Thursday, April 15, 2010

You Live, You Learn.

A lot to fill you in on.. so let's get started.
These are lyrics to Carrie Underwood, Change:
The smallest thing can make all the difference.
Love is alive, don’t listen to them when they say, ‘you’re just a fool to believe you can change the world’
The world’s so big, it can break your heart
And you just wanna help, not sure where to start
So close your eyes and send up a prayer into the dark


After arriving to Managua, I awaited my friend Elizabeth and we stayed at the hotel across from the airport. I believe that always when going back and forth between these two lives of mine, a baby step is needed to reduce the intensity of the culture shock. Elizabeth and I talked about our trips home and eased our way back into our Nicaraguan lives with a Nica-brunch and morning by the pool. We then got a ride for $10.00 to our respective homes from a friend of Elizabeth’s. Another baby step. Air conditioning and almost 200 pounds of donations safely secured in the back of a truck as opposed to on top of an old school bus was definitely comforting.
As we got closer to Posoltega, I grew more and more anxious to see my friends and start working again. As I opened the door to my house, at least 20 bats scurried around my room. Welcome home. I spent the rest of the day catching up with my best friend, Wendy and neighbors.
Side note: in a town where things and people rarely leave – every little thing is perceived as a big deal. The fact that I cut my hair – was the hot topic in town for at least a month. For them cutting my hair signified rebellion. Also, my first day back to work, in span of 5 minutes I was told that I was fatter than before my trip and also skinner than ever. For the record: I ate whatever I wanted in the states and never thought about exercising – way too much to do and too much to eat.
I was thrown a little welcome back party by the teenagers on my block and overall felt more motivated than ever to be in Posoltega and truly begin my work.


Somehow my house became a community project shortly after returning to Posoltega. The first three days were dedicated to re-vamping my house. In a way it was like Extreme Makeover: 3rd world edition. A peeling teel colored make-shirt wall was put in the middle of my house as a division between my ‘sala’ or foyer area and bedroom (to offer me more privacy). A lot of photos from my home visit were also put up around my house. It was a great fresh start and the house started feeling much more like a room.

- Lice
- Bee Sting
- Kidney Infection
- Virus
- Allergies


Just a quick little story to demonstrate the extent of poverty in Nicaragua. Since getting back, I had begun to notice more and more that on the back of latrines or toilet seats were small children’s notebooks. After dismissing the thought that we were grooming young Shakespeare’s in the bathroom, I quickly realized there was no toilet paper. Oh. Here in Nicaragua it is commonly accepted to use notebook paper in place of toilet paper. Ouch. (think paper cuts)
With the help and generosity of family, friends and complete strangers I received hundreds of toothbrushes, toothpaste and bags of used clothing for my town, Posoltega. The clothing was utilized as incentive for pregnant women to take the HIV test in the health center. The toothbrushes were given to the children of the community and utilized as an opportunity to give information about dental hygiene. The health center was more than happy about the donations (they love free stuff) and it seemed to be a good starting to point the new year.

Also due to overwhelming support from you all at home – from the sales of the bracelets made by my youth groups, I was able to take 24 (youth and chaperones) people to the beach (in 2 groups). I posted most of the photos on facebook – and I hope the faces of the children spoke for themselves, as to how grateful they were. For most of them this was the first time they had seen a beach. I felt like a mother with 11 children to look after, but I was generally able to enjoy myself as I watched them playing in the ocean, collecting shells and eating fried fish. Even for just day, they were able to just be kids. It was a beautiful day and we cannot thank you enough (in total over $150 was raised).
The only hiccup in the second beach trip was that on the way back, I was stung by a pee in my left hand in the bus terminal. The reaction was thankfully minimal – but obviously it was a very scary experience (fyi: I am allergic to bee stings). Wendy went with me to the hospital after I injected myself in the thigh with my Epi-pen. The reaction of this drug is that it speeds up the heart and causes your body to tremor. This was scarier than anything I believe. Wendy dealt with everything perfectly – at the hospital, on the phone with the PC doctor, in the can, etc. They put an IV of more Epi in my wrist. As I watched birds flying in and out of the hospital room, ants crawling near used needles and cockroaches inching towards sleeping patients, I longed for my parents and Christiana Hospital. They wanted me to stay the night, but because of the conditions of the hospital and the fact that I was with Wendy, I insisted they release me. So with the IV needle still in my wrist, Wendy and I headed back to Posoltega on the last possible bus headed that way (aka jam-packed). We eventually made it back after dodging my wrist from being bumped while standing for 45 minutes. Only in Nicaragua.

Life. Changing. Not only am I exercising more since buying a bike, I am now working much more in the rural communities. At first it was intimidating because it had been 10 years or so since I had rode a bike. I am now riding, ‘sin manos’ or without hands. So true the saying – ‘just like riding a bike’. The community I am working most in is called ‘el Bosque’ and the bike ride is about 3.5 miles each way. Sometimes I have to kick myself to go at 1:00 with the sun blazing down, but it is always worth it. I feel so welcome and comfortable in this community – and thanks to my bike, I can go there several times a week.

Peace Corps Nicaragua used to have a magazine in print, but due to budget costs, it was cut about 3 years ago. Thanks for President Obama and technology, we are starting it back up again electronically. I instantly knew I wanted to be a part of this project and have since started as a photographer and writer. It feels great to be a part of something create and feel challenged and involved in something I am passionate about. I will fill you in on how to read the magazine after it is all finalized this month.

Another volunteer in Chinandega began a project with an NGO, working with sex workers within our department and is now attempting to start a network within the department. He has asked me to be part of it, representing Chichigalpa. I have never felt more motivated to be part of a project. I have experience with this population and fully support women’s rights to their bodies and the choices they make with them. I have already gone out into the community and introduced myself to the workers at their place of work (bars). It was slightly intimidating, but I was not alone. I was with three professionals of the community who already have experience with the previous project with Craig.
These women are often discriminated against in many aspects of their lives, but at the end of the day, they are women, mothers, daughters, human beings – trying to survive and provide for themselves and more than often – their children. I plan on applying for a grant to do a ‘day of beauty’ with them and an HIV charla. Meanwhile I will be meeting with them once a month, giving workshops on self-esteem, human rights, domestic violence, etc. I see this project becoming a big part of my life and spiraling into other projects as well, for example: anti-discrimination workshops with police, health centers, etc.
During the visit I distributed about 5 condoms to each worker. The cost of one sexual relation is about 100-150 cordobas (between $5-$7). I view sex workers in a similar way as my youth groups – they could be promoters of healthy sexual behaviors, perhaps better than anyone else. I will keep you updated on this exciting project! FYI: Yes, I was asked how much and videotaped. Normal.

So every town in Nicaragua celebrated a different saint for one week, or better explained it is one week of no work – all play. The week of Valentine’s Day is Posoltega’s ‘fiestas patronales’. It included a mechanical bull that undoubtedly has take lives, more rejected carnival rides, cotton candy, dance parties and an Hipico (the point to point like horse show). I did not ride the bull (wanted to), I did ride the ‘rides’ (one was named Titanic), danced the week away, and mounted a horse while wearing a cowgirl hat. The week was a ton of fun and I even won some theatre contest in front of 100s of people in my town (my Spanish has definitely increased).
After the part Saturday night, one of my supposed good gay guy friends stole 500 cordobas and a cell phone that belonged to Elizabeth. Long and boring story short – I filed a police report and got the $ back from PC and opted to not have an investigation because I feared it would just bring me more problems. There is an update to this as well. Last week I saw this ‘friend’ using the phone at a funeral. After the funeral (out of respect of the family) I told he had one and only one chance to give me the phone or I would go to the police. He continued to deny that it was the phone and did eventually give it back. More than anything, I am saddened by the feeling that I can’t trust people in my house. Prior to this incident, this guy came to my house daily – helped me clean, chatted with me, used my computer and it appears, only to take advantage of me in the end. No matter what, I refuse to believe that people in general have bad intentions. A lot of people in my town encourage me not to trust anyone, but I don’t think I will ever get to that point – and don’t want to. For every ‘Carmen’ that is in my town, there are 100s of kind-hearted, genuine people. And that is what I will continue to focus on.

In the beginning of February, I met a guy named Kevin who has family in Posoltega, but lives in Costa Rica. I don’t think I can truly explain what happened between us – but I fell head over heels for him. Neither of us was looking for anything serious, but it happened. He left for Costa Rica Feb. 12th and we have talked every day since. He treats me like a princess with so much respect and love. It is something I doubted existed, or that I would find, or that I deserved even at one point. He does not speak English, and obviously there are a lot of cultural differences – but we are going to see where this goes. I am welcoming this incredible relationship into my life and trying not to become preoccupied with the future. All we have is right now and I know that I want to be with him.

Waaaay back in July, Paula (the PCV closest in proximity to me) and I applied for a small grant to do a workshop with 90 adolescents of Posoltega on HIV/AIDS. We finally received the money right before I left for Christmas and planned the event for the 22nd and 23rd of February. We intentionally planned it during the week that I would have a trainee visiting me. The taller (workshop) was a great success and everything came together. The workshop lasted from 9-2pm and as always in PC we were forced to be flexible and expect the unexpected (like arriving and only having 11 chairs for 50 people). We stayed cool during all the little bumps and the workshop turned out to be very successful. During a game where teams race to break condom balloons while doing sex positions, a plastic chair was broken, but other than that – it was smooth sailing (p.s. I almost peed myself laughing).
Working with other PCVs is amazing! It only increases motivation and production level. More than ever I feel fortunate to be close to another volunteer who has interest in doing health projects and working together.

The new group of health volunteers (trainees) arrived in January and we are no longer the babies! Thayer is from Las Vegas and could not have been a better match to come visit me. Just like I visited Ian when I was a trainee, she came to see me for four days and see what life as a volunteer is like. It was an amazing experience and gave me a lot of perspective on my life and work in Posoltega. It is very difficult to believe that just a little over a year ago I was arriving to Nicaragua, hating gallo into (rice and beans), being constipated, stuttering my way through Spanish class and feeling that I was from such a different culture. A year later, I have since gained 25 pounds, lost 35 pounds, had countless illnesses, rashes and parasites, gone from feeling useless to feeling overbooked, crave gallo pinto and sometimes feel more Nica than American. I have gone from feeling two years was an eternity to feeling as though I am running out of time. Thayer just received her site assignment and she will be serving in Chinandega, but very north – close to Honduras (about 4.5 hours north). Overall it was an amazing experience that I will never forget.

