Thursday, November 10, 2011

It Is...

As my time in Nicaragua slips through my fingers and my departure date gets closer and closer, I feel so keenly aware of the world around me and this place that I love. For the last month, I have been working on compiling a list of everything that Nicaragua is and has become for me, as a way of recognizing what I have here and in hopes to carry it with me. While by no means is the list exhaustive nor complete, it captures what life in Nicaragua is like and briefly highlights life´s daily experiences, both the good, bad, and everything in between. Without further ado, I present to you my response if someone were to ask me “What is living in Nicaragua for you?”. It is...

La vida Nica
Getting to and from work and around Nicaragua on old, crowded school buses donated from the States... and when I say crowded, I mean about 200 people on buses at the height of traffic time;
Vagos (vagrants) on the corner;
Chaval@s (kids) playing in the calles (streets);
Kids escaping from their houses without a stitch of clothing;
Celebrating Purisima, Dia de los muertos, Dia de la revolucion, Navidad, Dias patrionales, y Dia de maiz;
Women mopping, washing clothes in the morning, breast-feeding on buses, and selling tortillas and nacatamales (a traditional Nicaraguan tamale made from corn and cooked in animal fat) in the streets;
Waking up every morning to the neighbor's roosters crowing and Muñeco (our “guard dog”) howling to drown out the noise of the chicken vendor yelling “Pollo, pollo, pollo” into his megaphone;
Hitching rides in the backs of trucks;
Dust in the wind blowing into my eyes and rainstorms soaking my clothes;
Amas de casa (women of the house) watering the dirt in their yards to keep dust down in dry season;
Neighbors cranking up the volume of FSLN (the political party currently in power) music or Las Mañanitas (traditional birthday song) on any excuse for a special occasion...... at five in the morning;
Buenas y adios y que te vaya bien: typical Nicaraguan greetings;
Hospitality: feeling more welcomed in a house with a tin roof, dirt floors, and plywood walls than I felt in the nicest of homes in the States and being offered the largest of four small bedrooms in a home of twelve children;
Dirt roads that are impossibly bumpy;
City corners piled high with trash;
Sitting on a hospital bed with blood-stained sheets and trusting that I`m in good hands as my wounds are cleaned and wrapped with gauze cut by rusty scissors;
Cold showers first thing in the morning;
Getting addicted to crappy coffee;
Fashion statements: jean on jean, leggings paired with any style top, bedazzled, skintight jeans, mesh muscle shirts, and comical t-shirts in English such as a man wearing a sorority leopard-print shirt and a young girl sporting an “I love hot moms” t;
Wearing flip flops as house slippers to prevent the bottom of my feet from carrying the permanent color of dirt;
I'diay, maje, suave chavalo: common Nicaraguan Spanish phrases;
Internet on a time clock and phone convos in the 'phone corner' of the house;
Cleaning the sala (main room of our house);
Motorcycles being used as mini-vans: it is not uncommon to see a family of four or five all on the same motorcycle;
Sufriendo (suffering) in Semana Santa heat and believing that no matter when that week comes it really is the hottest ,most miserable week of the year;
Feeling tired of getting hissed at, blown kisses, and being called chelita, preciosa, sabrosa, princesa everytime that I walk out of my front door;
Diahrrea and sulfur burps;
Not being judged for wearing the same clothes for the last two years or for wearing all my favorite shirts that cockroaches have eaten holes in;
Taxi rides in old cars, ones that would be sent to the junkyard 100,000 miles ago in the States;
Hosting mice, geckos, and many other critters in our home;
Honesty: Nicaraguans tend to be blunt, sometimes painfully blunt;
Always itching mosquito bites and flicking ants off of me;

Pajarito Azul
Regalame tu risa
Fregando (screwing around) with Gabriel and Anke, Pauline, Alexia, and Raquel;
Morning greetings and hugs from Leonora, Hellen, and Luisa;
Drool from Geovany;
Swift hits from Brenda;
Smiles from Gladis, Yahoska, and Jessica;
Visiting Abel in his crib, arms and legs tied up so that he won't scratch his own face or break his leg;
Repeated questions from Pancho;
Tickles from Teresita;
Dirty jokes from Maria del Carmen;
Passing food off to Rudy;
Fearing that Yamileth or Teresita's seizures will never stop;
Walking with Lenin;
Chit-chat with Milagros;
Holding Juana`s hand;
Yoga class and jewelry-making, recycled paper and story time, dancing and swinging, mural-painting and going to the movie theater, Clase de estrellas (Class of Stars) and Casa Base (Base House), massages and coloring, workshops and piñatas, translating and Mass, craft time and snack time;
Watching telenovelas, Caso Cerrado, y Accion 10 (popular TV programs) when I spend the night at the Finca (farm);
Taking a nap at lunch time;
Wanting to run when Joel died and feeling pain when Ramon died because I watched him waste away;
Conversations with the care-takers;
Being Anke and Gabriel´s loyal third wheel;
Meetings with Dona Lorena;
Eating gross lunches;
Just being.

