Making A Life

Published: September 25th 2008
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Look at how big we are!Look at how big we are!Look at how big we are!

Dressed to impress, we walked to church for the baptisms.
Greetings again, from extremely hot and humid Ometepe Island, Nicaragua. Although it is 5 months into the rainy season, this month has been extremely dry. I am in a dripping sweat by the time I reach school and by the end of my duties there, I can’t even stand the smell of me, because I am sweating so much. Showers are now routinely extended to at least 2 a day, or I cannot function, let alone breathe. But, before the shower, I have to sit through a lunch, which is normally a hot meal including rice. I eat the hot rice, grateful for the tasty food I have been waiting all morning for, but uncomfortable on how much more hot it makes me feel. At least the children have time to change and relax before lunch; I clean my classroom and slowly walk to lunch, usually one of the last to arrive. When Kenya, our maid, cooks on a hot day, you stand in the kitchen miserable, because you are just so uncomfortable. And, its too bad that most food is hot and spicy here in a very hot region of the world…it’s an irony my body has had to get

One of the most beautiful moments so far was this baptism. The family gathered to see 20 kids being baptized. I felt honored to witness this event as my little kids took a step in faith.
used to.

You don’t have to guess that a lot has gone on internally and externally from my last post because it has. I continue to learn every day and it never ceases to amaze me. Like I mentioned before, I think I should hire a personal writer to record down all my thoughts and revelations about life, religion, and my relationship with the kids. My hand can’t keep up and at the end of the day. I am as dead as a log, getting tired around 8:30pm internally, but not being able to get to bed until 10 due to lesson planning.

I was telling Sana today that I have gotten so used to my quiet and secluded life on the island that I forget that there is an outside world, one in Nicaragua, and an even bigger one back home. I have loving family waiting for me with open arms, friends, and lots of good socializing to get back to. I have things to do, people to meet, and a life to live that does not include NPH. I have been here so long I forget what good socializing is like, let alone good music, what
A Formal DinnerA Formal DinnerA Formal Dinner

I am pretty sure Juan Ramon was meant to be a model. I do not think anyone else can mimik his look!
emotional balance feels like when you naturally have your close friends on hand to help you out, what hot water feels like, access to resources and clean feet. At least Liselot, another volunteer here, plays classic music that makes me feel closer to sophistication to help us both out in this regaetton world. My feet have been dirty since the day I arrived and now they exist as a very normal part of me. However, I am trying to remind myself that this life is not normal for me, that this is just a journey in passing. I am not accustomed to this type of life and that is probably why it has taken me a long time to adjust to Nicaraguan customs and the life of living with kids 24 hours a day, 10 days at a time. If I arrived from the outside like I did, and was expected to keep this as my life, I would go crazy. That’s why it is easier to be dissatisfied. However, some of these kids know nothing else outside of NPH. I guess what they don’t know cannot hurt them. But, also because of this, I see it as my duty

Yubran and Geovanny are two of my best students. And, I was here to congratulate them on all their hard work.
to educate them to the best of my knowledge about the world, to teach them that Costa Rica is a country, not a city, and about other cultures, even about their own country of Nicaragua.

A Trip Down Memory Lane
I still miss home and it is hard to imagine that a full year is about to pass, in only 3.5 months! The cold January morning in Minnesota, pitch dark, seems like yesterday, when the plane whisked me away to hot and humid Managua, a foreign yet strangely familiar land for me. Lot’s happened on the island, the bulk of my life, and now the group is preparing to leave! Although it has happened in a blur, some moments seem to stand out more than others.

One of them was my time with the little girls. It was a Saturday night and we just finished celebrating the death of Father Wasson, the founder of NPH. They were playing outside and I just sat and admired their free spirits. They were so full of laughter and I was reminded of how free my life was at that age, before you have more responsibilities and things to worry about,
Caught in the momentCaught in the momentCaught in the moment

The reason why I love this photo is that it captures the full delight of being a kid and goofing around. Look at how real these smiles are! We were having a beach party.
unfortunately. They were dancing the Nicaraguan folk dances just like the NPH dance group does. It was fun to see them mimic every move, as they look up to the older kids in the dance group. But, they were having the time of their life and nothing else mattered more than that moment for them. Their free spirits really lifted me and I danced with them. I was having so much fun! I left thinking that is how I want to spend my life, having fun and just letting myself go. No need for worries that do nothing but make you miserable. So, good thing I work with kids. They teach me the importance of staying a kid at heart.

