Nicaragua Diary, Day 73
A brief one today. Sometimes the simple errands are profound.
I walked three blocks up to our closest fruteria (fruit stand). Sadly, our favorite fruteria closed recently, under concerning circumstances. The owner is the woman who spoke up about the horse we were trying to protect. Within a week, she had closed her business on that corner. She and her son now drive around with their own horse and cart, selling produce ambulante. She told me she can make more money this way. I hope that is the reason, but I fear she was threatened. But other than that she tell us, there’s no real way for me to find out.
When I arrived today, the woman who owns it* was sitting in her chair, kind of reclined with her legs extended. She greeted me and asked me what I wanted but didn’t get up, which was unusual. Then she pointed to her foot.
Her right foot was bandaged up.
“I just had an operation,” she told me. “I had an infection in my leg. They cut out something.” Except she didn’t say “something,” she said a word I didn’t recognize. It might have been toe. I know the word for toe, but that doesn’t always mean I catch it correctly. I don’t know the word for gangrene, but she described something like it. She had an infection, it got bad, and she had to have something removed.
I asked her if she had pain. She said yes, she has much pain. I told her how sorry I was to hear it and that we would be praying for her.
So I asked for my pepinos, my huevos, my piña and tomates and limones (limes, actually, though they use the word for lemons). First her granddaughter (maybe 8?) helped me, then her adult daughter came and waited on me. I could see she wasn’t comfortable with the math. If you’re picturing cash registers, you have the wrong image. She asked her mom about the price for each item and waited for her to calculate the total, so I started helping her with the running tally. She grinned at me when my and her mother’s numbers agreed.
My total was 101 cordobas. The owner rounded it down to 100. That means I spent almost exactly $3 to buy twelve eggs, two cucumbers, six limes, six tomatoes and a pineapple. If we ever move back to the States, I don’t know how I’m going to readjust to U.S. produce prices. We may have to grow everything ourselves.
As I stood waiting for the daughter to return my change, I noticed some leafcutter ants, doing what they do–to the one head of cabbage still for sail. If you’ve never seen leafcutters, they are an impressive variety. They cut off parts of whatever plant material they’ve targeted, usually pieces bigger than their bodies, and march off with them in line. And there they were, taking that cabbage off, piece by piece. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have gotten away with that if the owner had been on her feet.
I got my change, thanked them profusely, reassured the grandmother that I would be praying for her, and left them with a blessing.
It’s a daily interaction. It’s supporting a tiny family business in our neighborhood. I know this makes a difference.
But this is also the face of poverty: I’m certain she didn’t go to the doctor until it was desperate. Did she know how to treat an infection? Maybe. I can vouch that cuts seem to become infected before your eyes here. But for an infection to require an operation, that’s severe.
Her adult daughter doesn’t multiply or add, at least not confidently enough to attempt it with simple problems. That may be not wanting to try it in front of the gringo, which is its own issue. But I’m guessing I’m being too hopeful with that interpretation.
Finally, I love the inexpensive produce, and truthfully Kim has wondered if they buy the ones that are already nearer the edge of ripe. That may help explain their prices. But how much do they need to sell in a day to earn a living? As an inexperienced missionary, I would have said, “just pay them a lot more.” Now we have the negative personal stories that we had to learn for ourselves–even though we were warned–about how trying to overpay (or giving indiscriminately) can cause damage and ruin relationships.
I talk about simple interactions. I often wish solutions were simple, as well.
*Often it’s the woman who runs the business out of the home, sometimes because the man works elsewhere, sometimes because he drinks and works on and off or not at all.