Friday, April 9, 2010

Tricycle Taxis and Offending Public Figures

In my three months here in the land of gallo pinto, I have fallen in love with several things (gallo pinto being one of them). Hammocks, bartering, using “que” followed by whatever adjective suits my fancy (typically bonita) to describe nearly every situation, telonovelas, and eating fruits whose names I cannot pronounce currently top the list. But surpassing them all would have to be my most recent discovery, the tricycle taxi. It is quite possible, and more than likely that a good portion of my monthly allowance will be allotted to tricycle taxi rides. Not out of necessity (as walking is nearly an equally efficient means of transportation), simply because they are utterly fantastic. I plan on using them often(while possibly on my way to use a hammock, an activity which I would describe as “que bonita”, while bartering the price of said trip on said tricycle taxi, while possibly discussing the latest telenovela with said triciclero, while eating a fruit whose name I cannot pronounce). Mind you, these tricicleros charge a pretty penny. But, being as they are environmentally kosher, not to mention the workout the triciclero is benefiting from while pedaling my ass to and fro, I think I will be able to sleep easy.

In other news, as of today I am off the training tit. And by this of course I mean that I was officially sworn into the Peace Corps today. I my friends, am officially a Peace Corps Volunteer (insert woooo here). The morning was pretty fantastic. It was about a four hour event involving all of our host families, the U.S. Ambassador Robert Callahan, our Country Director George Baldino, and (my favorite component) Earl Grey tea. I’ll post pictures eventually, and yes I have one with the Ambassador. I’ve never been photographed with a person who is referred to as “his Excellency” until this morning, so as you could imagine I was slightly (and by slightly I mean obscenely) nervous. Not to mention the fact that Ambassador Robert Callahan is utterly amazing, which of course only heightened my anxiety. So, it came time for our photo together. I walked over, trying to come up with something witty and memorable to say (which of course turned out to be nothing but giggling and blushing, far from witty or memorable). His Excellency (I just like to say that as often as possible) placed his arm around me and we looked into the sea of cameras. Then he, in his regal and “ambassador like” voice, asked which camera we were to be looking at. My camera, thanks to my host sister Fernandita, now sports a large sticker of Beauty and the Beast. And so, likely in an attempt to be witty (fail), I responded to his Excellency’s question with “Beauty and the Beast.” He then said, “you’re right I suppose we are.” Oh dear God. I, inadvertently and unintentionally, called his Excellency a beast. I called Ambassador Robert Callahan ugly. It was awful, I of course immediately started stuttering, trying to explain myself and show him that God forsaken sticker that had been the source of my horribly misinterpreted comment. But it was too late, all had been lost. Now I live with shame and the hopes that I will never be in need of help from the embassy as I don’t expect that his Excellency, “the beast”, would be all too quick to assist me.

So, the “site gods” have spoken and I will officially be spending the next two years of my life in the town of Los Limones. It is a small (and by small I mean incredibly small) town located in the northern corner of the department of Chinandega, about twenty minutes north of the municipality of Somotillo(and home to the glorious tricycle taxis). Chinandega, in a nutshell, is a northern department bordering Honduras. It is the hottest department in all of Nicaragua and also holds the title for the highest quantity of cases of HIV in the country. Somotillo, the municipality twenty minutes from my site, retains the highest number of cases of HIV in all of Chinandega (this is largely due to its proximity to Honduras) and thus much of my work will be devoted to HIVAids education and prevention. Somotillo is a relatively (and I stress relatively) large town of about 30,000 people. It has just about everything anyone could need (cell service, internet cafes, ice cream, a large market, tricycle taxis) but most importantly a health center that serves 66 surrounding communities. My site, Los Limones, is one of those 66. Los Limones is a town of about 1,000 people, composed of two churches, two ventas (convenience store like establishments), a high school, a primary school, a health post, and sunshine (or for the more pessimistic reader, heat and subsequent excessive perspiration). This package does not include paved roads, cell service, or running water. However, it does include a community of wonderful loving people, who, in my six day stay, made me feel more than welcome and wanted (what more could a gringa ask for?).

So anyway, I head off into the abyss on Sunday and couldn’t be more excited. For the previously listed reasons, and of course the tricycle taxi ride I intend to take on Sunday afternoon. Life is good. I’m out of here, big night out in Managua tonight to celebrate our “volunteerhood” and hopefully to drink enough Flor de Cana to forget about that one time when I told an Ambassador he was feo. Love you all, send me letters and I’ll send you love.

Peace, Love and his Excellency,

My new address (not to be desperate butttttt…):
Katie Aldon
Voluntaria de Cuerpo de Paz
Somotillo, Chinandega
Central America