Nicargua Diary, Day 25
I have several purposes in creating this Nicaragua Diary. I hope to convey some of our daily experience living in Nicaragua. I’m trying to give a glimpse of life in an impoverished country, especially for people suffering poverty, which, to varying degrees, is the vast majority. And, of course, I’m aiming to get rich and famous through my writing. That one’s a longer-term goal.
I’ve described before how one of our neighbors in her twenties had never seen a microwave before. We also have a freezer, separate from our refrigerator, which some would call a “chest freezer” and others a “deep freeze.” We got it from friends who gave it to us because it had stopped working and they didn’t want to pay to repair it. The repairman charged us 2,000 cordobas (almost $100). I thought that was a gamble, but Kim believed it worth the risk. She was right.*
In a place this hot, cold=good. We freeze a ton of fruit, have bags of ice, and I have an ice-pack for old man injuries that one of my daughters uses almost every night to cool off so she can sleep. We also stock up on different foods that can be frozen, like fish and…fruit. A lot of fruit.
Most of you reading likely think this is “normal.” Everyone knows you save a lot of money by buying in bulk and life is much more convenient when you have the groceries you need already on hand.
Most of our neighbors cannot imagine this “normal” of ours. They buy their food daily, or at best every two or three days. A family who lives very close by and has 11 people, mostly children, living in about 200 square feet, sends one of the smaller children past our house every day to buy rice, beans, or oil up the street.
If you don’t have electricity, you don’t have a refrigerator, much less a deep freeze. If you need the 100 cords (3 dollars) you earn today to help you buy food for today, you aren’t stocking up.
We live in a barrio that you would call a “residential area,” and it certainly is not what any of us would think of as zoned for business, yet there are probably 12 homes within a 3 or 4 minute walk that sell food and drinks. Maybe more. Some of those tiny pulperias stock mostly junk food, but at others you can buy staples: eggs, tomatoes, peppers, flour, and of course rice, beans, and oil.
These businesses work largely because few of our neighbors have cars. It’s much easier to walk next door or three doors down to purchase today’s groceries than to walk ten minutes to wait ten minutes to ride a bus twenty minutes to a larger grocery store, especially when you don’t have that much to spend…and will need to make the same trip tomorrow.
Much of the economy in our barrio is local because 1)most of our neighbors don’t have the means to stock up, 2)some people don’t have any way to preserve left over food, and 3) very few have cars, a few more have a motorcycle, but most have no motor transportation at all.
When I say we live next to poverty, not in poverty, I mean this. Our deep freeze is a beat-up, rusting cube that in the States you might get off of Craigslist for $40 in working condition–or from Freecycle for nothing. But it’s saved us many times over the $100 we paid to have it fixed. It has made life here more convenient, bearable, and enjoyable.** It also gives us more opportunities to share food.
We don’t see ourselves as living in luxury here. We make many choices to live simply. When I compare it with a middle-class U.S. standard of living, I can convince myself this is true.
But our freezer space is a luxury I’m remembering not to take for granted.
*Not the first time nor the last.
**I’m not using hyperbole; for example, freezing one papaya would take up about half of our fridge’s freezer space, and the aforementioned ice pack that helps one of our children to sleep better would take the other half. I’m also not trying to sell old, rusty deep freezes.