Soy Pequeno, Y Que?

Published: March 2nd 2008
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Upon first being interviewed for my local newspaper about my trip, I told Emily, the interviewer, that I wanted to learn what it was like to live like a pequeno, or an orphan. I find that now, after two months here, I am not living in an impoverished orphanage. Rather, my life is full of excitement, as well as the pequeno's lives. I am busier than I was in college and there is a lot to do, if you really put your mind to it. With 13 volunteers this year alone, along with hundreds of others in the past since 1994 when NPH Nicaragua was founded, there is a life here. I have to remember that I am carrying a legacy from when NPH Mexico started and here in Nicaragua, I am continuing a life that many volunteers have lived before me. Stories of many projects started, while stepping into the complex web of relationships formed in the past and the present, life is enriching. The kids are taken care of. They are given a family, an education, and physical, mental, and emotional treatment. Life here is also busy and you don't have time to think about how bad your life could have been. You are kept busy, often too busy, even as an orphan, as there is school, chores, meal times, workshops, clubs, and people to interact with. Dreams and being realized and potential is put to use, as many volunteers, past and present, really cater to the kids.

One such volunteer is Anna, from Holland. She arrived in March of 2007 as an art therapist and was the first of her kind to start such a program. Since the start of her time here as art therapist, she has done a few wonderful projects within her program. One such project was to design a mural, inspired by the kids themselves, to be displayed along the highway to NPH. After a tight design competition, the best design was chosen as well as two of the best artists in the group, one boy and one girl. The team worked intensely for weeks until the mural was fully designed and painted. Permission had to be granted from the governor of Moyogalpa as well, meaning a lot of things had to be in place before this project could be fully implemented. The kids were really excited to be apart of something that
Salsa dance break at Charco VerdeSalsa dance break at Charco VerdeSalsa dance break at Charco Verde

These guys can sure move their bodies!
is really going to help get NPH's name out there and they really felt a sense of accomplishment. Another series of projects Anna and her coworker Liselot are working on are conducting drawing workshops in Managua for the older kids. How enriching the art therapy program is getting! On top of being an art therapist, Anna has started a boxing class for anyone who wants to learn. She brought all the supplies from home, in Holland. Anna has also looked for ways to make the pequenos' lives more enriching by seeking out a professional boxer in Managua to come to the island and give a workshop! Resources are out there, she said. You just have to look for them. And, she is right.

Along with Anna, many volunteers, past and present, have really added to the lives of the kids here. One past volunteer opened up a game room, called Sale de Bien Estar. The games were all donated and this year, two of our volunteers, Anne and Georg, have agreed to paint the room and run it. Kiki, also a volunteer in our group, organized a slip and slide. Me, along with Beth and Kristin, are running nightly

Little Jose enjoyed himself while being turned into a merman at Charco Verde.
English classes. Activities are constantly being planned, as well as from the directors and tios. Life is dull at times, but, hey, that could happen anywhere. One fun outing we do as a large group is on Sundays. Riding in the truck, we all head to the NPH farm in San Marcos or to one of many beaches here.

The slip and slide day was great. Getting up early, we set up the stage: sand from the nearby beaches was laid from the handy construction workers. Then, the plastic was put down. Then, the water system set up out and finally, the soap added and the kids came! As Nicaragua is all the time, the kids didn't use the slip and slide properly, one at a time to run and slide. Instead, they all used it as a giant pool or something, not taking turns. It was complete chaos, but fun chaos. As my eyes stung with the soap, I had fun slipping around. The kids really had fun too and it was so great to hear them laugh from their heart. These kids love water and if you give them that, they would be happy for a long time. That's why we go to the beaches all the time!

