CARMEN LISHMAN WEDS CARMELO ACUNA IN NICARAGUA
BILL GETS HUNG UP ON A ROCK IN THE HIGH ARCTIC
August 27 2010 the Clipper Adventurer sits on a rock well above her water line in Coronation Gulf 60 kilometers east of the mouth of the Coppermine river
Christmas letter 2010
Now the details It is terribly hard not to let a lot of cliché’s fill these Christmas diatribes, but here goes: I can’t believe a whole year has slipped by (cliché #1). Next cliché, here it is Christmas yet again; where did the year go? Or fill in your own. Here is a picture of us all taken on Carmen’s Birthday December 12, 2010
Left to right: Allison, Gordie holding Deagan, Bill with Cadence in front, Carmen, Paula, Aaron, Ivy, and Della the dog.
Now The year in Review from the Lishman camp:
Last February, wanting to escape the cold and not wishing to travel too far ( in 09 I had circumnavigated the globe), we decided to spend a few weeks in Cuba, Paula had been there several times but this was my first. We also wanted to experience the non-tourist Cuba. The short story is, we did.
The longer story; rather than go to one of those all inclusive beachfront resorts where all you meet are fellow winter- dodging Canadians or Europeans, we rented a room in what we might call a B&B, (in Cuba it is called a Casa Particular). This one is in the remote town of Baracoa, in Guantanamo province at the Eastern extremity of the country. There are two flights weekly from Havana. The deal was, thirty Cdn. dollars a day for room and board for the two of us. Which is about the cost getting our driveway cleared of snow at home .
Baracoa is beautiful! The weather was perfect, temperature great, the food in the Casa was quite good and the people we stayed with warm and caring, but the political system sucks. It is a police state and to have any kind of a life, the average Cubans have to supplement their measly state income (ten bucks a month for a street sweeper up to thirty for a doctor.) Most have to do something illegal to get enough to live on, which can be just about any thing that involves entrepreneurial spirit. As a result everyone is looking over their shoulder and while everyone gets an education and medical care as part of the deal there is no incentive to make things better, and it shows. Cubans in general are not allowed internet access, nor are they allowed to travel beyond the country, even playing American music is illegal. Just about everywhere I wanted to go was off limits to tourists. We did spend a few days in Havana which has its charm, and the music was wonderful, but on the whole I had this pervasive feeling of oppression which ruins all that is good . The positive was that I was able to write almost a whole new book , and Paula was able to relax and read a bunch. Here are a few pictures from the Cuban excursion.
On February 12th ,my birthday ,we were shaken awake by an early morning earthquake (Baracoa is only about 100 kms from Port Au Prince Haiti as the goose would fly). My birthday coincided with our hostess’ birthday, so piggy- backing on their festivities, we had a great party out in the country at the edge of a river, where a pig was roasted on a primitive spit, and much “two dollar a bottle rum” was consumed.
We returned from Cuba mid -March and I got all inspired about creating prefab domes in fiberglass, and at least I got a good start on it. The plan is to create a prefab system of building houses based on our house. I have a way to go with it. In May Paula used one of the first domes to exhibit her wares at the annual international fur show in Montreal
Early in the year Carmen came home from Nicaragua, and inspired by her initial humanitarian work in rural Nicaragua, took on a project to improve two rural schools. In July after collecting all sorts of school supplies, and raising a few thousand dollars, she and her life long friend ( the boy next door ) Brian Wonnacott set off by road for Nicaragua in a twenty year old diesel powered mini School bus They had an amazing adventure but rather than me telling you about it check their website/blog www.purplehillhumanitarians.com it is much better than this one. (Carmen is my hero)
Concurrently, my disaster relief project called Air First Aid (AFA) got a whole new life, partially instigated by the Haitian earthquake, but mostly by a group of aviation oriented business people who have introduced it to World Vision. WV is the second largest disaster Global relief organization next to the Red Cross and has shown sincere interest, but the jury is still out. It will take the likes of an organization such as this to propel the idea forward. A couple of years ago CTV did a great little news piece on AFA which you might enjoy – This year I finally figured out how to put it on Youtube so click on this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TqSxgHtA6Q.
We did have few adventures over the summer I’m still flying my ultralights and still have too many of them it is always great to get up on a misty dawn and just take a local cruise. Here are a couple of aerial shots of summer in Ontario just to remind us the days are getting longer.
In August I joined Adventure Canada on the good ship Clipper Adventurer, for a voyage starting in Greenland and traveling through the now open, North West Passage. Although I have been in the arctic several times I am always in awe of its magnificence. We had good seas, fair winds, experienced the fantastic Fjords of Baffin Island, were chased off Beechey island by a curious polar bear, saw the 2 billion year old first evidence fossilized life (Stromatalites) and by the 27th of August, with just four hours to Kugluktuk, the end of our Voyage, the Adventure Canada staff took a break to sip some bubbly in celebration of the wonder of it all. The low sun was painting everything golden; the sea was like a pond at dawn, the ship was running at full 14 knots.
