Visitors and Biking to Town

The last however long we have not had many visitors. Things have been pretty quiet around here. But in the last twenty-four hours, that was changed up a bit.

Yesterday afternoon Dane came in to say that there were two men staring at him from the gate. I checked the window. Sure enough, two men were simply standing in the opening between our yard and the lechero’s field. It was time for me to milk, so I headed out.

As soon as I was outside, the one man started whistling at me to come talk to them. Turns out they are two fellows from the new water committee. They said Conchacalla was having problems with their water, so they were checking every house in Marquesbamba, too. I took them around to the outside hoses where we found water.

They thanked me and told me if I needed anything to let them know. They then went on to the other neighbors and performed the same checks. He said they were starting at the bottom of the line and working their way up the mountain until they found the problem.

While I was milking this morning, a fellow walked into the barn. He has been helping the lechero the last couple of weeks since the cows were stolen. He said good morning and stood, watching me milk. He asked why I don’t tie my cow’s legs. I told him I didn’t need to because she stands still. That seemed to make sense.

Then he said, “You’re religious, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I’m a Christian.”

“Do you like to drink?”

“No, I don’t drink at all.”

“I’m a Catholic, and I drink.”

“Oh, isn’t that dangerous for you?”

“Yes,” he said. “Si pe. Es peligroso. It’s dangerous. Do you ever drink beer sometimes?”

“No, I don’t drink at all.”

“Okay. I butchered a sheep. I can’t break the breast bone. Do you have a meat cleaver?”

I didn’t have a meat cleaver, but he was happy to use a machete. He said he hadn’t forgotten that he’d borrowed my hammer Saturday. He’ll bring both the hammer and machete back at the same time. That’s nice. I expect he’ll be back to talk. I didn’t say much beyond answering his questions this time. Hopefully, I can talk a bit more next time.

We had the privilege last night of eating Steph’s first batch of ice cream from Estrella’s milk. It was very, very good. The one ingredient she put in that we cannot easily buy now is sweetened condensed milk. I decided I wanted more ice cream in my life (partly from the influence of a retired Methodist preacher from Virginia), so this morning I set to work to make the sweetened condensed milk.

I’ve made small batches before, but I thought I might as well do a larger batch. You simply add sweetener to milk, then reduce the milk by half. I used twelve cups of milk and four cups of raw sugar. I brought it to a boil at which point I dropped it to a simmer while we finished breakfast and had devotions.

For a two-cup recipe, it usually takes about half an hour for the milk to reduce by half. However, an hour later it was only down about a third. This was a problem because I wanted to start another batch of yogurt, and I needed to run into Izcuchaca.

The run to Izcuchaca was necessary because Dane had left the goat kids bottles outside, and the dogs ate one of the nipples, leaving us with only one. Steph also wanted me to look for fruit and a few other things. But the stores in town have been closing at lunchtime, meaning I needed to leave soon.

Steph finished watching the sweetened condensed milk project while I headed out to town. I decided to bike in because the police frown at people in vehicles, and I’m strongly adverse to people frowning at me. Lamar said I could borrow his car, but it looks better parked up at his house.

Things did not go well. By the time I got to town, the bike seat had decided it would remain pointing straight into the air. That is not the most comfortable way to ride bike. I stopped at Victoria’s to drop off some yogurt. She wanted to pay me for it, but I wanted it to be a gift her first time. I left my bike at her store (after punching the seat down) while I went hunting for fruit.

They wouldn’t let me into the mercado without a mask. Conveniently, a lady was selling masks outside the door, so I got one. Then they said they needed to watch me wash my hands before I could come in. I did a good job. I am pretty sure I was more sanitary than most of what was inside the mercado. I got my fruit and went back to Victoria’s for my other things.

She did not have any tools for the bike, so I pushed it up the street to a tire shop and borrowed their tools. I tightened the seat down pretty enthusiastically. I wonder if I didn’t overdo it because a kilometer out of town it started raining and the bike seat completely came off.

I know I had no influence over the rain, but I was afraid I had messed something up with my show of strength at the tire shop. I pushed my bike several more kilometers, all the while the rain was getting harder. I slogged down Fernando’s lane to wait out the storm and to see if they had tools for my bike.

It was 1:00 in the afternoon by this time, which meant they were just preparing lunch. Esmeralda sprayed my hands with bleach water and gave me sugarcane to munch on while they cooked. I wanted to work on my bike, but Fernando said it was raining, and we should sit and talk. So we sat and talked until lunch was ready.

I was mentally preparing myself for this. Eating at Fernando’s is always an ordeal for me. They eat tremendous portions. Esmeralda sat a large bowl of soup, four potatoes, and a half leg of chicken in front of me. I had finished my second potato when Octavio and Fernando asked for their second bowl of the same.

Fernando had made aji, which is a condensed vegetable form of fire. He kept encouraging me to add more, while Esmeralda asked me to eat more cheese. I am still not reconciled to local cheese, but I found if you eat enough aji, you can’t taste it.

I valiantly finished my soup with all of them waiting in silence. Fernando passed my soup bowl to the counter while Esmeralda grabbed the main dish of four more potatoes for each person, a large salad, and an ear of corn. Fernando had made the salad. Each person had an onion chopped up for them with various other vegetables added, including ricoto, a pepper far hotter than jalapeΓ±os. Needless to say, my sinuses are all cleared out.

I did not eat any of the second helping of potatoes, but I think they were fairly proud of all I managed to eat. The rain had stopped, so we went out to look at the bike seat (which I kept calling a bike chair in Spanish). I cannot explain the system to you, but the one thingy that was supposed to meet up with the other thingy to clamp onto the bars on the bottom of the seat was too bent to work.

Besides which, I noticed the reason the bike seat insisted on being stuck up was that the two parts that meet together with a teeth-like key system to hold them in place had long ago been worn away. No amount of tightening would hold the seat in place. Fernando helpfully suggested wiring the seat on. We tried. We failed.

I determined to walk it home. Fernando didn’t want me to leave without a gift, so he gave me a very large pumpkin to hang from a bag from my handlebars. I really didn’t want the extra weight, as I was already carrying about fifty pounds on my back, but one does not turn down a gift.

I made it to Inquilpata before the one bag handle ripped off. I almost made it to where I turn off the road when the other one ripped. How does one carry a pumpkin and push a bike at the same time? Let me tell you, it isn’t as fun as it sounds.

I did finally make it down the field. As I came nearer to Lamar’s house, I heard a girl and lady both hollering. It was Cilia. She said she had been yelling for at least half an hour, but Lamar’s hadn’t woken up yet. I assured her they would not hear her, regardless how much she yelled. She wanted to know if she could get stuff from the bodega.

I walked her down to the house, dropped off my stuff, and went out to the bodega. She had a wheelbarrow along on which she loaded a bed frame, side boards, head board, and foot board. I wish I had thought to catch a picture. She pushed it half a kilometer up through a couple of fields. Quite the sight. I asked if she needed help, but she said she could do it.

Truth is, I took no pictures today because I was so occupied with getting from point A to point B while stopping at all the various points in between. I will maybe find something to add to the blog when I go out to do chores, which is now. The sun is already beginning to set.

I’m tired.

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