Sunday, July 10, 2016
What Happened to the Ice Cream Sandwiches
So, I had to go to Managua for about 55 hours and by the time I got back my students were on the verge of resorting to cannibalism. I left them with a kitchen full of food and enough cash to feed a Nicaraguan family for a year, but when I walked through the door yesterday, they'd polished off all the Snickers, including the backup Snickers, and the emergency backup Snickers, and we were totally out of ice cream. I took them out to dinner that night, which was yesterday, but that would obviously be only a temporary solution.
Now, for you to understand the rest of the story you have to know that I spent a couple of days last week showing a colleague around who wants to core near the inland margin of coastal estuaries to find evidence for the origins of agriculture. Hence, I took him to some sites in the swamps here in Chinandega so he could decide if any of the spots looked propitious. Now, I think that Chinandega has the best swamps (a dubious distinction), but I'm biased. We were standing around on a mound in the Estero Real looking an a piece of obsidian and talking to the landowner who, by now, qualifies as an old friend, and he said, "My neighbor found a vein of that stuff down at the bottom of a well he dug down the road here."
That sounded highly improbable, though not impossible, but we had to go see. We drove over to the neighbor's house, and he comes out with a small, narrow, stemmed dart point made of obsidian, and he confirmed that it came from deep in a well he excavated, which he offered to show us. Now, a point is not a vein, but a deeply buried site would be pretty interesting too.
We tramped over to his watermelon patch, and he showed us a large irrigation well, several meters on a side, which went down close to 10 m. We could see beautiful stratigraphy in it, including what looked like a 1.5 m thick ash fall lying on top of a very sharp contact with an underlying stratum. The ash layer started over 1 m down from the modern surface, so the contact was probably close to 3 m below the modern surface. If the spear point came from "deep" in the well, it would be far below that. Fascinating!
I decided that I would need to get down the well one way or another, and thought probably a ladder would be the best way. My local friends offered to build one, but I'm familiar with those kind of ladders, having almost died using one in a cave in Yucatan, and I declined. I asked around in Chinandega after ladders, and it seemed like I would probably have to buy it at the SINSA hardware store, which is expensive. The 10 m ladder was close to US$300. I thought it best to measure the depth of the well before spending that much money. Some friends of mine were scheduled to bring their students over this morning, and I decided to take them out there to look at some sites, and they were kind enough to bring a long tape measure for me to use to measure the depth of the well.
We got out there, and it turned out to be only 4 m down to the bottom of the first ledge where there was a concrete shelf they used to support the irrigation pump. From there it is 3 or 4 more meters down to the next stage, after which a small round well takes you down the final reach to water table.
Knowing that, I could now buy my ladder, which really only needed to be about 5 meters long. So I took my students to lunch with our friends, successfully staving off the cannibalism for a few more hours, and then we went to the supermarket where we replenished our supply of Snickers and ice cream. It is always better to shop after you've eaten so you don't buy a lot of junk on impulse. I asked for, and received. some old cardboard boxes at the supermarket to use to protect the roof of the car when we tied the ladder on, and we popped the cardboard in the back of the SUV with the groceries.
Then we popped by the SINSA hardware store to pick up a ladder. They had a 6 m ladder at a good price, so I bought it, some rope, and a hard-hat. We put some, but not all, of the cardboard on the roof, laid the ladder on it, tied the ladder to the roof rack with the rope, bought more rope, tied the ladder some more, and set off for home, very slowly, with my red hanky dangling from the back of the ladder.
We got home, carried the groceries into the house, untied the ladder, laid it on the porch, and I drove the car back to the parking lot on the other side of the plaza, about 2.5 blocks away.
About an hour later, I heard my students asking each other where this was and where that was, and they realized that some bags must have been left in the car. They asked me for the car keys, headed off to the parking lot, and eventually trooped back with several bags that had been hidden behind a large piece of cardboard.
About 8:30 pm, I got a hankering for an ice cream sandwich, but I couldn't find them in the freezer. I asked my students where they were, and one said, "They suffered a mishap in the car. We took extraordinary measures to save them, but they didn't make it."
So, I guess if we make it through the night we'll have to go back to the store tomorrow. So that's what happened to the ice cream sandwiches: they melted because they were inadvertently hidden behind the cardboard we got to cushion the ladder we bought to find the deeply buried site in the well on the edge of the huge estuary.
I'm going to lock my door tonight. I'll let you know what we find when we finally get to the bottom of the well.
We really need to draft a roommate agreement that covers cannibalism. And zombies. Definitely need to address any potential zombie-related issues.