Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Top Ten

Once again thank you to all have been reading. This is my final post regarding my Nicaraguan adventure, however I am sure with the adventures ahead there will be much more blogging. I leave you all with the top ten things to learn while living in Nicaragua..

10- laxatives and Imodium will began to control your life. Be prepared, not dependant.

9- there are beans and then there are rice, and then if your lucky there is beans and rice together. It's 'Gaillo Pinto' and if your fortunate you will only eat it once a day. :)

8- Rehab may need to be considered when coming back home. Beer is a dollar, and it's super hot.. a pretty dangerous combination.

7- There is an abundance of dogs in Esteli. By day you'd never know it. By night they make up for it. An alarm clock is really unnecessary

6- Getting from A to B can mean anything from walking, hitchhiking, busing, riding on a motorcycle or even many hours on my favourite; the chicken bus etc..

5- 'Timeliness" does not exist and it's best to learn it as soon as possible. Being late doesn't really exist either, It's all 'Nica Time' and it'd be best just to accept it.

4- "I love yous" and marriage proposals are an everyday occurrence. - Don't be flattered and don't accept them.

3- By the time you leave Nicaragua you may be missing clothes and the ones you still have will be stretched and probably with holes, but they will be clean and for that you will appreciate them

2- When the guide book says 'quaint' or 'rustic' be afraid. A rustic bus ride means 2 hours in a cramped bus with chickens, kittens, babies and lots and lots of other people

1- Mangoes fall like the rain. Watch yourself, try not to get hit. You've been warned.

Hope you enjoyed the countdown and all the other ups and downs along the way!

A growing awareness

Awareness of self is a tricky concept to understand and kind of a hard thing to accept if you don't particularly like the new information. If I have come away from this adventure with anything it is a great awareness of self. Many of the things I have uncovered about myself would never have been put into question if it weren't for many of those difficult situations I have since experienced. I had an expectation, a vision maybe that I would enter Nicaragua loving it, if not instantly than very very quickly. "They" said I would pick up the language fairly quickly, and I believed it. I believed that the language barrier would only last a short time, and soon enough I would really be able to communicate with the kids I was working with, the adults I was working for, my family and local friends along the way, however you can't really just 'pick up' a language like you'd pick up some forgotten item at the grocery store. It takes more time, effort and energy than I ever anticipated. In short, I thought I could pick up my life,plant it in some third world country and be the traveling gypsy I have always wanted to be.. but quickly I learned that this 'me' well.. it isn't really me at all.

I had these great expectations for my self and through the last three months I have learned that these are great expectations, wonderful even, but perhaps they are great and wonderful for someone else. At school they push seeing the world, how important it is, how much of a learning experience it will be and how it will forever shape you as a person. All of the above made me want to jump on board , but as I was jumping into this exciting, new, foreign world I thought for some reason I had to leave the other world behind, which has ignited many mixed thoughts and confused feelings. However after the time abroad and many nights spent thinking about it I have finally come to the conclusion that it doesn't have to be one or the other. I know this doesn't sound like rocket science and many probably have no idea why I was thinking such crazy thoughts, but here I am, and yes I was thinking them. I've learned that there is a thing called balance and it can be achieved. I've learned that I can travel to the four corners of the earth, but it doesn't necessarily have to be months at a time, and I've learned that there is no shame in wanting to travel differently. I mean though it is an experience, who really wants to sit in a chicken bus for five hours in the heat? I'll tell you, I think no one! I've also learned that traveling the world and volunteering is a very special experience, but there are also very special opportunities in my own backyard. As much as I thought this trip was about poverty awareness and experiencing a different culture, it was also about me, about who I am, and who in the future I hope to become. Three months took me on a roller coaster of emotions, tested everything I knew and challenged me in ways I never would have expected, and with all that said and done I am a little closer to discovering the true me, and for that i am grateful.

Monday, August 17, 2009

lots of gratitude

With wrapping up the final week of work it has brought many different feelings to the surface. I still have two weeks here but because it's more like a vacation than anything those two weeks have a different mentality. The final days bring happiness, sadness, many goodbyes and an appreciation for all of the wonderful support I have received since leaving three months ago.

