Did That Actually Happen?

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.

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Waldo’s Nicaraguan Adventures.

My amazing dad came down to visit me for a brief, but adventure-filled, week right before Christmas. What a gift. We spent the week trekking around in our little rented car, finding all sorts of adventures down random dirt roads, zip-lining, exploring beaches, mountains, coffee farms, historical cities, and drinking coffee multiple times a day. It was a grand time.

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About 10 years ago, he and I started a tradition/joke in our family around Christmas time. My mom has a ridiculously large Santa collection that she puts out every year on the living room mantle. My dad and I decided that display looked like a page from a Where’s Waldo book, so he printed out a cutout of Waldo and we hid him. It took my mom a couple days to find it, and her reaction was priceless. Needless to say, it became a tradition and every year that sneaky Waldo finds a place to hide in the Santas.

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My dad brought me down a bunch of Christmas goodies, and in one box my mom had packed Waldo! After discovering him, we quickly decided Waldo needed a grand tour of Nicaragua. So, without a legit passport and an ever-constant grin, Waldo joined us on our quick jaunt around the lakes of volcanoes. Check out where we found him hiding:

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Waldo soaking up some semi-cloudy rays of sunshine and getting salty on a rural beach.

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Posing on the zipline company vehicle in San Rafael del Norte.

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Post-ziplining hang out time with our guides.

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Roadtrip pit-stop for french fries in Managua on the way to Matagalpa.

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Chilling in the hotel in Matagalpa.

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Enjoying a mocha and light reading in Matagalpa city.

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Exploring Selva Negra in Matagalpa.

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Flirting with an indigenous woman…tsk, tsk, Waldo.

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Checking out the art at Selva Negra.

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Learning to make black ceramic pottery in the mountains of Jinotega.

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Enjoying a cocktail in Granada.

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Cheese, chai and fresh bread in Esteli.

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Chilling in the cacti in a mini-botanical garden in Esteli.

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Waldo goes green.

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Checking out cigar boxes in Esteli.

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Woah there, Waldo, lay off the cigars will ya?

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Catching a good night’s sleep in a sweet historical hotel in Granada.

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Taking in the view of the cloud-covered volcano from our hotel room in Granada.

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Enjoying the cathedral from our hotel balcony the last night in Granada.

Well played, Waldo, well played.

El Hoyo.

“Even in the mud and scum of things, something always, always sings.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson ~

Oh, how my heart needed to strap on my backpack and walk. For miles. And miles. And miles.

The outdoors are therapy in its truest form.

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Here are some pictures from a weekend trip I took a little while back with other PCVs to El Hoyo and Laguna del Tigre in Leon.

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We started out the hike by opting out of private transportation to the trail head, which meant walking on volcanic-ash roads and through very rural communities for 2.5 hours just to reach the park entrance.

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Then the climb started. Above is the first hill we hit, after bushwacking our way through some brush. (PCVs using the actual trail? Never. Where’s the fun in that?!)

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That first hill was about a 30° incline, but the views were spectacular. This is looking back at Cerro Negro and the rest of the Cordillera de los Maribios mountain range (other volcanoes). If you look closely, you can see people volcano boarding down the side of it.

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One of many rest stops.

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Finally reached our destination after 6+ hours of hiking: El Hoyo. It literally means ‘The Hole’.IMG_4181 (800x533)

The circlar area shown above with the tree was where we camped, the Laguna del Tigre is beyond that.IMG_4193 (800x533)

Sediment layers inside El Hoyo.

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Horses taking a snack break at the top of the volcano.IMG_4248 (800x533)

View from our campsite up to the Hoyo.IMG_4290 (800x356)

The crew watching the sunset over the Pacific Ocean in the distance.IMG_4272 (800x533)

After a quick bonfire and makeshift dinners (keep in mind we didn’t really pack any sort of actual camping gear), we crammed into our borrowed tents. I got to snuggle up in a two person tent with two other folks both over 6′ feet  tall. It was a cozy night for sure. Also, yoga mats make great sleeping pads.IMG_4348 (800x533)

We woke up at 4am the next morning to make the windy and difficult climb to the very top summit of the volcano to enjoy what could have been a beautiful sunrise. Instead, Nicaragua decided on a cloudy morning, so we just enjoyed the beautiful light and chance to take a quick catnap.

