Well, it has been months since my last blog – and hopefully my little summary in the last entry explains why that is. I have been quite busy here in Nicaragua (and Costa Rica).
But here I am … in Posoltega. Nicaragua. My Saturday night is going to consist of finally writing this blog to you all. I know – my life is quite exciting. I am going to try and be as brief as possible – while still giving you all a picture of my last 6 weeks or so in Nicaragua. Here we goo…
My parents’ visit was quite an experience. I have to admit that I (and my parents) was quite naive about the entire trip. But in the end – I am so, so lucky and thankful to have parents that are adventurous, crazy, loving, devoted and a little naïve enough to come see me in … Nicaragua. To start off, they brought an INSANE amount of things. Which I have no culpability for. Haha. They brought an entire suitcase of toys, books and arts & crafts for the kids of my community. They brought me chocolate, wine, George Foreman grill, Tupperware, books, cereal, cliff bars… the list goes on and on and on. It literally felt like Christmas.
It was obligatory that we rented a car – because we were not about to go on public transportation (aka old school buses from the 1980s) with the 7 or so suitcases they brought. This was an adventure all itself – before we even got into the car. There are some things that you really take for granted in the United States (or any developed country for that matter). For example: car insurance. Does not really exist here. You all should have seen my dad’s face when the guy at the Alamo counter told him this. I think they bought actually contemplated getting back on the plane. It went something like this:
Alamo Guy: ‘okay sir .. this is how insurance works here. If the police report says it’s your fault – you pay…everything.’
Dad: (even though the guy was speaking English) I’m sorry… I must have misunderstood you.
Alamo Guy: ‘you will have to pay $10,000 if it is your fault.’
Dad (thinking):” How can I get a flight back to Philadelphia…today.”
The Alamo guy continued to give my dad suggestions about driving in Nicaragua – such as: ‘don’t let anyone wash your car windows.. they will steal the lights on the windshield wipers’, etc. My dad was overwhelmed with enthusiasm to start this trip.
So that was that. We proceeded by getting lost for about 4 hours trying to find our way to the only all-inclusive resort in Nicaragua. More than 90 percent of the population of Nicaragua is considered impoverished, so asking for directions proved to be more difficult than one can imagine. In the Nicaraguan culture, a lot of times if one does not know the answer – they don’t admit this, they just give some form of an answer (incorrect). As you can imagine – I was incredibly worried about my dad driving in this country. I had only been in public transportation or in a Peace Corps vehicle. So naturally, I had no idea where we were going either. Here there are no road signs, road maps, and sometimes there aren’t even roads.
But there are … policia. Or Police. A motorcycle pulled out in front of my dad and he swerved to not him into the other lane. The police then proceeded to pull us over. My parents speak no Spanish. The police don’t speak English. Hi. The cop was a complete jerk and was not interested in anything that I had to say. He was actually a perfect depiction of what machismo man is like. They ask us to get out of the car and start searching it – I am pretty sure he wanted to find a pound of cocaine or something. I end up getting out of the car – my Spanish is flying out of my mouth faster than I know what I am saying. They tell me they are going to take my dad’s license. I end up crying – pretty sure I was on a soap opera. I end up asking to talk to the supervisor that is there. It went something like this, “I am here working for two years for your country – for free…and this is the first view that you are going to give my parents of your country.” Guess I struck some kind of cord with the supervisor – and he ended up letting us go. Pretty sure the machismo cop was running after the car after we were let go. Needless to say my dad drove incredibly cautious the rest of the way – and I am almost positive my mom asked for an IV of xanax.
We finally made it to the resort around 5pm or so. To get to his incredibly beautiful resort you have to drive through several of the poorest communities in Nicaragua. It gave a glimpse of the real Nicaragua to my parents. But I am pretty sure at this time we were all just interested in the getting the hell out of the car.
The resort was beautiful – but still Nicaragua. There were bugs in the rooms, the A/C was shafty and when you tried to call the front desk – no one picked up. Typical. We decided to stay two nights longer than anticipated after the driving fiasco.
The food was pretty amazing – I consumed things that I hadn’t had in 6 plus months (i.e. mushrooms, pasta, bacon, vodka, multi-grain bread). My parents got sick the 3rd day and were pretty incapacitated for the more than 24 hours. My mom liked to call it ‘Sandanista Soupy Poopy.’ Let us go ahead and say it was not cute.
We headed to Leon (one of the major cities in Nicaragua about 30 minutes from my town) to stay for the next 3 nights. We stayed in a beautiful hotel called La Perla – and the owner was from Green Bay and became my father’s new best friend. One of the things that were most difficult during this trip was that my parents are very much used to being in control and independent– but being that the majority of Nicaragua does not speak English – they were pretty dependent upon me for most of the trip. This was frustrating on both sides of the fence. I had become pretty well-adjusted to some things, such as: the insane heat, walking for miles, the traffic, the bugs, getting lost. Naturally, my parents were experiencing all of these things for the first time – so this created a sort of clash. The best way I can describe it is kind of a reverse culture shock. My two lives colliding.
The best day that we had during our trip was when they came to my town, Posoltega. I was able to introduce them to all of families that I have gotten to know here – and my friends. I think this was a really comforting (yet exhausting) day for my parents. Hopefully at the end of this day they realized I had a lot of people that cared about me in my town. We also went to one of the schools that I had been working at – and they gave out the toys, books, etc. that they had brought. The kids were overwhelmed. As expected, word got out that gringa had presents to give out and before I knew it – there was a line of 20 people outside of my door asking for presents. This was very unwanted attention – but it actually allowed me to meet even more kids within the community. I had to do some damage control for the next few weeks in explaining that my purpose here was not to give them gifts and that this was a special occasion.
