Practically Speaking

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As you may or may not be able to tell by looking over this blog, I tend to dwell in the realm of the intangible and the existential. I can write about what I learnt in the last two years about peace and justice and compassion with ease. But, when I face the challenge of actually doing something practical, like changing a tire or counting back change to someone, I have no idea what I am doing. Unfortunately, a satisfied consumer experience is rarely reached when I tell the person waiting for the change for $5.75 from a twenty, that for the sake of fairness, we should just talk about what change really is and how we can accomplish it globally.

Many of my MCC colleagues are also practically gifted. One friend has a mini leather working studio in her house. Another periodically cuts up her clothes and makes new wardrobe options from the pieces. Knitting and window box gardening are also popular activities. The majority are very musical and play multiple instruments or at least are good at board games. None of these are my gifts.

So, I have challenged myself to make a list of the practical skills I have gained from living in Mampuján. I wish it was longer. But, it is what it is. And for someone who is calculator dependent, it is a positive step forward towards counting autonomy in the future.

How to use the bathroom anywhere. No running water. Check. In the ditch, down the road, in the dark. Check. Chicken butchering day at the farm. Check.

How to bathe (and be clean afterwards) with just two cups of water.

How to wash my clothes by hand. I might hate it, but I can do it.

How to make coconut rice. You can too! Here’s the recipe.

How to pluck a chicken.

How to get the most wolf-whistles when walking down the street. Hint- red lipstick and earrings will do it every time.

How to ride on a motorcycle and balance a giant soup pot on my hip.

How to calculate exactly how much food is needed per person for various different giant activities. This includes breaking down the things (such as rice or meat or salt) in various different menu items, plotting them on a spreadsheet and making a budget to send to event sponsors.

How to speak better Spanish (this one is a work in progress).

How to dress for official meetings, including learning the importance of painted toenails and lots of costume jewellery.

How to avoid helping people with their English homework.

How to pick fish bones out of any type of fish. I am especially proud of my ability take a bite of the tiny little ones and then spit all the bones out.

How to locate the best beaches within an hour and 45 minute radius of Mampuján.

How to entertain myself during very long church services. Usually I take a notebook and write cryptic notes about life, with the bonus effect that everyone else thinks I am super pious, not super bored.

How to make the best blondies out of cane sugar. Here’s my recipe (adapted from this one):
8 tablespoons (1 stick, 4 ounces or 113 grams) butter
1 stick of panela (1 cup brown sugar can be substited)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch salt
1 cup (4 3/8 ounces or 125 grams) all-purpose flour

Melt butter and panela together – beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then vanilla.
Add salt, stir in flour. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350°F 20-25 minutes, or until set in the middle.

Here’s one I’m really proud of- I am learning how to quilt, Mampuján style. I don’t have a lot done and I don’t know when I will finish, but I made this!

I will be updating my resume with these skills. If you encounter any job that involves one or more, please send it my way. I’ll repay you with blondies. That’s kinda like change, wouldn’t you say?

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