These moments don’t just happen with the younger kids. When I am not disciplining my high school students, we have a wonderful time, as we can relate more as equals and I don’t need to keep my high energy up in my kid voice as I do with the little ones. I remember when some NPH Honduras men from University came for a visit, and the older girls went absolutely crazy! As a way of inviting them into their
An Interesting Pair...An Interesting Pair...An Interesting Pair...

A ghekko hung out by the big moth on our wall for some time. The ghekkos eat the bugs even though they make scary noises and often fall from the celing.
homes, we had a large salsa dance party, which I was thrown into naturally, as they like to pick on me a lot. During dinner, seeing the shy smiles on their faces reminded me of young high school romances. I will never forget the looks on their faces when I was having a long conversation with one of the boys. Perhaps they wished they could communicate without feeling silly as I did.

I will remember the faith talks with the older boys about Buddhism, Hinduism, and the role of religion in marriages. As faith is something very important to me, I was glad that they were open to at least discussing faith and religions in general. It makes me happy to know that their minds are thinking critically.

However, there are some things I will happily forget, such as the many power failures, my favorite being when mass last week was spent half in the dark. The lights gave out every other minute or so, giving it a feeling of a dance club more than a church for the flickering of lights all the time. Since it was so hot, every time the fans went out, I could

This is what rudely woke me early one morning. My lips went numb...
feel the sweat dripping down my back, only to be cooled off when the lights temporarily went on, teasing me. I was told that all of Moyogalpa was also out for half the night. In a good week, we only have a few power outages. Just yesterday, the power went out right before dinner, preventing all of us from enjoying a normal meal. I stayed at the house and ate by candlelight with all the others. It was actually a nice change and kind of fun. The power came on an hour and a half later. I don’t even know what the kids did during dinner or how they managed since everyone always goes crazy at night when the power fails…our director said they should experience more of these outages, as they would get a glimpse of life for normal Nicaraguans. At NPH, we are spoiled to own a generator when the power fails. However, even our generator has been out. The next day, the Internet cut from San Jorge and the island for half the day. Since then, Internet has gone in and out…that is why this entry is very late. These things seems to more frequent and are not pleasant to the already rising prices in fuel and food.

And this brings me to the bugs. I will happily forget the many times I have heard screams coming from outside or inside the rooms, mostly because of a scorpion. Sana beat us all when she smashed the poor thing and out came scorpion babies. I thought I was too lucky to miss the vicious things, but last week, I was finally bitten, when I least expected it! At 5am, I was rudely awaken by a strong bite on my neck. I naturally put my hand up to stop it, only to be bitten on my finger! When I finally turned on the light, I saw the deadly thing. My mouth soon became tingly and eventually numb, most likely the venom or poison. I consider myself lucky, as some people get really sleepy or cannot function with the pain. I trotted to school 20 minutes later, hardly affected the rest of the day.

Band Camp…Oh the Joys…and Nicaraguan Independence Day
I started a new initiative in the band program at NPH. I added a flag line to the already existing drum, dance, and gymnast lines. I started knowing it would be difficult, as these kids do not take direction well. Getting them to listen instead of interrupting others like most Nicaraguans do was a challenge, let alone stopping them from yelling so much! This is one thing I notice about Nicaraguans: they LOVE to talk, gossip, and talk over others. This presented a large challenge for my already difficult kids. For two long months, we started practicing. First came the difficult process of obtaining the poles. Originally, the carpenters made some for me; they all broke the first practice…so, we practiced with broken poles. A month later, I was inspired to use the poles of the brooms. I secured 6 of them and used one from my classroom. For this reason, I didn’t sweep my classroom for a month and it started to smell like rotten eggs…Anyways, Then it was deciding on who to pick, as many wanted to join. I finally carefully selected 6 girls. I taught basics and some routines. However, when it came closer, we started having full practices with the whole band. Unfortunately, I had to be away for 2 whole weekends. It was hard to trust my flagpoles with the girls, but they ended up using them responsibly while I was away. Further, they make a full routine with the music, something they changed while I was away. Being a little mad at first, I was relieved, since their routine was much more simple and therefore looked nicer. On top of that, they decided to invite another girl, without my permission. In the end, she was a good fit. That is why I had to use the broom from my classroom and therefore wasn’t able to clean for some time. The girls formed a tight-knit group, spending all their time together. This was especially pleasing, as some of these girls don’t usually hang out together. I was pleased with how things were going.

