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!
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.