Food and Drink
Somos hijos de maiz
Plates piled high with beans, rice, and fried everything;
Boiling hot soup served in bowls the size of gallon ice-cream jugs (I still wonder why someone would want to eat boiling hot soup in 95 degree weather and in such large quantities but have come to enjoy such a tradition);
Fresh corn tortillas;
Mangos growing ripe on trees and feeling a jolt of alegria when someone gives one to me;
Being offered a chair and a fresco (juice) or gaseosa (soda) the moment I enter someone`s home;
Busy markets in which vendors sell fruit by the basket-full;
Buying eggs and salty dry cheese every week from Karina and never being fully forgiven for missing her birthday party;
Toña y Flor de Caña: Nicaraguan beer and rum;
Frequent trips to the venta (window stores) for snacks;
Coming to enjoy baking and cooking as recreational activities;
Insatiable cravings for American food and drink: strawberries, Kashi cereal, chocolate, ice cream, peanut butter and jelly, lasagna, spinach salad, pizza rolls, bagels, hummus, quesadillas, yellow cake with chocolate icing, chocolate chip cookies, Margaritas, Blue Moon beer, black licorice, almonds, wine… I could go on and on;
Eating food that came directly from Nicaragua: consumimos lo nuestro;
Pride in corn and Nicaraguan dishes.

Mis brotheres
Escaping to MetroCentro with Anke so that we can vent;
Morning breakfast and nightly teeth-brushing with Trucha;
Meeting and forming friendships with people from all over the world: Japan, Germany, Italy, Canada, Spain;
Planning and participating in Community and Spirituality Nights in the house;
Walking around the corner to get advice from Melissa and opening the front door when she came seeking advice;
Going on retreat with the other JV's: Laguna de Apoyo y La Garnacha being two of our favorite places;
Pushing Cecilia's broken-down car 15 blocks of dirt road in the rain as her four-year-old daughter, Junieth, sticks her head out the window and yells, “Dale, Andrea, más rapido!” (Faster, faster!);
Inviting Win and Gioconda to eat Ritz crackers in our house as a way of thanking them for the ride home;
Speaking English, making jokes, and having serious conversations with Gabriel;
Going a year without seeing family and friends from home and being blessed to host a number of visitors throughout my second year;
Having dinners with delegations from the States;
Dancing with Pinol and Jairo;
Learning to drive a stick shift in Gordo's truck and that being the only time I've driven in two years;
Fabiola and Gerardo calling just to say hi and ask me how I'm doing;
Cutting down grapefruits, lemons, and bananas to give to friends and co-workers;
Dinner conversations over yet another plate of rice and beans, pasta, eggs, or stir fry;
Sitting on Heylim's bed as mice ran around my feet and not knowing what to say as she began to cry and show me pictures of her husband who just left her and her daughter in a one-bedroom house;
Masses and wine with Fr. Joe;
Fritanga (very fried Nicaraguan street food) Fridays and Glee.
Closing down the Club;
Feeling at peace at Jeanne and Dianne's house;
Strobe-light dance parties and guitar singing around a campfire;
Laughing at corny jokes, especially my own;
Making lifelong friends.

Ironies and Contradictions
Aunque seamos pobres...
Knowing the feeling of not being able to do something because of money but still having access to funds if I needed monetary support;
Getting robbed twice in one day;
Feeling more connected to humanity when I'm far, far out of the city romping around the campo (countryside) by myself;
Being told I'll get sick if I drink cold water after hot soup, shower at nighttime, or walk on the cool floors without shoes;
Hanging laundry on a line to dry but having the luxury of a washing machine and thus feeling a sense solidarity on the rare occasion that I wash my clothes by hand;
Seeing my own reflection in the eyes of a drunk man who just wanted to be heard and wanting to sit and hold a young pregnant girl walking down the street with two full suitcases and tears flowing down her cheeks;
Living in one of the biggest houses in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Managua and feeling embarrassed by the size of my house even though it's a simple, humble home;
Realizing the impact that the United States has had on Nicaragua;
Seeing the bitter effects of globalization: mo´money, mo´ problems.

Yo no soy quien era
Crying for six months because I didn`t feel at home and now crying at the thought of not living a lifestyle that my heart always longed for;
Feeling joy and pain as I've never felt before;
Standing up for myself and shedding tears afterwards for the other person;
Falling for a Nicaraguan and learning what cross-cultural attraction means;
Coping with the sadness of missing weddings and births and trips and graduations at home, knowing that I missed out in order to fully immerse here;
Daring to do that which my heart tells me even when my head believes I can't: walking away from a best friend, starting new activities and project at work, confronting a co-worker, supporting a struggling community member;
Filling up ten journals with thoughts, reflections, worries, gratitudes, and more;
Being taught to share what I have, whether it´s just a little bit or an abundance;
Burying little loved ones;
Learning the importance of being myself and speaking my mind;
Appreciating the power of presence and accompaniment;
Finding my nest at Pajarito and then being given wings to fly;
Walking confidently and knowing who I am.

The Good Life
Me encanta...
Having daily adventure at my fingertips: climbing volcanoes and jumping in waterfalls;
Riding my bike around town and fearing for my life as I hug the far edge of the street but living for the adrenhaline rush;
Balancing downtime and easy living with being in motion and seizing the day;
Walking into work every day;
Being called Andreita, Andrea bella, Andrea fea, Dre, amiguita, jovencita, Andrea de los angeles, pellibue, Indjria (an attempt at the English pronunciation of my name);
Getting lost in a book;
Relief from heat: baby pools, Toña, ice cream, shade;
Swinging from a tree in Parque de Piedrecitas;
Getting soaked in the rain;
Musica revolucionaria, Misa campesina, y microfonos abiertos;
Bachata, freestyle dancing after a long day at work, ribbon dancers, grooving with arms in the air (the ultímate gringa move), raggaeton: just give me some music and I´ll dance;
Sitting in my room;
Hammocks and rocking chairs;
Getting mail;
Living the moments and loving the moments.

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