That night, we went out for Beth's birthday. At the pizza restaurant in Moyogalpa, which didn't have pizza, beer, menu options, or even change, we agreed not to ever go back again. We arrived late and apparently all the other Americans there took all the goods and stripped the place clean. Our waiter didn't know answers to all our questions and often had to leave to go ask the chef. Disappointed from our ever so wonderful dinner, which I didn't have since all the food was gone, we went to a discoteca, only to find it closed on a Saturday night. So, we found another, only empty. Finally, we found a hippin party on the beach where everyone was hanging out. Only, the crowd here was typical of a bar in Nicaragua. You don't come to have good, intelligent, conversations. Almost everyone there was drunk and I think everyone in our group was grateful there was at least dancing and the presence of our peers to talk to when we were bored. At the end of the night, our transport back home fell through and we paid an
Hanging outHanging outHanging out

Waiting for a taxi in Moyogalpa. We found one...for $20.
expensive $20 taxi ride as many drivers were asleep...only to get dropped off at the front gait and walk the 20 minutes on foot back to our house. Not our night, where everything went wrong, and I felt bad for Beth's birthday that we were celebrating. However, everyone has those days and we learned that the next time, we have to communicate effectively about transport back from outings for the volunteers. Just another reminder of the way bad communication can make things unpleasant here.

A few Sunday's ago, we all headed to Playa Santo Domingo, one of the island's most beautiful beaches, situated right in between the two volcanoes. As with any trip, the boys and girls always ride separately. I decided to mix things up and ride with the boys. Bad idea, and let me tell you why. As I never had brothers, only two sisters, I never really knew how active boys had to be, or even violent. As soon as we took off, the boys formed a circle. I will call this the fight club circle. They found enjoyment in throwing their peers into the middle while beating them up. Perhaps this is a passage into

Overlooking the Laguna de Apoyo
manhood, perhaps believing that if you are tough enough to survive the blow of the circle, you will be considered a strong man. Anyways, I was foreign to the idea of this type of "fun." As they thought this was fun, I automatically thought it was dangerous, as at any time, someone could have been thrown out of the truck, as we were standing and there were not any ropes to hang on to. I found solace in holding little Francisco, practically my adopted son by now, and when another boy refused to let me hold on to his shoulder, I guess because I had germs or something, I found a nicer guy that let me hold onto his shoulder. I needed a strong post to hold onto and he offered that. He is one of my best students, and he is a living testament of classy boys who are in my room to learn English and not to fool around. The ride to Playa Santo Domingo is really bumpy and unstable, as you are standing with 50 others in the back of a truck. Poor Francisco clung tighter as we tried to survive the fight club happening all around
My girlsMy girlsMy girls

These girls have become my sisters.
us. At one point, I was in the way of direct impact of this circle, feeling the impact of the hard hit of a strong hand. Good thing I was there, or the boys could have been worse. I was surprised to see the tios not doing anything about it, as they were the supervised ones in this truck. I later talked to them and was disappointed to hear that they said boys will be boys...Okay, but, we raise these boys to be above the influence and plus, it was dangerous, given the nature of the situation. After the longest and most uncomfortable 40 -minute ride of my time here, we finally got off.

While I was doing yoga with a few of the girls, others were playing soccer or volleyball. Soon, a salsa break dance circle was formed. Of course they had to throw me in there, but hey, I got a good idea from this who would be good members, including barones, guys, who would be perfect for my dance group. NPH hired a DJ, including a turn- table and huge speakers. We had a huge party! We occupied the whole beach pretty much! It was really
Leaving the islandLeaving the islandLeaving the island

I get few opportunities to leave my paradise island, and if you take the ferry, this is what you will see! Volcon Concepcion looks so big from the lake!
fun. All the kids swam, and when they weren't, wild horses or cattle would go in the water as well. Talk about wild. Sometimes I am amazed at how wonderful life truly is here. When it was eating time, the kids always line up by girls and boys. Just like elementary school, NPH separates the girls and boys during meal times. Since there are around 200 of us, it takes some time to get to the front of the line. As the volunteers usually eat last, we finally arrived at the front. As I was scooping my rice, a staple here, I felt something pecking at my shoulder...Someone had brought the NPH parrot, I think Tio Paco's, the same parrot I thought was a kid for the longest time...Well, he decided to hang upside down and surprise everyone who invaded his space. If you know me, you know I am afraid of birds. Just the feel of them, and that large beak...they really scare me. I was frightened. I made it safely past the large and green bird that sounds like a little kid. Life here is really exotic I remind myself. Life is never dull either.

