So, there I was feeling all smug and satisfied with my prowess on the estufa de lena (wood burning stove: sorry, I haven't figured out how to do the ~ over the n). Dinner last night: no problem. Breakfast today: smooth sailing (I made oatmeal on the stove instead of the rice cooker since once you've got the stove going, it makes sense to cook a couple of things). Lunch: piece of cake. I even bought the appropriate tools at yesterday's market: a handmade straw hand broom to whisk away the ashes (I think the Grimm brothers had Cinderella's origins wrong; my theory was that she was a Central American woman who got all ashy and sooty from dealing with one of these estufas), and a cute little handwoven straw fan to fan the flames (literally).
Today's main task was looking for a car. My friend Felipe had agreed to go around with me. I didn't find one that I was ready to buy, but in my rounds we happened upon a lumber yard and I decided to stock up on firewood (most houses here have a sizable stack outside under a tarp or shed). I decided to get a 1/4 of a tarea (not sure what the equivalent is, and since I don't buy firewood in the U.S. I wouldn't know how much it was anyhow, even if I knew what the unit was called). Felipe was dubious about it all fitting in the trunk of the car but it did (the rental company may never want me as a customer again). I made lunch with wood I'd had from before, and then wrote and ran some errands in the afternoon.
As time to prepare dinner approached, I proudly lugged in an armload of wood, went to the nearest store and bought some more ocote (it didn't look and smell as resinous as the batch that Gorgonio had bought, but I figured it would do), and then set about starting the fire. I had a K'iche' lesson scheduled at 7 so I had THOUGHT what I would do was get the stove going, put on my lentils to cook, and then have dinner close to being ready when my lesson finished (it was to be a one-hour lesson).
My teacher arrived a little early, and I was still fanning the flames. I had to leave off -- maybe that was the fatal error -- and then when the class was over and he had gone home I tried again. The ocote didn't seem to agarrar ("catch" or "hold") and neither did the wood. I juggled pieces of wood around, tried to figure out whether one of the split sides or the bark side of the split logs would be a better surface. Push, adjust, fan, fan some more, prod a little, fan some more, try adding some more ocote, try a different piece of wood, pull the pieces out and arrange them differently...
I was getting desperate. It was getting later. I don't really know anyone who lives nearby well enough to call and say "Help! Come over and help me light my stove." The people who would probably gladly help out live at the outskirts of town or in the aldeas (rural villages). I had put the lentils to soak (and a good thing I did, as they took longer to cook than the lentils one gets in the states), and I had a WHOLE mess of what I think were turnip greens that I had had soaking in a basin of water (since I have no fridge, but have not been able to curb my vegetable-purchasing proclivities so that they are in sync with my eating capacity and storage ability, I've had to be inventive). And so I was trying to figure out what I could possibly do if I couldn't get the stove to light. I had black beans, and I could cook rice, so I would have food to eat. I could try sprouting the lentils, and I could probably give the greens to someone.
Fortunately, after about an hour or more of working assiduously (and using up an entire Q1.5 bundle of second-rate ocote), the fire seemed to have "caught" and I could turn my attention to cooking.
The result was quite tasty: lentils and greens (more greens than lentils which was fine by me), over rice. I think in addition to K'iche' classes (and I've got to practice my possessive pronouns before bed), I might need estufa de lena lessons...