Friday, July 24, 2009

almost adios

hello friends, christina here. I hope you enjoy these brief stories about friends, work, events, and life in general from the past few months. les quiero!

– if you know anything about my year in nica, you probably know that the cutest 6 year old on the planet, armando, has captured my heart. a hilarious story recently emerged about his trip to swim in our pool a few months ago. apparently when I told him we were going to my house to swim, he thought it meant my house in the USA. when he returned from the swimming adventure he told his mom that the USA was a lot closer than he thought, and that all of the houses were big like in the soap operas and have lots of stuff in them! bless his little heart, I’m gonna miss this guy! equally as cute was the day we took our students to see the movie ‘planet earth’. halfway through the movie, my coworker michael took all the little boys to the bathroom (small boys, small bladders). armando was completely lost in a modern day, gleaming white bathroom with stalls. michael placed him in a stall and went to help the others. when he returned a minute later, armando was standing in the same position. he looked up at michael quizzically and asked, “where do I do it?”

– a few of our fabulous summer volunteers put on a (much needed) sexual education talk for about 15 teenage girls from the local community, all of whom are our students and friends. despite the giggling and red cheeks, they listened attentively and thoroughly enjoyed a time talking with older women and each other about all the things you need to know to be a woman but perhaps never heard from your mom! we cleared up many antiquated myths, answered their many questions, shared funny stories, and ate yummy food. it was a rich time of fellowship with one another and, in our minds, was extremely successful to open a healthy dialogue about sexuality and their body. one of the most frustrating issues I’ve encountered in nicaragua has been the issue of women’s rights and expectations pressed upon them by their culture. women are the backbone of society and get no recognition for it. it’s very common for a girl to drop out of school because she’s pregnant at age 16 (or younger!), and most girls don’t go to school when they have their periods — what an unfair disadvantage to miss 1/4 of your schooling! women slave away raising children, cooking, cleaning, working other jobs and keeping steady homes, and all of the while (most) men run around having affairs and running out on their families. the lack of responsibility and leadership amoung the male population is sad, but can you blame them? they’re only following in their father’s footsteps.

– the girls soccer team from la chureca challenged us to a game, but this time gringas vs. nicas! tressa, the girls in our second group of summer vols and I headed to chureca one friday morning ready to play. the tiny, dirt field was sloped on one end and covered in holes and bumps; it seemed more like a game of pinball at times, the ball would jump around in every direction! at one point I ran into two girls from the other team and slightly sprained my ankle, not fun. unfortunately we ended up in a tie 0-0. most exciting was the crowd the game attracted! many of the moms and kids we know meandered over to watch and ended up taunting + cheering the players on the field.

– the dozens upon dozens of volunteers that stayed at our house this year provided the fuel for a wonderful event: a clothing sale in la chureca with the proceeds benefiting the clinic. with so many volunteers bringing donations, our house had turned into a packed thrift store. kathy august, a local missionary, holds a clothing sale every few months in the nearby community of cedro galan so we modeled our sale on her past events. a clothing sale had never been done in chureca (according to the families we know there) so it was wonderful to bless them in this way! we brought in dozens of suitcases, arranged the clothing and let the madness begin. we followed kathy’s rule of 15: 15 people inside the sale at a time, 15 minutes, 15 items of clothing each. the clothing and shoes were in good condition and we priced them dirt cheap. the line was out the door and we sold an insane amount of clothing! funny moment: a pregnant woman went to check out and tried to buy 30 items of clothing. we explained the 15 item rule and she promptly pointed to her swollen belly and explained that her unborn child counted as another person!

– the tears have begun to flow. tuesday night we had a goodbye / welcome party for the community in our little schoolhouse: goodbye for the old group and a welcome to the new group of volunteers who will spend the next year living la vida nica. the room was absolutely packed by the time we started (about 120 people!). we played a slide show of pictures from the year, said our goodbyes, welcomed the new group, and allowed nica friends to come up front and say a few words. tears were shed, some friends recited poems and played us songs, it was a beautiful affair. looking around the room I was overwhelmed by all of the nicaraguan friends we were surrounded by: students, neighbors, our new families. they will be greatly missed but never forgotten!

hasta luego, christina

Friday, July 17, 2009


It was July 11, 2008, that we arrived to Nicaragua. Confused, exhausted, frustrated over lost luggage and language barriers and currency exchance – but so full of anticipation for the year to come. And we had no idea then what the next 13 months would hold or how fast they’d fly by.

