April’s happy fool
While bathing in the río Limon, under sprays of yellow orchids like golden bees, I notice the Gibraltar below my chest in 2006 has evolved to a minor flab plateau, here in Teotecacinte, 2008, Glenwood’s Sister City. I have ribs. Although I chose to moderate my weight loss after an obsessive February, I’ve probably (my scale got stolen!) lost 10-15 pounds of mondongo, since Feb. 1, mostly in my face, upper body and legs. I still resemble a candy apple in the morning mirror, even when I hold in my stomach and play Arnold Schwarzenegger. Oh, well. My original goal, 40 pounds, would’ve stretched me into perfectionism, part of the old Doug complex, not the new don Douglas Betanco, retired. Five pounds a month is healthy, and there’s always mañana. I’ve bought a belt to keep my pants up, always a good sign. My cheekbones show, now, and those Cary Grant creases beneath them, once mere dimples, continue to deepen. It’s been a shrink/grow vacation, replete with passion, change and painful joy. Semana Sancta in Nicaragua deepens me. Teote is where almost everyone celebrates Holy Week; where Judas Iscariot – my friend Chindo Sanchez – rides a donkey backwards through town, an unforgettable Saddam Hussein mask on his head; where Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ, dubbed in Spanish, replaces novellas on the TV for a week of very human and divine nights. It’s where tears of gracias flow between fathers and sons, at the soul-magnifying candlelight mass for the Resurrection. Easter came early and changed the rhythm and texture of my trip completamente. Even thinking of it now brings agua sagrado to my writing table. Then, I stopped writing, except for my daily journal, and just grew with Diós for three weeks.As a direct result of Semana Sancta 2008, I have a newly official son: my legal adoption of Ramón Ernesto Evans Betanco, now 23, is final in Nicaragua. I feel more honest, somehow, after calling him “my son” for 15 years. I’ve helped my sister, Olga, with his upkeep, along with eight other padre-less sons and daughters de Douglas. He’s run my errands; walked hundreds of miles with me around the lonely campo, as a guardia con machete; taught me Spanish idiomas; and now teaches me to ride mi caballo Triunfo. We cried together in the Easter Eve candles, a very special bonding. He’ll be entering the States with legal documentation, though he’ll be leaving his mother and several sweet girlfriends pining, I’m sure. He wants first to become an English-speaking electrician’s helper, starting at Square One in both trade and language acquisition. I’m also now living in my new cuarto, of adobe, pole, tin and stucco. I love its spaciousness, its ceiling three feet higher than in my former room. A band of clear molded plastic roofing brings extra light to my writing room. Best of all, it’s been built insect-free, for nightly comfort. Though the open eaves of the usual construction help cool down conventional rooms faster than my standing fan, this room’s back window will soon hold an air conditioner. Having no mosquitoes in the kneehole of my escritorio is delightful already. I’m sleeping disentangled from my mosquitera for the first time in Nicaragua. The rest of my wing will be finished when I return in January.I also paid a visit to my oldest hijo de don Douglas, serving a year in the state penitenciaría, the darkest place I’ve ever been, with the most negative energy, even on visiting day. Sadly, he’d became an alcoholic thief after 2000 and is now paying the piper. About half of Teote’s young men, the ones who don’t see coyotes in their futures, drink too much guaro here, after their eight hours in the tobacco fields for $4.52. He’s promised me a changed life, and I’ve facilitated his early release for good behavior, but that’s a hard one, alcohol, as I know.What else is new? A million small and very necessary changes: buying glasses for doña Eva; opening the new servicio at the finca; establishing work projectos for my other children, a few scholarships for English lessons; finding new clothes for the youngest kids de don Douglas; and a new flashlight and straw hat for mi padre. I have also been given a hundred trinkets, photos, lunches, dinners and breakfasts, and also a new sense of honor. Whereas I used to do all the visiting, now everyone’s coming to me for café and a chat. It must be all the silver shining in my hair these days, though, really, I’m feeling years younger.In addition, I’ve written 35,000 interesting words, mostly up on my blog. All in all, I’ve had another whirlwind trip, though done, perhaps, with greater grace, as I savor things now. I’m a tad concerned I’m becoming too mellow. There’s always tomorrow. Who’d have thought I’d find mañana-thinking comfortable, after years of being such a whip-meister? My students must be laughing bitterly, but, retirement takes both mind-retraining and deeper waters for my soul-swimming. Here’s to all Glenwood, a toast with agua Brigada, from one happy April’s fool in Campesino Heaven, Nicaragua.Former Colorado Mountain College professor Doug Evans Betanco is spending three months at Glenwood Springs’ sister city Teotecacinte, Nicaragua. Go to postindependent.com for more on Doug’s blog on his experiences.
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