Tuesday, May 27, 2008

va pues


The air is pregnant with waiting. Clouds loom and my spirit is weary, aching for the water to finally break through and calm the dust beneath my feet. Listlessness rumbles along the streets and we all watch expectantly. Lightening flashes and all hold their breath, hoping. Finally, finally, the pinging overhead begins. Slight and soft at first, then increasingly faster, forcing everything out of its path. As I sit on this little bench underneath the overhang, I breathe a sigh of relief. All day I have been waiting for this release, and as the water rushes by below my chacos, I am surprised by how much the environment here affects me. There is this silent dialogue passing between my being and the land I am inhabiting. It’s as if he knew I was heavy with this task before me, as he was weighted with the rain overhead. And in midst of the downpour, I found myself letting it rest awhile. By far the most refreshing rain I’ve experienced in a while.


There is an inexplicable sadness that comes with straddling two language spheres. I’ve never really experienced this before, as my times of immersion into a foreign tongue were temporary. Think about the past hour. How many times did you interact with someone? Maybe not in full sentences, or even with words, but there was this ability to communicate your intentions and be understood. When you are living in a language other than your own, the chances of you getting to experience this kind of interaction are slim to none. These kinds of interactions take few if any words, but that is because below the surface dwells an entire world of language, idioms and shared experiences that enable the absence of spoken word. Here there is inevitable lack of language and an inherent stiffness from living within this new garment. Then there is the distance of new relationships, only furthered by my inability to connect. On top of all this, there is the desperate clawing to hold firmly to this new language, only to find it as water, fluid and ever-changing. As I sat in my Spanish class today, I felt this sorrow rise up, a heart aching to connect on a deeper level than my new friendships in English and developing relationships in Spanish. When I speak my mother tongue, I feel like I’m cheating myself out of a chance to further my Spanish relationships, yet not finding the satisfaction that comes from conversations with old friends. When I speak my new language, I often feel small and unsure, aware of my limits and hungry for them to expand. People of course are patient and helpful towards me, but there is this invisibility that comes with learning a new language. I do not have the words to convey much of myself, nor can I fully understand and engage these new friends I am making. The hardest part of this is realizing that my ability to succeed here, to become a part of a community and gain relationships that give rise to development, depends on my ability to communicate. And this is a slow and winding road. Frost said he took the road less traveled, and that made all the difference. What he did not speak of was the fear and doubt that dwell in the shadows of that path, nor the weariness that accompanies a trip into the wild unknown. But it is this bigger “all the difference” that I came for and I knew that days like this would come. I decided a while ago to embrace all that came my way, the lovely and the foul, to be grateful for all that I was allowed to experience. So as I sit in this grey place of vacant language, I will remember the beautiful conversations I have had in the past and look forward to the days that my speech is colored brilliantly in Spanish.


When you don’t have much else, there remains the love within you can offer. I am searching for how to love in this new place. It looks different than I thought it might.


This is me, on a typical weekday night. Spanish music playing on my laptop. Numerous Peace Corps assigned books strewn across my lap and tabletop. Full calendar dictating my every move this week. Drying clothing hanging overhead waiting to be ironed. Chinelas on my feet. And yes, my green fleece sweatshirt. I must be adapting.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

fin de semana

Andando: 12 de Mayo

Today was a day of firsts. My first Spanish class. My first tour of the city. My first non-host family self-directed conversation. My first day using the internet café [at 80 cents an hour, or 15 cordobas]. My first day feeling like this city could become partially mine. And though I was tempted to be frustrated with my Spanish class or feel worn out by the heat or uncomfortable with the food situation [without transportation, the markets selling fruits and vegetables are closed]…I found myself that much more grateful and adjusting. When the time driven self objected to the content of our Spanish class, my aspirante self said “poco a poco”…remembering that this journey comes little by little. And in taking this poco a poco, I met a new couple that I will eat lunch with tomorrow, had time to play uno with my little friends, laughed about the wheelchair named Chele (whitey) after those who gave it to this boy, ate cookies and Coke with a quarter of the town at a wake and simply lived among my family. Nicaragua is a country where there is not only the space but the invitation to wade knee deep.

Maestras: 12 de Mayo

I have found that the best place to learn a language is with those at least 10 or more years younger than you. As I have played game after game with my sister and nephew and various cousins, I find myself slipping in Nica Spanish….the dropped s’s, the various phrases, the rhythm of this beautiful language. And the best part? This practice has been attuning my ear to where I am able to understand at least one stream of Spanish around me, albeit with much concentration. So gracias a Dios for Carlitos y Athzyris. They stand as the cornerstone to my Peace Corps service.

