Getting the Gardens Ready & Cooking Together
Monday: Training 1
After all that talk about being on time, we were actually late to the first training. PLAN Nicaragua, who is running our trainings, also had their watches set to Nica time, and arrived about an hour late. 22 women, each toting one to four children, sat patiently in our outdoor classroom while Gloria entertained. She’s hysterical and can break out in a stand-up routine at the tip of a hat. Around 11 am, Donald rolled up in his truck. PLAN is also providing lunch & refreshments for each training. Reluctantly, I passed out the 2-sodas per-woman, and this lunch.
Nutrition class number one and I’m watching buckets of azucar be passed around to each mother and child. We decided that the next training, we’re gonna opt out of 7-ups and bring our own refrescos for the women…
The training went beautifully. Donald went over an introduction to garden, laying out the space, different families of seeds, and how to mix homemade fertilizer. The women were excited and attentive, taking notes and asking questions. I was surprised at how the energy changed when a man entered the space. We need his expertise but I’m so glad us ladies will be doing the work ourselves.
Next on the list was seed shopping. In Nicaragua, you buy seeds at the pet store. We waited for the cucumber, squash, pipián, tomato, and pepper seeds, holding bunnies and chickies, dreaming of taking puppies home for 2 dollars.
Fridays: Cooking Together
Every Friday of this project, all us 25 women (22 women from Villa, Gloria, Megan, and myself) will be meeting in one of the women’s houses to cook together using the same vegetables that we are growing, learn together how to make delicious and veggie-rich meals, and have a more formal discussion about health and nutrition.
This past Friday we were in Doña Theresa’s home. When Gloria and I arrived at 10:05, all of the women were in the backyard waiting for us. This kind of attendance is unprecendented in past projects, Megan tells me, and the reason is clearly the presence of Gloria. Her ability to connect with the women with such ease and care astounds me every day I work with her, which is fortunately four days a week. Plus, she pokes fun at everyone constantly. No one is left out, including myself. She draws directly on her experience when speaking with the women, almost exclusively using the words “us” and rarely “you” or “you all.” We are poor, we are women, we are mothers. I feel so blessed to be able to work with Gloria. Her enthusiasm contagiously spreads across the faces of the women. Everyone is laughing and asking questions. Everyone arrives on time and is excited to be there.
Gloria asked me to lead a more formal discussion on health and nutrition, which I was timid but excited about. A chance to practice my Spanish, make myself vulnerable in front of these women that I really respect. When I was sitting with them at Doña Theresa, though, I felt very unqualified and silly speaking to them. I wanted to talk about the “why” behind growing these gardens, not just the “how” to do it. I had some information on the effect of obesity, the implications of diabetes, some facts about the value of these particular vegetables, all good material. But the most effective and motivating part of our discussion was, clearly, asking the women to each speak to why they were there. At first they were shy. But soon each was chiming in. Some were just curious, excited learn about horticulture. One spoke of her three kids, and the difficulty of leaving the home to get a job. Without a husband though she is left without an income. Getting fresh food is difficult, and expensive. All agreed.
During the dicussion, Doña Theresa would slip behind us and stir the big ole pot 'o steaming soup. Of course, Doña Catalina, the president of the community and basically the president of this project, chipped in too. The soup was amazing. Probably the best I've ever had. So spicy and tasty and fresh. Just compare it to the picture above of the food from the training. Ricisimo.