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Published: March 4th 2009
My parents were very generous is allowing me to come home after I decided to extend my service through the start of summer 09. In fact, I was ready for it. I had just said goodbye to my support system of volunteers in January; they had experienced the year with me through all the ups and downs. I still miss them. However, for every end, there is a new beginning. This would be my third consecutive January in Nicaragua, quite a remarkable thing for me.
I was now the jefe (leader) of our group of volunteers and we were welcoming in 2 new bees. On top of all that chaos, I was volunteering my time as the event planner's personal assistant, doing all the things that are little but very important in planning the biggest meeting of the year for NPH. And, the meeting was at the nicest all-inclusive resort in Nicaragua: Montelimar.
How I spent my last months in Nicaragua:
I left the office for the whole month of January, leaving my island home. I actually missed the kids, as I now worked at an office and had deadlines and computer work...it didn't offer the personal gratification
Herty and I
Mi hermanito and co worker, Herty
that working with kids did immediately. It was a whole different kind of energy. This was my first step towards civilization. Although San Jorge is in the middle of nowhere, at least it was on the mainland. I had full use of fast internet, a TV with news in my room, and at night I could go out to dinner with some of the other employees.
I came back for a few days to work on the island, packing my bags for my trip home in February, and taking care of everything I couldn't do at the office. I still had volunteers to help with, articles to write (you are out of the loop at the office and you don't get the scoop on news and children), and stuff to get done for the meeting. I went back to the office to work for more weeks.
After three weeks, I finally took a needed break, to my favorite city of Managua. I was able to go out with my friends and get more civilization there. I even got Tini lost (one of the new volunteers) on the way to the boy's home. Getting lost in HOT Managua is
I have a thing for beautiful beaches, especially at sunset
not really fun, as it isn't a friendly city. The buses can be fun but misleading if you don't know your way. While we were in town, we picked up the newest volunteer, Moniek.
After some orientation at the baby house, we headed back to the island. It felt really nice to be back. And, by this time, all the kids were back from vacation. They had been gone since the end of December. Feeling more connection with the older ones anyways, I welcomed their return. However, it was short-lived, as they would be leaving in 2 days to go to the new property, for good. It was honestly a hard time, having to say hello and goodbye in less than half a week. However, in this life, you got to learn to say goodbye quickly.
I left for the office the same day the oldest kids left for the new property. As we put our things in a pile waiting to be loaded, I became frustrated. One thing Nicaraguan's do not know how to do is to do things in proper order: exiting or leaving buses, loading or unloading things, etc. The sister at the monetary and
I waited in THE FRONT for the boys to lift our suitcases for us. However, as happens all the time, the kids had no notice of anyone else around them. The goal is to get your stuff on first, no matter what happens to your friends, even if you budge in line (actually, a line does not exist) in front of them. I just don't think some care. We were the last ones to get our suitcases on in the mess, and quite ironically, the last to receive our suitcases when the stuff was unloaded. If I teach the kids anything, perhaps it should be how to form lines, and then maybe how not to steal, lie, or throw garbage on their precious lands, all pet peeves of mine.
I tried to enjoy the ferry ride. It would be the last one in a long time, months. Thank the Lord. Those launchas get me sick! I was watching the kids, most of them sad. They were leaving their island home and starting over on new land, unknown land. I was sad for them too, as the island is like a little Eden for all of us. This was also
You gotta have fun once in a while, although your work is tiring
my last real moment with the kids.
I arrived at the office with the kids. We found my suitcases at the bottom of the heap and I unloaded into my office home. After less than a week here, I was off to Montelimar, one of the nicest resorts in Nicaragua. Although I was the personal assistant and life was hectic, it was a world away from NPH.