= Amazing. I have truly been blessed with a best friend in Nicaragua and a family that takes care of me. They feed me, take care of me when I’m sick, make fun of me and are such a big part of my life. The only thing I don’t do is shower and sleep in their house, and they would let me.

A few weeks ago I felt my first earthquake tremor while in a rural community. Scared the beans out of me. Literally.

An NGO in my town, called World Vision (that is funded by the US), started a project with the goal of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS in Posoltega. They heard about the workshop that Paula and I did and we were invited to team up with them and form/identify youth promoters of the community to continue these workshops, as facilitators. We have since replicated the same charla again with 50 new adolescents – the biggest difference is THEY HAVE MONEY. They provide all of the materials and (most costly) the FOOD. Everything went incredibly smooth with them and the most exciting part of everything is that organization, people within the community are coming together for a common cause! Together we truly are so much more powerful and can make such a bigger impact.
The part that most inspires me about this project is that it will continue when I am gone. With one year left in my service I am already starting to think about sustainability of my projects and how little time I have left to secure this. The teens that are capacitated to give pass this information along to other classmates; this passing of information will continue, long after I am gone. With sustainability also comes having less and less control over the workshops and management of this project. But that be essential (even for former control freaks, ahem).
We will continue to give this workshop in all of the schools throughout Posoltega. In 1998 there were 2 cases of HIV in all of Nicaragua. Currently we have 9 cases just in tiny Posoltega. The department of Chinandega reports the most cases of HIV in Nicaragua – at more than 600. I believe that Nicaragua generally has a huge problem of under-reporting. Honduras and Costa Rica have rates almost double that of Nicaragua. I believe this is result of lack of testing. In all of Nicaragua, last month, there was such a shortage of HIV tests that they were only offering them to pregnant women. I hope to continue to fight this battle against HIV that we are all up against.

Bye, Pues.
Wellll that’s all folks. I just got back from a long vacation visiting my boyfriend in Costa Rica and obviously have a lot more to fill you in on. I will get to work on this next week – but the rest of April is quite full, so I am not going to promise anything. I hope everyone is doing well and happy that the weather has started to be a little more pleasant for you all. I love you all so very much and would love to hear little updates on your busy lives up in civilized-land. Fall will be here before we know it and I will get to see all of your beautiful faces again, until then – take care of yourselves, each other and remember someone in Nicaragua loves you.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Two Worlds

Well, it has been a while. I have been to the states and back. This is going to be a doozy of a blog – so sit back and enjoy! I will start with a quote from a fabulous song ‘Happy’ by Leona Lewis.
“someone once told me
that you have to choose
what you win or lose
you cant have everything
dont you take chances
you might feel the pain
dont you love in vain
cause love wont set you free
i could stand by the side
and watch this life pass me by
so unhappy but safe as could be
so what if it hurts me
so what if i break down
so what if this world just throws me off the edge
my feet run out of ground
i gotta find my place
i wanna hear my sound”
Translation: Cysts of parasites on your intestinal line. Yeah, that is what I had about a month ago and also Girardeau. Apparently this is contracted through feces. Sooo I ate poop at some point. Check that off the list of things to do before I die. So it was actually quite different than a bacterial infection (much less violent), but basically parasites eat the nutrition in the food that you eat and also kill your appetite. Was not the diet plan I had in mind – but I have lost some weight here lately. The medication was equally as intense to get rid of these cysts of parasites in my stomach. Shortly after finishing the medication for this I had a sinus infection with a fever, cough and stuffy nose. Promptly after finishing the medication for my sinus infection I contracted some kind of virus with a fever and serious bowel movement (which was originally diagnosed as a kidney infection in my health center). Needless to say this month (October) has not been the best health-wise. I sometimes wonder whether my body will have any long-term side-effects from living here. I definitely have my fair share of scars already (most recently from a motorcycle muffler. Ouch.), so no matter what I will have reminders of Nicaragua for the rest of my life (when I look at my legs).
October 30th was the anniversary of Hurricane Mitch (11 years ago – 1998) and there was an event held at the memorial site/park where President Clinton visited and a tree is planted for each life that was lost that day. The only way to really explain what it’s like – for a small town of 15,000 to lose 4,000 people – is to compare it to 9/11 in the States. A week rarely goes by when I do not hear a story about this horrific event; someone’s life that was lost, property that was lost, family separated. It is the 2nd largest natural disaster to occur in Nicaragua’s history. A lot of effort has been made to avoid another disaster like this through organizations such as, World Vision (a lot of reforestation, etc.).
It was a beautiful day and I got to take some photos of the event (see Facebook). I also hitched a ride on the back of a tractor. I was sore the next day from this less than smooth ride, but it was quite an adventure.
Hana came to visit me in Posoltega after Halloween for a few days. It was sooo nice to spend some quality time with her – it had literally been since training that we really had any one-on-one time to catch up. We did a little cooking, shopping in Chinandega and a lot of talking and laughing. It was interesting to hear her take on my town and also just the accessibility to my town. She is so isolated from other volunteers, where as I live in the department with the most volunteers. There are benefits and challenges to each site, but I am definitely thankful for the location of my site above all else. We then headed to Managua where a cocktail party was being held by the business sector of Peace Corps as a fundraiser. I lost my cell phone in the bus on the way to Managua – which was definitely a bummer. Called the number several times only to find out that it had been sold to a woman in the north department of Jinotega. Going, going, gone.
The party was a blassssst. It was so nice to see so many people from my group and also from others. We all had an excuse for the first since swearing-in to get all pretty and dressed up. It is amazing what that can do for someone’s self-esteem…just to look beautiful. I do not even have a mirror in my house, so most of the time I have no idea what I look like (quite a change from the USA aka vanity world). I really enjoy meeting new volunteers especially one in particular… from DELAWARE. His name is Jeffery and he went to Brandywine HS and UD. We are both representing Delaware to the fullest. He is super funny and played in a band at East End café. And now here we both are in … Nicaragua. Small World.
Peace Corps holds a conference every two years for all of the volunteers in Nicaragua. This year it was held in Managua and all 180 volunteers participated. It was the first time during my service that I got to meet everyone from all the different work sectors and different areas of Nicaragua. We were given information on different work opportunities after Peace Corps and Grad School options. It was very informative and also fun!
Right afterwards we were all taken to Embassy families houses for a Thanksgiving dinner. It was the best food I had eaten in a very, very long time. I literally think I rolled out of their house. It was very interesting to observe the lives that these Foreign Service families live as compared to the rest of Nicaragua. They are in a beautiful house, gated in with security, fully-furnished. Not to say that these families have it easy in all aspects. They move from country-to-country to work as ambassadors to our country and move their families around with them. It takes special people to endure this kind of ‘instablity’. The family that Erin, Elizabeth and I ate with was incredible. We had a Wii-Bowling tournament, and of course… I won.. Ha. I was with two fabulous friends, a beautiful family – and although it was hard to be away from my own family– I did not feel alone.
All three of their children attend an American-Credentialed school where the teaching language is English. I actually attended an informational session during the Conference about teaching at this school. It was a very interesting dynamic that the school holds. The majority of the children are of the 1% population of the upper-class (ironically also politically aligned) here in Nicaragua. Although this school does not represent the majority of this country – it holds an incredible amount of power. The teachers at this school literally have in their classrooms the future of this country. If they are able to break-through to them and help to achieve a different perspective, who knows the ways this country could change.
Nica49 is down 5.
We have now lost 5 people from my orginal group of 21. 3 due to medical reasons and two for personal choices. As times goes by, it gets harder to lose another member of our group. The latest to go was one of my very closest friends here, Erin. I definitely cried – but I have faith that God has something greater in store for her. She is a special person and has become one of my best friends through this experience. I am so proud of her and even prouder to call her a friend. I know we will see each other again 
My town through me a going away party right before I left for the USA (as if I was never coming back) haha. They just love to celebrate anything here. Anyway, it was a blast (with disco and everything) and my friend Ely came to visit right before and then we traveled to Carazo together (where we completed our first three months of training). I got to spend a few days with my host-family and then headed off to Managua to get ready to go home! I left the 15th, and got a ride to the airport from my friend in Managua. The entire day could not have gone any smoother. On my flight from Managua to Miami a flight attendant fell in love with me and I received a glass of wine and a bracelet (what!?!?) I completed my 4-month report for my boss here in Nicaragua on this flight. Then on my flight from Miami to Philadelphia another guy flight attendant fell in love with me (two more glasses of wine) and I met a sweet freshman girl from Univ. of Miami and we bonded the whole way back to Miami. As we got closer to landing in Miami - I got more and more anxious (despite the 3 glasses of wine). I wasn’t sure how I would react to seeing my mom, dad and dog – but I knew it was going to be emotional.
As I was waiting for my luggage impatiently, I saw one of the cutest little boys walking in through the sliding glass doors of the airport. When I looked up, I instantly realized it was my NEPHEW!!! My brother, nephew and sister surprised me by coming with my parents. I sprinted to my family and collapsed in the arms of my brother and my little baby (not-so baby anymore) nephew. After I stopped embracing my family – we gathered my belongings and headed to the car, where I got to see my dad (who was driving around in circles waiting for us). I then cried again and never wanted to leave my dad’s arms again in that moment. The whole ride home I was completely entertained by Ethan and how big he was! He was a little man already with a BIG, beautiful personality.
When we got back to the house I ate an assortment of things, including a sandwich, tasty-cakes and more wine. I somehow convinced (and easily) my parents to come to Iron Hill to meet some of my friends out. It was very surreal to be driving down Kirkwood Highway and see how so much has changed and some is just as I left it January 2003. We went out to Iron Hill that evening (where I worked for 5 years) and ended up on a little tour of Main Street. It was a BLAST and I was overwhelmed by love and joy (and alcohol) haha. The night ended in me sleeping on the couch and waking up to my dad leaving for work at 6am. I then climbed into bed with my mom and slept a little more.
It was amazing to just be in my house. I missed that house so much – and all the comfort it represents to me.
Buddy the Elf goes to DC
I was pretty amazed with things in Delaware, how beautiful it was – the buildings, the landscape, etc. But when I got to DC on the 17th I was more than amazed I was … borderline overwhelmed. First of all, I was using my grandmother’s friend’s cell phone for this trip (since I obviously didn’t have my own). I made another friend on the train to DC and as I was entering DC the phone was dying. As I exited the metro station, I realized I had no idea where I was going. With a text message and ½ a bar of battery I ventured out to find Jillian’s office building. DC is … HUGE. And beautiful. I was walking around amazed at the beautiful buildings and beautiful mix of different cultures, when I realized I had no idea where I was going. The only way to fully describe how I felt is… like buddy the elf. I was almost hit by three taxis, ate some chewing gum off the subway and perhaps drank the world’s worst cup of coffee but thought it was the best thing ever invented. The best way to describe how I was the entire trip home was like an infant slash stoner. Everything was beautiful, everything was interesting, everything was … new. It was such an overwhelming and beautiful experience in my life.
After asking a group of people who were asking for directions, I finally asked my buddy Lester on the corner for directions to Pennsylvania Avenue. Somewhat well-known. I finally made my way to the Vice-Presidential building, past secret-service to my absolutely amazing sister/best friend/soul mate…Jillian. Long story short – her life is incredible. Although we sometimes say she is living in Peace Corps Washington DC, she is having the experience of a lifetime. Her building is beautiful; she works with the most important people in our country and looks fabulous while doing it all. All in all, she in my hero. I went on a tour of the West and East Wing with my personal tour guide slash Jillian. We then went later to the Kennedy Center to see a play in the … presidential box. Far cry from my cockroach, rat, bat infested little house. I was sometimes worried about some of the cultural differences between Nicaragua and USA and how well I would be able to switch in between the two of them. But as I told my good PC friend Elizabeth, ‘At first I felt like an alien, but then I put on my knee-high boots and fell right back into it (the American culture).’ DC is incredible – it is undoubtedly one of my favorite cities in America and I can definitely see myself living there somewhere down the road (more than likely with Jillian. Ha).
We all have to admit that time can change a lot of things. But the relationships that are the strongest, the relationships that strengthen with time and distance – those are what make it all worth while. That is exactly how I felt about so many people that I saw while I was home. My parents. My rocks. I say time and time again – and it is more true than anyone could ever imagine. Without my parents’ love and support – I could not be doing this. A lot of people ask me if I am crazy or if I am running away from something – but I am doing the exact opposite. I feel like I am flying… towards something greater. And on the wings of the love of my parents. Right before Thanksgiving I had a long talk with one of the girls from my youth group. I had just received a package from my parents in the mail and she asked me if my parents send me a lot of things (materials, money). And my response was ‘yes, they support me however they can. But if I did not have their love – I would not still be here right now. The love that they give me is more than anything of material value.’
As I looked up at this 15 year old girl, I realized she was crying hysterically. I then realized in that moment that she, in her 15 years of life, has never felt this kind of love. It was then, when I started to cry. For several reasons; for her because she has never known this kind of love and for me, a moment of gratitude beyond explanation, that I have parents that have unconditionally loved me. No matter what I have done – no matter what mistakes I have made – my parents’ love has gotten me through it all. The bad moments, the great moments – would be nothing without them. No matter where I have been, no matter what I have done, no matter who was around me, I have never, ever felt alone.
My friends. Wow, what greater gift is there in this world than true friends? It is so easy to get caught up in our own lives – and forget about people that are far away or not involved in our daily lives. It is work – the work that it takes to nurture the relationships that mean the most to us that really count. People will always change – friendships will come and go. But going home this past December only made me appreciate the real friendships that I have been fortunate enough to find in this world. I am truly, truly blessed with the best friends in the world. It is the friends that you pick up with after 11 months, like you did not even miss a second, that give girl strength.
This was something I hadn’t really thought about prior to my visit to the states. I felt like I still had a decent amount of connection to technology with internet and a cell phone here in Nicaragua. I was … wrong. I completely forgot how technology advanced the US is and how incredibly far behind Nicaragua is. The more I learn about different cultures other than my own – I realize there is no ‘right’ way no ‘right’ culture. There are some things about the Nicaraguan culture that I absolutely love (the generosity) and some things that I cannot stand (someone calling you fat while blowing their nose into thin air). Equally standing is US culture, I appreciate so much the laws of our country, the level of comfort and the mix of cultures, but I also found myself annoyed at the individualism of the culture and obsession with time, money and responsibilities. Instead of becoming bitter about either faults of each country – I made the decision to try and be appreciative. I now know a different way of living. And although questionable at times, I can now say for sure that this has done me no harm, only good. I can now say that I appreciate both cultures for what they are – and have learned an immense from both of them. I can only hope that from this experience I will carry with me the positive components of each culture and create one of my own, perhaps.
Technology is obviously something that has contributed to the great power that the United States holds, but I also feel that countries that lack all of these advances carry with them a sense of innocence. Prior to entering Peace Corps, I remember writing an essay about how I would react to the withdrawal of technology. I now think I will have a harder time getting back into the US culture of advancement. The lack of technology advancement here can also be looked at as an advantage. No one is connected to their cell phone – no one is constantly text messaging, checking their facebook, email, etc. Therefore what remains is … conversation. I feel that through this experience I have become more and more appreciative of just … talking, face-to-face, listening. I enjoyed not having a cell phone most of my trip. It also proved to me the people who really wanted to see me and make an effort. We will see how technologically messed up I am when I get home – but I definitely see challenges in the horizon.

