Depth: October 2
As I rush to write this experience down, my cheeks are damp with tears. Today was one of those days. The questions, the doubts that crouch in the corners of your mind coming out full force. The weariness palpable on your skin. My ojos gatitos dulled by the clouds and rising fear. But then I went to Jinotepe. Did my shopping and errand running, determined to enjoy my free day tomorrow….plus I had a package. This package is what I want to talk about. I opened the yellow envelope with the familiar simple jaunty lettering letting me know that it was my precious sister friend Lauren…what I saw inside made me weep, huge tears falling. First was the tiny soap and lotion in Jasmine….just as I was desperately missing scents. Two bags of chocolate, almond M&M’’s and dove dark chocolate. I am a FANATIC of dove dark chocolate and couldn’t believe I was privileged enough to receive such a treat here in Nicaragua. Then came the shirt. The beautiful royal blue shirt with golden lettering that says “Someone in Kansas Loves Me”. I just buried my streaming eyes into it, struck through by the memories of how much you all back home love me. That you are walking this out with me, no matter how far away you are, that I am deeply and well-loved by all of you. This realization almost always is followed up by a wave of regret, a wistful wondering of why I left what was so good…but then came the card and the first Dove chocolate. “I believe in you” declared the envelope and precious words touched my heart within…including this Mary Oliver verse called Praying
“It doesn’t have to be the blue iris, it could be weeds in a vacant lot, or a few small stones; just pay attention, then patch a few words together and don’t try to make them elaborate, this isn’t a contest but the doorway into thanks, and a silence in which another voice might speak.”
And in case I was still having doubts, the first dove chocolate read “Learn to say I Love You in another language” and the second said “Slow down, take notice, savor the moment.” Seeing as I am learning to say I love you in Spanish to someone very dear to me and I get to take tomorrow to rest, I had to just laugh and realize that even more than you all love me; I am loved beyond my wildest imaginations by an amazing and perfect Father and Lover. Thank you Jesus.
PS: Thank you so much to my dear friends Lauren, Jen, Luke, Sara, Brenna, and Missy…and my Mama of course…who have taken the time and effort to put together little packages or long letters…there is something indescribably rich about receiving these love tokens and I adore writing three or fours days on a letter and shipping it back…there’s something more intimate, more real for me, in communicating this way. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
A good cook?: October 4
There is something I feel I have to wrestle with in a public forum…my food dilemma here in Nicaragua. Back home, I loved to cook and try new recipes, and considered myself a good cook, for the most part. I knew how to make a variety of dishes and could mix and match dishes to complement each other. But here, I feel like a novice who is uncomfortable with the kitchen, and honestly, I can’t remember what I made back home. Part of the problem obviously is just the different products available and the different approaches to cooking. Also the bare resources I have…both in money to buy food and the lack of multiple cooking pans and utensils, as well as the current dilemma of having no gas, so everything I make must be made in my electric frying pan. This greatly changes the dynamics…but I digress. First of all, I suck at making rice. I have made multiple horrific messes (including one disastrous attempt today to make Chinese fried rice) and am always timid to try again. I never made rice much in the states and if I did, it was as a small side to the meal, never the main food. Here, it is this grimacing foe, taunting me to conquer it because it knows I need it to make it through my week on my food budget…yet I keep skipping around it. Plus, to me, plain rice is not a good food option. I could, of course, make gallo pinto, but this involves making the rice (a 30 minute process that may or may not have to be redone), then removing the rice to put to the side and making the beans, taking another 2 hours or so to cook, then draining those beans and frying them with a little oil and garlic…then adding the rice back in and stirring it all together. Too many variables and being unsure of quantities to make as well. So I look for another route, eatings lots of eggs with onion and “bell peppers”- which are miniature versions of bell peppers back home and only available in green- with some precious cheddar cheese sprinkled on top, quesadillas, sometimes pasta with just sauce, and the occasional meal I get invited to at a nica table. Oh, and LOTS of wheat bread toasted with fruit jam…this week it’s guava. As you may begin to wonder as I am, what kind of damage am I doing to my body? In the states, I was careful to get my daily allowance of vegetables and fruits, snacking on baby carrots and apples, snagging grapes and bananas on my way to classes, and tossing in corn, green beans and bell pepper into any dish I happened to be making. But I don’t have any of those aforementioned options, except bananas, and I also don’t have the variety of sauces, meal helpers, skinless, boneless chicken breasts, or many of the other items in Dillon’s I used to rely on. I’m realizing I’m not much of a cook at all, just someone who didn’t realize how wonderful all the meal supplements and varieties at her fingers were. Plus the fact that to get the things you may need for a meal require trekking up to the pulperia, which they won’t have everything you need, so you go to the next one, and inevitably, some of the produce you so diligently bought will go bad before you can use it. I know I’ll get the hang of it eventually, I just feel a little lost right now. And I know I’m gonna cry the next time I walk into a supermarket in the States.