Other fun activities this month included the tio/tia dinner. Now, as communication always goes haywire here, we had to have the dinner the same night as the tio/tia meeting, meaning a late start. So, that meant that dinner didn't start until 9:30pm, only to have the same food we already ate for dinner earlier. Someone at the bodega messed up the communication flow. One thing you will learn if you ever serve in Nicaragua or NPH is that communication is key and you need to perfect this art because something usually goes wrong, especially with the weekly bodega where we get our food for the week. That explains why when I requested cookies for Valentines Day, I got crackers, and they even weren't for me! But back to the tio/tia dinner, I think I fell asleep and I didn't help with the decorations or food because I was too tired. However, being the great group of volunteers we were, the others made flowers out of construction paper for the walls and tissue paper flowers with those fun furry cleaning pipes for stems for the tables. For desert, we had chocolate with bananas. We ended around 11pm, only to have to clean up and manage to get some sleep before we had to get up really early the next morning. However, the tio/tia dinner was a great way to get to know these locals. I believe there are only two volunteers, from Germany and Holland who serve as tias, as the rest are purebred Nicaraguans. They have the inside knowledge and I was happy to learn about who they know, where they go on break, as now I have a whole network of connections to the locals in Nicaragua, as they have family and friends all over the country. NPH is great like that. They take people from all over the country into one place. NPH is diverse within Nicaragua, as someone knows someone else, who knows someone else. On top of that, NPH is in 8 other countries in the region, making NPH a huge network! I am glad to be apart of this network.

If any of you remember, the eclipse was amazing. Now, as this is often a rare site to see, what was even more rare about this one was the formation of the three stars around the moon. The three lucky stars formed a triangle next to the moon. This specific formation about these stars only happens about once in a thousand years. We were witnessing something that no one in my generation will ever witness! Perhaps we as a planet may not last another 1000 years. How amazing it was to witness a marker in history, the night of the eclipse and stars. As the dark orange and red moon painted the sky for all of us, others were still enjoying the party. Marlon, the national director for NPH, visited and whenever he visits, we all eat together in the ranchon and have a party. Nicaraguans sure like to throw celebrations! We had ice cream as well and I was glad to pass mine off to a kid who could have dairy. More sugar, sure! The dance group also gave a performance. The kids are really supportive of their peers and were really encouraging. I felt the excitement of the crowd as the dance group did their thing. Good for them, to feel a great sense of pride in what they are doing. It brought back the days of my drum corps experience, when you would get that rush of adrenaline from a great crowd and a wonderful performance.

As Marlon is only here once in a great while, he has meetings with everyone. We moved our meeting to Thursday night, our dinner night, and he would be invited. That night came and when I arrived for our small and quiet dinner, I instead saw a large party of people I did not know. The directors were all there, but we had another surprise. A few NPH Guatemala volunteers, along with their German friends, came. Being the small country it is, they met Georg and Ann, in our group, in Leon at the Big Foot Hostel when they were traveling. As they were on vacation or for one of them, done with their year of service, they decided to make a stop here. How fun! I was disappointed to not find the English teachers from their group, as they have a recognized English program and three teachers to run it. Here, it is just me. So, I couldn't network. However, it was nice to hear about NPH Guatemala, a larger organization than in smaller Nicaragua. It was also comforting to know how small the world really is. Just when you think you are alone, you find someone else connected to you in some way! However, the cooks had to unexpectedly make double the amount of food. I don't think it was unappreciated, as we had garlic bread, salad, onion soup, pasta and to finish it off, brownies and cake with fruit! We had to clean up as usual and then Marlon ran our meeting. As he likes to talk a lot, as do many Nicaraguans, the meeting went on forever. I don't think it was shorter than two hours! However, it was good to have that personal connection with the national director. He is not some man that we don’t know. Instead, he has become someone we have learned to know and trust. I had a vacation to go on tomorrow...and get some sleep before the 6am ferry. Managua, here comes Michelle!