Climate Control
So, I thought I would buried like an Eskimo during one of the worst snow storms in 100 years, but I was actually Okay! Ha. I loved the snow, more than likely because I knew it was the only time I would be dealing with it for the next two years. I guess the grass is always greener… ha. The snow was gorgeous and I took some photos and videos for the people here that asked me to ‘bring them back snow.’ This snow storm happened to land on the wedding day of one of my closest friends. But she handled it beautifully – and the wedding could not have been any more perfect. It was by far the nicest wedding I have ever been too – and my closest friends and family were all there. It was a beautiful, snow-filled day.
I will say that I think my body temperature has begun to change a bit here. December to February is definitely the best climate that I will get on the Pacific Coast. It is still hot, around 90-95 degrees, but a really nice breeze (perfect time for visitorsssssss). I am not using my fan at night anymore and can honestly say that I have been chilly a few times in the morning when it is about 75. Wow.
Other Buddy the Elf Moments
My appreciation for small things was quite apparent during my trip home. Here are some moments when I felt like an alien and/or was called one.
• When I spent 20 minutes in WaWa amazed at the selection and came out with a reese’s cup, vanilla cappuccino and fruit salad.
• When I spent 20 minutes in WaWa getting explained how to use the self-serve credit-card swiper.
• When I asked for assistance from my grandmother for text messaging (ok maybe not her.. but everyone else).
• When I tried to save…everything (tubes of toothpaste, plastic spoons, etc.)
• When I was in awe of two-story buildings
• When I re-discovered wireless internet and that songs can download in less than 30 seconds.
• When I tried to kiss everyone that I met for the first time (sorry Jillian).
• When I did not want to leave an open bag of SunChips on Liz’s floor because the “rats would get it.”
• When I laid on carpet floor just…because.
• When I was so appreciative when I mistakenly thought Jillian was giving me a travel-size toothpaste.
• When I constantly went to bed in the wee-hours of the morning, but woke up by 6am because I didn’t want to miss anything.
• Avoiding driving for the first 7 days I was in country (eventually drove and … loved it)
Several more moments such as this, but you get the idea. The whole time I felt like I had ADD and my dad finally diagnosed me. The minimal amount of stimulation that I receive in Nicaragua was a far cry from over-stimulated America. I wanted to do EVERYTHING. Went to the movies, roller-skating, tried to go bowling – and was just overwhelmed with how many options there are in America. In Nicaragua there are three malls in the entire country, 4 movie theatres and one bowling alley (for 5 million people!!!). In an impoverished country, they just do not have options for entertainment. Correction: they do, but they get very, very creative. Plastic bottles, puppet shows, freeze-tag, etc.
My typical night of entertainment includes sitting outside of my house, talking with my neighbors, chasing around my little 4 year old boy, perhaps playing soccer or volleyball and … going to bed.
Needless to say I feel that this experience has opened my eyes (even slightly) to what it must be like for someone from another country coming to America. I have only lived in Nicaragua for one year – and the culture shock that I experienced was overwhelming at times, I cannot imagine someone that has lived in another country for 15+ years and then comes to … land of the free. The culture shock can be incredibly scary at times and overwhelmingly exciting at other times – but none the less, people from other countries, immigrating to the US, deserve our welcoming and support. Just as I have experienced here in Nicaragua.
The meaning of Christmas
So, this was an odd Christmas for me considering I (as mother says), ‘took an oath of poverty’ when I signed up for Peace Corps. It was an interesting collision of words coming home during the Christmas slash shopping season. After a trip to King of Prussia, I found myself equally disgusted with the money-driven society of the US and also indulging in it. It boggled my mind how stressed out people were about gift giving and if this person was going to by them a gift, they had to buy them one, and so on. People in my town make an average of $1.50 per day and work daily to make it through that same day. This was a hard transition to go from straight into main-stream, consumer-driven America during the Christmas shopping season. Coach, LV, Armani – actually made me sick to think about some of the people in my town that do not have enough money to buy beans to go with their rice and tortilla. I was reminded of the feelings of guilt that I felt when my parents came to visit me in Nicaragua.
Whether someone was given a life of poverty or a life of prosperity – it is due neither to fault nor fortune. We cannot blame someone for having certain opportunities, nor guilty for the person whom lacks these options. Life is a mix of what is given to us and what we chose. Feeling guilty is as useless as hate. In that same breath, Gratitude is as powerful as Love.
So much of my life has been put into perspective from this experience. A type of perspective that cannot be gained from going on a two week vacation to Jamaica or reading a book on the Rwanda genocide(which both offer glimpses of a different life). I am actually getting to experience a different way of living.
For the first time in my life, I sat around the Christmas tree with my family – with no anticipation of gift opening, no greediness, and no self-righteousness. Just content, full of gratitude. Being there with my family – that was Christmas to me. I felt a sense that my whole family felt this way – as we all watched my nephew opening his presents.
The true meaning of Christmas to me was not King of Prussia, Christmas songs, endless lines and money. To me it was the family that my dad’s school adopted and gave clothing and toys to a single-mom who could not afford a winter coat for her children. It was the message that she left for my dad, unable to explain her gratitude in between sobs for the Christmas that had been given to her family out of the generosity of people’s hearts. It was the 150 toothbrushes and 50 tubes of toothpaste that were donated to my town in Nicaragua on Christmas Eve.. It was the boxes and boxes of used clothing donated by my dad’s colleagues, my friends and complete strangers. It was raising money for my youth groups by selling their bracelets and receiving open donations so they could see the beach for the first time. It was spending time with the people I love most in the world. It was holding my nephew. All of that was my Christmas.
So I obviously have changed in several ways through this experience. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you I doubted myself at several points throughout this experience and may have even lost myself a little in this new life of mine. Going home grounded me in a lot of ways – helped me remember where I come from and even more so, who I am.
One way I certainly have not changed was in ‘over-booking’. I wanted to do everything and see everyone while I was home. Before I knew it, New Years Eve had passed – and I once again found myself with a few of my best friends, some vacuum packing bags and packing to go back to Nicaragua.
I had a mix of emotions saying goodbye to the people I love, yet also feeling re-energized and motivated to go back to Nicaragua. No one was harder to say goodbye to than my nephew – who has already changed so much in only 11 months.
As I held onto my dad and hugged him for the 17th time in the Philadelphia Airport, knowing I would not see him for another 9 months – my heart actually hurt. I have decided that I will be coming home around September/October in 2010, for several reasons. I missed the season fall, baseball, crabs and I will be spending Christmas down here to see how they celebrate it.
Back to Reality
Well. Here I am, in Posoltega. I have to say that I am in an incredibly great place right now. I feel like all of the stars are aligning and I have gotten over the curve of cultural adaptation. Obviously there will always be hard days- no matter where I am, but I feel incredibly thankful to be here and more motivated than ever to work with and for the people of Posoltega. One month has already passed – and it has been full of new experiences, adventures and lessons learned. I am going to end this blog here – because I am already 8 pages deep and will start off a new blog about the past month here. I love you all SO much and truly believe that no experience is truly appreciated until it is shared. I love that I am able to share this experience and my life with you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I got a feeling...

