Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Birthday and Semana Santa

My birthday was last month during semana santa (Holy Week), which is basically like spring break for most of Nicaragua.  Most businesses shut down and people all head to the beach, which means they are extra crowded and usually full of unruly characters.  Basically, exactly where you don’t want to be, so I decided to avoid the beach and consider other options.  I know a family that lives in the canyon thanks to working with my tour guide friend, and they had been asking for a while for me to come up and teach them how to make pizza.  I decided that making pizza in the canyon sounded like a great way to celebrate my birthday and avoid the crowds at the beach!

Way back in October, Gonzalo (the guide I work with) and I took a group of tourists up to a family finca (farm) above the canyon.  We camped out at a lookout and ate at the family’s house then rappelled down into the canyon. While we were chatting at breakfast, Gonzalo mentioned that I know how to make pizza and suggested we make some in the wood fired oven the family had.  Dunia was very excited since she does most of the cooking for tourists and wanted to learn how to make another option besides Nica food.  We made plans to make plans…

Months passed, and I saw the family members several times.  Every time our conversation would have something like this, “And the pizza?  When are you going to come and make it?” I would respond, “Soon!  I need to find a good time to do it.”  I always wanted to, but the thought of hiking up there with all of the ingredients (about an hour) didn’t sound exciting to me.  Soon the conversation turned to, “You’re a liar!” in a sort of playful but kind of serious kind of way.  I knew I need to make good on my promise and soon!

My birthday provided the perfect time to follow through on my promise.  I let several people know that I wanted to hang out in the canyon and make pizza for my birthday, and a few of my friends made the trek up to Somoto, as well as some friends of friends who were interested in seeing the canyon.  We split the cost of all the ingredients and trekked them up to the family’s house.   The hike only takes about an hour to an hour and a half, but not everyone was as prepared for it, and some people were huffing by the end.  It all paid off though!

The Mejías live almost completely self-sustainably on their farm, so Gonzalo took some of the group around to show them how the family takes care of their various crops, cattle, and general needs.  While they did that, Dunia and I started work on the pizza making.  She was very intent on learning and had her son take copious notes as I showed her the process of making the dough.  It was also quite the spectacle for most of the family to see a man in the kitchen cooking!

Chef and Sou Chef hard at work:

We made six pizzas in total in their wood fired oven.  Dunia was the master baker after I put the first three in and burned them within two minutes since the oven was so hot.  The pizza still tasted delicious, and our second round came out much better.  Everyone was satisfied and full by the end of dinner, and I was exhausted.  We finished out the night camping at the mirador (lookout point) over the canyon.  

 Headlamps are an important part of baking after sunset in the campo.

The next day, Dunia gave a lesson on how to make tortillas after breakfast, and then we hiked down to the river and went through the canyon.  After two years, I still love it!

It was a great way to celebrate my birthday and also avoid all of the craziness of semana santa elsewhere.  I’m glad some of my closest friends made it up to celebrate with me!

I realize it’s been forever since I’ve written.  I'm not going to promise more updates, but I hope to do a few reflections on service and the last two years.  So stay tuned, just don't hold your breath. ;)

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