A week before the big two days of Independence festivities, the kids used valuable classroom time to march. It was quite a strange site: 250 children marching around the school grounds…it looked more like military training than school. They also took time to practice during study hours in the afternoon. This would not cut it in the states, but in Nicaragua, the kids put a lot of value in practicing, even if it is the same thing
In the drainIn the drainIn the drain

The bugs are everywhere! We often find tons of them in the drain and on all our clean dishes.
over and over again.
The sewing ladies made adorable skirts for the big day. It seemed as if everything was in place, however, it wasn’t…Due to some error in communication, my girls were left out of the ordering process of new white tennis shoes that all other band members received. About a week before the show, I secured shoes for some and looked in San Jorge for others. The night before the show, girls were still missing shoes. One told me she already had some, but she forgot to mention they were black! That is a little detail she should have mentioned. She could have worn the shoes of the girl who quit, but they were completely different sizes…it was all a nightmare and such a mess and too late to search the office for her. Although I told my girls that I would look in the office for donated shoes as an option before buying, they set their hearts on new shoes. When I told them the disappointment that they had to wear the donated shoes, they were very upset. I think I would be too, as the kids hardly receive new things. Things were pretty ugly for some
In the soapIn the soapIn the soap

They even find solace in the soap! Eew!!! Imagine using this to clean your dishes...
time and half threatened to quit the day before the show. I felt miserable and the girls didn’t let up in letting me hear the end of it. Group morale was really low, as girls were quitting left and right. It was hard for me to pull everyone together, after using all my energy these past months in trying to get them to listen and try new things. However, they are new to the flag concept and perhaps next year, I can do more with them. I witnessed what happens when you set your heart on something (new shoes or a more experienced group) and it doesn’t happen…you are just left disappointed. So, I have learned to go with the flow; I hope the girls have learned the same. Change happens and that is okay.

Despite the low morale within the group and my failing energy and optism, something really beautiful happened the practice before the big show. Our leader, Maryluz, who I deemed the team captain, quit. She didn’t want to be seen as an embarrassment in her donated shoes. During rehearsal, I let her sit, not interfering. I wanted to go talk to her, but a little
Real FunReal FunReal Fun

Capturing innocence and real happiness. Bliss.
part of me said to leave her alone, let her make this decision. All the other girls practiced. After the first run through, all the girls ran up to MaryLuz with their arms wide open…they told her how much fun they were having and begged her to rejoin. It didn’t take long for her to change her mind. She ran with a huge smile across her face to be with the group. Before that, I was up to my head in frustrations. With all the threats of leaving for almost everyone and the ungratefulness for the donated shoes, I wasn’t in my usually peppy mood…there was nothing left in me to give. However, the moment I saw the team -work together, finally, in getting all its members together working for a common purpose, my heart leapt. I used this enthusiasm to finish rehearsal.

The last practice before the big day, the power failed. We all went to bed, scrambling to search around for things. It was more difficult, as my cell phone died and I relied on it for an alarm. I knew I couldn’t naturally wake up at 3am, which is when the girls would start getting up.
Flag GirlsFlag GirlsFlag Girls

I started a group of flags to the band. They are soo cute!!! We performed on September 15, Independence Day.
I slept for what I could until 3am and was out the door at 3:30. It was pitch dark out and the power still out. I made it to the homes while everyone was still sleeping, surprisingly. I expected the girls to be up by now…they awoke around 4am and in the dark and everyone seemed to get ready with no problems. I guess when you are used to power outages, you learn how to get ready in the dark. By the time the sun rose, they were able to do hair and makeup outside. I was dead tired, but I knew I couldn’t sleep. With no breakfast, we left in the big yellow bus to Moyogalpa for the parade at 8am. Today, we were celebrating an important battle essential to its independence the next day.