"At any given time, we are what we are. We must accept the consequences of being ourselves; only through this acceptance can we begin to evolve further. Though we may select the battleground, we cannot avoid the battle..."

k. I am gonna pick up where I left off in the last blog.

So my friend from college came down, John in August. It was not a vacation that went as planned – by any means. But I have to say he was supportive and incredibly patient during his visit. The timing may not have been perfect – with everything that was going on with my house, etc – but none the less, I appreciated it more than he will ever know. We ended up going to San Juan del Sur – one of the biggest tourist attractions in Nicaragua – because of the surf. It is a beautiful little surf town and we stayed at an Irish Pub/Hotel (the owners were a Nicaraguan man and an Irish woman). The town was crawling with surfers and backpackers. We had some great seafood at a restaurant on the beach and some serious sun. We went to one of the beaches a little further away in the back of the hotel owner’s pick-up truck. It was incredibly beautiful. Undoubtedly the most beautiful beach I have ever been to.
When John and I went for a dip in the beautiful Pacific Ocean, we had quite an adventure. First of all, the waves were just a little bit larger than…Bethany Beach. Haha. They were gigantic and crystal clear water. When John and I were about to go under one of this beautiful five-foot wave, as it was crashing we both saw a 4-5 foot…what was assumed to be a shark. I screamed like I was in Jaws…8. We both end up getting knocked out by the wave because neither of us wanted to go under it after seeing the shark. After exiting the washing-machine tumbling of the wave, I proceed to start to run for the shore. John then gets knocked down by another wave – and crashes into me. He then grabs by hand and we start running for the shore. My heart may have reached an all-time high rate. We then proceeded to ask locals if there were sharks or extremely large fish. Both of which they said no. For purposes of saving face – we will stick with the fact that it was a shark (which I truly believe). It was quite an adventure!

Pura Vida
Literally the day that John went to the airport at 4:30am was the day I was leaving for Costa Rica. After speaking with one of my friends in Managua, I realized that I had brought the wrong passport for my trip. We have our normal passports and Peace Corps passports. I brought the normal one (which doesn’t even show that I entered Nicaragua). Long story short, I had to reschedule my bus from 6:00am to 12:00pm and run back to Posoltega to get the right passport (high five Amanda). The company that I went with Tica Bus made the trip very easy (taking care of everything with customs, etc). Without any way of communicating with the girls I was quite nervous if they would be at the bus station as we had originally planned. I arrived in San Jose around 10pm and as I was getting off the bus I saw three very beautiful, yet tired looking muchachas otherwise known as my girlsssssssss. J It was so amazing to see them. They quickly informed me that none of their luggage had arrived with them to Costa Rica. We had to be pretty flexible the next day and went to the airport to retrieve all of their luggage. Afterwards we decided to head off to Zulu-land. Dave aka Zulu is one of our friends from Delaware that is living and working in Costa Rica. He lives in a little surf town on the Pacific Coast, called MalPais. After 4 taxis, 3 buses and a ferry – we arrived in his town. I was pretty impressed with our getting there safe and soundly. Without knowing anything about where he works, how to get there or where we were going to stay – we made it. It ended up working out better than we could have imagined. Dave works at a ‘hotel’ that was actually closing for the rainy season- so we were able to stay there for free for 3 nights. I say hotel, but what I really mean is … paradise. It is basically an exclusive resort tucked away in the hills and overlooking the Pacific ocean. There are only three rooms in this hotel and the only people that stay here are honeymooners and/or celebrities. We could actually see Mel Gibson’s house being built in the distance. It was undoubtedly the nicest place I have ever stayed.
To best explain the relationship between Nicaragua and Costa Rica is to compare it to that of the United States and Mexico. A large number of Nicaraguans go to Costa Rica to work, because Costa Rica is much more advanced (not 3rd world) and offers a lot more opportunities. Also, Nicaraguans work for lower wages. The entire time I was there people were criticizing Nicaraguans, it was difficult for me not to take offense to these comments. It was obvious that I am starting to identify myself with Nicaragua. Costa Rica is beautiful and although poverty still exists there, it felt like I was in America in comparison to the devastating poverty of Nicaragua. Although part of me wanted to show Nicaragua to my three close friends, I was ultimately thankful that we went to Costa Rica. There was a lot less responsibility on me – I was able to actually relax and get a break from translating and feeling like I had to take care of my guests. Unlike Nicaragua – a large number of people in Costa Rica speak English.
We fell in love with this little surf town and … never left. We ended up staying the entire time in MalPais. A lot of memories were made – we laughed a LOT, saw monkeys, had a bachelorette party for Liz, went to the beach, ate some great food, missed a few taxis and a canopy tour, hiked up the ‘mountain’ and drank a lot of beer. In the end we were all broke, a little bit tanner and had managed to fit 6 months of missed girls’ nights into a single week. The last night we had one last dinner in the hostel in San Jose and then I headed out the next morning around 4:30am to head back to Nicaragua. With tears and sleepiness in my eyes, I hugged three of my best friends goodbye – holding onto the fact that I would be seeing them in less than 4 months.
The first half of the trip back to Nicaragua was relatively smooth. I had the furthest back two seats to myself and slept the majority of the ride to the border. I awoke to a less than optimal sight (and smell). These buses have bathrooms – but it is a rule on the bus that you are not allowed to ‘go number two’ because the bus ride is 12 hours or so and they don’t want the bus to smell. In cases of emergencies we were told they would stop for someone. Well, apparently someone had an emergency and did not inform any of the bus staff. I woke up to a man practically falling on my head and then into the aisle. As I wiped my eyes to see more clearly – I realized that this man with pants at his ankles had fallen out of the bathroom, off the toilet and … practically on my lap. And by ankles I mean ankle, because I then soon realized that this poor soul only had one leg. Myself and others helped the man up and let’s just say that the rest of the ride was anything but roses. I held one of my head wraps over my face for the remaining 6 hours. Welcome back to Nicaragua. Ha.

Decided to make a little list of things that I have learned, whether in general or about myself since I have been here in Nicaragua:
1. Silverware is not necessary (forks and knives do not exist here and spoons are luxury)
2. I like cats (they are cleaner than dogs here and eat mice)
3. Microwave popcorn can be emptied out of the bag and put on your two-burner stove and come out just as yummy.
4. Scorpions in the shower are normal
5. Blowing your nose into the air is widely accepted
6. I love Harry Potter
7. Anything can be served in a small plastic baggie (dinner, soda, snack)
8. People will try and sell you anything (lizards on the side of the road)
9. You can fit a 30 minute conversation into 60 seconds when in Nicaragua (minutes expire)
10. Clouds and rain are gifts of God
11. You can celebrate anything (Oct. 10th National Mental Health Day)
12. You are not Nicaraguan if you do not have: plastic chairs in your house, a super-imposed picture of you in Thailand or somewhere outrageous, rocking chairs and/or a hideous metallic mirror.
13. There is no maximum capacity for means of transport (families of 4 on a bicycle or motorcycle, 28 people in the back of a pick-up truck, etc)
14. Privacy is not a part of the culture here (ex: my neighbor asked me today if I was sick – because she heard my fan on at 1pm when I took a little cat nap).
15. Today is all there is – people’s daily activities are surrounded around survival of today.
16. I am having withdrawal from the season Fall. Please take photos. Posoltega weather yesterday: 94 degrees, feels like 104. I thought it was chilly. What.