The meeting was fun, yet busy. I sometimes did not get the chance to eat any meals. We planners were up early and late to bed. We were in paradise, but had no time to enjoy it. I was often crabby and tired, not too good to be. The craziest request I got all week was to pet sit worms. Apparently, a biologist was participating who brought down worms from the Dominic Republic. She needed me to safe care for them while she took a trip. I remember packing up for the night, accidentally leaving the worms out. Halfway to dinner, I realized this. I turned around, making the 6 minute walk back to the lobby. If the cleaning team noticed this, they would surely throw the box away. And, this
Worms from the DR
These are the worms I spoke about...I had to babysit them. Well, I dropped them...oops.
woman would be devastated. I put them under our special table and went back to dinner, laughing at myself for making a special trip just to make sure the ants were okay. The next morning, Tecla (the event planner) watered their box. I picked it up to move it and the bottom fell through. All the dirt and ants were on the marble floor. We got a new box and when the owner came back to pick up her little ones, I didn't say a word...
I had a new room practically every night, because of a cancellation. Moving rooms every day was exhausting but kind of fun. When I couldn't eat, I made friends with the French man who set up shop next door to NPH. He was selling beach front property at El Gran Pacifica. With my all-inclusive wrist band, I was at least able to have some things to drink and lots of cups of popcorn. So, good drink, food, and company. I couldn't complain. I even met up with the 15 other Minnesotan's at the meeting. For my birthday, well, a day after my birthday, they took me out to dinner and sung to me. It
was great to be in such good company.
The day after the meeting was over, I was finally able to relax. I could eat dinner without worrying about which tasks I had to complete. In fact, I was able to swim in the huge pool and order snacks from the pool side bar. I walked over the casino and enjoyed the views of the ocean and the beautiful beach. That evening, I was even able to dance some and didn't have to worry about what time to get up. My night ended with a dating proposal by one of my Latino friends....not so pleasant. However, I was happy that this would be the last of this male stuff until I came back. It's just funny how Latino men have a hard time being friends with any girl. Early on the 18th, I loaded the bus with 4 other participants and off we were to the airport. Home sweet home!
The meeting was good professional growth and I was able to connect with MANY people connected with NPH, not only in Central and South America, but the Caribbean, Western Europe, and the States. NPH is one HUGE family. Gaining
NPH's very own dance group performed for mass at the meeting
a view of the other side of the NPH operation, I was grateful to have my perception expanded.
In the states
I was so happy to be boarding that plane in the Managua airport. I was finally going home! I had dreamt about this, lost sleep over this, and now it was finally happening.
The flight to Houston was great, except that I was expecting a movie. Oh well. Just the thrill of being on a plane was exciting enough. It reminded me of how lucky I am to be traveling...our kids at the orphanage would never be able to comprehend riding on a plane. I was happy knowing that traveling is a luxury I should be very grateful for.
The airport in Houston was huge. The first thing I did was use a toilet that had automatic flush. And, it took me a while to find out that I didn't have to deposit the toilet paper in the trash can...it could just go right on down! Walking 30 minutes through the airport, even using the train to get to the next terminal, were all little pleasures that reminded me that I was back in the good
Representatives from the fundraising office in St. Paul
old USA. The only hold-up was the man who had to give an eye scan and fingerprint at customs. Good thing they don't do that to everybody.
I didn't expect the plane to Mpls to be as small as the ferry boat, but it was. Actually, I think it was smaller. I walked on, ducking my head as I found my little seat in this 60- seater plane. Delta Express it was dubbed. As small and uncomfortable it was, I was happy to be in the presence of my type of folk, whom I presumed to be mostly Minnesotan. What was nice about riding in a small plane was that it couldn't reach a high elevation. This meant I had a wonderful birds-eye view of the beautiful earth below the whole way. And, to make matters even better, we arrived in Mpls/St. Paul earlier, so we had to fly around for 15 minutes to kill time. This offered amazing views of my home, the skyline. I even saw my mom's work in Bloomington! I practically freaked out when I could pick out the Cub Foods (not sure which one, but, hey, it was one of them). I was back
I know I shouldnt play favorites, but, Johanna is one of my favorites in the home. Shes my younger sister.
in my home and I was happy. I didn't even mind the snow crystals forming on my window. I was just happy to be here.
I got downstairs to baggage claim, my heart beating. My parents were waiting for me, with a bunch of balloons in hand, for my birthday of course. It was a feeling of bliss and happiness to hug them, especially my father who I haven't seen in over a year!
