Thursday, I woke with the sun. Juan pounded on my door. ‘Megan! Megaaaan! Time for the show!’. I stumbled out in my pjs to see Manuel chopping wood and assembling a nice campfire. And then Jamie brought out the two turkeys that had slept in the bodega, sqwaked all the morning long, and were now fighting against their anticipated fate. Thanksgiving preparation had begun.
Happy thanksgiving. That’s right: if you want to eat turkey in Nicaragua, you go find yourself a farmer that has one to sell, you buy it for 350 cordoabas, and kill the darn thing. At Brio—go big or go home—we got two turkeys for the feast. I am thankful for Hanz and Franz, our two Brio chompipes that stayed with us from an early morning beginning to a seasoned and buttery end.
Before there was to be any be-heading of Hanz and Franz, the turkeys were given one last cocktail. Apparently drunk turkeys have more tender meat and are easier to cook, so Jamie went and got two of the cheapest bottles of rum made in Nicaragua, stuff that would melt your stomach, grabbed the first turkey by the neck, opened its mouth, and poured the booze right in. The second got the same treatment and soon they were stumbling around like drunk old men, eyes drooping and heads sagging.
Manuel tied Hanz to a tree, a machete was found, and several whacks later, Hanz became headless. (And yes, I watched the whole thing. And yes, Juan took a picture of Hanz’s decapitated and bloody head, eyes still open. Sick.) In the meantime, Manuel had his fire roaring and two pots of water boiling atop, water that they poured on the turkeys to help in the de-feathering process. A bag of turkey feathers later, to get Hanz and Franz looking a bit more… supermarket ready, Ixolina stepped in wielding her kitchen knife and gutted them outside the kitchen and then… there they were. Nestor came by at 2 to bake Hanz and fry Franz, and well, season ‘em a bit. And that’s how you make a Thanksgiving turkey in Nicaragua.
All the gringos in town came to Brio for a potluck dinner, which was a lot of fun. I made mocha chocolate chip cookies, which turned out okay (I think I added too much flour) but were still amazing to me, since well, I really miss chocolate chip cookies. Everyone else pulled out all the stops—we had mashed potatoes, green beans, pasta salad, homemade bread, and stuffing—and, of course, Hanz and Franz, who were delightfully tasty. I shall never look at a turkey the same way again. I expected that the whole ‘show’ (as Juan put it) of killing, gutting, and cooking a live turkey would dissuade my desire to actually consume it as part of my meal, but honestly it really didn’t. This is not because I’m a blood-thirsty animal eater. Rather, it’s nice to know where your meat comes from. Even though I named the turkeys as a joke, I know that Hanz and Franz weren’t raised in cages, are defiintely hormone free, and didn’t travel thousands of miles in the back of a crowded truck. We make such a fuss over organic food–what’s more organic than buying live turkey and eating it? As I recounted the story of Hanz and Franz to several of our dinner guests (which I guess is not very host-like, but they seemed to enjoy it), one said “you’re so western”–which I am. Coming from a vegetarian household, it’s good for me to see how meat gets from farm to plate. Animals do generally start out alive, so logic dictates they must…be killed. This is not a radical concept for most. I ate said turkeys, and honestly, quite enjoyed them (although, I’m noticing that I’m using the personal pronouns rather than object pronouns, which is creepy). I’ve come a long way from those childhood Thanksgivings with my vegetarian parents… and it doesn’t look like I’m going back.
Our Thanksgiving dinner was actually the second dinner party of the week at Brio. For my birthday on Monday (happy birthday to meeee) we had a taco dinner party, which was really just splendid. I was happy to be back in Brio by the beach, in any case, to start my twenty-second year, but I was so pleasantly surprised by the community of people that showed up to start it with me. Four months after I took off totally on my own, tacos and mojitos with a really sweet group of people was the perfect birthday. And also I got to dance bachata, so what else could a girl really ask for. And now I’m 22… hmm.
Last Friday, I announced to all three rounds that class was cancelled on Monday and Tuesday in preparation of my trip to Granada to do newspaper layout. And then I got an email from Darrell saying that “all was shit” and that we weren’t going to put out an issue this week. Now, in newspaper land, missing an issue is bad news bears. But, with all that’s been going down in Managua, people are nervous. By people I mean foreign investors who are understandably worried that this newly antagonistic government will screw them over—by taking their land, making ridiculous tax laws, or most importantly, slowing the flow of tourists due to their ridiculous behavior. The government’s done it before and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they’d do it again. Thus advertisers, concerned about survival more than expansion, are simply not buying ad space. And since our entire revenue stream comes from advertisers, this is not so smashing for the future of the Nicaraguan Post. And also for my job as designer of said newspaper (since apparently you can’t design a paper that doesn’t have enough money to be printed).
So, at this point, I’m waiting, fingers crossed, to find out of the future of the paper. Last I heard, Darrell was still planning to put out an issue in the coming week, so we shall see if the coming Sunday finds me once again in front of the computer, playing the layout game.
Although I had a fantastic week in beach land with the birthday and turkey, Nicaragua did not fare so well. The United States froze a $175 million aid program through the Millennium Challenge Corporation because of “deep concerns” over the state of democracy in country. (The actual amount cut off is unclear, ranging from $64 to $175 million, but suffice to say… it’s a lot of cordobas). Sucks to be a poor Nicaraguan this week, since they are the ones that will ultimately be affected by the budget cuts—not Ortega or Managua’s new mayor, Ortega’s crony.
Here’s a nice press-conference blurb conversation:
First, the ambassador of the frozen fund gives justification for the termination of aid: “We had hoped, for the sake of the Nicaraguan people, that the government would continue the country’s trend towards peaceful, democratic and credible elections. I am afraid recent evidence shows that this is not the case.”
The president of the Nicaraguan-American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) César Zamora says that the aid cut is “a nuclear bomb for the economy in Nicaragua…We are in a profound crisis, and to be honest, I still don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. But cutting off aid would make any light at the end of the tunnel impossible. They need to give a window to the politicians to see if we can get out of this crisis.”
And then President Ortega says: Nicaraguan feels “a little bit freer” without this $175 million in aid. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez concurred, saying that it was like “taking the chains off.”
Classic. Foreign aid is so constraining. Millions of dollars are like shackles. Nicaragua has enough money to go around without it, thank you very much. Who needs $175 million dollars from the imperialist United States when you’re a poor farmer in northern Nicaragua struggling to survive everyday and when your government is paralyzed with corruption so it can’t help you. Sweet.