So I would be lying to all of you if I did not address one simple thing about my experience so far here in Nicaragua. This is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Sometimes I feel like I need to sugar coat things for you all back home – so that you don’t worry about me or maybe for selfish reasons also. But the reality is that this experience has challenged me in ways that I never imagined. Coming into this I anticipated the hardest part being homesick during these two years. Of course I am missing you all more than words can explain – but the real challenges have been much more personal. Challenging the very person I am – the strengths I thought I had – learning new things about myself daily. Before coming to Nicaragua – I felt like I had a good understanding of who I was and where I came from. That is easy to say when you are in your comfort zone because you are … well, comfortable. But being in another culture – away from everything you know – challenges everything you thought you knew. Obviously within these discoveries – are both good and bad findings. Strengths you thought you had, or very well may have had – may be identified as a weakness in another culture or just completely not accepted. This re-discovering of ‘you’ in a new culture causes a lot of questioning and also calls for me to suppress some of my feelings. If I were to stand up for myself every time I was harassed – I would have no time for my project. Where as in the States, it is such an unaccepted part of the culture – the harasser would have charges brought against him within days if I pursued it. That is just a blatant example of what I am trying to explain – but there are countless.
I try to deter from sounding bitter or upset in my blogs – because I chose this experience and I am so lucky to live in a country that has given me this amazing opportunity. In the end of these two years – I know that the personal insight that I will have gained will far outweigh any challenges that I am currently facing. But I also felt I owed it to you all, to also tell you that some days I cry, some days I shut the world out – and some days all I want in the world is to be in Delaware eating some of my Dad’s home-cooking watching an Eagles game with the people that mean most to me in the world.
I am going to end this section with a little excerpt from one of the essays I had to write to get into Peace Corps:
“There is no way to predict what challenges will present during these twenty-seven months of service. The one thing that is certain, however, is that challenges will exist. While the possibility of these challenges and life-changing experiences initially attracted me to apply for the Peace Corps, it is the knowledge that I can overcome adversity and persevere that continues to inspire and compel me. “

Let me Work It.
So. Speaking of challenges. Back in August my boss from Peace Corps called me to ask how things were going in Posoltega. I said ‘pretty well’. And she continued by saying ‘well the Health Center director called me to say that you have not been to the health center in a month.’
Silence… Cricket, Cricket.
The truth is that between my parents visit, John’s visit and Costa Rica – I had been pretty ‘vaga’ that month. And all the work that I had done had been in the schools. My motivation to go to the health center was practically non-existent, for a lot of reasons. I felt like I had no one working with my directly and no real direction or role when I did show up. Long story short – I went with my two bosses to the health center and had a meeting with the director. It ended up going really well – and we all agreed that it was not too late to mend this working relationship. It is important to my PC bosses that I keep an open relationship with the health center for several reasons. They are our main counterpart on a national level – and also I am the first volunteer in my site. My PC boss was very supportive and assured me that being in a new site – this was a typical challenge and that the main source of the problem has been lack of communication (which both the health center director and I took fault for).
The next week was my group’s 5-month in-service training. It is obligatory to take a counterpart from the health center – and I was able to take a nurse named Myra (who I had never worked with prior to the training). It turned out to be great – Myra is a huge sweetheart and I hope to work with her in the future. More than anything – being back with my group was incredibly comforting. We have all faced challenges during our first five months – some similar and some different; but it was incredibly comforting to be with people who knew what I had been going through the last five months. In general, I felt dissatisfied with the amount of work I had done during my first five months – but the training also served as a re-booster and motivated me to get back to my site and start working more.
The last day of IST I got incredibly sick with a bacterial infection and was in Managua for a few days after that during the Nicaraguan holiday. But had some great company in the hotel – Lorna and Ely (two girls from Rio San Juan).
Current update on my work situation: Health Center relationships have only gotten better – I go the health center daily – and the communication has improved tremendously as well. I have not worked in the schools since the meeting with my PC boss because I have been focusing on the health center and mending this relationship. The schools are not very happy – but I cannot make everyone happy, alas.
The health center requested that I ‘reforzar’ or re-form youth groups at the health center and posts (by re-form they mean 5 years ago there were adolescent clubs). Well with a lot of hard work, determination and help from some of the friends here – I have successfully formed two clubs already! One is about 16 adolescents (boys and girls) and we meet Tuesdays and Thursdays. The other is 11 adolescent girls between the ages of 13-19 and we meet Wednesdays and Fridays. I still need to work on planning with someone in the health center to help me with the charlas – but I have already given 2 hour workshops on each topic: Drugs and Alcohol, STDs and Reproductive Health. I am really proud of these two groups and plan on going out into the rural communities now to form more. The goal for me is to have them be self-sustainable groups and help train and form other groups with me (and without me after my service).
(Side note: I asked one of the nursing students to help me with the STD charla and we were discussing what signs of peligro (or warning) were and what normal characteristics were. Some of the kids asked what masturbation was – and I let the nurse take that question. She went on to explain that it was a way for men (exclusively) to relieve their urge to have sex and that it can be addictive. I wish my face could have been video-taped. I obviously went on to explain that this was actually something very natural – that both men and women practice, yada yada. But… seriously!?! That is just an example of what I am up against here.

Turned 25. What? How did that happen. My closest friend here in Nicaragua, Elizabeth’s birthday was the 25th of September and she invited me to Managua to celebrate it with her. We stayed at the nicest hotel in Nicaragua – the bed felt like I was lying on clouds, the brunch was to die for (hashbrowns, real cheese!), a bathtub and much more. We went out to a really nice club called Moods in Managua – and I actually forgot I was in Nicaragua for a night. We had an amazing time – and did not want it to end. So we got extended check-out and stayed in bed a little longer.
The next day I met up with 5 or 6 girls from my group for the Daddy Yankee concert. I know, I paid 30 dollars to see Daddy Yankee. But it was my birthday weekend and choices were limited. Because of whom I was with – I had an amazing time. A girl named Erin from Cincinnati has become one of my favorite people here and we had a ball.
I came back to Posoltega Sunday afternoon and celebrated my birthday Monday by going to the health center and working. I then later had a Piñata party at my house for my favorite kids in the community. It was hilarious – coca-cola, candy and reggaeton. Who could ask for a better birthday?
I also received from some fabulous packages, cards for my birthday from my parents, Aunt Linda and Aunt Gale. Thank you so much for making my birthday so special – even from a distance <3

Platanos & Policia
What started out at 7am as a great day, ended pretty badly on the 3rd of October. I went with the coach of my soccer team and another player to a finca aka farm to cut-down some platanos or bananas with machetes. I was picked up around 7am in a horse drawn carriage (those things are dangerous). The view of the volcanoes from the farm was amazing – and I took a mountain of photos and also fell in love with the daughter of the girl I play with on the soccer team, Mayleng. They also invited me to stay the night at their house in El Bosque, one of the rural communities of my town, because our soccer team was throwing a party to fundraise money for our team. Several girls on our team do not have shoes and play barefoot or in their school shoes – and the league is now enforcing that they wear sneakers or cleats. Well this innocently started evening ended horribly. My camera was stolen and 5 or so platos or fights broke out at the end of the party. For the first time in my life, I witnessed someone get stabbed. Needless to say, I was hiding under a table and frightened as hell as I saw blood pouring through this guy’s shirt.
So. I now do not have a small digital camera (just my larger Nikon) and lost a bunch of photos. There has been a lot of talk about who took the camera – but I obviously cannot be certain. I filed a report with the police – but I know the chances of me finding my camera again are about equal to the odds of winning the Powerball. The owners of my house had a long talk with me after this incident and told me I need to be more careful with who I trust here – and that a lot of people will try and take advantage of me simply because I am not from here. They then went on to tell me things about my soccer coach and that I should not trust her, etc. Well, I really appreciate all of this advice and information – but before the fact would have been nice. Live to learn, Learn to live.
Funny story about the police: the guy that I filed the report with came to my house one night the next week at around 8:30pm. My door was already closed and I was getting ready for bed (I know), but I figured he wanted to talk about the case so I let him in. Only to quickly realize while he was looking at the photos on my wall and calling me ‘simpatica and Hermosa (sweet and beautiful)’ that he was not there to talk about the case. He then proceeded to ask me (in uniform) if he could go buy us some beer. I declined politely and told him I would be going to bed. Sometimes this thought does go through my mind: what is my life?

Last little story: I learned how to milk a cow! I have a video of it but cannot figure out how to upload it on facebook. It was amazing and not as difficult as I anticipated! I then drank the milk – which I do not recommend. Didn’t get sick – but almost gagged while drinking the warm, occasionally hairy whole milk. And then I rode a donkey at 6 in the morning. Normal.

Wellll, I have gotten you all up to date on my life!!! Finally! I hope you all are well. I will be home December 15th – January 3rd and look forward to seeing all of you.
Xoxo Amanda

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Well, it has been months since my last blog – and hopefully my little summary in the last entry explains why that is. I have been quite busy here in Nicaragua (and Costa Rica).
But here I am … in Posoltega. Nicaragua. My Saturday night is going to consist of finally writing this blog to you all. I know – my life is quite exciting. I am going to try and be as brief as possible – while still giving you all a picture of my last 6 weeks or so in Nicaragua. Here we goo…