Before I left I couldn't tell you how anything would play out, and that even includes the kind of support I would receive from the people I left behind. Now don't get me wrong, I knew everyone would be rooting for me, but I also know that people are very busy. Busy with work, school, family and adventures of their own. However through an abundance of e-mails, letters, phone calls and blog comments I have never felt so loved and supported. Those efforts was enough for me to know 'I'm not alone' especially in the darker days of the trip, and for that I want to thank you all! I couldn't have lasted without the help, I couldn't have lived through the dark days without know the lighter days would come. I am very grateful for having such wonderful friends and family that these last few days have me thinking about you all. Thank you for cheering me on in the times of triumph and comforting me in the times of defeat. Can't wait to see you all!

a little catch up

So first things first, I apologize for basically dropping off the face of the planet and traveling around the rest of Nicaragua. After leaving Esteli the time continued to fly by and I had an amazing time and I am now safe and sound back in the comforts of home. I have a few more posts to add that were written while I was still away and between all of the goodbyes didn't have a chance to post. Hope you enjoy the wrapping up of a very long adventure and thank you for coming along with me.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Communication is Key

I think the most frustrating thing here is the lack of communication. Sure it makes you go with the flow at a moments notice but would it really be that difficult to just get a little heads up once in a while? That´s not how they do things here, although I think it would be refreshing.

I don´t know if it´s the culture, or my lack of Spanish but no one at work likes to tell me anything about anything in advance, regardless of the activity or the time commitment it requires. I´m thinking that most of these celebrations are not planned at a moments notice or anything- just a little hunch I have. If this is culturally how they approach events than I suppose it´s another thing I need to embrace and get used to, but if it´s because I am unable to speak Spanish fluently than I think that is very frustrating! I find it many situations there is no tolerance for people who cannot speak Spanish and when your trying to learn this is very intimidating!

Taking communication for granted has been a huge realization for me in the last three months. You don´t realize how comforting a conversation can be until the lines of communication are cut and you now rely on facial expressions and awkward silences. Randomly striking up a conversation with a stranger can be a great experience allowing you to learn about different people, their background, situations, beliefs etc. Yet here that ability has basically disappeared. I can communicate the minimum with most people and a Little more with those who are patient, but the rest- forget it. The personal connection is lost and that makes me both sad and frustrated. I love learning new things through people, and through the way they live their lives. Here people of all places live a little differently than I do which would allow for very interesting conversation and lessons but I can´t because i am shy and it is a difficult process through broken Spanish. I am disappointed that I was never able to really communicate with the people hear and after a while I had to rely on my fellow BBer´s for communication because otherwise I would have none and be very lonely. The next time I go on any time of trip I hope to learn more basics of the language before coming because I think I underestimated how difficult it would be. Is it bad than one of the things I´m missing most is the ability to strike up conversation anywhere with anyone at anytime?

First Impressions

This is officially my last week of work at Los Pipitos and it´s got me thinking back to they first impressions I had when I first stepped foot into dear old Esteli and what kinds of thoughts I will walk away with once I pack up and head home. Not to anyone´s surprise I´m sure, all my previous expectations FAILED miserably, yet thankfully most of the feelings I had in May have mostly changed for the better into a much calmer version.

For example, after one week of living in a dodgy neighbourhood I pretty much ´hated´ Esteli. Now I never wanted to come out and say HATE but i´m pretty sure there was some serious emotion I was dealing with. I couldn't take the heat, the men, the lack of organization, the language barrier and the fact that I left cheddar cheese behind. After many many conversations with a lot of helpful and caring people the really bad soon got sorted out and the rest, well it kind of faded into the dust. I mean really, I guess even I can do with a little less cheddar in my diet.

