I love the way the light falls in this country. There is such a contrast between darkness, shadows, and the full-noon sun. Each tree lends a different type of shade, umbrellas provide a shelter from the midday sol, and gracias a dios, buses have roofs and open windows that let in the right light and keep out the strong stuff.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I have the pretty incredible opportunity of not only passing through towns and villages, but staying. Seeing, observing, and documenting life in tiny little corners of the world. Lately, these times have been providing some incredible photo opportunities with some of the most beautiful families and children, quiet city streets, and sunrises over mountains.
As I look towards wrapping up my time here in Nicaragua, I have been going through pictures and figuring out what I have not been able to record yet. There is so much here and I so want to capture it in its essence. Light, smiles, architecture and more light.
I sometimes forget how strange my life here is. It is a beautiful, hot, dusty kind of strange, one that makes me stop and shake my head at the strangeness of it all a couple times a week.
Take this past week for example:
I went to a local swimming hole with some friends and enjoyed a natural water slide, only to come out of the water completely covered in little tiny worms that were biting me. They had gotten into my clothes and created quite the commotion. Darn you buzones.
That same day, class was shortened from 90 minutes to about 15 minutes because the first World Cup game started. Students pulled out the TV during recess and just never returned to class. Yay soccer!
I have randomly started waking up at 5:40 on the dot. Every. Single. Morning. If you know me, you know how not normal this is. And to make it even better, I’ve actually been getting up and going on runs. Say whattt?! Runs usually followed by a load of hand-washed laundry, make breakfast, read, enjoy my coffee and crawl back into bed for a little cat nap at 8:30am.
Yesterday I enjoyed an amazing fried fish lunch and dip in a hotel swimming pool, thanks to the generous invitation of a friend here. We were swimming under pure sunshine-filled skies and within the hour everything was black and dumping rain. Hello Nicaraguan winter, you bi-polar beast.
While enjoying a standing-room only, swaying bus ride through the hills into Managua on Saturday, I got asked out by a local guy who had all the smooth lines under the sun down to a fine art. To go out with him or not, hmmm….
I opened us one of my plastic tubs where I keep food to find that somehow a darn mouse had gotten into eat and eaten through everything. Tea bags, fabulous hot chocolate mix from the States, and my junk food supply. Grrr.
And in another mouse-related incident, my neighbors helped me clean out a mouse nest full of little babies that the momma had created behind the dresser in my little room. My neighbor, a vet, excitedly told me that he would take them to Juana. Juana, I asked? Yeah, he says, Juana is my pet boa constrictor. Oh, of course. Sorry little mice babies. Now momma mouse cries every night and has gone on a grief-filled rampage, eating through things in my room, escaping three mouse-traps and annoying me to no end. I’m sorry momma mouse, can we please live in peace?!
My shower nozzle broke yesterday (and by ‘shower’, I mean the PCV pipe that comes out of the wall!), so now my ‘shower’ can only be turned on by using a pair of pliers.
Just another week in Nicaragua….
“We really find out what we are made of during these “in-between” periods of time. We have the opportunity to be fighters; to look within ourselves and find a sense of strength that we never knew we had. It’s in transition that we are strengthened, that our character builds and we really discover who we are and what we want from life.”
~ Erin Willis-McKeenly ~
Here’s to a lot of sh*t going down over the last two weeks.
And to coming out the other side.
Standing. Breathing. Living. Rebuilding. Hopeful.
Thank you to my friends and family, for support that I have received from near and wide. For the beds that have been offered to me, for the laundry that has been done, for the prayers, thoughts, funny pictures and meals bought and cooked.
Nicaragua, we’re not done with each other yet. Get excited.
My mind has been all over the place lately. Between traveling for work, keeping sane in site, enjoying time with friends, cooking,endless bus trips, English group, and starting to think about post-PC life, it’s been a bit crazy. While I’ve had a ton of ideas of quality blog posts to put up, it just hasn’t happened.
So, welcome to the brain dump, aka, things that have been grabbing my interest, bringing me encouragement, and straight up challenging me. And some pictures, because, well, it’s me.
I’m quickly becoming a tortilla-making pro and find that I rather enjoy spending hours making them. Even better, it is an amazing time to chat with local women who have been patient enough to teach me. I’m planning on buying a ‘comal’ to bring back to the States so I can make legit tortillas.
Trips to the beach. Needed. Enough said.
School is back in full force. Here are a couple fotos of my students presenting their work and the picture below shows a pretty normal day in the big high school here – hectic-ness.
Earthquakes! We are still shaking and rattling and rolling here. Looks like the Pacific coast has been pretty active, and I just happen to live in the community where they epicenters have been here in Nicaragua. Keeping us on our toes, and thankfully, nothing hugely serious and no injuries or tsunamis. Much to be thankful for.
About two weeks ago I got to help put on a small business incubator, where we brought to together 20+ business owners from all around the country to spend three days in Granada looking at ways they can improve their businesses. I would consider this one of my favorite events I have gotten to help plan. Amazing to sit with business owners, here their stories, ask questions, and help brainstorm ways they could try doing things differently.
The above picture is of me giving a presentation on human resources, and below is an outdoor hallway in the hotel we stayed at. I’m kind of in love with the pots, and the volcano in the background doesn’t hurt anything either.