One little victory I have is learning how to make bean soup here successfully…it consists of cooked red beans, blended up and added to water, tomato, onion and bell pepper slightly sautéed, cream, beaten egg that cooks super fast when it hits the soup, and lime juice. It is absolutely tasty, protein rich, and fairly easy though time consuming to make…I’ll make you some when I come home to visit.
Arrival : October 5
Well, it happened. I finally miss the US. Don’t get me wrong, I have been missing my family and friends and various aspects of my life beforehand, since I stepped on the plane to DC back in May. I’m talking about the US in general, the things we have available, ideals we hold, etc. First, I miss having enough. I struggled with money in college just like most people and was not a wealthy person. But I never felt the tightness of poverty like we feel it here. Simply being able to walk into a store and find everything I wanted and more and probably be able to pay for it as well, is a luxury. I had the option of ordering a pizza if I wanted, and could enjoy lots of little comforts along the way – the soda or coffee when I filled up my gas tank, the night out with friends, the rented movie, the scented candle I picked up at the store, the new book or magazine. Those are not possibilities here, or if they are they are so expensive it is not possible to buy them. Being paid in dollars had an advantage and living in the land of plenty was wonderful. Then there are the attitudes about teaching and learning. Good grief. The differences are stark and frustrating because I can’t figure out how to get from where I am to where they are and back. I find myself letting things just stay the way they are, then realizing my own apathy and floundering to do something about it. There is a struggle to connect the big vision with my everyday here. And my everyday is winning…and this, to me, feels like a failure of the big vision. It’s too big to tackle in one day, but I feel like if I am not continually doing something with the big idea everyday, its never going to get done. In the US, the big vision is always the controller, the pusher behind students, professionals, artists, etc. It’s this bigger idea that I have somewhere I am going…here, that idea of vision is hard to communicate and even less understood. The ideas about equality and equal partnership are still a long way from being developed here. Machismo – nothing I have to say there…maybe in the States the men are just as caught up in women’s looks and have their own closed minded ideas of what we are capable of, but at least they keep it to themselves and may not even let their ideas affect their interaction with us. Here, that is not going to happen for a while. We seriously have a privileged life in the US…I am aware of our many messy and shameful parts as well, especially with the current economic crisis, and who knows what’s going to happen with the presidential race or the war in Iraq. But there are some deep fundamental things about my country that I miss a lot right now. As a person who was secretly disgusted by much of her country, this is a big deal for me to realize I miss living in the US.
Lucha: October 8
When I began this journey, the most obvious thing I was attempting was the Peace Corps. But more apparent and more important to me was the decision to stop living in fear. I’m not talking about the physical reaction of fear to things that are harmful and can be helpful in protecting us. Rather, the fear that stems out of distrust and pains and old wounds…this fear acts as a chain to your soul, keeping you from putting yourself too deep into relationships, drives you to be self-protective and in general can be a hindrance to many of the good things in life. Darwin may have said this was simply my survival instincts kicking in, things that are natural and are necessary to my own well-being. But I know better. I know that what looked like a decision to be serious about my studies was simple fear of being hurt and left behind. That every busy hour I loaded onto myself was done out of fear of failure, fear of not matching up and thus being left behind. I am not proud to say that many of my actions can be traced back to a root fear of abandonment, failure, or rejection. When I decided to join Peace Corps, it was a choice to begin facing these fears, to stop letting these things dictate my life. Only now am I realizing that the PC decision was only the first step inside the door, and this long hallway is filled with some of the oldest and controlling fears in my heart, waiting to be confronted. And good gracious, is it ever uncomfortable. And I don’t want to do it. But I have realized how precious it is to love others and be loved by others….and so I press forward. I’m going to fall a lot, but I feel ready to make my choices, to choose love and gentle openness over fear and closed fists.
1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 Peter 3:6b
You are her (Sarah) daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
Time Warp: October 10
So I’m here in Granada on an impromptu vacay day, visiting some fellow PCV’s…yes the initial allure did involve the Office. Which brings me to my title. So I get here, all jazzed up to see American TV, ate some delicious pizza and we settled in to watch the show. LOVED it, but here was the weird part…left during a commercial break to get a snack down the street at the pulperia, and had to go to another one. But in my mind, this took 2 minutes, tops. When I came back, the show was OVER! O-V-E-R. And I was absolutely dumbfounded by the difference of time, here and there. When in the states, a half hour is a long time. Here a half hour is next to nothing, easily spent walking to and from a destination, half of a bus ride, etc. It just made me laugh how different my time clock has become since living here.