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.