My parents’ visit was quite an experience. I have to admit that I (and my parents) was quite naive about the entire trip. But in the end – I am so, so lucky and thankful to have parents that are adventurous, crazy, loving, devoted and a little naïve enough to come see me in … Nicaragua. To start off, they brought an INSANE amount of things. Which I have no culpability for. Haha. They brought an entire suitcase of toys, books and arts & crafts for the kids of my community. They brought me chocolate, wine, George Foreman grill, Tupperware, books, cereal, cliff bars… the list goes on and on and on. It literally felt like Christmas.
It was obligatory that we rented a car – because we were not about to go on public transportation (aka old school buses from the 1980s) with the 7 or so suitcases they brought. This was an adventure all itself – before we even got into the car. There are some things that you really take for granted in the United States (or any developed country for that matter). For example: car insurance. Does not really exist here. You all should have seen my dad’s face when the guy at the Alamo counter told him this. I think they bought actually contemplated getting back on the plane. It went something like this:
Alamo Guy: ‘okay sir .. this is how insurance works here. If the police report says it’s your fault – you pay…everything.’
Dad: (even though the guy was speaking English) I’m sorry… I must have misunderstood you.
Alamo Guy: ‘you will have to pay $10,000 if it is your fault.’
Dad (thinking):” How can I get a flight back to Philadelphia…today.”
The Alamo guy continued to give my dad suggestions about driving in Nicaragua – such as: ‘don’t let anyone wash your car windows.. they will steal the lights on the windshield wipers’, etc. My dad was overwhelmed with enthusiasm to start this trip.
So that was that. We proceeded by getting lost for about 4 hours trying to find our way to the only all-inclusive resort in Nicaragua. More than 90 percent of the population of Nicaragua is considered impoverished, so asking for directions proved to be more difficult than one can imagine. In the Nicaraguan culture, a lot of times if one does not know the answer – they don’t admit this, they just give some form of an answer (incorrect). As you can imagine – I was incredibly worried about my dad driving in this country. I had only been in public transportation or in a Peace Corps vehicle. So naturally, I had no idea where we were going either. Here there are no road signs, road maps, and sometimes there aren’t even roads.
But there are … policia. Or Police. A motorcycle pulled out in front of my dad and he swerved to not him into the other lane. The police then proceeded to pull us over. My parents speak no Spanish. The police don’t speak English. Hi. The cop was a complete jerk and was not interested in anything that I had to say. He was actually a perfect depiction of what machismo man is like. They ask us to get out of the car and start searching it – I am pretty sure he wanted to find a pound of cocaine or something. I end up getting out of the car – my Spanish is flying out of my mouth faster than I know what I am saying. They tell me they are going to take my dad’s license. I end up crying – pretty sure I was on a soap opera. I end up asking to talk to the supervisor that is there. It went something like this, “I am here working for two years for your country – for free…and this is the first view that you are going to give my parents of your country.” Guess I struck some kind of cord with the supervisor – and he ended up letting us go. Pretty sure the machismo cop was running after the car after we were let go. Needless to say my dad drove incredibly cautious the rest of the way – and I am almost positive my mom asked for an IV of xanax.
We finally made it to the resort around 5pm or so. To get to his incredibly beautiful resort you have to drive through several of the poorest communities in Nicaragua. It gave a glimpse of the real Nicaragua to my parents. But I am pretty sure at this time we were all just interested in the getting the hell out of the car.
The resort was beautiful – but still Nicaragua. There were bugs in the rooms, the A/C was shafty and when you tried to call the front desk – no one picked up. Typical. We decided to stay two nights longer than anticipated after the driving fiasco.
The food was pretty amazing – I consumed things that I hadn’t had in 6 plus months (i.e. mushrooms, pasta, bacon, vodka, multi-grain bread). My parents got sick the 3rd day and were pretty incapacitated for the more than 24 hours. My mom liked to call it ‘Sandanista Soupy Poopy.’ Let us go ahead and say it was not cute.
We headed to Leon (one of the major cities in Nicaragua about 30 minutes from my town) to stay for the next 3 nights. We stayed in a beautiful hotel called La Perla – and the owner was from Green Bay and became my father’s new best friend. One of the things that were most difficult during this trip was that my parents are very much used to being in control and independent– but being that the majority of Nicaragua does not speak English – they were pretty dependent upon me for most of the trip. This was frustrating on both sides of the fence. I had become pretty well-adjusted to some things, such as: the insane heat, walking for miles, the traffic, the bugs, getting lost. Naturally, my parents were experiencing all of these things for the first time – so this created a sort of clash. The best way I can describe it is kind of a reverse culture shock. My two lives colliding.
The best day that we had during our trip was when they came to my town, Posoltega. I was able to introduce them to all of families that I have gotten to know here – and my friends. I think this was a really comforting (yet exhausting) day for my parents. Hopefully at the end of this day they realized I had a lot of people that cared about me in my town. We also went to one of the schools that I had been working at – and they gave out the toys, books, etc. that they had brought. The kids were overwhelmed. As expected, word got out that gringa had presents to give out and before I knew it – there was a line of 20 people outside of my door asking for presents. This was very unwanted attention – but it actually allowed me to meet even more kids within the community. I had to do some damage control for the next few weeks in explaining that my purpose here was not to give them gifts and that this was a special occasion.
In the end – my parents could not have been more supportive and understanding of what I was going through. I am incredibly proud that my parents came to see me – and even more so that we all three made it out alive and still loving each other. Hopefully they were able to get a glimpse of what my life is like here. Somewhere along the way – my parents became my best friends. I am so, so lucky.
I was able to stay strong most of the time that they were here – but after seeing them to the airport – I did not even make it back across the street before completely breaking down. Part of me wanted them to take me with them; part of me didn’t want them to leave. It was a complete mix of emotions – it was even difficult to decipher how I was feeling.
I almost immediately got onto a bus back to Posoltega – only to be in a car accident while en route. No one was hurt thank goodness- but it just seemed I had used up all my good luck for while my dad was driving. The next few days were very difficult (as I was warned by other Peace Corps Volunteers), but I eventually got it together. Especially since I had two more special events coming up. My parents left the 26th of July and my friend John was coming to see me on the 8th of August.

My parents brought me an assortment of balls (volleyball, basketball, soccer) and this actually changed my life. I started playing in the street with the kids the day after my parents left. Being with the kids and being active was a great help in dealing with missing my parents. I would say I play at least 3-4 days a week with the kids of my town. I have only had one ball stolen so far – the volleyball. I know who it was – and will never play with those kids again. Obvi. I have already had two injuries while playing in sandals or barefoot in the street. But I feel so guilty wearing my big sneakers – against a 9 year old without shoes. Alas, my feet are suffering the raff of this.

I started playing in a girl’s soccer league here in Posoltega. There were of course fights over potential trades of the gringa. Ultimately, I ended up staying with my original team and having a great time. We are in first place out of approximately 20 teams and I am in 3rd place for goals made. I play every Sunday and love it (minus the drunken guys that are yelling to me the entire time I am playing).
Last weekend I joined a volleyball league in Chichigalpa (the town next to me) – and it was super intense. A level much higher than the one in Posoltega. They were wearing knee pads. Serious business. I was not quite as fabulous at volleyball as I am with soccer. I am not sure if I am going to continue playing with them because it is a little far and difficult to leave town at least 4 times a week. We’ll see – I heard rumors there is a team of volleyball here in Posoltega.

So. This is an interesting topic for me here. For a while I anticipated not having a boyfriend here for the entirety of the two years. Then reality set in and I realized two years is a really long time and I got pretty lonely. The other female volunteers and myself have been supporting each other through all of this. Sometimes it is hard to decipher whether Nicaraguan guys are getting cuter – or if my taste is declining. Well regardless of the truth – I decided to accept someone’s request to be their girlfriend. Here there is no casual dating. No friends first. It is kinda like ‘Hi. Nice to meet you – will you be my girlfriend?’ I have been ‘andaring’ with a guy named John since July. He does not have a high school education and works on a bus. I know, I know… I saw my mother’s face when I told her this over skype.
The truth is that I decided to break up with him last week because of a few moments of clarity. He is truly a sweet person and treated me well – but I just need something more. It was very clear to me that I was settling – because of where I am… because I am alone. It is weird to be at an age where you feel like you are ready for something serious – but in a country where you do not see yourself with anyone long-term. Very conflicting. I thought there would be a lot cuter guy volunteers – and this proved to be false. Ha. Anyway, right now I am officially single and constantly telling people that are persuing me that I would like to be alone and that I will not be dating anyone from Posoltega. Privacy does not exist here – it is as though I am always being watched. I may actually be on a reality television show without knowing it. Hermano Grande aka Big Brother does Nicaragua. At the end of the day it is nice to have someone there (obviously) – but the benefits of being by myself right now incredibly outweigh this plus.

So. I got asked to leave the house that I was staying in (with Alba) for several reasons. One being that I had a Nicaraguan boyfriend. Two, being that after I became the neighborhood gym teacher and playing with the kids every day – a lot of kids of the town were in my room (aka Alba’s house). Both of these factors bothered her a lot – and it ended in her telling me that my friend John that was coming to visit could not stay in my house (which was the complete original plan) and later asking me to find another place to live. It is odd how some people open their houses completely willingly to me (the white girl) but are skeptical of their own people. Anyway, I ended up going to Costa Rica and finding a place to move within two days of coming back. It was quite stressful – but I had several options and was helped by my community and also by the Safety and Security guy from Peace Corps. I moved…across the street. Literally. One of the teachers I had been working with lives in a fairly large house with a section that was not being used (previously had been used for an NGO years ago). I have my own bathroom with a toilet (no running water, so I bucket flush), more privacy and they lent me a bed and a desk. They are incredibly sweet and really look after me, but from a distance. It has been quite an adjustment – because what I do not have there is a … sink or a kitchen of any kind. I bought a little two burner counter-top stove but still have no kitchen. I pay a women about $2 to wash my clothes and iron them. I wash my food and my dishes in the shower (or if it’s raining I just step outside). Not quite sanitary – but I am working on it. Oh! And this house has a real roof, which means it is so, so much cooler. My friend actually said it felt like air conditioning the other day – haha.

Okay, I am not done writing – but I am going to post this part to give you all something before I leave Managua today. I love and miss you all! I cannot believe I am 25 years old. I think it is going to be a fabulous year. And I will be home in less than 75 days! (Not counting at all). I will keep writing and hope to hear little updates on your all as well.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

still truckin!

