locations for the two hammocks my dad and I brought so we could have an authentic experience and shove the little kids on the floor. Aren’t we an awesome big brother/friend?

Well, other than the rafters, there was no place to hang the hammocks. So we decided to sleep on thin pallets. On the floor. With the little kids.

We did not like this.

So, the woman of the house brought in a double bed (bed meaning a thin, uncomfortable, hard, barely there pallet with a thin mat on top to separate us from the worn-out (and possibly nasty) surface) and told us kids we could all sleep on it. At this point, I hurriedly clarified that we are not siblings.

She was temporarily shocked, as all gringos tend to look alike to Nicaraguans even though I’m the only one out of the four of us that has blue eyes. Or blonde hair. And only one of the four has freckles. And two are the same age, eliminating the possibility to be siblings.

She quickly toted in a single bed (the same idea) and laid it down at the feet of and in between both adult beds. I think she had an idea that I should sleep there, but Elisha ended up sleeping there while I slept on the perpendicular double bed on the opposite wall snuggled with Jerusalem. Jerusalem is like a little sis, and the boys like a little brother and a older brother (despite the fact that I’m actually the oldest), but since Elisha and I are the same age, we put Elisha over on the other bed. And Jerusalem slept in between Jehoiada and I. So (most) awkwardness was taken away rapidly.

(Did I ever mention how we slept in Popoyo when Mike and Bethany were here? All four of us (Nelson, Mike, Bethany, and I) all piled in one room while my parents got their own little house. How unfair. <pouts>)

There was just one problem with this plan. Jehoiada is a horrible cover-stealer. He didn’t know that there was wonderful competition on the other side of his innocent sister. So we took turns wrapping the covers around our legs and stubbornly waiting for the other to pull it out. Jehoiada eventually won because I was so tired, and Elisha generously gave up his cover for Jerusalem and I.

Well, guess how I woke up? I woke up shivering (it got chilly at night there) under the mat on the bare-bones (possibly nasty) bed. I was wondering where the covers went right as I spotted Jehoiada right in front of my face (without Jerusalem in between us) with his cover. I also saw that Elisha was getting up. So I concernedly (is that a word?) asked him where Jerusalem was. His answer: “Right there. <points at my feet>”

So I sit up and glance at my feet to find Jerusalem curled up with our (my) blanket at the bottom of the bed.

And I lay back down, only to stare at the ceiling for about 20 minutes.

I was exhausted because there was a little insect outside that sounded like a policeman on crack all night.

And I was bored and cold, so I stood up, pulled my hair back in a ponytail, and went out to sit in a plastic chair in the living room.

I was sitting there, thinking, praying, and shivering when I hear a door open behind me that made me jump. I then see light flood into the dark little room.

I glance back to find Elisha coming in.

He whispered with a grin, “I’ve already been down to the creek,” referring to the little creek that runs through the valley.

Now that I have company, I decided to get up and maybe go outside to watch the sunrise.

So the two cold-bravers went back outside to look at the sunrise and discuss how early it was. (Definitely before 6.)

And without a shadow of a warning, a medium-sized, loud machine started up. A man started putting some bean/kernel thingies in the top and another man scooped the ground powder out the bottom. We watched in awe, baffled and fascinated. While our parents listened in the room, frustrated and exhausted.

We later came to the conclusion that it was corn for tortillas they were grinding! They would then pat the mix down into circles and cook it on an open fire for breakfast. Now this is authentic.

So after a little bit more sunrise-watching and chatting, Elisha went on another hike/walk while I sat watching madrugada turn into el día.

Shortly after, I was asked (being the only one around) how I like my coffee. Nicaraguans have a problem with kids who don’t/shouldn’t drink coffee every morning. After a long and drawn-out explanation she finally believed me (lol).

Not too long after, young voices emerged from the bedroom, signaling the arrival of 9-year-old Jehoiada and 7-year-old Jerusalem, at right about the same time Elisha walks in from his walk. We all ran around the farm a little bit, getting a look at the hogs and chickens.