We lucked out…it was over-cloudy for the whole afternoon! The parade was amazing, as all the locals turned up to watch. However, the kids were less than enthusiastic…they were tired and hot…this was uniform throughout all the schools participating. After listening to a speech for a few hours, we were finally ready for the presentations! Although it was only for 10 minutes, it
Pretty and frillyPretty and frillyPretty and frilly

They were dying in these dresses...
was wonderful. Three months of late night practicing and missing school time to march was paying off. However, it was over with in the blink of an eye. Further, there were not even trophies! I thought of all the stress this process has put the kids and me through, and for a 10-minute presentation with no trophies or competition? I was a little sad, but I have to remember that I am living in Nicaragua, not the USA.
Later Sana told me that parades in South America are the same: the children just want to be done. This parade lacked flare and free candy, but it was a parade nonetheless. The next day, the 15th, was the actual independence of 5 Central American countries from Spain: Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

School Times
I have served as NPH teacher for 8 months now, teaching primary and secondary school as well as the children giving their service, which means I have had the privilege of teaching all the kids at this house. I finished giving my first round of tests of second semester. This time, I only had 5 retakes, all for different reasons. With one of
La ElvaLa ElvaLa Elva

I could just squeeze this little girl! She is adorable and happens to be in my wonderful flag line.
my students who I thought received an unusually high score, I retested her abilities. To my surprise, she tested better the second time! Telling her this, she thought her grade would be a near perfect…She set her heart on this, as ranking is very important to her. She was left disappointed when I told her I averaged her two test scores, lowering her points by about 5. She was left disappointed. This is the second time this week I have learned why you should not set your hear on something when it is not set…because you will be left disappointed.
I have stepped away from the national curriculum completely; designing my own lesson plans that are better equipped for Nicaraguan culture and also fosters more speaking in class. With the lack of supervision, I am sure this is ok. At least the kids are learning and speaking more in my class. I don’t want my kids to be products of the book, being able to recite grammar rules. I would rather learn in a contextual way, learning grammar points through interaction and communication.

Saying Goodbye (A Bad Track Record)
I believe I mentioned before that our team had to
Red and whiteRed and whiteRed and white

Don't these costumes remind you of the movie "Bring It On?" The red stood out against cafe skin like black to white.
say goodbye to 4 volunteers. All left of various reasons. We also welcomed a German couple, but they had a very rough start. They came when all the volunteers were sick, me running a high fever. So, they were forced to stay in bed all day. On top of that, Nadine had a family emergency; her sister was hurt in a car accident and her dad was terminally ill. They bought a plane ticket to Germany, with the intent in coming back. However, we just received word that conditions with her dad were worse and they would not be coming back to Nicaragua. At least we had 3 more people joining our team in January. However, our future occupational therapist had a change in career suddenly and will now not be joining us. Since the time I have come here, about half of our team has left for different reasons prematurely before their year. Now, our future doesn’t look so good either, as those who come don’t last or change their minds. Times are tough here in Nicaragua and we can’t even manage to keep a healthy dose of volunteers. This will be hard with only 2 of us here
La IraniaLa IraniaLa Irania

This is also a little cutie. Although she may stand short for her age, she is ahead of her class in 7th grade. She has the type of face that automatically makes you smile.
from before and only 2 more coming…We will be en extremely small group. I find comfort n numbers, such as cities, so this will be the hardest for me.

A Hard Decision
Since May, I have been thinking about staying longer past my year. A little seed was planted that continued to grow through the end of June. However, a decision like this is not easily made. After I finally decided that this is what I wanted to do in August, I had to work in the system to get it approved. This took the longest and it was driving me crazy. On top of that, since I made my decision later, we already hired someone else for my role. However, the director assured me that there would be enough work to share. On top of that, I would be coordinating the incoming volunteers. This is a really exciting time to be in NPH, as half of us will be moving to the new property in Jinotepe in December. Nicaragua is hosting the big international meeting in February and in March, we will be celebrating our 15th anniversary. On top of that, I would be engrossed in different work that I find enjoyable, more time writing and documenting the life here than teaching which can give me a headache. I love being a teacher, but after my year here, I will only be volunteering my time to help teach English on Saturdays in Managua to the university girls. I had to wait for a meeting with the director, which never took place when he said it would; he left before I could meet with him. Then, he told our coordinator that I could stay, only for her to tell me that she never told me that. Finally, I brought myself over to the offices to meet with him personally to receive his approval. Then, I had to wait for the other 2 directors to approve 3 days later. By September 3rd, my decision was approved, finally. I would be staying 6 months past my year, leaving Nicaragua the end of June 2009. I momentarily thought of my time in Barcelona, Spain. Although I was just a semester student, I had the opportunity to stay for the summer, 3 more months, to finish my internship teaching Muslim women and children English. Unfortunately, I didn’t take them up on the offer,
Drummers, yeah!Drummers, yeah!Drummers, yeah!