All was right with the world, then crash, lurch and crunch! we all came to a true grinding halt. Rushing out to the rail it soon became evident that we had run up on a rock that had not appeared on the ships chart. We all went into a bit of shock, and for the first twenty minutes there was decided uneasiness: but it soon became evident that the ship was stable, we were not sinking and we only had to put up with a 5 degree tilt and the closure of the bar (a law of the sea).
All efforts by crew and Captain would not dislodge her. In fact it took seventeen days before 3 tugs arrived from Alaska and after pumping off a thousand tons of fuel and water they were able to free the clipped Clipper. The passengers and staff, and most of the crew, had been taken off after two days by the Canadian research vessel the Amundsen, which had been 600 miles to the west of us in the Beaufort sea.
After a night half slept sardined on the deck of the Amundsen’s lounge then finished up on the floor of the Kugluktuk arena we were able to catch a flight via Yellowknife to Edmonton.
While in Edmonton awaiting a flight home I received a phone call from Carmen in Nicaragua she informed me she was getting married to Carmelo a man she had met in Nicaragua the previous year and he wanted to ask me for her hand as is the Nicaraguan tradition. What could I say? Bueno, Si, Esta bien what the—-???
Now leap forward to October 15th : Paula and I, along with son Aaron and our friends Richard and Cathy Black, have flown in to Managua, rented four wheel drive vehicles and we are in Convoy being led ever upwards by Carmen and Aaron in her antiquated school bus A few of her friends that have come for the wedding are also in the bus. We are following a sixty kilometer stretch of mountainous dirt road so full of washouts, rocks, ponds, twists, and slopes, that it would surely scare the crap out of Evil Knevil.
The wedding will take place at the home of her Fiancées mother in Sontule (Son tool lay), which is in the mountainous cloud forest 5 hours to the north west of Managua.
We don’t quite make it. With 7 kms to go Carmen’s decrepit bus, Aaron at the wheel ,while negotiating one of the steepest grades, dumps all its transmission fluid in one long rock strewn streak and grinds to a halt. Concurrently Richard, who has never changed a tire even on pavement, sustains a flat tire on his SUV on the same rip rap slope. Aaron backs the bus down hill, and finds a place to abandon it. Richard is able to install the temporary spare. A pick up truck, probably the only other traffic of the day, stops by. All the luggage, plus a four tiered wedding cake, is transferred to the truck, and abandoning Carmen’s bus we are able to make Sontule just as darkness falls.
The community is comprised of a handful of houses, and one small corner store with a very limited inventory. The houses that are spread throughout the jungle, by North American standards, would be called shacks. They have tin roofs, vertical plank walls and dirt floors, with no windows. Underfoot are kids, chickens, dogs and pigs . There is no electricity, indoor plumbing, or running water and the kitchens are comprised of little, well vented add-ons, with wood fired lorena stoves made from baked mud.
Carmelo is a Nicaraguan mountain man of 23 who has a small coffee plantation inherited from his grandmother. He is learning English, and has only the education the area offers. There is a bit of a cultural gap. Fortunately Carmen has arranged that we stay in a house constructed by a Danish couple who visit it rarely. We have the only house in the area with running water and electricity (solar powered)
The next day the wedding is to take place at ten AM (to avoid the usual mid afternoon rain). Things don’t happen quite as swiftly, however the day is beautiful and the area spectacular. Forty people are invited to the wedding but about two hundred show up, some hiking from miles away, many coming on horseback. The only vehicles are our two rental SUVs, which get pressed into service hauling water from the communal well, and ferrying people from the bus stop seven kilometers away ( coincidently exactly where Carmen’s now abandoned school bus sits). One of the guests is the lawyer, a friend of Carmens who will officiate and has come five hours from Leon by bus.
When we had arrived the night before, the festivities had already started, for the woods were alive with the sound of many who had started celebrating earlier in the day. Carmen and Carmelo had purchased a heifer for the occasion and while we slept, the cow had been slaughtered by some of the party goers and cut into chunks that would fit in the “three missionary size” Iron pot that steamed away on the fire outside the kitchen.
The wedding ceremony although scheduled for ten, started around one under a clear sky and took much longer than we expected, for not only did the lawyer do his piece, but because Carmelo’s relatives are members of two different religious groups, there were sermons from both the Catholic priest and the Evangalists. At the end, what in Mexico would be called a Mariachi band, tuned up. We Canadians sat there in shock and awe of it all. Richard Black sat in particular awe, swept up by the emotion of the Evangelist group chant that had awakened something deeper within. After the ceremony, those that could, crowded into the fifteen foot square main room of the house and the newlyweds were presented with many gifts, like socks, underwear and bed clothes. In the meantime out of the minimalist mud stove kitchen came plate after plate of the best home made corn tortillas ever, rice, fried plantain, and what had been the heifer of the previous evening, now slightly grey and with of the consistency of pulled pork. Like a miracle, two hundred were served. The Mariachis moved inside and dancing broke out under the dim blue light of one battery operated LED light. As the evening approached in the waning light, some of us gathered in the back yard of the house sitting on a variety of wood blocks, benches and stones when in the middle of it all, half a dozen dogs, who had been attracted by the smell of the murdered beef, decided to have a scrap. It got nasty. Most of us jumped out of the way of the snarling melee of fangs, but Paula did not move quite quickly enough, and sustained what the US military might call collateral damage, and has just finished her 28 day regimen of anti-rabies shots.