I had decided that this descansio, or break, I was going to work. Jayden, one of the directors for Casa Santiago, asked me to help get visas for the dance group going to the states, specifically Chicago and MN. As I have been working with these kids, teaching them English, I am also from the great state of MN and being a volunteer, my presence would be invaluable. I would sleep at one of three NPH homes in Managua with sister Phyllis. What is great about doing business with NPH is that transportation is taken care of. At 5:30am, the volunteers, some tios and tias, as well as the pequenos doing their year of service (they get breaks and stipends too) all piled into the back of the truck. These rides are really the favorite part of the trip, as you get to ride in the back of a truck, letting the wind whip through your hair, while watching the sun peak on the island. If you want a better view, just look behind you at the two volcanoes, as they look haunting in the early morning. This particular trip to the ferry was jammed pack and even pequenos giving a year of service from Casa Asis were heading back, as they went to the island to have a meeting with Marlon. We were 12 in this small truck and it was fun riding with my family, as we always have a good time. Because it takes time to pick everyone up in the morning, we missed the first ferry. We took the first launcha instead. I went with Jayden to the office. While there, I met up with many great people from the office. You also get fed and the food here is healthier and better than it is on the island. Don't ask me why that is. So, we were treated. We saw Nicole, head of construction from the states and the other national director Raul. Raul overheard me talking to 7 year NPH Nica volunteer Maria, who is now building houses for the poorest of Nicaragua, about visiting the jail in Granada or immigration in Managua. I remembered those African refugees from immigration that NPH picked up. Ever since, I thought it would be humbling to visit the center or the jail and bring soap to the others in those cells. I wanted to interact with the people considered lowest in society, the killers, and the rapists. I wanted to love them, let them know I cared. Raul, being the man he is, a perfect man to carry on the work of Father Wasson, founder of NPH, offered to drive Maria and I. He saw a need and a desire from my end, and putting the two together, tried to make it happen. I had to decline, telling him I had to go to the embassy with Jayden. On official business, I drive with Jayden and Anna, the social worker for NPH Nica. She is the woman responsible for finding the kids and determining if they are a good fit for NPH. She is very important for our mission. Being in the car was also fun, as now that NPH is my large extended family, we had a good time.

About two hours later from San Jorge, we arrive in the city of Managua, the city I once used to dislike very much. But, now that I know people from here and am more comfortable taking in the complete chaos of the city, learning to appreciate its little quirks, I really like it. I am also much more emotionally guarded from its poverty. It is always a comforting feeling to be here actually. After living on the island, I am now in the capital of goods, of resources. I see green grass, cars, TV's, large supermarkets...Although it is no Minneapolis, Managua offered fun, goods, and resources. It will have to make do for now, that is until I return back to MN and live in downtown.

We arrived at Casa Santa Clara, situated south of the neighborhoods of Martha Quezada and Bolonia, passing the hip places of Zona Las Palmas. Sister Phyllis greeted us with her 20 girls, all university students. I automatically felt at home here, as it was a real home, smaller than the dormitories the kids enjoy now on the island. The girls automatically became my sisters and as they were closer to my age, we could enjoy stuff together, like telenovelias, karaoke, and painting nails while having girl talk. I was shown my sleeping quarters, a room set apart from the others, in a quiet corner of the large house. Sister was very generous to me. After the meal, sister, Jayden, and I left for the embassy.

