So, it is 1:00 p.m. on Cinco de Mayo. Normally, I would be planted at a Mexican restaurant (likely La Hurtya), exploiting this blessed Mexican holiday as a means to acceptably consume a (or a few) cold and delicious Negro Modelo(s) midday on a Wednesday. Instead, I’m currently sitting in my room, planted behind my “overworked/constantly running when electricity is present” fan, sipping on a delicious fruit juice whose contents I’m completely unsure of (no need to question when it is cold and tasty). I had a meeting this morning in Somotillo where I found out that my youth group will be receiving funds to throw our “carnival” at the end of the month(basically a “health themed” parade, involving masks, cultural dances, and condom demonstrations). Later tonight, I’m going to this beautiful farm near my community to philander, relish in its beauty, and fend off mosquitoes. All in all, I think it is safe to say that today has turned out to be a pretty fantastic Cinco de Mayo (in spite of the absence of Negro Modelo).
As of Sunday, I have officially been in site for a month now. It is unreal how quickly time flies here, as the general pace of things is far from hasty. Regardless of the time warp, I have somehow managed to develop a bit of a routine. Before sharing, I will preface with saying that according to the Peace Corps our first three months in site are to be dedicated to “community integration.” This, I have interpreted as chatting with my community members. And by chatting I mean, discussing whatever my limited Spanish allows for/the random strangers I chat with feel like sharing. Hence, a typical day consists of the following: waking up around 6 or 7, enjoying a refreshing bucket shower in the company of cows, chickens, and sunshine, and then eating a delicious breakfast consisting of some variation of rice, beans, tortilla, and my multi-vitamin while (in between bites of course) chatting with my host family. Then I head up to the health post for an hour or so. Chat with the patients waiting, chat with the nurses, chat with strangers on the way to and fro, perhaps give a charla over a topic someone mentioned as worth mentioning during a chat. From there, I’ll usually go on a nice walk to one of the communities surrounding Los Limones, to my favorite farm across the highway, to the lovely and recently filled (thanks to much needed rain) rivers around town, really wherever my feet feel like taking me for the afternoon. Naturally, this involves chatting with whomever I pass, the occasional invitation to coffee or, if I am so lucky, a fresh mango or two. Eventually, I’ll head home for a lunch of rice, beans and tortilla… and of course, a chat or two with my host family. Then I’ll spend some time working on my Spanish, working on charlas, reading, relaxing, abusing my fan. Finally capping off the evening with yet another walk, this time to the “cancha” (paved sports like area where all the kids hang out, kick soccer balls at each other, exchange vulgarities, etc.) where there will be more chatting. Until finally, heading home for a dinner of (you guessed it) rice beans and tortilla, possibly a telenovela, chatting, and eventually bed. As it turns out, “community integration” is kind of my thing.
This of course is merely a typical day, the last month has not been entirely dedicated to rice, beans, and chatting (as if I haven’t typed that word enough already). Other noteworthy activities have included:
1) Participating in the annual countrywide vaccination campaign. This involved chasing small, screaming children with drops of vitamin A and anti-parasite medications/coaxing or at least attempting to coax them as they were stuck with large needles filled with various vaccines. In spite of the atmosphere of terrorized children, this was a fantastic experience. I was able to see many of the rural communities outlying Somotillo, chat with some incredibly friendly and insightful nurses, ride in the bed of a truck for hours each day (I’ve always loved convertibles), not to mention the efficiency of the campaign was thoroughly impressive. Props to MINSA.
2) Took an excursion with my youth group and a handful of others from my community to Campusanos (a natural spring outside of Chinandega). The setting was slightly reminiscent of floating the Buffalo (minus the abundance of beer, koozies, and college students) so naturally I felt right at home. It was really nice getting to spend some quality time with my youth group, though I have yet to become accustomed to swimming in my clothes (wearing a bikini is essentially social suicide in this country) and may or may not have come close to drowning once or twice.
3) Experienced getting soaked by my first Nicaraguan storm. Little did I know that this encounter would occur indoors, while sleeping in my bed, at two o’clock in the morning. Not that I can complain, given that it was certainly the coolest night’s sleep I’ve had in this blessed desert that is Chinandega. However, the roof over my bed has since been patched and I no longer have to sleep in a raincoat. Gracias a Dios.
4) Visited my fellow and fantastic volunteer in the community just north of mine (Santa Thomas del Norte) for their “fiestas patronales“. This of course involved dancing until the wee hours of the morning, luckily with the help of strobe lights I think it is safe to say that the fact that I dance like a tranquilized elephant remains a secret to my Nicaraguan friends… or so I hope.
5) Bought a bicycle in spite of the fact that I haven’t ridden one since the age of nine. She is red and beautiful (though pales in comparison to that beloved Taurus of mine, Rhonda), and I’ve named her Sue. Our first ride together was memorable to say the least, as I missed the bus from Somotillo to Los Limones and opted to make the twelve-kilometer up-hill trek with Sue. Did I mention it was noon, I wasn’t wearing sunscreen, and I’m about as in shape as Valerie Butonelli pre Jenny Craig? I somehow made it to my youth club meeting by one, a frightening shade of red, sweating buckets (which didn’t cease for at least two hours), and I’m not even going to mention the state of my behind. Nonetheless, Sue and I have been getting along just fine since (though our trips together have since been much shorter and less inclined).
6) Lost my phone, bought a new one, have used it four times since. I have a feeling this cycle will prove to be a trend throughout my service.
Well that about sums it up I suppose. Sorry for yet another epic post (blog? I still don’t know how all of this works). Maybe one of these days I won’t wait a small eternity to post another. Anyway, I’m headed to the beach this weekend with a few other volunteers. Activities will surely include chatting, swimming (hopefully in something less than a snowsuit), the consumption of rice and beans, and perhaps belatedly celebrating Cinco de Mayo with a Tona or two (unless the world stops spinning and Negro Modelo is available). Hope all is well in “the land of the free home of the brave”.
All my love from the Central Am,