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 So nice to wear a jacket and long pants for the first time in about 6 months.

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Early morning light on our trek back to the camp site.IMG_4375 (800x533)

To say the scenery was beautiful would be a drastic understatement. The random assortment of trees, animals and beautiful volcanoes in the background was phenemonal. Nevermind the blistering wind, the insect sting on my eye, and thinking we had lost our group for two hours. It was worth it.IMG_4392 (800x533)

After some quick breakfast and outdoor yoga, we packed up camp and headed down the other side of the volcano to find the laguna. IMG_4412 (531x800)

We ended up trekking through a family’s farm and getting a little turned around, but thankfully the campo has amazing folks such as this cowboy who not only pick up dropped waterbottles and ride them down to you, but give you good directions, too.

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After another 4 hours of hiking through dense forest and rocky trails, we reached the laguna. A more glorious swim was never had. A quick lunch, waiting for the rest of our group to catch up, then it was time to pack up again and hike the last 45 minutes out to the highway. We ended up not finding a bus back, but hitched a ride with a police officer back to the highway.

Sweet, sweet adventure.

Thoughts On A Week Gone Awry.

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So, as you might have gathered from previous posts, Colin’s trip did not quite turn out as we had expected. You’ve heard his version, now here’s mine:

Friday

11:30 am – Land in Managua after taking the red-eye from Seattle. Head to the PC office.

2:00 pm – Go to bus station to go back to my site. I get robbed. Get off the bus.

3:00 pm  – Back to the PC office to fill out paperwork and spend the night.

8:00 pm – Colin eats no less than 8 tacos, chips, guacamole, and two drinks for dinner.

Saturday

7:00 am – Try to get Colin out of bed. It’s surfing day!

8:00 am – Give up on the buses and hire a taxi to take us out to the beach.

10:00 am – Arrive at the beach. Meet my fellow PCV friend Sam. Drink fresh juice in our beachfront cabana.

11:00 am – Colin tries his hand at surfing, thanks to Sam. I awkwardly try to float around on my borrowed board and watch the activities.

11:30 ish – I have a funny feeling that something has happened and get out of the water. Go check my cell phone. Three calls and four text messages inform me that there has been a 6.4 earthquake three miles south of us and we are to evacuate ASAP.

11:45 am – After using an air horn and jumping up and down to get Colin and Sam’s attention and get them out of the water, we load into hitched rides in church group vans and drive a few miles inland to a higher spot of land.

12:15 pm – Receive word that the small tsunami has hit and all is well. We get packed and head out.

Afternoon – Head back to my site to rest and settle in. Buy fritanga for dinner and watch Spanish TV with my host family.

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Sunday/Monday/Tuesday

Colin meets my English group, plays soccer with my friends, comes to classes with me, watches some movies and tears through some reading. Peace Corps life = a good amount of downtime.

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Wednesday

3:00 am – Colin wakes up screaming about his head hurting and needing to pee. I tell him to go to the bathroom and get a glass of water. Done.

6:00 am – My alarm goes off. I get up and prep to travel about three hours to another PCV’s rural site to meet their counterparts and take part in a training activity.

6:15 am – I get the brother up. He comes stumbling down the metal stairs in my apartment saying he doesn’t feel well and thinks he might have a fever. I put my hand to his forehead and pull it away immediately after feeling burnt. Literally.

6:17 am – A disposable thermometer (thanks PC med kit!) shows that Colin has a 104 degree fever. Yikes.

6:20 am – After dosing Colin up with drugs and cold rags, I head out, leaving my cell and instructions with my host sister, as well as asking my site mate to go check on him at some point in the morning.

9:30 am – After getting to Managua and spending an hour trying to flag down buses, I give up and go back the hour and a half to site…Colin is asleep, fever still raging.

2:00 pm – I take a sample of Colin’s to the local lab, then head to class in one of my rural sites.

5:00 pm – Return to the lab to get the results. He has a bacteria infection.

5:30 pm – After getting the correct meds and walking home, I find Colin exactly where I left him:

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Thursday

All day: Colin lays in the exact same spot, after sleeping in the exact same spot. Besides getting up to use the bathroom, this is where he stays. He watches a record 10 movies in 48 hours. I spend the day teaching and on the phone with my dad in the States figuring out alternative travel plans for the sickie.