The ride down the familiar street of Carretera Masaya led us to the new embassy. I felt like I was going to a palace here in Managua. In fact, it was like being back home. Beautiful parking lots, sidewalks with green green grass, and a new big building brought civilization back into view. I felt at home seeing the American flag blowing high in the wind. Seeing one piece from back home, even a flag, or being back in civilization, what just what the doctor ordered. Just a word of advice, don't go to the embassy alone, as it is often confusing on where to park, where to go, etc. We had to find a specific department of the palace. Once inside, I was greeted with sparkly clean tile floor, a cable TV playing in English and air conditioning. Man, I was in heaven. Not being successful with our visas, we left sad and disappointed that we may not get the visas in time. Jayden considered taking a more personal approach, inviting the woman we talked with to come to the island to see the kids perform. We all thought that the people at the embassy should smile more; too many grumpy people. I told him that perhaps when I was out that night, I could find out where all the workers hang out as to try to convince them to help us...We had to joke to ease the situation on our hands. These kids need their visas to travel and it would crush their spirits if they couldn’t go to the states, for some the only chance they will ever have.

Back at the house, Jayden left right away. However, this was my home for the night. I took a long nap and after that, graded quizzes for 2 hours...As I gave my first quiz to all my students that past week, I also had to grade them. If you are ever a teacher, you will understand the pain it is something to grade all those tests. However, it gave me a very clear picture of where some students were at in terms of their progress. Grading the quizzes that were complete failures, or zeros, made me feel like a failure. However, I have to remember that I can only do what I is partially up to the students if they want to succeed or not. I look at it as a team: Me, along with the students, work together to make a success.
One really good quality about myself if that I really believe in people, especially people close to me, and that included my students. When they throw something away, something that could have been very successful if only they fought for it, I am almost crushed. So, this year I am trying to be a little emotionally distant in that field, not being too sad if students want to throw an education away. While grading the quizzes, I was also very happy to see the ones who succeeded. It is because of those students that I know learning can be successful, given the right ingredients. I knew I had to work, as later that night I had another surprise coming up. One of my good friends from Managua would be taking me out.

Getting many phone calls saying they would be another 10 minutes, another 30 minutes, Nican time started to kick in. Tonight, we were invited to a house party. The drive there was not complete without a stop to the gas station, the good old Stop N' Go. Along the way, being asked for car washes and to buy candies from kids really touched my heart. After working with NPH for a few months now, my perspective towards kids has really grown. My heart is learning to be more loving towards these little ones. I am also learning that each one is special and lovable. My friend was happy to buy this little one hot soup. While he was doing that, I got the chance to talk to him. If only he knew about NPH or another organization, so he wouldn't have to brave the streets. I heard the stories of our kids at NPH, the horrors of an abusive family, or living on the streets while being starved and beaten up. I knew this little one was experiencing the same things. It broke my heart. As we left him with his cup of hot soup, I only hoped that he would have the hope to keep on living and that he would find his way to a better place.

We arrived at the house party, just off of Carretera Masaya, the main road of Managua. It was nice to be with my friends, one of whom I last saw over a year ago! When you reunite with good people, it is always a good feeling. This party was very nice, as I was in the presence of people I liked and respected. It was very different than the crowd of San Juan del Sur in the bars. I was among the educated and top 10% of the country tonight, and not only that, I was around people I felt comfortable around and that I knew. It felt great. I was sitting in the large driveway of this house...a house. This doesn't happen all the time, especially for me, living on the island, far from civilization, with the lower 90% of the country. The differences were so contrasting and for the first time in many weeks, I felt at home here. I didn't want the little get together to end! Having great conversations and also about my perceptions of the country on the island, being from MN, the night passed away. The only thing missing here were the bright stars, something the island does a great job at.

After the little get together, I was taken out to one of the hippest clubs in Managua. Having connections and an in into the top 10% of the population, you get a feel for how they live and it is nice. Being shown around, I met more friends. One thing that really stuck out here in Managua was that more people are lighter skinned and have lighter hair, most having some English as well. I guess this is a living example of rich white settlers who mix in with the gene pool, resulting in lighter toned people. This night was the medicine I craved, as the only people I see out of NPH are poor dark skinned people. It is not bad, just very different, enough to notice. There were still more plans to sing karaoke that evening, but being that they were full, I still had to get back to sister, as she was probably waiting for me. The evening was the best ever, the funnest time I have had since coming to Nicaragua, definitely up there with my trip to Laguna de Apoyo and Leon with the group. I just think that when you are with the right people, those are the trips you remember the best.

