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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One Year & The Slump.

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Sometimes you just need to find a kitten, a kitchen chair, and cry.

There days when I just want to curl up into a ball. Where bed seems like the logical answer and reruns of TV shows are calling my name.

The days where despite running a successful teacher training this morning and seeing good progress with my students, I still lack motivation to invest in my job here.

The days I have to suck down the snarky comments to any and all things culturally different and of frustration.

The days when try as you may to continue eating and drinking normally, you can feel the parasites latching themselves onto your intestinal walls, sucking the weight off you and the life out of you.

There are days when you sick of arguing with your doctors that no, it is not IBS again, but yes, there really are creatures living me. Yes, I’d be happy to do the lab test to prove it.

These are the days I miss my mountains, my coffee shops, my friends and family. I miss walking Greenlake with Annie and lazy evenings on the couch at Drea’s.

The days I miss hot showers and convenience. And Target clearance racks. And being able to decorate a cozy little apartment. Mostly just being in control of my living situation, period.

These are the non-glory-days of the Peace Corps.

They told us when we were first in training that we might hit a ‘one-year slump’. I tucked that info into the back of my mind, but didn’t think about it again until May of this year. In May, I felt like I had hit that ever-mysterious ‘slump’.

It was two weeks of feeling un-motivated. Frustrated. Exhausted. And let’s be honest: these feelings are normal for a PCV, pretty much on a daily basis. But these two weeks were these feelings on crack. Amplified. All-consuming.

Two weeks of questioning what the heck I was doing here and if it was worth it to stay. Two weeks of making myself leave the house everyday, making myself continue going to work, doing my job, investing in relationships. It was hard.

But it passed.

Life got good again.

And then it hit again.

This week marks one year here in my site. One year.

In some ways it seems like it has gone by quickly, in other ways I feel like a turtle, just crawling along inch by inch.

A lot has happened in the last year. Lots of changes. Lots of illnesses. Lots of little victories. Lots of lots.

I love keeping track of numbers, so here is a little count of my life in the past year:

46: books read

4: jigsaw puzzles completed

500+: bus rides

9: parasites I have diagnosed with

4: bacterial infections.

3: rounds of amoebas

3: rounds of food poisoning/random stomach illnesses

600+: students worked with

1: police report filed

3: security incidents reported to Peace Corps

6,000+: photos taken

Maybe it’s just a bad day(s). Maybe it is having been really sick all of the last week. Maybe it is the dreaded slump. Whatever it is, I’m ready for it to be over.

So there we go. Just keeping honest down here in the these parts of Slumpsville, Central America.

On my radar for the coming days: go to the beach, camp on top of a volcano, splurge on some good coffee, and keep on keeping on.

Here’s to letting Nicaragua do its thing in me and being open to it as it comes.


Well folks, if tropical bugs and diseases were an event in the Olympics, I think I would at least be in the running for the gold… so far, I`m up to parasites, infections, and now…amoebas! I think we can officially consider that the Trifecta of the Tropics, no? Anyway, these little buggers are a bit harder to get rid of, as they like to go into hiding and come back again, so your prayers and happy, healthy thoughts are much appreciated as my body tries to fight these things. Here´s to not having anything else for a looooong time….