9:00 pm – After a cold shower, more cold rags, and almost 40 hours of the highest dose of Tylenol one can have, his fever breaks. Color this big sister relieved.

Friday

7:00 am – Wake and up take Colin’s temperature for the bazillionth time. Still running a small fever. Ask Dad to call to talk travel plans.

8:00 am – Colin’s noon flight ticket is now cancelled and moved to the following day. I start to feel sick.

9:00 am – Colin and I pack up and go to Managua. I need a break and a hot shower after dealing with diarrhea man for two days!

1:00 pm – I see the doctor because I’m feeling sick. Go to the lab.

Saturday

8:00 am – I go the bank headquarters to get my new bank card. Sweet relief.

10:00 am – Colin and I go to the airport.

11:00 am – Colin is checked-in, lectured by his sister, hugged goodbye, and through security. I find a bathroom.

12:00 pm – I am back in bed at the hotel. Lab results show I got Colin’s infection. Thanks, bro.

11:00 pm – I’m still in bed. Start meds. Get word that Colin made it back safely. Thank goodness.

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So needless to say, this week was not all peaches and cream. But Colin and I still had fun. It was pretty cool and kind of strange to show him a bit of my life here, and it opened up some interesting conversation. I’ll leave you with a few quotes straight from his mouth, observations on Nica life:

“This country is really pretty” (said while standing in one of the dirtiest part of downtown Managua)

“Your host mom is really nice”

There’s something floating in my water” (his own backwash)

“Your apartment is very….basic.”

“Wait, there was another earthquake this morning?”

“They have horses here? I’ll them an Asian can ride a horse!”

 

The Colin Chronicles I

As some of you may know, my little brother is visiting me for a week (an adventure in and of itself!). Here are his unedited views on his time thus far…enjoy!

Hi everyone, its Kacie’s little brother writing a blog for her because she can’t write anymore. My name is Colin if you didn’t know. I am spending a week down here with her. I came down here June 14 and am leaving on the 21st. The first 24 hours down here were very exciting. When we were boarding the bus in Managua Kacie got her personal passport stolen, so we had to stay at a hotel. Staying at the hotel was fine with me; it had air conditioning, internet, a T.V., and a shower that had hot water. That’s all in the first three hours we were here. The next day we went to a beach to meet another Peace Corps volunteer. There we went surfing, which was fun until we had to get out because there was a tsunami warning. Apparently there was a 6.4 earthquake that happened a couple miles south of us. So we had to evacuate to higher ground.

                Besides all that other stuff, being in Nicaragua has been quite interesting. It has opened my eyes to see that I am very fortunate to be where I am. (Mom, unfortunately you were right!) I have met Kacie’s English group. They are very nice and funny. I played soccer with one of them and some other people. Also I went to one of the schools that profe Kacie works at. I got to meet the students, and all the girls liked me. I mean who wouldn’t? They asked me if I like the girls down here. Profe Kacie told me to be careful on how I answer. They also asked me if I liked it down here. I like it, just not sitting in a classroom where I don’t need to be because I have already graduated.

                That pretty much wraps it for me. I might write another blog right before I go. But now I have to go watch a movie.

BYE BYE

The Ground On Which We Stand.

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“Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later, and somewhere else. Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.”

~Henri J.M. Nouwen~

Midnight Special.

Peace Corps Moment #123019:

Exactly what I never, ever, ever, want to find in my shower at midnight.

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Little Big Fella is resting in sweet peace now – it only took me about 10 minutes to get up the nerve to kill him, after running around my apartment looking for anything that would be effective in trapping and killing him. Praise the Lord for bug spray. Half a can later and he was belly-up.

Here’s to getting over your fears at the most inopportune times!

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Also, can anybody tell me what this is?!

Pincers on the claws, huge sack of what I assume were eggs underneath its belly, and a hard shell like a cockroach. Not fully pictured are his antennas, which were about 6 inches long.

A student just saw this picture and told me it was a scorpion-spider mix. Ummm, gross.

Update: A friend who has experienced these before just informed me that it was a Tailless Whip Scorpion, otherwise known as a Whip Spider.

Here’s to trying to sleep tonight…