Fea: 14 de Mayo

The fascinating part of living in another culture is that inevitably parts of you will collide with parts of it and become messy. For example, I do not live well “poco a poco”. A lifestyle that makes sense here does not come intuitively to me. And in this process, I keep discovering parts of myself that are a bit ugly. The funny part to me is how much pena [embarrassment/shame] it brings me, even though those parts did not just appear in Nicaragua. Rather, Nicaragua has laid parts of me open, and here I find those things which I wish were not there. All day today I wanted to get upset and frustrated by it all, to let it consume me, either the emotions themselves or the shame I felt from experiencing them. But as I rode back to my pueblo listening to the other aspirantes around me, I felt this calmness about just being human. Why do I insist on this perfection, this unattainable standard? I don’t want to live that way. So I’ll drink my Coke and listen to my gringa music and remember that tomorrow is a new day. It might end up just as ugly as today felt, but the hope is that nothing stays ugly forever. [Except cockroaches. I think those will be ugly always.]

Mosquitera: 16 de Mayo

I woke up this morning slightly chilled…not to the point of being uncomfortable, but when the skin is cool to the touch. My lovely mosquito net wafted around me as the wind blew through it from my tiny window, twirling with the roosters cries and the murmur of a pueblo waking up. I was actually sad today when training was held in an air conditioned room. I’ve come to the conclusion that we really weren’t meant to live in an artificial space. Sure, I have lots of bugs visit me [mosquite bite count up to 14]. Sure, sometimes it is really too hot. But in all of this there is this connection to each other through your environment. While in the States, we shut our doors and windows and lock ourselves from the elements, here they open all possible airways and let it all flow together. Consequently, the human interaction is very different as well. In the States, you don’t know many, if any, of your neighbors. You don’t call to passer-bys or have unannounced guests. You definitely don’t spend a majority of your time chatting with those outside your house or workplace. But here, people aren’t as territorial or rigid about their space. As their windows and doors open, so does their idea about who is welcome. It is not secluded to those within the house or even people you know. Every person receives a buenas or an adios or a como le fue. The space people dwell in is very fluid, winding from house to street to patio to another house. To some, this sounds very messy and uncomfortable. And it certainly can be. But I’m finding that the threading together of a people through this exchange is way more important than having an orderly domain. Sometimes I wonder if our “keeping out the elements” is really “keeping out other people”. We have all been in that space where someone left a mess in our lives. And none of us really enjoy that experience. But I’m becoming convinced that as painful as some of that might be, the truth is that I was made to be in relation with those around me. I believe that my ability to be fully alive comes from sharing in experiences with others. Try it. Spend an evening on your porch and call out to all who pass. Sit in the park for a while and connect with those around you. It may feel awkward and scary at first, but I think you’ll find that you like it.

Monday, May 12, 2008



My mind is a dance of English and Spanish, the English leading while the Spanish moves swiftly to come to the forefront. My family and I are sitting near the doorway, listening to the firecrackers and distant thunder. It appears there is a parallel between the natural and our creations. Finally, it is time. Prayers echo out of the speaker on top of a slow moving car, the nearby church attendees all holding candles and singing praise. It is the procession of Santisimo, the celebration of the host and the miracle of the Spirit’s indwelling. We weave our way around other faithful and begin walking in step with the nuns. I can’t quite catch all the words, but I recognize Jesus’ instructed prayer and I feel at peace, knowing that my faith translates across language. As we round the blocks and past the church, it begins to rain. Just slightly. By the time we find ourselves back home, the rain begins to pour. And as I laid underneath the heady mosquito net listening to the pounding on the tin roof, I find strange identification with the procession we just had and the soaking rain above my head. While my townspeople were celebrating the miracle of the Spirit’s indwelling in one part of their faith, I felt like my Father was infusing me with His Spirit once more, baptizing me and reminding me that He goes with me. And that was enough to set me at peace and draw me into restful sleep.


