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posted Feb 15, 2011, 10:15 AM by Ethan Shirley   [ updated Feb 15, 2011, 7:03 PM by Julie Bateman ]
Today I finished all the prep work for mortar.  Happy Martin Luther King day to me.  Then I started on mortaring windows into place.  The problem?  I started with the mortar at 4:00PM, and made a lot of it.  And I didn't want it to go to waste.  In short, I managed to stay working until ten o'clock, when I decided to stop, throw the rest of the mortar out and resume in the morning.

How in the world could I work that late?  Great question.  Let me tell you: It's not easy.  The fact that my workday started at 8:00AM and included only a brief half-hour break each for lunch and dinner did not help the situation.  Neither did the relentless onslaught of the little vampires that are so abundant.  Working inside with the light on in a building that isn't quite mosquito-proof yet is -- and this may surprise you -- not a great way to stay away from the mosquitoes.  With the mosquito netting part-way up and all but a little mortar to be installed to complete the seal, it turns out it is easier for mosquitoes to enter than to exit.  They are trapped!  Luckily, there is a large, lumbering meal standing on its two legs stupidly slapping more mortar on the wall.

I have redefined for myself what a lot means in terms of mosquitoes:  If you have to wipe them off yourself (i.e., when slapping each one becomes futile), there are a lot of mosquitoes.  My arm has been turned black more than once by the little bastards.  It seems that they get worse each time it rains.  But they can't get too much worse, can they?

But more importantly, the point of the story is that I was able to work until 10PM because there was a working light inside the school building.  Functionality is a huge step.  We only have to turn the water on across the street (and by that, I mean reconnect a hose that runs underground for about a quarter-mile to the lodge's water system) to get running water and thus fully functional utilities.  All the pipes are in, the wires up; everything is done except mortar.

When I finish, I will immediately go back to the city, meet with Rose and start working on the bureaucratic stuff.  Also on the to-do list still is the field station acquisition and the health clinic discussion.

In terms of food, we are still struggling here.  Today we picked tiny, completely hard and unripe oranges to add a little flavor and attempt to make juice.  Needless to say, I've had better juice.  

We alternate days of dried beef and eggs, always accompanying beans and rice.  We just used our last bag of beans.  We still have plenty of dried beef and several dozen eggs and enough rice for a bit.  But it seems that this is about it...  A couple other items are still in stock: canned corn; powdered sugar (though we are on the last bit of regular sugar); coffee; a couple jars of nutella; sweetened condensed milk; condensed heavy cream; hot chocolate mix; jam; onions, garlic; some seasoning (no spices, just something they call "sazon"); and flavored mix for cake and mousse.  

Our most creative recipes so far: 
I tried to use the canned corn as regular corn, with salt and black pepper.  Sadly, there is no black pepper.  It was OK at best.  I also am proud to say I mixed the hot chocolate powder with the heavy cream and "drank" it (with a spoon).  That was pretty good, though tough to digest first thing in the morning.  

Elder has made several creative dishes: corn, garlic and onion omelets (as opposed to just deep fried eggs); a lemon cake substituting WATER for MILK (bet you didn't know you could do that); and today, he made dried beef with unripe papaya, which turned out to taste not quite as rancid as the dried beef normally tastes.  The unripe papaya tasted like and had the texture of potatoes that had been doused in something flavorless but sour.  It actually might be good fried..... I might try to employ my expertise (as an American) and make some unripe papaya French fries.

We joke (but seriously) about what we're going to eat in the city.  Elder says he's going to have a X-Bagunca (translated roughly as a "cheesy mess", it is a sandwich with a beef patty, lettuce, tomato, onion, corn, egg, sliced hot dog, and cheese, among other things that I've likely forgotten and mistakenly omitted; it is usually eaten doused in mayonnaise) every meal while he's there.  But he's going to have it without the egg.  Damn eggs.  

He also jokes that I must take some dried beef with me when I go back to the city and to the States.  It would just be so sad to be without it for any period of time...

Tourists are coming on February 2, which should be our salvation (if help in the form of more food doesn't arrive sooner).  We have also nearly exhausted our supply of gas for the stove, so we soon may resort to soaking rice in water for a while or building a bonfire to cook on...