It’s International Women’s Day and I’ve spent the day thinking of these two women.

“Mary” cleaned rooms, served meals, cooked and washed dishes at Petit Byahaut. She was a single mother of four daughters: two teenagers and two young school girls and when she wasn’t sleeping at Petit Byahaut, she lived at her mother’s house with her daughters.

Mary made some of the best soups I’ve ever tasted out of ingredients that I had always thrown away. She was relieved when her mother bought a television so her daughters would go straight home from school and stay inside watching tv. She washed her clothes in a five gallon bucket while I washed mine in a washing machine. She scolded me when I tied the knot of the plastic sugar bag too tight to easily open it—even a loose knot kept out the insects. Sometimes she was resentful. Sometimes she was proud. Sometimes we laughed together.

Dona Corina Picado lives in the northern mountains of Nicaragua and, with the help of just a few assistants, operates her farm and rents out a few guest rooms. She has no plumbing, no vehicle, no refrigeration, no modern stove.

The first time we met, she was returning to the farm from a forest path with a farmhand. She told us she was tired and then went on to discuss what we’d like to have for dinner. After settling on a menu, she asked if she could make French fries for our children.

A faded t-shirt hung on the wall of the dining room with the word, Sandinista, screen printed on it. The bloody war that left land mines in the mountains she called home began in the prime of her life. I longed to know more from her and about her, but my Spanish wasn’t up to par for such an important conversation. 

She reminded me so much of my grandmother: independent, tough, capable, but soft on the inside. She couldn’t resist serving something special only for the children at each meal.

These two women who live so far away from me, with circumstances so different from me, really are me. Who are the women that have made an impact on your life?

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