Group foto with our business owners and leadership team (minus me, I was taking the picture!).
Monkey feet on a recent outing the zoo – yes, Nicaragua has a zoo. And it is pretty well done.
Thinking of my sweet state back home and sending love to these communities: http://www.komonews.com/news/local/Number-of-missing-from-mudslide-drops-to-30-253104791.html
This bridge. Hello, beautiful.
A recent day trip to Leon to go volcano-boarding didn’t quite pan out, so I spend the morning taking myself on a photography and good coffee date. Not bad at all. And it meant finding this gem of a wall.
And to end, this quote, from a blog I read:
“Instead of guilt, gratitude. Every sip of cold water, every good night kiss, every moment of this very precious life. It’s vital to recognize that our culture is well beyond the boundaries of comfort, having become guilty of lavish excess, and surely guilty of increasing injustice too. Gratitude though, is for the fact that there no bombs on the roadside, that people gather in public places to express their views, mostly without fear of reprisal, that there’s food on the table and the possibility of friendship, love, education. It’s far from perfect, but there’s much for which we can be grateful. This is a starting point to living here well.”
~ Richard Dahlstrom, blog ~
Maybe call it a lack of pre-planning or foresight, but there are a few things I never imagined happening here in Nicaragua.
The other evening, I sat down and brainstormed the first 30+ that came to mind. So here commences the not-even-close-to-being-finished list of…
“Things I Never Thought I Would Be Doing in the Peace Corps”
Teaching people how to de-seed tomatoes.
Working in operating rooms – with a scalpel in hand.
Learning how to bloodlessly kill a chicken.
Mastering mold-removal techniques for cement walls.
Teaching people how to correctly wash hands.
Pooping out worms.
Learning to identify clay content in soil.
Feeling completely and utterly inadequate on an almost daily basis.
Transporting 100 toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and floss packets between countries.
Setting and enforcing boundaries with neighborhood kids who want to use my apartment as a recreation center.
Throwing away books and clothes because termites ate through them.
Figuring out that mice are living in my bed.
Knowing the fancy hospital’s lab technicians on a personal basis. Frequent flyer, yo.
Watching a C-section of a young mom. Hi, cute baby!
Thinking about changing my career.
Being peed on by bats while trying to sleep. It burns, folks, it burns.
Riding buses for three hours to buy an iced latte. Worth it.
Running outside at midnight to do a celebratory dance in the first rain after 8 months of dust and dryness.
Enjoying washing my laundry by hand. It is therapy that I swear by.
Correcting my Spanish-speaking students’ spelling errors.
Being congratulated by my community on the Seahawk’s win. Wait, they were in the Super Bowl this year?
Explaining to small children and adults alike that no, vegetables do not make you fat. But that fried cheese you have in your hand? It could.
Feeling like my heart is physically breaking in two at the stories I hear from community members.
Processing the idea that sometimes (almost always), stepping in with money is not helpful.
Dancing to ranchero music at midnight in a dirt-floor cantina with a man I just met, who would soon become someone really special to me.
Standing at the airport and cringing at American mission groups and other tourists who are entering/leaving the country. We are our image here, and it is not always pretty.
Explaining to male professors why I do not wear shorts in public.
Asking male professors to stop cat-calling me in front of their students.
Playing a midnight game of chase with a mouse.
Throwing pottery in a rural mountain town with my dad.
Mastering the art of tortillas tostadas, a specialty in my community.
Explaining to my community on an almost weekly basis that no, Americans are not required to get a microchip implanted in their arm.
Being asked by a national TV show to dance with a towel in order to promote summer vacation, while at a bus busy terminal.
Getting sprayed by fresh, flying cow dung while waiting for a bus.
Getting teary-eyed every time one of my old students tells me that they are now studying in college or have gotten a job.
Chasing after a pig who ate through the Christmas stocking my mom sent, and ate the bag of chocolate. Bacon was almost had for Christmas dinner.
A few weeks back, this gluten-free girl got her hands covered in the dreaded glutinous mixture. And it was awesome.
I had been visiting a small community where we built improved ovens, doing follow-up with the families. A sweet family invited me for a bowl of soup (hello, deliciousness) and then pulled out about thirty pounds of dough from their kitchen, ready to roll and bake. I kindly invited myself to stay and help. Yep, that happened.
Breadmaking is quite the process here. Besides going into town (half hour away) to buy ingredients, you then have to mix together (by hand) thirty pounds of dough. The dough is then run through a mill of sorts, that this family constructed (pictured above).
Then, you cover your hands in oil, roll the dough into small balls and set to rise for about 10 minutes.
Then, each ball is made into a specific type of bread. We made three different types that day: relleno, simple and pico.
Doña Lillian showing me how to make pico.
Pictured below is the sweet bread that is filled with a sugar/flour/coloring mixture.
While the family is waiting to make some adjustments to their improved oven, they continue using their traditional oven, pictured below. This beast gets preheated for about an hour before all the wood is taken out and the dough put in.
And what would a blog post be without some pictures of the cuties I got to hang out with while baking?!
Sharing an ice-cream treat.
This little lady wasn’t too sure about the little chick.
Such a doll.
What I loved most about bread day, was the community. The whole family helped, neighbors came by to lend a hand, and a little glutinous community formed around the kitchen table. Pretty incredible.