These guys provide the heart and soul of the music.
as I already had plans for a summer job. However, looking back, I was mad for not seizing the opportunity. Now, the same decision is here, begging me to decide, although in a completely different time in my life and in a different context. NPH Nicaraguan farm is no exciting and glamorous European city, but I know that I will regret more what I didn’t do rather than what I did.

Part of me thinks I am crazy for doing this…everyone who comes here seems to leave. Heck, I live on a secluded island and am far from lots of things that give me comfort. Why would I stay longer? My team will be leaving me in January to get back to their lives while I stay back. They are my team, part of my life here, the support I rely on every day. Could I handle it? A lot of people were very helpful in helping me decide. They told me to seize the opportunities in front of me, especially if I got paid for it (I would be an employee after my year) and I could nurture my gifts here, which I can. On top of that, this would give me some more skills to take back home when the economy is a little shaky. My parents are very generous and will be paying for a plane ticket the end of February for me to come visit. If I can survive through February, will be only 4 more months after a nice long vacation home. After talking to Erik, who has been on this island for more than 2 years in Peace Corp, 6 more months is nothing…and he has been living by himself during his service. He is right…. six months in the grand scheme is nothing. Plus, I will be very busy with my new work and time will fly by. Six months will pass no matter what…I cannot stop time. The question comes then where do I want to be in 6 months?

A Time To Reflect
While the German couple was back home, the volunteers left for some time away. Karin and Georg would be joining us one last time before they took off. We were whisked away to Laguna de Apoyo, where our first volunteer reflection was. I was just over my sickness, so it was perfect timing, as were the others. On our way, we were caught in a flood. The road to the crater lake is hilly and steep and it was lightly raining. However, the rain turned worse until we reached a road that was impassable. We watched as the floods of dirty water zoomed past us. It was one of the coolest things I have seen here, besides the volcano exploding. We waited half an hour until the rain let up and we were able to pass, of course using the 4-wheel drive to get us up the hill.

The Laguna was as pretty as ever, however, we were here during the rainy season, a shark contrast from our time here in January when dry days were taken for granted. Now, we would have to wait for the sun to rise and the clouds to clear before swimming. The place we were staying at made up for it…we were at The Craters Edge, a fancier hostel. We were served really good food and in the morning, enjoyed an amazing buffet breakfast. Did I mention all you can eat?! Life at the orphanage is tough as you are served your portion, and that is all you get. Even at the house, our supply of food runs out. So, when someone tells me I can eat all I want, especially if it is good healthy food, I won’t turn that down. The weekend was enjoyed swimming and kayaking in the warm waters of this geothermal crater lake.

Nica TESOL, a conference for English teachers in Nicaragua, led me to Managua. It was here that I learned the lesson of communication. Up to the day before, I was informed that none of the other English teachers on the island were participating, so I was on my own to fund and find my way there. On the ferry, 5 more English teachers popped up. I was really surprised. We separated at the terminal. I flagged a taxi to take me to the NPH home. It was dark at this point and the lively music in the car put me in a sociable mood.

Bright and early, I arrived at the campus of UCA, even locating the correct bus route to get me there.
To my luck, I didn’t pay and decided to pay the day of. Good thing I did, because when we were registering, I found out the organization already paid for my group of teachers. If I had paid, I would not have gotten reimbursed. I had my stuff at the NPH house in Managua and that night was planning on going salsa dancing, which happened to be free, with Sana who was also in town. However, just as the opening ceremony was about to start, I was told that the organization already paid for my hotel and meals and it would be rude to not sleep there. So, I rushed onto the Nicaraguan buses, which I knew the number of my route. I ran to the house, grabbed my things, and got on the bus in the wrong direction before getting on it the right direction…I missed part of the beginning. However, I had a successful ride on the bus. What once seemed daunting was now necessary for me to accomplish if I wanted to make it somewhat on time to the conference.

