Our beloved friend, Ash Eames, founder of Compas de Nicaragua, passed away on Thursday, July 3rd at his home in Wentworth, NH. Ash founded Compas de Nicaragua in 1992 and began bringing yearly service trips groups to the La Primavera neighborhood. Over the years, a community center was constructed and a community, tree nursery was initiated. Ash also directed a video about Nicaragua called, Deadly Embrace.
It has been over 20 years since Ash led his first service trip from New Hampshire to Nicaragua in 1992. Somehow, it doesn’t seem that long ago. I was moved to travel to Nicaragua with Ash when I met him at a presentation Compas was giving in Plymouth, NH after their service trip in 1995. Ash’s kind heart, compassion, and commitment to justice was contagious. He and those that had traveled with him, spoke so passionately about their experiences in Nicaragua that I was moved to travel with him the following year in January 1996. Since that first trip, I have tried to continue the important work that Ash began. His friendship has helped me become a better person and to see the world in a different and more compassionate way.
Looking back at Ash’s life, I am reminded of the enormous impact that Compas has had over all these years; not only in terms of the positive impact on the lives of our friends here in Nicaragua, but also the life changing lessons given to those who have traveled here, and above all, the many friendships that have formed between the two cultures. While it has been several years since Ash’s last visit to Nicaragua, people here still remember him fondly and ask about him often. His friends here send their love to everyone back home. As is the custom here when someone passes, they say together, “Ash Eames, PRESENTE!!” (Ash Eames, PRESENT! He will always be present in the hearts and minds of the many people his life touched both in Nicaragua, the U.S. and beyond!).
We are committed more than ever to continue the important work of Compas. I thank you for your continued support and friendship over all these year.
Ash’s wife, Deborah Stuart has asked me to share this with you….
We had a wonderful gathering to celebrate his life on Sunday, July 20 in Plymouth, NH. For those who’d like to make donations in his name we suggest his son’s wonderful organization Tenacity, which serves of inner city youth with tutoring and life skills through tennis, or Compas de Nicaragua, which has a powerful impact on so many children and families and springs from the original work Ash did with people in the barrio of La Primavera. You can find more about the good these organizations do at www.tenacity.org which tells about the more than 30,00 students it has served, and at www.compas1.org (look under “history” on the site and see Ash’s name) which is currently putting in a grey water system in the farming community of La Paz in Ash’s honor
At any rate – for those who are far away and couldn’t be with us, if you would like to read some of what was shared by family and friends at the service, some is now posted on www.asheames.wordpress.com
The barrel oven is a very practical and wood-efficient oven which can be built at very low cost using only mud and a natural material for adhesive such as papaya or guisimo tree pulp. Because the wood fire is separate from the barrel, you can use the oven while the fire is burning. Therefore, wood burned cooks both by direct heat as well as by retaining heat in the oven’s mud or brick walls and then returning that heat to the inside of the barrel. That is why the oven is much more practical to use and requires much less wood than the retained-heat mass ovens and traditional domed earthen ovens.
I’ve used it to bake pizzas for 60 people and had great success. I have also used it for whole chickens, pastries, pies, and cakes.
The Aguizotes takes place the last Friday night of October in the city of Masaya. Aguizotes is names after the bird which brings the news of death. It begins with a candle vigil and continues into the night when a procession of thousands of participants dressed and disguised with grotesque mask and elaborate costumes parades around the city and play out myths and legends such as the “headless priest”, “the crying women”, and “the bewitched pig”.
The Aguizotes are dead ancestors who come to life that night to make fun of the living. Costumes consist of a variety of materials and traditionally would be cloth, corn husks, plant fibers, bones and the skulls of dead animals. The Agüizotes march through the city making noise, shouting, lighting torches, and dancing to the traditional music of chicheros (horn bands).
One of the things I really wanted to learn when I came to Nicaragua, (other than the obvious) was how to make traditional corn tortillas. So one of my first days here in La Paz, I asked my family for a lesson, and I was not disappointed.
We first bought a special kind of maize (corn) flour called maseca. Water is added and the dough is mixed by hand until it is white and smooth. Next, a fire is started in the family’s outside cooking area; while the tortillas can also be cooked in a skillet on a conventional stove, the fire makes it easier to get a hot and even toasting, plus it is more authentic.
Using a plastic bag as a surface, balls of dough were rolled, patted, and flattened using the palms of our hands. Getting them perfectly circular is certainly an art that I have yet to master!
Next, a beautiful gently curved bowl made of clay called a comal is placed over the hot fire. I was told that these are made especially for making tortillas and that women in the past had much bigger ones on which they made huge tortillas, using only their hands to make each one thin and round in the air. Finding a good clay comal is now difficult as not many people make them anymore (to my disappointment: I was hoping I could acquire one!)
We cooked them one at a time in the comal over the fire, just a minute or two on each side, using our hands dipped in water to press down the tortilla when it bubbled up.
We ate the hot tortillas with avocados from the family’s avocado trees and traditional rice and beans. I’ve also eaten them with cheese, with eggs for breakfast, toasted, and with a bit of lime and salt, and no matter which way I eat them, they are by far my favorite food of my time here in Nicaragua so far.