A conversation I had with my mom this weekend has me thinking a lot about what it means to truly say ´goodbye´ and how to begin again while leaving behind so much. Our talk was my mom recounting a tearful conversation she had had with my little brother, who is 17, awesome, hilarious, and autistic. His concept of time doesn´t come into focus as clearly as most of the population and I knew when I left Seattle that he probably did not understand what it would mean for me to be gone that long. Sure enough, he showed that this week in a show of emotion that is rare for him, and therefore all the more precious (to me, at least!). It broke my heart to hear about his confusion and as much as I wish I could be there to give him a hug, wipe his tears and help him understand about my life here, I know that this is where I am supposed to be.
This all came at the end of my first full week in my new\permanent site. Leaving behind my training town, students there, and my Peace Corps friends has been a bit overwhelming. We had an awesome weekend of swearing-in as official volunteers and celebrating last weekend, then headed to our respective sites on Sunday. It was a surreal experience to stand at the bus station with my bags, hug my last two friends goodbye, and get on a bus headed to my new life. By myself. In Nicaragua.
What does this new life mean? It means that the only English I see or hear comes in the form of text messages from friends, students wanting to practice their English or men yelling at me on the street: “Helllllo baby, I want to marry you, you so beautiful, take my picture.” Yep. Awesome. This also means that my Spanish has accelerated at a crazy pace and I´m feeling more confident each day in my ability to navigate life here. It means that I each random fruits and vegetables for dinner and take food handouts from my host family as often as possible, since I don´t yet have a working kitchen. It means that I spend hours in the local market negotiating prices for things such as spoons and pitchers to furnish my new place. It also means I am very busy. As in, I have 35 different classes in 5 different and far apart villages, each week, as well as 8 teachers to coordinate and plan with. On some days, I have to be in 3 different towns and travel by bus or taxi for about 3 hours. Oh, and an NGO that I will be helping start an exciting pilot program for. Yikes.
All in all, leaving behind is scary. It is overwhelming, surreal, and sometimes leaves you in a pile of tears for no apparent reason. It means packing your bags, hugging lots of people, closing a certain chapter, all to move on to something different, something that you hope is brighter and more beautiful, but that holds no promises except to be different. It means trusting that your family and friends know how deeply you love them and care for them, but also knowing that heartache that comes when someone is hurting and you cannot be there for them. Sometimes it sucks. And sometimes it is awesome.
And then comes starting again. And when this pattern has to repeat itself twice within a few months, it can leave you exhausted. I have not slept as much as I have this past week, probably since I was a teenager. It means learning new words, new bus schedules and prices, new places to buy food, toilet paper and that much needed ice-cold Coke in a plastic bag. It means a seemingly endless supply of goof-ups, awkward interactions and conversations, over 500 new student names and faces to remember, having to give the same speech of who you are and why you are here over and over and over again. But it also holds some gems. The first time one of your students greets you on the streets outside of class time. The first time you successfully have a conversation with the school director you cannot possibly understand when he speaks due to the amount of missing teeth and facial hair. The first time you make a joke, in Spanish, and people laugh because they understand and think it´s funny, not just because you are the gringa who can´t speak Spanish. And it means being overwhelmed by the amount of love and support you receive from your new community. The food, the hugs, the smiles, the offers of time and deliciousness from seemingly random strangers never fails to make my day. Especially that plate of ribs someone gave me the other day…yum.
So thank you, family, friends, and Nicaragua. I miss you, I love you, and I am excited to be here with you. Bring it on, two years of Nicaraguan craziness. I can´t wait to see what you hold.
Boy walking on my local beach. Just another sunny day in paradise!