In the end – my parents could not have been more supportive and understanding of what I was going through. I am incredibly proud that my parents came to see me – and even more so that we all three made it out alive and still loving each other. Hopefully they were able to get a glimpse of what my life is like here. Somewhere along the way – my parents became my best friends. I am so, so lucky.
I was able to stay strong most of the time that they were here – but after seeing them to the airport – I did not even make it back across the street before completely breaking down. Part of me wanted them to take me with them; part of me didn’t want them to leave. It was a complete mix of emotions – it was even difficult to decipher how I was feeling.
I almost immediately got onto a bus back to Posoltega – only to be in a car accident while en route. No one was hurt thank goodness- but it just seemed I had used up all my good luck for while my dad was driving. The next few days were very difficult (as I was warned by other Peace Corps Volunteers), but I eventually got it together. Especially since I had two more special events coming up. My parents left the 26th of July and my friend John was coming to see me on the 8th of August.
My parents brought me an assortment of balls (volleyball, basketball, soccer) and this actually changed my life. I started playing in the street with the kids the day after my parents left. Being with the kids and being active was a great help in dealing with missing my parents. I would say I play at least 3-4 days a week with the kids of my town. I have only had one ball stolen so far – the volleyball. I know who it was – and will never play with those kids again. Obvi. I have already had two injuries while playing in sandals or barefoot in the street. But I feel so guilty wearing my big sneakers – against a 9 year old without shoes. Alas, my feet are suffering the raff of this.
I started playing in a girl’s soccer league here in Posoltega. There were of course fights over potential trades of the gringa. Ultimately, I ended up staying with my original team and having a great time. We are in first place out of approximately 20 teams and I am in 3rd place for goals made. I play every Sunday and love it (minus the drunken guys that are yelling to me the entire time I am playing).
Last weekend I joined a volleyball league in Chichigalpa (the town next to me) – and it was super intense. A level much higher than the one in Posoltega. They were wearing knee pads. Serious business. I was not quite as fabulous at volleyball as I am with soccer. I am not sure if I am going to continue playing with them because it is a little far and difficult to leave town at least 4 times a week. We’ll see – I heard rumors there is a team of volleyball here in Posoltega.
BOYS, BOYS, BOYS
So. This is an interesting topic for me here. For a while I anticipated not having a boyfriend here for the entirety of the two years. Then reality set in and I realized two years is a really long time and I got pretty lonely. The other female volunteers and myself have been supporting each other through all of this. Sometimes it is hard to decipher whether Nicaraguan guys are getting cuter – or if my taste is declining. Well regardless of the truth – I decided to accept someone’s request to be their girlfriend. Here there is no casual dating. No friends first. It is kinda like ‘Hi. Nice to meet you – will you be my girlfriend?’ I have been ‘andaring’ with a guy named John since July. He does not have a high school education and works on a bus. I know, I know… I saw my mother’s face when I told her this over skype.
The truth is that I decided to break up with him last week because of a few moments of clarity. He is truly a sweet person and treated me well – but I just need something more. It was very clear to me that I was settling – because of where I am… because I am alone. It is weird to be at an age where you feel like you are ready for something serious – but in a country where you do not see yourself with anyone long-term. Very conflicting. I thought there would be a lot cuter guy volunteers – and this proved to be false. Ha. Anyway, right now I am officially single and constantly telling people that are persuing me that I would like to be alone and that I will not be dating anyone from Posoltega. Privacy does not exist here – it is as though I am always being watched. I may actually be on a reality television show without knowing it. Hermano Grande aka Big Brother does Nicaragua. At the end of the day it is nice to have someone there (obviously) – but the benefits of being by myself right now incredibly outweigh this plus.
MI CASA ES…
So. I got asked to leave the house that I was staying in (with Alba) for several reasons. One being that I had a Nicaraguan boyfriend. Two, being that after I became the neighborhood gym teacher and playing with the kids every day – a lot of kids of the town were in my room (aka Alba’s house). Both of these factors bothered her a lot – and it ended in her telling me that my friend John that was coming to visit could not stay in my house (which was the complete original plan) and later asking me to find another place to live. It is odd how some people open their houses completely willingly to me (the white girl) but are skeptical of their own people. Anyway, I ended up going to Costa Rica and finding a place to move within two days of coming back. It was quite stressful – but I had several options and was helped by my community and also by the Safety and Security guy from Peace Corps. I moved…across the street. Literally. One of the teachers I had been working with lives in a fairly large house with a section that was not being used (previously had been used for an NGO years ago). I have my own bathroom with a toilet (no running water, so I bucket flush), more privacy and they lent me a bed and a desk. They are incredibly sweet and really look after me, but from a distance. It has been quite an adjustment – because what I do not have there is a … sink or a kitchen of any kind. I bought a little two burner counter-top stove but still have no kitchen. I pay a women about $2 to wash my clothes and iron them. I wash my food and my dishes in the shower (or if it’s raining I just step outside). Not quite sanitary – but I am working on it. Oh! And this house has a real roof, which means it is so, so much cooler. My friend actually said it felt like air conditioning the other day – haha.
Okay, I am not done writing – but I am going to post this part to give you all something before I leave Managua today. I love and miss you all! I cannot believe I am 25 years old. I think it is going to be a fabulous year. And I will be home in less than 75 days! (Not counting at all). I will keep writing and hope to hear little updates on your all as well.