So. I just wanted to apologize and let everyone know I am alive and well here in Nicaragua still. The next blog is in the makings... and it will be a doozy. Since my last blog my parents visited, my good friend John from college visited, I went to Costa Rica with the girls, moved to a new house, got a boyfriend and joined a soccer league. phew. I will obviouslly elaborate on all of these in the blog. But there is a snapshot.
I miss you all like crazy and look forward to hearing how you are doing.
With all the love I possess,

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Beautiful Day

July 11th, 2009
Helloooo United States. I hope this blog finds everyone well and you are all enjoying your summer. Happy belated 4th of July! I think being here has made me even more patriotic and thankful to be an American! I wanted to write a quick blog this weekend because basically the next two weeks I will be pretty occupied. Monday I go to a Spanish workshop for a week in Masaya with the other volunteers in my group who did not test out at Advanced at the end of training. In my town will be … Hana! So clearly, I am pretty excited. Then on the 17th…my parents will be here! Ah. What an exciting two weeks I have coming up here.
I just got done eating half of a watermelon sitting in my hammock. It is actually the coolest morning since I have been here – the wind has kicked up – must be a storm coming. It is only about 65 degrees and it feels like a spring morning – it is beautiful! Okay, here we go…

Break it down…
So a combination of factors caused me to have a slight breakdown in the health center two Mondays ago. Two people approached me in the health center (the sub-director and the woman I used to live with) to talk about the lack of work I had been doing. Also, the woman I used to be living with wanted to know if I had been spreading rumors about her daughters – saying that they stole from me when I was living with them and this was why I moved. Ahem. What. These little girls are 10 years old and are nothing but the sweetest kids – wish I could say the same for their mother. I rally disregarded this and told her that if this had happened that I would have said something directly to her. She then went on to tell me that the family that I spend a lot of time with probably invented the rumor because they like to start gossip. Blah blah blah. Anyway, the sub-director and Guadalupe told me that I am spending too much time in the schools and that I need to be doing more with the health center. It is hard enough to explain feelings in your own native language – but try it in another one. Difficult. I tried my best to explain that I did not feel utilized and this was why I was working outside of the health center. My former counterpart, who retired, Sozima, was incredibly supportive along with another doctor.
I ended up speaking directly to the health center director that morning after I got myself together. I explained that I was not away from my family and friends, the people I love most in the world – to ‘pasear’ or just vacation here in Nicaragua. That my objective is to work and form projects but that I have felt incredibly lost and without a role in the health center for a combination of factors. The reality is, that we are all learning. It is the first time I am a Peace Corps volunteer and the first time this health center has had one. Being a first-generation volunteer was part of what attracted me to Posoltega. Ha. I do believe in the long-run it will still turn out to be a good decision – but right now I am facing many obstacles and barriers to just finding a role at the health center. There are several volunteers in the group before me that do not work with the health center at all because of the disorganization and lack of work – but I am not ready to give up quite yet. The conversation went well with the director and we agreed to speak directly from now on to avoid chisme or gossip/rumors. She went on to explain that this is a part of the Nicaraguan culture and that people love to make up rumors, especially in the health center. And, naturally – who better to talk about then the random white-girl in your place of employment. I get it, I do. A lot of what I need to do is internal work – and accept that people are going to talk about me – no matter what. What matters most – is at the end of the day I can say that I am doing my best – wherever that may be – and be proud of the work I am doing.
It is pretty amazing – coming into this experience I felt like I was a pretty confident person – confident in my abilities on many levels. Being in another culture, being different from everyone else – really challenges everything you know about yourself. Especially your confidence. Everyone really is always talking about you; you really are different.
One of the best conversations I have had over the past week of processing my life here in Nicaragua was last weekend with another volunteer Jill (who unfortunately is about 20 hours away from me). The topic of the conversation was adaptation in your community. Peace Corps drills this into our heads that this is a huge part of your work – and that it is essential to sustainability of any projects or work you do throughout your two years. Although I do agree with this mentality – it is a double-sided coin. Although it is essential to be open to adapting to certain things within your community – it is equally if not more important to hold on to what you know and even more so who you are. If I made my service solely about adapting to this culture (and essentially becoming Nicaraguan) – I am completely missing the boat. Jill gave an example of when she was talking with one of the men from her community who boasts about the dozen children he has from different women. The fully ‘adapted’ person would either laugh along with the man or say nothing – as this is an accepted behavior in this culture. Jill, being Jill, said that it was ridiculous and went on to ask him how he supported them. This is not necessarily imposing another culture on this man, it is simply showing him that some people in the world do not accept this – and are actually appalled by it. I think over the past month or so I have been focusing so much on ‘adapting’ that I was forgetting about the other side of it – and staying true to myself. Although I have not condoned any pimp-daddy Nicaraguans – I have not been staying true to myself. I have not been relying on the very things that I know make me happy. Like playing sports, photography, etc. I have been focusing so much on not standing out, that I have not been fair to myself – and therefore only contributing to the feelings of lost and lonely. People are going to talk about me anyway – I might as well be doing things that I love and make me happy in the meantime. This all might so quite simple and mundane to all of you – but I cannot really explain how vital this revelation is to me completing these two years of service. I will continue to take it day-to-day but I am currently feeling so grateful for the place I am in right now. It’s as though I can feel the tides turning – except that I control this tide. I control my happiness. We are all essentially products of our own cultures, but underneath it all – we are… who we are, no matter where we are. So simple and equally so difficult to grasp.
The closest ‘big’ town in proximity to me in Posoltgea. I had always passed through it to go to Chinandgea but never actually explored the town until two weeks ago. It is … amazing! I met two nursing students the day of my ‘breakdown’ in the health center – and they immediately invited me to their town and house, etc. One of the most beautiful parts of this culture. I actually ended up having a ‘sleepover’ with them two days later and they showed me around Chichigalpa. I should have known I would like this town – it produced all of the Flor de Caña or rum in the country. Ha. It is a really cute town but more than anything I was excited that they have 5 gyms! And women were in these gyms – so crazy! It is a 25 cent bus ride to this town and about 15 minutes. We also observed a ballet class going on with approximately 20 young boys in it. This shocked and thrilled me beyond words. Talk about a serious example contra this machismo culture. We also had some of the best pizza I have had here in Nicaragua and then went to watch a basketball game in a covered court that is nicer than my high schools. The family of Juniette, the nursing student, has already asked me to move there. It would be pretty sweet – but don’t think I can pull it off. I just feel lucky it is so close! I am going there later today and will be spending the night again because tomorrow hopefully I will be joining a softball team over there! Ah! So exciting.
Some other girls from my group and I went to Granada last weekend to celebrate the 4th of July. The weekend in general was the most money I have spent since being in Nicaragua – without a doubt. Granada is one of the touristiest towns in Nicaragua – and caters to gringos. Although this was a nice treat to be around some people from the U.S. and eat some fabulous food – I could not do it for more than a weekend. Granada is actually the site assignment for three volunteers. Friday I had some HUMMUS (holy heck I miss that), nachos and margaritas. Later that night we went out to a club – and it really was a club. Ha. But in true Nica-fashion it took 35 minutes to get a drink. Saturday we all went to an all you can eat barbeque to celebrate the 4th. Had a hot dog, hamburger, potato salad and green bean casserole – didn’t quite compare to my dad’s barbequing – but it was a nice way to celebrate the 4th. No fireworks – but Nicaraguans use them on a weekly basis – so I did not feel without. Sunday was the best day of all – Jill and I went to the Laguna de Apoyo which is a volcanic crater. This might be my favorite place in Nicaragua so far – it was incredibly relaxing and gave me a chance to really just reflect and have great conversations with Jill. On the ride back to Granada we met two RPVC, or returned Peace Corps volunteers. One from 2007 in the Dominican Republic and one from Brazil who served during the years 1964-1966. Seriously. We talked the entire ride back to Granada about his experience and his life currently in Raleigh, NC. He said he chose to do the Peace Corps as an alternative option to going to war. Wow. And I thought I was lucky for missing part of the recession.
So I had a few medical things that I had been avoiding taking care of – so I went to the medical office for the first time on Monday. I really will never have better healthcare than I have right now – so I might as well take advantage of it. As everything in this country – things took way longer than they should have – so I was put up in a hotel in Managua for the night. I was initially annoyed – but then realized having a night of air condition, cable and internet was not a punishment. Ha. I met some other volunteers staying in the hotel and two volunteers from group and we all went out to dinner for burritos, nachos and beers. It was a good finale to my long American weekend. I was able to skype my parents, John and Kimmy – and it was fabulous to see all of their faces. It was hard to force myself to head back to Posoltega – but it has to be done. On the micro-bus to Leon I met two girls from San Francisco who were here vacationing on their summer vacation (teachers). One of the girls will be here until August – and I will hopefully meet up with her at some point. I love meeting fun people that love to travel!
Bat cave
So my house is still going pretty well – I was without a door for almost two weeks, but I now have the most beautiful door and my own access to the house/my room from the street. The only drawback is that when it rains – water runs under the door and creates a sort of river in my room. Nothing in this world is free. Ha. I think I really like it – because when I am here I leave it open and get to be more visible to the community. Pretty much any kid from the community stops in and likes to look at my stuff and photos. Actually, Kimmy – there is a guy here that is only 15 … but he tried to make out with you via picture two nights ago. True story.
Last night I got up to go the bathroom – as always – in the middle of the night. There were a swarm of bats in the middle of the house (which is an open patio) and I am pretty sure I was starring in a Batman movie. Was ducking, screaming and maybe even did a tuck and roll. Bats are scary! Anyway, made it to the bathroom without any harm.
The only real hiccup since I have been in this house – was a few weeks ago when my good friend Abel told me that the landlady was upset about the electricity bill. I imagined that it was 100s of cordobas higher and started to feel awful. I went to her directly to talk about it (part of this custom I do not like … they are not very direct) and sort it all out before it got out of hand. She was at first defensive and showed me a copy of the bill when I did not live there to compare it to the new one. It was a whopping… 40 cordobas higher. That is two dollars. I pay her 50 dollars a month. I tried to be sensitive to the fact that every cordoba counts here – and explained that I would not be in the house two weeks out of July – but that I would also try to use less electricity. I mean I hope if nothing this story helps give you a little perspective of what a different world this is. 2 dollars more!!! To save 8 cordobas I have been walking 25 minutes to the health center since I have lived here – until now! Now I have been riding a bike and it is sooo much faster and more fun. Ha. I was going to buy one – but Abel has offered to let me use it whenever I want – so I am gonna let this play out and see how it goes. So far so good. Anyway. The conversation ended well – and she said she understands how hard it is to be away from everyone you love –and I encouraged her to talk to me directly about any problems she has. Because Abel is always trying to speak in English to me – I think she got the impression that I do not understand a lick of Spanish. I assured her that I can understand what she is saying – and it would be better to speak directly. Hopefully we nipped that in the butt before anything serious occurred. Like me having to find a new place to live. Ha.