Being dropped off at 2:30am, probably the first time this year that I have actually stayed out late to party, sister let me in. The next day, after helping with the morning chores, I was taken out again by my friends. Being picked up, I bought a cell phone. I am now connected! Being the great friends they are, they bought me a steak dinner, which they brought back to the Samper house, the family I know. The last time I was in this house was in January, after I just arrived. Only this time, I wasn't sick and dirty, as in January, I was without luggage and shower and clean clothes for three days. This time around at the house, there was a new addition: little Claudia! After seeing pictures of her, seeing her in person was ever better. What a precious little girl and she already had her ears pierced. I held her for the two hours I was there. It was very nice. Being an extended member of their family, it was nice to be back in luxury and in company of great people. When I was done holding her, I had the opportunity to play Nintendo Wii. Although my Guitar Hero ability was less than satisfactory, I had fun. I also had access to chocolate in their fridge and when I was tired, a large comfortable couch to sleep on. These were luxuries I don't have here on the island. Chocolate here is harder to find and more expensive.

After my wonderful afternoon, it had to end. I was off to Leon, alone, to meet another volunteer already there and to connect with a non-profit called MN Project Leon. After being with people all weekend, being taken care of, I now had to brave the bus station by myself. I arrived in Leon by night, and alone. I flagged down a taxi and arrived at the Via Via where Birgit was sleeping. Finding there was no space, I slept instead across the street at the Big Foot. Being here alone was lonely because the last time I was here, I was with all the other volunteers. I was happy that I had Birgit across the street. That night, the Via Via was having a special tango performance by two Argentineans. It was beautiful! We had front row seats too! The next morning, I switched over to an open room at the Via Via. This was also the day I was off to meet MN Project Leon.

We met at church at 8am. The long walk there on the other side of town, was not complete without cat -calls from men. Afraid to yell at them since I was alone, I gave them dirty looks instead. I finally arrived at the quaint and small church of St. Sebastian’s. Every time I come across a church, I am at home. They bring a feeling of peace and tranquility for me, especially the Catholic churches, with their high ceilings and many works of art. The plan was to travel to Masaya and Catarina that day, to shop at the markets. Susie, the MN coordinator living in Leon, drove us, along with her boyfriend from Leon and Carol, a board member of this non-profit.

It was a long two- hour ride, as I just came from Managua...only to come back the next day. We passed through the again familiar Managua landmarks and arrived in Masaya. I was in Masaya also a year ago too, and the thing I remember about this place was the old palace that served as the market. It was a comforting feeling to be back. The same was true in Managua, Granada, and San Juan, and now Masaya. You remember certain landmarks and when you see them again, even more than a year later, it is really comforting. Often times, you arrive back to those landmarks with a different purpose and with a different agenda or with different people, but they are still there as well as the memories that go along with them.

Today, we were shopping for a fundraiser in MN for the non -profit. We would purchase these goods here and make a profit off of them for MN Project Leon. It was fun seeing all the stuff you could buy, everything from shoes to candy to furniture, all at different price ranges. I bought a dress here, a gift to myself, as I needed a cotton dress for Nicaragua. We got a lot of good items for the auction and it was nice meeting Susie, who I ran into the last time I was in Leon last month with the group, on accident. I was also here with Carol, who I met through my uncle in MN, when I first expressed interest in Nicaragua. She got me connected with MN Project Leon as well as Bluefields and Pearl Lagoon, two other cities in Nicaragua. She is connected and I really like people who are connected with others. So, this meeting of ours was really nice, as it offered me a chance to get out of Leon with some Minnesotans, network a little, and shop! I suggested getting connected with the local Rotaract or Rotary clubs of MN, as they are very connected in Nicaragua. So, helping out Carol getting connected with other non-profits was great, as I hope to do the same with NPH Nicaragua. It is hard though, as a lot of my time and energy is spent here at my job. I cannot be out in other cities, spreading the word, visiting other non-profits all the time. Perhaps after my service here when I have more time. In Nicaragua, it's all about whom you know so this sort of thing is very important, if you ever want to live in Nicaragua long-term. The day wasn't complete without a day trip to Catarina, a city on a hill, which overlooks the Laguna de Apoyo as well as Volcano Mombacho in Granada. Nicaragua is amazingly beautiful, this land of volcanoes. Driving back to Leon, we had to make a stop to Managua for one of Carol's meetings. Hello, Managua, I have seen you three times this weekend! Long time no see!

