Living in a foreign country can take some getting used to. For Margaret Venable, that meant going without hot water for a few days in Nicaragua before realizing that the C on the tap meant caliente, the Spanish word for hot.
That became the title of her self-published book “C is for Hot.”
Venable went to Nicaragua as a volunteer after college. She became a mail carrier and eventually used her degree in geology to get work in the state-run gold mining industry.
She arrived at the end of the Somoza dictatorship. In her book, she recalls that, in the last years of the regime, citizens that had to pass between areas that were controlled by the government and the revolutionaries were asked to pull up their pants legs. Scraped knees indicated street fighting and that was all it took for some to be killed on the spot.
She was there when the Sandinistas forced their way into power and the subsequent war between them and U.S.-backed Contras. Venable called it a “horrible time for Nicaragua.” But overall, she felt that she had more to fear from snakes and mine collapses than the war. She may have come close to harm in travelling the countryside in an area populated by Contras. Venable and friend came upon a farmhouse and asked if they could spend the night. She found it odd that the owners wouldn't let them inside in a country where people were usually very hospitable. They were allowed to hang their hammocks on the porch. Later, she found out that there were several Contra soldiers inside visiting their families.
“I don’t know who was more worried,” Venable said.
While waiting for the privatization of government assets, Venable used the time to obtain a doctorate at the University of Arizona.
Along the way, she came to Lincolnton and taught school through a lateral entry program. Her family followed and now four generations of her family live here. Eventually, she decided that she would have more time with her family if she split her time working for mining companies in work took her all over the world. Now in retirement, Venable and her husband live on a farm in the Nicaraguan countryside.
According to Venable, Nicaraguans are hospitable but aren’t shy about speaking their minds.
She saw their humanity and resilience as they lived through civil wars, bandits, revolutions and economic crashes.
“I want people here to be able to see Nicaragua as more than some newsflash about dictatorships and war,” Venable said.