We sat on a bench, as we were all tired from the night before. Meanwhile, it’s time for the gringuitos’ breakfast.

A woman with a bowl of water comes out of the kitchen to our outdoor bench of a dining room and we all dip our hands into it, quickly followed by the same woman with two plates of breakfast. She makes two trips to serve all four of us. As soon as she’s out of sight, we begin to examine our meal.

It consists of the homemade tortillas we had seen being made earlier and cuajada, a native food that somewhat resembles cream cheese… That’s the best way I can explain it.

It’s essentially raw milk that’s put in a large bowl with something that’s like rennet, cuajo, and salt (I think) and mixed with their bare hands. When it’s mixed and separated, they roll it into a large, uneven oval and wrap it so tight it takes on a smooth surface. If there’s refrigeration available, it’s put there, but there’s most often not, so no one ever puts the cheese in the fridge. When it’s ready to serve they cut little slices off of the ball, creating small, flat, oval slices. It becomes a lumpy type of cream cheese texture with a salty taste to it. And surprisingly, it’s one of the safest foods a gringo can eat that’s not cooked. I’ve never heard of anyone getting sick off cuajada. Maybe because of the caujo.

So we had little slices of cuajada with 1 1/2 tortillas each.

Although this may sound super appetizing and adventurous and authentic to all of you readers from the United States, I beg to differ. It’s not that I don’t appreciate their hard work. I do. But Nicaraguan cuisine isn’t my #1 favorite anymore. Their chicken is awesome, but their breakfast….

So first of all, there’s got to be other uses for tortillas. These aren’t yummy flour ones from Wal-Mart – or even the corn ones. These are ground corn and water patted down and thrown on a cast iron pan in an open fire. These taste like… cardboard. I’m sorry, but that’s what they resemble. Now, throw me some Nicaraguan chicken or pork or beef on top, and YUM! But alone…

Second, cuajada is just plain interesting. I don’t mind it. In fact, it’s just about the only thing that makes the cardboard bearable. It adds a healthy (healthy as in plenty of it) amount of salt to the meal. But again, alone, it’s not the most appetizing breakfast.

So I just try to gulp down the tortillas and cuajada together, and it normally tastes decent.

Technically, that’s how you’re supposed to eat it anyways. You squeeze of a little bit of your cuajada off with your fingers and tear a tortilla segment off. You then make a mini-burrito with the ingredients.

Elisha and I sat discussing the tortillas over the heads of the littler children, who didn’t like the cuajada. I don’t think any of us particularly cared for any of it, but we swallowed it all for the experience and the nutrition it gave us for the day. And I enjoyed it all together pretty well.

After we were done (and the dogs had licked their lips) we politely returned the empty and clean plates to the kitchen and thanked the cook.

And then ran all over their farm like nuts.

While Jehoiada and Jerusalem ran the farm, Elisha went swimming in their coffee-rinsing water basin. It was above-ground at maybe 5 feet tall in a rectangular concrete basin. And not very wide or long at all. And naturally, being the swimmer (and former swim-teamer) that I am, I was at the “pool” watching Elisha swim.

We were dressed in casual clothes of those who are posed to enjoy their Saturday morning at home – me, shorts and a T-shirt (which is what I slept in); Elisha, swim trunks and long-sleeved shirt; Jehoiada, I don’t remember; Jerusalem, her PJ’s, consisting of a T-shirt and leggings.

We were just getting comfortable when the bomb was dropped on us that there was a church service was at 10 and it was 9:30!

So we quickly changed from shorts to jeans, and from leggings to skirts.

We quickly crammed into the back of the truck (all eight of us, plus many natives that were picked up on the way) on the way to church.

Service was somewhat similar to the one the night before.

Except there was a huge, adrenaline-pumping, nerve-wracking adventure directly after the service.

Stay tuned for more 🙂

Elle

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