It´s refreshing because I will be leaving Esteli on Monday and free from hate. I still have frustration and confusion, it´s still foreign and I still don´t like everything here but I think you could say that about anything that isn´t ´home.´ Heck, you can even probably say it about home. The heat I have finally gotten used to, the cheese is missed only vaguely (shocking I know) and the language barrier has started to come down a little. The lack of organization would take much longer than three months to get used to and the men- well I don´t think no matter how long I love here I will get used to them, but now at least I can tolerate it. It feels strange to look back and try to feel the way I once did. I think a lot of the mix of emotions had to do with pure confusion. Now that I know the people a little better and the town itself it makes me fear less and enjoy my time more. I wish I would have known beforehand that ´things will get better´ because at times I was seriously doubting this advice.

The mix of emotions have all lessened and now I´m left feeling bittersweet. Part of me is ready to close this chapter and head back home to where my family is waiting and another part wishes I could stay and live it a little longer. It´s been such a long and difficult road to finding ´normal´ here that now I just want to sit back and enjoy it a little. The impressions I had when I had been here for a week were mostly built off of fear and ignorance, however I can now say I feel comfortable here, and maybe even like it. I´m glad that my feelings towards this city has changed even if it took so long to do so. Better late than never.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


As last week came to an end so did some feelings of unease and anxiety. Rather than working a regular week at Los Pipitos classes were canceled as the week was dedicated to home visits for all staff members. When my boss Isabel first told me about these home visits I had no idea what to expect and to be honest I was a little leery of being brought into the ´real´ lives of the children. Before the visits my presence only lingered between the hours of 8 and 3 in a safe and happy environment. This time frame ensured food, water and an abundance of love, but after 3 nothing is for sure and a lot is left up in the air. Once they leave Los Pipitos sadly the real world beckons and it isn´t a very good environment for anyone let along a ten or eleven year old.

If I had a choice about going to the home visits I would have probably refused. Not rudely I assure you, but I think a polite mumble of miscommunication that would free me from my volunteer obligations would be on the menu. My fear of these visits was real, the truth isn´t always pretty and I knew going along with bring me a little bit more out of my comfort zone, and needless to say it did.

Our first visit was with Heydin and her mother. Heydin is a young teenager and has been going to Los Pipitos for many years. She belongs to a single parent family where it literally is just her and her mother. As I first walked into their home I was greeted by both Heydin and her mom, her mom smiling and heydin hugging me. They found two plastic chairs for Isabel and I and the interview begins. Heydin´s home is literally unimaginable. It is a two room cement building with literally nothing in it. They have one light bulb and share the space with a few chickens. After the visit Isabel translates that Heydin´s mom washes other peoples clothes for a living and obviously has very little money. Sometimes they have money for food, and other times they don´t. Isabel assures me that it´s no SO bad, at least there no violence.

No violence? Since when is this the only standard? Walking out of Heydin´s home all I could think of were my shoes. Yes you read right my shoes. I´m walking around Nicaragua in a house where people cannot eat regularly in a pair of $90 berks. They can´t even get a decent meal, and I´m wearing a hundred dollar shoes.. yes grandma they were 100.

Heydin´s visit was the first to break through my comfort zone and there were many after her, 13 in all and they were each tough in their own way. In many visits the first thing I would think of was ´who do i think i am´ I felt very uncomfortable sitting in on the interview while they discussed their personal hardships. I thought that because these were such private matters that they all deserved their privacy, but that´s not how they do it here in Nicaragua.

Last week was a great learning opportunity for me ever though it was tough and uncomfortable. Most learning opportunities like that pull you out of your comfort zone and show you what your made of, and this one did not let me down. This week gave me the ability to see a little more of the whole picture. It showed me once again how important Los Pipitos is to them, even though I was second guessing it in the beginning, and what kind of lives they deal with on a day to day basis. These kids, youth and adults are stronger than they will ever know and for that I am still reflecting on the events of last week. I have never really seen such living conditions, these are homes you see on a world vision commercial, I have also never personally known the people living in them, that in itself is a serious reality check. It makes me want to sprinkle fairy dust all over their heads and free them from what tortures them, be it disability, violence, poverty, everything. For children and youth that experience such difficulty they have amazing spirits. I want to keep their optimism with me and think of it in good times as well as hard times because if they can continue to smile so can you and I.