That night, I was taken to the hotel, Hose of God, located in one of the worse neighborhoods in Managua. I was not able to leave, as crime is high and even cab drivers go there. We were there because it the cheapest hotel in Managua and the organization was not able to fund a nicer hotel. I was really antsy and disappointed, as I wanted so badly to get out that night and have a fun time at one of the nicest places in town on top of that enjoying free salsa dancing with Sana. These nights hardly happen and so when they come alone, I want to take advantage of them. I am like a small town farm girl and I only go to the big city every 3 months or so. I slept behind a barred hotel on a lonely Thursday night. I should have stood my ground and gone home to NPH. The hotel people wouldn’t have noticed I wasn’t there, as it was bunk bed style and the meals were there for who showed up. The only good thing to come from the night was meeting some other Peace Corp members participating in the conference as well. My hopes were raised when Kat, a member serving in Caracas, mentioned throwing a party with other Peace Corp members at her hotel Saturday night. Her parents paid for her to stay a night in one of
Check out these amazing flags!Check out these amazing flags!Check out these amazing flags!

Not to brag about my group or anything, but my girls shined, especially with their snazy flags! Go NPH!
the nicest hotels in all of Managua after the conference was over.

The conference was amazing and I am glad I sought it out! For the first time in 8 months, I felt connected. I now had connections and more resources. It was hard not to be happy. And, I met other foreigners serving as teachers in Peace Corp. We had presenters from the USA and cameramen documented the opening and closing ceremonies. The only downfall was meeting some macho men. Even in conferences like this one, I managed to find male teaches who were only interested if I had a boyfriend or not. I wasn’t expecting to find this type of behavior at a conference! I left Friday afternoon alone, happy to not be returning to the horrible hotel, which was more like a college dorm room. I waited in the rain for my bus. I correctly got on and off and found my way back to the home with no problem.
At this point, I was back in the NPH house. On Friday night, I hung out with my Managuan friends. It was nice being with them in this city as it holds more life than on
Check out her skirt!Check out her skirt!Check out her skirt!

This skirt was designed to twirl; Daniella makes sure to use it for its full potential. Those latinas sure know how to move!
the island. However, they sure like to talk a lot. This time, my time out didn’t include the famous Hipa Hipa or my usual company. However, it was good.

I spent Saturday exploring the city on foot and going to Metro Centro, minutes from the house. I shopped with the girls (University girls living at the house) who asked for escorts from the street. I am not sure if that was such a good idea. It’s funny how I am starting to act motherly whenever I am with the kids. I feel very protective of them and don’t like others to butt in. That HOT afternoon, I watched a lot of TV. Not having a TV, I miss once familiar programs such as Who’s Line Is It Anyways. That night, I went to get details for the Peace Corp party. However, communication never made full circle and I had to give up that option. My hopes raised when I received an email from Katherina, a former volunteer traveling in Nicaragua and Central America. She would be leaving for Germany the next day and was here for one last night. I called her to hang out. However, she was so bombarded with packing that she had no time! I would have called her Friday had I known, but the girls lied to me about the Internet being broken…Now I was too late. I spent the night cuddling up in the couch and reading a really good book about South America. At least being in the city gave me comfort. I liked listening to the cars and admiring all the shops within walking distance. These were treasures that life back on the island simply didn’t hold for me. At least in this point in my life, I am learning I am a city dweller. I like the life they bring and if they have a gorgeous skyline, like Minneapolis, I am happy. Perhaps the island was not the best choice for a place to live, but at least I can flock to the city whenever I want if I need some time away. If I lived and worked in the city, going out at night wouldn’t seem that much of a treat.

