rice and beans and la chureca

“Try to think of this as a set of accounts. It isn’t in double accounting, with columns of debits and credits and a lot of numbers, however.”

So begins Maggie Barclay’s latest volume, Tuppenny Rice, which has just come out. Maggie and her sister, Kate Saunders, set up the Mayagna Children’s Fund. Over the three years of the Wales Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign’s support for Los Quinchos in La Chureca, the Fund has been the biggest and most consistent donor. Tuppenny Rice is an account of that support, though as Maggie says, you won’t find much talk of money.

Like her first book about their visits to Nicaragua, Rice and Beans, it details Maggie and Kate’s experiences, and the reasons why they set up the fund. See below for our review of Rice and Beans, which appeared in the Wales NSC newsletter last year:

……… Maggie Barclay’s book, Rice & Beans, introduces the politics by stealth. It’s the story of her family. Over the course of the book she and her sister, Kate, come closer together, thanks partly to their adventures travelling in Central America.

Maggie has already described her visits to Nicaragua in the Guardian’s “Letter from…’ column. The sisters will also be familiar to readers of the newsletter, as they have been major fund-raisers for the La Chureca appeal.

The book describes three visits to Nicaragua. They develop a link with a project that supports Mayagna children. They also travel into the Bosawas bio-reserve, which tests the endurance of both sisters. Whilst Maggie and Kate are not quite ‘Scottish Ladies’, they are not used to roughing it big time either. They have a guide through a friendship they struck up with a Nicaraguan from León, Rigo Sampson. Rigo is a constant throughout the Nicaraguan passages of the book, and helps them get an insight into the problems people face, espcially in the more remote areas of the country.

Maggie’s account of the travels in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras gives a good contrast of the different countries. She also captures the enthusiasm and curiosity of ordinary Nicaraguans.

She highlights the dilemmas that everyone who tries to offer support through solidarity projects faces – the differences in understanding about what are personal gifts and communal support; the too-high expectations, on both sides, of who you know and what can be achieved; and the need to be adaptable when, as invariably happens, things go wrong, or don’t happen at all.

Maggie also gets to the heart of the difference between the plague of back-packers that descend on Central America, and those struggling to build longer term links. After her last visit to Musawas, the most arduous in the whole book, she is relaxing in León, reading Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul:

“….. and I turn back to his pages on what is ‘picturesque’ over and over again. He makes the point that you have to be an outsider to take pleasure in what he describes as the ‘accidental beauty of poverty and historical decay’.”

Rice & Beans is the story of how two “outsiders” try to get an understanding of what life is like for “insiders” in Nicaragua, and how they can develop long term support and friendships which go beyond most people’s experiences of ‘picturesque’ countries.

Rice and Beans is available from www.lulu.com, price £8.99.


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