So it was that last Saturday marked our MPI one-year anniversary. A year ago on that day, the old PDs picked us up from the airport and whisked us off to dinner at a traditional Nicaraguan restaurant called Doña Haydee’s. Over our first tastes of gallo pinto and cacao, the “old balls” recounted funny stories from the year, telling us what to look forward to and what would be hard. And last week, we found ourselves in the same restaurant on the same day… but this time a year later, with the new group in tow. The parallels were uncanny and bittersweet. This time we were the old ones. We were the ones speaking Spanish with confidence, advising what to order, and laughing over the past few months.

Having the new group of PDs finally here (after so many hours of selection and anticipation!) incites even stronger feelings of nostalgia for the past year… and both despair and excitement in expectation of the coming transition back to life in the States. It’s a beginning for all of us. The beginning of adjustment and orientation for the newbies. And the beginning of the end for us “old balls.” There are lots of goodbyes to come as we begin our trek out.

Leaving this place behind will be a process of contemplating and reconciling. Saying goodbye is hard, but perhaps harder is the thought that this phase of life is ending. Living in community. Working alongside friends, both gringo and Nica. Spending hours in a rural neighborhood, playing and exploring. Sitting in families’ homes. Speaking Spanish. Having time to ask the “why” questions and put together a more complete picture of what is this world. It’s all about to end.

Nikki heads out next Wednesday (because she wants to go to med school or something?!?) and the rest of us depart in early August. The next few weeks will fly by. And though it seemed at times that this time would never come, when I board my flight to go home I know I’ll be wishing this chapter wasn’t over.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

fourth of july

Many of us have realized that this month (or in Laura’s case, two months) has been one of the greatest of our lives. For sure one of the best summer months ever. With working hard during the day and relaxing and bonding at night, loving the kids and volunteers nonstop, Manna breeds an environment that is like summer camp mixed with the peace corps. You serve and get served and love and get love, several times over every day. We are not wholly selfless- we have a pool, a house mom, and electricity despite our third world conditions. We are not selfish, either- we don’t have a TV set (to the disgust of many Nicas who watch telenovelas nightly) or air conditioning or a dishwasher. But what we’ve learned down here, among many other things, is that life is so much more than what you have (or what you don’t). And on the Fourth of July, a day where we wonder why Americans are so blessed (even the poor and hungry) and so fortunate, we can take a step back and just be thankful for it all. Our elections, while political and emotionally involved, are free from bloodshed or assassination. Our job market, while unsteady and chaotic, is at least able to provide for the majority of Americans and continues to provide a life above the world poverty line — unlike the workers in Chureca who live on less than $1 a day (called extreme poverty, and half of the world lives in that label). Our faith, while seemingly divided more and more each year with the onset of religions from Scientology to Kaballah to the church of people like Fred Phelps, at least allows peaceful coexistence...

Summer Volunteer

Thursday, July 2, 2009

cone day

To reward strong attendance in literacy and math classes yesterday, we took twelve students to Volcán Masaya National Park for the afternoon. A standard spot for tourists, this volcano is active, smoking high into the sky and topped by a giant cross. Although it’s just a few miles outside of Managua, these kids from the rural areas of Cedro Galán had never seen a volcano before, much less hiked to the sulfury summit.

As the micro wound it way up the side of the volcano, we pointed out the dried lava and volcanic rock from past explosions. The chatter amongst the kids was hilarious as they bounced in their seats and discussed how ugly it was and how they wished they could witness an explosion and float away on the rivers of lava! We arrived to the top, clambered out of the car, and peeked over the safety wall into the gaping hole that led down “into the center of the earth,” as a few little boys claimed. After photos at the rim and a short hike to the cross mounted above (where we could barely breathe because of the sulfur!), reactions were divided. Some students continued to exclaim “¡Que tuani, que bonito!” while others thought it was “feo” and just far too smelly to be worth their time.

The ride down the volcano was concluded by a short visit to the park museum and then a return to Managua. In typical Manna fashion, we tried to tie this expedition to either math or literacy by insisting that it was Cone Day! A volcano is a cone, funnels are cones, and… ice cream comes in a cone. So we wrapped up the attendance celebration with an ice cream party in El Farito. And we learned that ice cream cones drip wayyy too fast in the heat of Nicaragua!

All in all, it proved to be a unique day for these twelve math and literacy students. Though Nicaragua is called the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes, the majority of these children have never had the chance to come in close contact with either. So whether they called Volcán Masaya “feo” or “bonito,” we were blessed to stand beside them as explored such a notable and powerful (and cone-shaped!) part of their nation.