Monday, March 7, 2011

Evangelical Lullabies and the Return of the Prodigal Blog

     As of a few weeks ago, I have officially completed half of my service (13.5 months down, 13.5 to go). Truly this fact is hard to believe as I feel that I have so much left to learn. However, after spending a week with the newest group of Peace Corps trainees (they being in the same boat as I was 13 months ago), I realize that in many ways I have become more accustomed to things here than I had initially perceived. For example:

- Thoughts like, "Latrines are really quite practical, and don't smell all that bad," cross my mind on a frequent basis.

- I have mastered the bucket shower with such efficiency that I can easily get the job done with no more than a gallon.

- A meal without tortilla leaves me perplexed and confused, as does the presence of utensils and/or a napkin.

- My idea of luxury consists solely of air conditioning and flushable toilets, the latter more so than the former. 

- Drinking from a plastic bag has become preferable to a bottle or glass

- I know more about dengue, leptosporosis, and an epic list of STD's in Spanish than in English

- I now answer to names such as gringita, chelita, grandota, gigantona and flacita without hesitating. 

Then of course there are a few things that I am quite certain I will never become accustomed to, sharing my bus seat with livestock, roosters crowing/dogs barking at all hours of the night, and the absence of all that is green from my diet, to name a few. But, at the very top of the list, leading by leaps and bounds is the incessant, excessive, and intolerable noise pollution whose perpetual presence is the very bane of my existence. Wherever I am, whatever the time of day or night, there is Reggaeton, or Bachata, or Lady Gaga, or 80's love ballads ( I have heard more Bryan Adams and Michael Bolton than those who were cognitively present during the era), or (most unfortunately) Ranchero blaring at an inescapable decibel. My ears have been damaged, my patience has been tested, and (almost entirely at the hands of Ranchero music) my musical intelligence has been seriously corrupted. When it comes to music (and the volume at which it is played) Nicaragua and I will never see eye to eye. 

For the past few weeks we have been without power in Los Limones. Though lack of electricity has pushed my bedtime up to 7:30 p.m. and interrupted my mildly obsessive viewing of LOST, it has provided me with the greatest of all blessings, the absence of noise pollution and long sleep filled nights free of Ranchero filled nightmares. It has been magical.

Of course all good things must come to an end, of which I was abruptly reminded a few nights ago. I had just drifted off to sleep at the ripe hour of 8 p.m., when I was awoken by a loud booming voice declaring, "LA ÚNICA VÍA A SALVACIÓN ES POR LAS PALABRAS DE CRISTO!" The walls were literally shaking, as was I as the voice boomed again, "THE  ONLY WAY TO SALVATION IS THROUGH THE WORDS OF CHRIST!" I am completely startled, convinced I am about to meet my maker or witness some sort of apparition when the voice declares, "please take your seats as Reverend Jose reads from the book of Matthew." And so, after a two hour sermon blaring from the traveling Evangelicals generator powered speakers, I was finally able to go to sleep, my Ranchero filled dreams now replaced by Bible verses.

Aside from such grievances, life here has been truly fantastic. As it has been several months since my last update I will resort to the ever redundant list to update on semi-recent happenings.

1. Markus and Thomas Aldon's January Tour de Nicaragua: This was nothing short of fantastic on every level. Highlights included the ever imposing (and fantastic) hog call implemented in a bar in San Juan del Sur during Arkansas' tragic defeat in the Sugar Bowl to those who shall not be named (it goes without saying but, WOOOOOO PIG SOOIE).  A rooftop tour of the Sandinista Museum in Leon, Mary and Tom´s first hostel experience, an epic (but amazing) walk to my host family´s farm/the Honduran border, and the invaluable experience of sharing my current reality with those whom I love the most.  

2. SPA Project Los Limones: Still in the works and an ever changing project, our community building has now turned into an auditorium/massive classroom. Thus far, this has been an epic lesson in patience and flexibility for which I am eternally grateful for though often frustrated by. Nonetheless, things are once again making progress. Como siempre, vamos a ver.

3.  You Would Like Me to Organize What?: Currently involved in the ambitious process of organizing the sex workers of Somotillo (and surrounding communities). I am super excited by this prospect and in spite of formidable challenges (locating, organizing, and most notably giving these ladies tangible reasons to attend such meetings) I am so looking forward to working with these women. 

4. "Da Betes": Completed a survey on the prevalence and understanding of type II diabetes in Los Limones. Results (though anticipated) were startling. This year´s plans include a nutrition campaign to promote a healthier diet and awareness of (the preventable) type II diabetes.

5. Trainees, Trainees, Trainees, Trainees, Trainees Everywhere: Health group 55 arrived in country in January and being the avid (or not so avid) veterans that we are, Nica 52 (my group) has been involved in their training. They are truly a lovely bunch and spending time with them has been nothing short of fantastic. Undeniably, it is still hard to believe that we are now in the position to impart "Peace Corps wisdom" upon anyone. 

In addition to new endeavors, activities stated in previous blogs have been going well. In general (as generalizing is an inevitable necessity when updating every 5 months) life continues to be lovely. I am most certainly a lucky woman. Now one final anecdote to leave you with....

With the new trainees in country I have been spending a significant amount of time in Managua, more so than usual. So one lovely morning, I was headed back to Chinandega in a bit of a rush (as I almost always am). I got out of the taxi at the bus terminal and was briskly walking to my designated bus, ignoring the usual cat calls ("chelita", "preciosa", "que bonita", etc) which seemed a bit more excessive than normal. I concluded I must be having a good hair day (I was not). So I reach my bus and climb back to my seat (quite literally climb, micro buses were not designed with my 5'9" frame in mind) and start digging through my purse for my Ipod, all the while ignoring the various venders attempting to sell me pirated DVDs and bags of water, when I feel an urgent tapping on my shoulder. I half turn, irritated by this invasion of my personal space to say, "no quiero comprar nada." The tapping continues. With less patience I turn completely and say, "gracias, pero no quiero comprar nada, buen día-" the woman stops me. " No, no amor, solo quiero decirle que usted tiene una roncha grande en su falda, casi puede ver todo de sus nalgas. Que pena!" I immediately turn bright red as I reach behind to find an enormous rip in my skirt, exposing nearly all that my back side (and lime green underwear) has to offer. Que pena couldn´t have been more accurate of a statement. And so it goes, a year in country and Nicargua continues to expose herself to me little by little. Wanting to share in this exchange, I now too have exposed her to a whole new side of myself, in all of its lime green and bootylicious glory.

Peace, Love, and Full Coverage Underwear,