They had my winter jacket as we got my bags and were off.
My first impressions:
The highways were clutter-free and full of cars. I wasn't used to the views off the highways; usually they are full of homeless children and families living in poverty. However, I was in Minnesota, The United States. The cold air offered a crisp tingling for my skin.
Being home brought the familiar smells and looks. I ran upstairs and felt like a queen. We are rich compared to the rest of the world. I opened the fridge and ate the strawberries, which do not grow in Nicaragua. My father could not stop snapping pictures. I unpacked my suitcases, gave my parents their late and early
24 hours prior to leaving
The day before I left for MN, this is the last memory I have of life in Nicaragua...in February in my swimsuit!
birthday gifts: Flor de Cana and a nice necklace. My clothes were soaked by Nicaraguan humidity and they smelled. Later, we found that the mold could not be removed and I was forced to throw them out.
I immediately got phone calls from friends and started making arrangements to go out dancing. However, I first had to take a test drive run to see if I could drive again. And, to my surprise, I adapted well; it was like riding a bike.
The next day, I drove to see my older sister and new nephew. He was precious. I spent all day with him and my sister. It was hard knowing I had lost so much time with him, but he trusted me very quickly. I ate a whole jar of my sister's hummus, Deena's Gourmet. You can find it in Lund's and Mississippi Market. She opened up her own business while I was gone and she is doing very well.
After that, I drove to down town St Paul to pick up my mother. Although not my favorite city, it offered great views of the skyline. After our doctor appointment, we drove by downtown Minneapolis. I ooed
24 hours after arriving
My clothing inside my suitcase was all damp with humidity. Actually, damp is the wrong word...they were wet and stinky...eew.
and awed at my favorite city by far...I had to admire it from a distance. Friday would be my day to see it.
Friday was spent unpacking all my stuff and that night, I was off for my first social excursion. I drove to Eagan and car-pooled with my friend James. We have been good buds for about 3 years now, and it was as if time had never passed. We met up with our mutual friends. To save money, we walked to the light rail. I did not wear the right shoes and it was snowing!! Gosh, it was beautiful, but cold! We got off at the stop closest to 7 corners in Mpls, which was still 5 blocks away. I couldn't feel my feet as we made our way to Sargent Prestons. We got in and I was amazed at the crowd: I have missed this! Usually a night out in Nicaragua included dodging creepy men who want to marry you to get a green card. But, this was definitely different. I was in the presence of my own type of people and there was something very comfortable about that.
The next days were spent watching
We celebrated my and my dads birthday two days after I arrived
TV on our new flat screen TV, reading books, eating, a lot, and visiting with friends. Upon reflecting on my time back, this trip was a much smoother transition than when I was in Spain. I think it is that way for a few reasons:
1. Spain/Europe is a glamorous life and one I loved. Coming home was strange and not as exciting. I lived in a big city, full of lots of interesting people. The transition was harder to come live with my parents in suburbia.
2. Nicaragua is a third-world country and although I was there 3 times longer than Europe, it was a life of sacrifice and not glamorous at all. I lived on a farm in the middle of nowhere on a secluded island. Although more meaningful in the relationships I developed with the kids, I have missed the luxuries in other countries, like the states. Coming home was like having a tasty treat I haven't had in over a year.
I end this entry to say that although there is a real recession (3 homes have been foreclosed on our block and many of my friends have been laid off), we are rich compared
to the rest of the world. Yes, people are losing there jobs, but, hey, everyone could learn to adjust their lifestyle a bit and still be happy. In Nicaragua, where 70% of the population in not employed, people learn to live with little. It is harder for us, as we are used to lifestyles that support nice homes, full time jobs, nice cars, and private education for our kids. I really think that if it came down to it, we could learn to live in smaller homes, stay at home more often and not go out as much, and use bikes for transportation. We can make this recession work if people are willing to sacrifice the luxuries they have. Heck, I think this country is still rich and doing well. I don't see the recession after living in the third world. Living there has changed my perspective dramatically. More people need to get out and see how bad the rest of the world has it before they complain.
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