We stayed another day and invited the newlyweds, along with Carmelo’s mother Marta,and step father Adolpho, for a dinner at the Danish house. We found that the only thing available at the grocery store was potatoes, and by chance I had brought an onion soup mix and there was some rice in the house. By dinnertime, we had overused the battery in the house, so under candle light The girls did a marvelous job preparing the potatoes. We expected about four guests but twelve showed up and the onioned mashed potatoes stretched.
Now the most exciting part :
In Sontule, the only contact with the outer world is by Cel phone, if you climb 1500 feet to the top of the nearby mountain. Carmelo did that and made contact with a mechanic friend who also drove the daily scheduled bus . The plan was, to meet at Carmen’s bus, and he would tow Carmen’s bus behind his bus down the torturous 60 kilometer “road from hell” to the local city of Estelli. We had to be at the bus stop at 7:30 am next day. The daily bus is a recycled, full- sized School bus, equipped with a constantly used horn, that would be the envy of any large ship. It had almost a full compliment of passengers and its standard crew of three, each with their own welded on ladder that accessed their roof-top perches. In short order a committee of about a dozen decided there was no way of connecting the two vehicles rigidly. Fortunately Carmen carried an industrial grade nylon tow strap; however there was only about ten feet between the two vehicles. Aaron bravely volunteered to steer the dead bus. The plan was, the big bus would tow the little bus on the up grades, then detach it, and let it coast the downgrades, which would have to happen a number of times on this rocky “road from hell”, all without the aid of power to the steering or brakes. We only had one SUV left as the Blacks had decided to get out of town the previous day. We were fully loaded; Paula and I with the newly weds and two of Carmen’s friends (one Lin who had come all the way from Inuvik). Carmelo, was not used to eating meat and had come down with the touristas, as apparently had a number of the local wedding guests, and Anna Fisher, Carmen’s life long friend from Blackstock had come down with a fever! Six of us plus our luggage. We set off to follow the bus entourage, but had to make several stops to answer Carmelo’s biological pressures. It all seemed to work. Aaron did a yeoman’s job, jouncing along , peering out the multi-cracked, mud bespattered windshield, at the too-close wall of the tow bus, while muscling the powerless steering wheel back forth through the twists and turns. At every height of land, the tow bus crew would scramble from their perches on the roof, unhitch Aaron, and push him off down the next slope. At one point, a local farmer decided to drive his cattle out onto the road and Aaron, with only gravity propelling him, amazingly negotiated through the herd without losing too much momentum, or bowling over any of the cows! At the bottom of each run, Carmelo’s cousin Marlon, who was riding shotgun with Aaron, would leap out and pour water over the smoking brakes, while the tow bus was re-hitched. After one of Carmelo’s stops which put us behind, we caught up to the entourage at the base of a killer “up” slope. The tow bus driver said he didn’t think the fully loaded bus would make it with the little bus in tow, but if we ferried the passengers up the grade in the SUV, then it may be possible. So, unloading Paula and the rest, I wedged in 8 at a time, and in three runs, deposited most of them at the top of the grade. Most had never ridden in anything but the bus previously, and were giggling and overjoyed to get a ride in such a vehicle (I gotta say the Toyota diesel power Fortuner is a great vehicle )
The story ends well. Carmen is married, we got the bus to the mechanic in Estelli, Paula survived the dog bite, and I think atheist Richard Black might become an evangelist.
One other event of the year stands out, Adventure Canada staged a reunion of those on the Clipper Adventurer. It was a party to celebrate surviving the North west passage grounding. November 10th , the last great day of the year, sun and warm like it was September, about a hundred of us got together at Purple Hill and – well just best to look at the Youtube piece one of the attendees was skilled enough to put up. Also you might discover a way of getting rid of surplus pumpkins that survived Halloween http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35aZ9aEvbwc
At year’s end Carmen is in Sontule with her hubby, and working on bringing him to Canada; Paula is still working on her plan to move most of her production to China, which will be a major report in the next edition; and well, I am still working away at my book and the other varied projects. Our two grandchildren, Cadence (5) and Deegan (almost 2) are a delight . Their parents (Aaron and Ivy) are well, and Geordie and his girlfriend Alison, are also happy and healthy.
Hope all is well with you (cliché # 3) Again the very best wishes from all of us here at the Hill