Yesterday I played softball and soccer for a total of 3 hours – and my entire body is hurting this morning, and I … love it! Ha. It feels great. We played right next to a river with the volcano in the backdrop of our game. Oh, and I may be out of shape but I can still got it. Hit a double with the wooden bat made with a machete right before the game.
I love you all so much and I hope you all know how much I think about you and how THANKFUL I am to have all this love and support pushing me forward and holding me up. Miss you all more than you know <3 December will be here before we even know it. Cannot believe I have been here for 6 months already. Days go by slow but weeks truly do fly by. Love you all.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My So-Called Life

Hello everyone! I know this is incredibly overdue but to be honest my motivation level for writing has been nil these past few weeks. I would be lying to you all if I did not admit that these past few weeks have been the most difficult of my journey so far. Nothing particular happened and this is … the problem. Ha. Never have I ever…had so much free time in my life. It really makes a person question their motivation level. Anyway, I feel that I am in a really good place right now, but still taking it day-to-day. I am going to try and get you all up to date in my life.
Mi Casa…
…Is fabulous. I posted some photos on facebook of my new room. It is now even cuter. More vibrant colors and more photos and cards of the people I love the most! The first impression I had of the woman, Alba, that I am living with was dead-on. She is so tranquila or chill. She is a really sweet woman and I think we both respect each other’s privacy. So far it really is working out perfectly. A lot of times when I come home after a day full of being culturally sensitive and speaking Spanish, I only want to be in my room, reading or watching Slumdog Millionaire for the 17th time. And she is okay with that. She has just recently started giving me lunch pretty regularly – which is super.
I have realized since moving here that I really don’t know how to cook. Ha. When I lived by myself in Wilmington, I somehow concocted the idea that I was cooking for myself. When in reality I was going out to eat a lot, living off Kashi pre-made meals, left-overs from Sunday family dinners and the occasional peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I am slowly learning here with my limited access to fruits and veggies. Breakfast I pretty much eat some fruit and cook myself some eggs. Just recently mastered hard-boiling eggs. Ha. I know…I am basically freakin Rachael Ray. I rarely have to worry about lunch. People at the health center love to feed me (see next section), Alba or basically anyone’s house I go to around midday will give me lunch. Pretty sweet. Dinner…depends. I typically go to this one family’s house and eat with them – but sometimes I just cannot hack it. I love them, but they are pretty high-maintenance and sometimes I just need a break.
The conditions of my house really are probably one of the nicest in Posoltega. The following sentences will probably shock you. Ha The rain has commenced and the roof is made out of techo which is …hard to explain. Basically a lot of wooden rectangle looking pieces of wood. Anyway, there are several places throughout the house that leak tremendously during the rain. I only have one in my room – it just happens to be right near my only … light bulb. Haha. I am not really that concerned about it – I just put a bucket under it and stay away from sockets.
Just saw my first rat since I moved in over a month ago. Cockroaches are a regular thing at night – but rarely in my room, just in the bathroom. But it is hilarious how someone’s perception can change so quickly. If I had come to this house directly when I arrived in Posoltega I would likely be complaining about these things. Now… in comparison –no biggie. Haven’t had too many problems with electricity and water. Two weeks ago we were without water for almost 24 hours which was the longest we have gone. I have some tea-lite candles which come in handy when the electricity goes out due to the most insane lightning and thunder I have ever heard.
I am really happy here and feel very comfortable with my living conditions. There are some volunteers here that are washing their clothes in the river, bringing water miles to their house to bathe, etc. Therefore… I am very aware of how lucky I am. Even in my town, there are several people whose only source of water is a well. Me = happy I am not on Little House on the Prairie.
So. The running joke with anyone that knows me is how … curvy or Hermosa I am getting. This is actually said in a professional setting almost daily. Ha. I forced myself to step on a scale last week in the Health Center. Confirmation? Ahem. Yes. I am only about 6 pounds heavier than when I got here. But it is definitely more about the way I feel. Oh, and the fact that my pants are insanely tight. I am working on a way to rectify this situation. Searching for a gym in the nearby town. And if that fails I have empty big yoghurt bottles that I am going fill with sand/dirt and use as weights. Yeah, that’s my life. Going to buy a bike in the beginning of July, which will be necessary for my work starting in the rural communities. The most difficult thing by far is... people LOVE TO FEED ME. Ha. And it is really a culturally sensitive topic if you refuse someone offering you comida. I know, I know … I need to take care of myself first. I am working on balancing that with keeping good relations within the community. Food is such a big part of the culture here.
It is weird to have one of your favorite ‘outlets’ for frustration or hobby taken away. No one exercises here. Or at least how Americans do. There workout is the incredibly duro or hard work of their lives. Whether it is on the farm, walking 5km to high school, or carrying 12 pieces of fire wood on your head – they are always working off those rice and beans. Although I do not want to do any of the previous mentioned activities – I have to figure out some kind of outlet. My parents are planning on bringing me some balls (of sports…of course), volleyball, basketball, etc. I believe that if I show up at the park – I could get some good games started, and in return be getting some exercise. Vamos haber (new fav saying)…we’ll see. Just need to find some kind of routine that is still culturally acceptable.
So my friend Aklecia came to visit May 31st for a week and it was so refreshing. It was really great timing because it was right in the middle of this rut that I had been in. Aklecia and I met in Mexico during study abroad and she is also studied in Costa Rica. For this reason, I had no doubts of worries about the conditions of my house for Aklecia. Again, how time can change someone’s perception. She admittedly said to me that she was pretty shocked at the conditions of my house and Posoltega itself. Again, something that would seemingly make me upset – comforted me. She said the most shocking part of it all was how adjusted I was to it all. I am almost positive this is a good thing. Ha. Little things like the bugs, sleeping in a mosquito net, not wasting anything, using a flashlight to go the bathroom or how I wash my dishes – all are quite normal to me now.
The people of Posoltgea embraced Aklecia just as they did me. We went to the beach for two days – and it was so wonderful. The beach really is a haven for me – I cannot help but feel at ease and happy when I am there. The week went incredibly fast – but I was so thankful for her presence. I could not have asked for a better first visit.
Also, have to mention that she brought me a crap load of stuff from my parents. Como… Peanut Butter, my rain boots, my straightner and most importantly…. EVOLUTION aka my favorite wine. 6 months without wine. Not. Normal.
Work it Out
Sooo . The best way to describe how I have felt for the past three weeks is…lost, useless, lacking in motivation (I could go on .. but I think this is sufficient). It has all been a pretty viscous cycle. My counterpart at the Health Center retired from her position as the Community Educator (which was never happening anyway). I really get along with her a lot (she is not the woman I was living with … do not even speak with her), but we were doing … no work. O sea..(or in other wards) we were just working on the Influenza, or Swine Flu. There are now cases in Nicaragua (around 50 or so) and they are putting even more resources into preventing the spread of this flu. I have continued to feel lost at the health center – (with or without a counterpart), but also felt incredibly hesitant about forming my own projects and working with other NGOs or the schools. Mainly because when I am not there they assume that I am at the beach. As much as I wish this was true – it is not.
Anyway, just this week I have decided to let go of everything that has or has not happened in the past three weeks. With or without a counterpart, I am going to work in this community. My project director came to my site on the 11th. To be completely honest, I cried during the first 30 minutes of the interview. I just could not talk about my lack of work without getting choked up. It was sort of like the levy broke, and I could not stop the flow of emotions of the frustrations of the past three weeks of my life. The project director handled it all so well – she was compassionate and understanding but at the same time but some of the blame on me. I have all of these great ideas for projects – but have been hesitating on doing anything. A lot of that has been due to the lack of the role at the health center – and my hesitancy to step outside of their and do things on my own (without offending anyone).
It took a few days after my boss left to really process everything and get myself together. To compare how I am feeling today to last week – is pretty much in a different universe. I have decided to take more control of what I do on a daily basis. Instead of just sitting in the health center waiting for someone to tell me to make a poster or mural (they think I am really artistic.. haha), I have been going to NGOs and schools to form projects by myself. It is really intimidating – but the more I do it, I know the more comfortable I will feel. Monday I start at the high school here in Posoltega and today I met someone I pretty much already consider a counterpart. She is the counselor at the high school and is so excited to work with me and is actually going to give the charlas with me at the high school (which is the whole idea of having a counterpart). I am excited and nervous to start at the high school – but more than anything, I am just excited to be having more things to do. I love being in schools – I just feel incredibly comfortable.
Feeling highly motivated after my visit to the high school and meeting the school counselor (might be fate, right dad?), I went to the health center and decided to give my first charla there. There was a group of about 10 mothers whose children have been identified as underweight or having malnutrition. I gave them a charla on … nutrition. Ha. It went incredibly well – they all participated and were so sweet to me. It was a great first charla in the health center. I gave the same charla to my 5th grade class on Wednesday and it went well also. Besides the fact that when I asked who drank coffee in the class – the entire class raised their hands in glee. They seriously give coffee to children at the age of two or less.
I can already see in the near future that I am going to be so incredibly busy that I will wish I had as much free time that I did these past three weeks. I just deal much better with a jam-packed schedule, rather than an empty one. It’s in my blood. Ha. I have been getting a lot of support from Paula (the volunteer closest to me), Elizabeth (a TEFL volunteer in Chinandagea) and Hana. Hana has actually been having a really difficult time at her site and was considering leaving me … but she is getting a new site assignment which is so amazing. As always, I feel incredibly support by home…aka my heart. I 100% could not do this without you.
Mis padres van a venir en un mes!!!
So my parents will be here in less than a month now! I cannot believe it (and I don’t think they can either) Haha. I am so proud of them and honored that they love me so much that they would come here so quickly – without hesitation. We are going to go to the only resort in Nicaragua for the first few days and then I will introduce them to the ‘real’ Nicaragua – aka my life. I will likely cry the first 24 hours they are here. Ha. No really, I cannot explain how I excited I am – I am so lucky, blessed, loved. Who could ask for more?

I love you all so much – and thank you for your strength and support that you continue to give me. To explain what the means to me is impossible. You are the strength that gets me through the most difficult of days.