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Published: December 29th 2011
As I write this the music is blaring in the background---a Saturday fiesta to celebrate the procession of kids graduating on to the next level. Truth be told, this is not much different from other nights---there is the constant, familiar hum of life in San Juan---which I have grown somewhat accustomed to. This includes the fireworks which are set off at random, the roosters, the chickens, and hundreds of dogs--and believe me, when one is set off, they all are set off!
The roofed houses with adobe construction are packed tightly togther around the central park and the ever present old church. Only the center of town qualifies for paving, otherwise it's all dirt roads where pigs, chickens, and skeletal dogs roam, bordered by houses built out of rough-hewn planks with outdoor kitchens, zinc roofs, and an outdoor latrine. Cold bucket showers are common and water here is precious, not to be wasted.
I wandered from noon until dark with Julio and his son Dylan. On the way to the mountains, I crammed my body into a space big enough to house a part of one of my butt cheeks. The woman sitting facing me,
Clay for Stamping
This clay is danced on for four hours until it is ready for throwing.
rearranged our legs: her leg, my leg ---and I trusted she had done this once before.
I was a part, and yet separate, able to study Julio’s tan and handsome face; I imagined him to be in his thirties. Why do I love to ride like this, crowded, crammed and surrounded by chatter and laughter?
I find the people here friendly and open, absent the bitterness left by the scars of war and years of fear. Yes, there are stories, but most are told in a “that was then manner.” I conversely am impacted, ashamed of the US support of the Contras. If I get one question here, people ask, “Why Nicaragua? We don’t have oil. We are a small country. Why did the USA want Nicaragua?”
I am at a loss for how to answer this, yet alone in a language where my expressions can only be simple. Why were we so afraid of such a place as Nicaragua?
We climbed the steep hill. The sun was hot, and I was soaked with sweat from the long climb, so we sat in the shade outside an abandoned church, eroded and decomposing in the acid smoke of
the volcano. Yes, again I heard stories of how this area was once productive farmland, then the war, then the volcano. Pigs and goats wandered freely as we descended and bushwhacked our way through the green. What a world. An abandoned coffee plantation now a space of wilderness with irridescent green hummingbirds, huge butterflies, and howler monkeys. It was dark when I returned to the center of La Concha. Tired, dirty, mosquito bitten, and happy.
It is a place I want to be. I feel solid.
Today I met my new grammer teacher, Bergman. "Bueñas dias. Como te llamas?" I tell him my name is Keely. The next morning Bergman refers to me as 'Kiel-lee.' "Just like the song," he says, "Keely-ing me softly…"
Yesterday, I woke up feeling a bit sad, lonely and bored. As soon as I recognized my desire to leave this place, I knew I needed to stay, that something had to change. I was stagnant and needed to take a jump--to move out of the cozy hotel complete with my own shower and flushing toilet to a homestay with a family where electricity is a luxury. I told
Bright yellow gates welcoming all into La Mariposa (and our trusty micro-bus to bring you here!)
an intern at La Mariposa of my desire to change things up and 3 hours later I was packing up my bags. I arrived at la casa de Miriam and her husband Gonzalo. With them live their 2 daughters, Valeska and Yaderlina. Yaderlina has a 2 year old son named Eric. This little maestro is a chubby bundle of joy, full of energy, questions, and excitement to share his 2 year old life with me. Que interesante! He reaches up for my hand and leads me to his room. "Look chacha! This is my clothing, this is my pencil, this is my toy car..." and on and on it goes in Spanish. I can tell this kid will be attached at the hip for the duration of my stay. But, the feeling is mutual. For the next two weeks, I am greeted with a besito and abrazo (small kiss and hug) everyday after classes from my novio, Eric.
I miss myself. I miss seeing myself. It has occured to me that where we live in the United States there are mirrors all around us--in bathrooms, yoga studios, and as we walk by buildings and stores with glass
pane windows. Here, there are no mirrors and I have not seen myself for 12 days, which I don't know is a good thing or a bad thing, but I miss my reflection.
There are many silver lining moments that I have been blessed with thus far, including: playing pickup basketball with a group of adolescent girls, watching the home video of Valesca's dance recital, making fried plantains with Yaderlina, washing dishes with Miriam by headlamp, holding Miriam's hand while she tells me about losing her first daughter at the young age of 17. My conversation teacher, Johanna, lost her son too. To a malpractice. In our two hours together every day we talk about hot issues such as Nicaraguan views on abortion, homosexuality, women's rights and machismo, religion, medicine and the Wal-mart of Central America, 'Maxi Pali.'
Today, we hiked Mombacchu, a nearby volcano just outside of Granada. Today, I learned there are some key differences in the Spanish language. Por ejemplo, as we were hiking I exclaimed, "Whew, estoy caliente," which turns out to mean, "I'm horny," instead of "I'm hot."
Another rule of thumb for any new Spanish speakers, such
as my friend Shannon---be sure to pronounce the tilde over the -ñ- when applicable. Upon being asked how old she was, Shannon replied, "Tengo treinta y cinco anos." She has thirty five anuses, not years. Or you can be tired (cansaNdo) or married (cansado).
I am beginning to understand that one of the more salient aspects of American middle-class culture is privacy, the nuclear family as a tiny, protected haven from the outside world. Many people, myself included don't have a strong reference point of a common history. After the long working day, people do not have the time to chat and forge bonds of friendship with each other. Or we do not take the time. It can be a highly competitive territory. This lack of intimacy with others, the lack of belonging, the absence of a common purpose--this is what my heart is often beckoning for.
The unwavering kindness in this town of La Concepcion seems so real you could grab it in the air.
I feel liked. I feel loved.
I feel wanted here.
And yet, with less than a few days left, I can feel myself starting to unravel. I
pray for energy and the strength to keep it together, to stay in this, for I am losing my composure inside. I miss my family.
Thank you to staff and my friends at La Mariposa. Thank you to Johanna, Elysa, Bergman Senior, Bergman Junior, Richard, Marvin, Chester, Jenny, Santos, Francisco, Armando, Oscar, Melba, Amanda, Ruth, and Paulette for returning my smiles, everyday.
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