We finally arrived back in Leon and I enjoyed my night at the Via Via, a much classier and cleaner hostel than the Big Foot. Basked in this Spanish ambiance, I enjoyed my clean and pretty room and met some great people traveling around Nicaragua.
The next day, after my hearty breakfast by the garden, I went back to the island myself, as Birgit was staying later and not going back to the island. I braved the buses by myself, getting tossed around. In Leon, I got on the wrong bus to the bus terminal, having paid for nothing, but he gave me my money back. Now on the right bus, a plastic covering on the back of a semi, I almost forgot to get off at the terminal, as the bus was stopping at others spots. From there, a bus to Managua. From Managua, a bus to Masaya. From Masaya, a walk across a highway to find a shabby bus terminal and from there I had to flag down a bus to Rivas. It waited a half hour, until there was a bus to Rivas. At this point, there was standing room only, and I was tossed around and uncomfortable for two hours! On top of all this, the live commercials wanted to get on, and at this point I had it. Here we are on the bus, trying to survive. I cannot move and am so uncomfortable and a woman selling tortillas wants me to move so she can sell her stuff? You have got to be kidding me! This is one thing I really hate. On top of this, I paid just as much for this ride from Masaya as I could from a different terminal in Managua, have gone direct, and gotten a seat. Instead, I took an expensive UCA microbus to Masaya and flagged down a bus on route to Rivas...The other option would have taken less time and money, and on top of it, I had a 2:30 ferry to catch.

Arriving in Rivas, alone, I was a target for expensive taxi rides. Knowing how much to pay, I would not accept the 100 Cordoba offers that people were offering. This is what is hard being by yourself: It is good for taxi's if there is a group going to the same place, because the price is often reduced. These are taxi collectivos, or collective taxis. Since I was by myself, my taxi driver had to find others going there to get the same price. However, this situation was made better by running into my taxi friend Henry, who I met in San Juan. I think he has become my regular. He picked up a few friends too, and gave them free rides. If you are in his good side, you get free taxi rides once in a while, nice! We rushed to the 2:30 ferry only to find it had gone! I was too late! I would have to wait an hour until the next launcha. To kill time, I went to the office of tourism in San Jorge where Karla worked. We hung out and it is nice to know her. I can watch TV and relax a bit. She told me that on her vacation, she went to Playa Charco Verde and found NPH! I told her I was on vacation. But, now with my cell phone, we could connect if she was ever in the area.

On the launcha, I meet two of my students, giving a year of service, also coming back from descansio. Dayda and Mayorga were on the 3:30 ferry. Back in Moyogalpa from a rough ride, because the winds were so high, we had to take the bus. Every other descansio, I have been lucky to run into one of the directors who have a truck waiting. This time, the bus would have to do. Mad because the gopher guy wouldn't accept my bill with a little rip, the girls later told me that it was a good bill, but since I was a tourist in his eyes, I got picked on. This is what I hate about my white skin. I told them that next time, they have to stand up for me when they see injustice! Good thing I had other money.

Being back home was wonderful and I still had more work to do. I didn't get to bed until late that night, tired from the wonderful descansio, probably the best one. Although I was alone and a target for people who want to rip me off, I enjoyed making my own decisions and leaving when I wanted to. And, I got to see the Sampers, a comforting feeling when my own family was miles away. I really miss them but look forward to the day we can see each other again.


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