I awoke this morning to the clattering palomitas on my roof and the rising heat wafting into my upstairs window. Climbing out of bed, I realized I have a ton of laundry. Now, there are no washing machines or press the button type chores. Everything is dependent on your own muscles, your own creative devices. As I drank café y picos with my Nica mama, I asked her if she could show me how to wash my clothes. She smiled widely and took me to the backyard. In 30 seconds, she had my skirt tumbling across the cement ridges with a teal soap brick in her hand. Watching her, I thought, this will be no problem. I can handle this. And then it was my turn. I don’t know how anyone could feel uneducated doing laundry, but I certainly did. My hands awkward and timid, water and clothing spreading across the countertops, with a certain humility and appreciation swelling in my chest. It took me a good 3 minutes to wash my first t-shirt. But Dona proved so patient and kind, she allowed me to continue washing and did not insist on standing over me or doing it for me.

With my clothes dripping in a colorful array across our cement backyard, I smiled and thought to myself, si se puedo. I can do this. I might falter and slip and make huge errors, but there is something within me that is adapt to growing in these kinds of unfamiliar places. I began to think of the day when laundry washing and making gallo pinto will be second nature. And the fact that this is my path gives me great hope for the coming two years.

PS: I even ironed all of it tonight. How bout that?!?


This is something offered to me multiple times a day – the invitation to sit. I’ve only been here two days, but already I can tell there is so much more to sitting than sitting. It is not just the action of placing your sweating self into the proffered rocking chair or plastic silla. It encompasses being a part of the community around you. People are coming and “sitting” all day. I know that right now my experience is only two things: invitation to sit and rest or sit and participate, but I am excited to perfect the art of sitting with people. It was something I had begun to explore back home, particularly with my pals Sara and Lauren, but here, this is what you do. There is not much else, especially on the weekends [and DEFINITELY during a transportation strike], and there are at least 3 hours of the day that demand you to sit – to do anything else results in major fatigue and buckets of sweat. My American self is rather worn out by all the sitting and missing chunks of language, but my global soul is excited to learn this ancient art of loving people by just being with them. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

Mosquito bites: 5
Sunburn: 0
Crying fests: 2 little bits
Massive Bugs: 0

I can handle these counts…let’s keep hoping they stay this good.

(buenas tardes to everyone...i have an internet cafe in my town, so these will be coming once a week or so. much love!)

Thursday, May 8, 2008


well. i'm here. :)

nica hugs you the minute you get off the plane. the hot air just engulfs you and spanish winds its way into your ears. palm trees and gorgeous flora line the open air walkways between rooms. and the people. i can't explain the comraderie you feel in peace corps...the staff, from the country director to the admin officers make you feel like you could talk to them about anything....this being a very valuable trait considering these will be the people i call when i find myself in a jam. the trainees and i have been enjoying great food and posh rooms and a pool. the surroundings make for a good place to unwind and get to know each other better after the long day of training.

having current volunteers here has also helped immensely...there is something about looking at someone who has done it for a year or two years that quiets all those irrational fears. it's been a great beginning to what i hope to be an amazing viaje.

tomorrow we have 3 hours of language training to further determine our levels and place us in our training town groups. Then its off to tour managua [supposing the transportation strike is over...] and saturday we meet our host families. I am so stoked! more later when i get internet again....let me know how you are!!

Sunday, May 4, 2008


my mother just brought me this jaggedy, blue bic pen drawing of a orange laden tree in a grassy field. on it, it says "I'd be a Floride orange tree, so I would always be warm and I'd give people vitamin C." on the back, Sarah, age 12, Dec 96.

well. i'm not an orange tree, but i am going somewhere warm to help people. quite the appropriate gift for my last day in the states...when doubts begin to surface and fear begins to rise.

i am ready for this.

Friday, May 2, 2008


alright folks. i have been adding a plethora of ways to contact me while i am away and they are as follows:

snail mail: Sarah Ternes, PCT | Voluntario del Cuerpo de Paz| Apartado Postal 3256 | Managua, Nicaragua | Central America [this is good for letters or bubble envelope packages...avoid boxes]

email: sarah.ternes@gmail.com

googlechat: same as above

skype: this is the cool one....if you download skype and have a mike (you can buy a cheap headset with a mike at walmart) we can talk for free! there are wireless cafes in Nica that i might get access to occasionally, and you can bet i'll be calling some people. it is really easy to use: go to skype.com and download, create your account and search my name or nicasarah08. then you're done.

cell phone: i will most likely get a cell in nica, but no telling how all that will work. there is also a possibility of me getting a local number for my skype so you could pick up your cell and call me on my computer.

live messenger: like skype, but has video capacity...i will probably just link my video to skype.

also feel free to explore carrier pigeons and smoke signals, though the former could be seen as animal cruelty and there's no telling how well i'll be able to read smoke signals. or you could just jump on a plane and come see me...this will be an option after october. :)