Sunday, I walked to the fruit stand, choosing fresh mangoes for breakfast. I have been warned about buying street food in some guidebooks, but here in Nicaragua, I need to do as the Nicaraguans do! I peacefully ate my mangoes while watching the traffic, actually a comforting site. It was fun to people watch and listen all around me. I followed a nun on my way back to the house to Iglesia del Carmen, a nice church minutes from the house. The mass brought a fresh sense of revival to my faith that afternoon. The sermon was preached with vigor and emotion, something my pastor does back home and something the NPH pastor is no expert at. The next day, I successfully found the route number to take me to Huembes Market. I had considered taking a taxi, but once I found out the bus route, I opted for that, still feeling confident from my last successful ride on the bus. It was a little difficult with all my stuff as I was thrown into the masses, standing in the middle and hanging on for life. However, it worked out just fine. Both times, I found nice people going the same direction as me and was able to follow them off the bus. I also suffered from an eye problem that likes to come and go, usually around the time I get sick. This weekend I had the sniffles since the University girls were sick and this affected my eye. By the time I located the bus to Rivas in Huembes, I was in tears…it was hard to deal with the men who demanded a tip…couldn’t they see I was obviously in pain? Guess not…It wasn’t until I got back home that I could actually relax and my eye got better and my body healthier.

It wasn’t until this weekend in Managua that I felt comfortable using taxis and buses. I proudly got on the bus, paid, and even got off when I was supposed to. I was becoming more independent in one of the most daunting cities in all of Nicaragua.

When I got back to the island, I found out that almost every one of the volunteers was in Managua at some point. And, I had no idea! Liselot was giving art classes, Sana was leaving from the airport early the next day for a vacation, and Georg and Karin (who both left NPH), along with Osmin, accompanied by Lola and Kiki were there renewing passports, for different reasons. Osmin was scheduled to fly to Germany but was stopped when he finally found out that his passport was 6 months expired! Oops! Georg had his luggage stolen when he was sleeping on the bus and was there to get a new passport as well before he and Karin could flock to Guatemala. Although my friends had left NPH, they were still popping up in the most random of places! Osmin shared the same flight to Germany with Katherina, a volunteer who left in June but stayed to travel throughout Central America. It’s a small word.

A Life Threatened
Things were back to normal after Managua and Independence Day celebrations. My roommate was out on vacation with her German friend who stayed with us for close to a month. I had the room to myself and it was great. I was cooking dinner when I heard the news: Ann and Suzi were back early. They met two nice women in Managua who agreed to take a taxi with them to Leon. It wasn’t until a half hour into the journey when the two men already in the taxi and the two women pulled out knives. Ann and Suzi were forced to give all of what they had or risk their lives. They threatened to kill them if they didn’t comply. This was especially disappointing for Suzi, as she had all her luggage with her. They were given 200 Cordoba, or $10 dollars, to leave quietly. I found them both shaken up and in tears when they returned. For Ann, she lost a lot of things too, as she was on vacation for 2 weeks with her friend. This scheme was obviously planned. The robbers took out $200 from Suzi’s bank account, along with all her things. She had nothing. The lesson to learn from this is to not talk to strangers, let alone take taxi rides with them. I thought about all the times I had arrived in Managua, alone, in one of the worst markers in town. All those times, I had either met my friends there or successfully flagged down taxis or buses. I guess I was lucky. However, just like with the scorpion bites, I shouldn’t consider myself too lucky. Danger could be lurking around any corner…

Living on the island is secluded, but at least it is safe. I find a lot of charm and comfort here. And, I have some things to look forward to: My mother will be visiting the end of October and I am going to be an auntie very soon, as my sister and brother in law are 6 days overdue on the arrival of their first child. On top of these things, I am engrossed into a book series by Stephanie Meyer about a vampire love story. So, if life calls for some time away, I can find it.

I love the jungle type atmosphere and the lush forests. I love being able to wear what I want or not worry if I am missing out on anything sociable, as it is easy to forget about the outside world when you are here. After a crazy time out and away from NPH, I forget what life is like on the farm. It’s funny how easily I adapt to my new surroundings. The first day back home is always hard…this time around, I felt really sad to be leaving the comfort of the city…however, after a few days to my life on the farm, and I am back in my busy life, forgetting how different it is here and finding comfort again. All the stress I find from being away on break comes to an end as soon as I am back in my own bed eating the food I want, not worrying about where I will eat or sleep or go out. I like the routine of being at home and just relaxing. I get back to my kids and find out that I do really miss them after being away for 4 days.


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