Sunday, July 22, 2012

Less than one month until I'm home

It's been awhile since I posted anything. My apologies. Nothing tremendously amazing has happened, so I just haven't felt the need to share.

The past few weeks have been pretty uneventful. Three weekends ago I went back to Laguna de Apoyo. Met some fun people...swam...went on a hike and saw another waterfall...bought some honey. We also helped pull a pineapple truck out of a ditch with my boss's Hilux. Applause and pineapples all around! Yumzor!!! My boss is a nice guy.

We stopped in Managua to have lunch at the mall. What a surreal place. Ridiculously expensive stores in the shittiest city ever. Very out of place and odd. Our friend, who lives in Managua, said he walks through the mall sometimes just to feel safe. Managua is so ugly and shitty. On our way out, we picked up a hitchhiking cop. You read that correctly. Here, the cops are always hitchhiking, which I never really understood. My boss said it's because they're paid such shit. He also said this is the only country he's been to where he feels safe picking up a cop, knowing they won't rob him at gunpoint. In Honduras, his driver was shot while he was in the car. Horrifying.

Our weeks at work were a little hectic. We have a health fair going on in the community (in which I am not participating), so everyone has been pretty stressed. Also, we had a document to submit to my boss' friend at EcoFys. It was kind of stressful to have to put together that document last minute, but I'm happy to have gotten some of my written work out there.

The next week NBC came to film a special about us. They sent a whole film crew and Kerry Sanders! The amazing thing is how much money they probably spent to do all that, and our clip is only going to be 2.5 minutes long. My boss almost got himself shot trying to impress NBC, sneaking into the sugarcane plantation. That was probably a tense moment (I was not there, thank god). I mean, yeah, the guards at the plantation are assholes and should have just let him in...but still. We know of people that have been shot for lesser offenses.

We went to the beach and spent the night, which was fun. We bought a huge fish for only $C80. They cut it up for us right there on the side of the road on top of a bucket with a borrowed knife from a local "pulperia" (stores out of someone's home). We brought it to a comedor (restaurants out of someone's home) later for them to cook up for us. They breaded it, fried it, and served it with gallo pinto (rice and beans) and tajadas (plantain chips).

We drank a lot of rum that night. We saw the famous cookie lady from Leon, who goes to the beach every weekend to sell her cookies. We bought some cookies from her and gave her some rum, and she danced with us and told her about her children. She began speaking about the government in hushed tones, much of which I did not understand. I wish I had done my research project in 2010 with the knowledge and confidence that I have today. I think I would have learned more.

The next morning we went out for a swim, which ended in disaster. My friend dislocated his shoulder by a wave. Seriously. The waves here are no joke. People never seem to understand just how strong they actually are. I was afraid to go in because the rip tide seemed especially strong, so I was standing on the shore watching my three friends swim. A huge wave came and picked them all up, and one of them ran out of the water screaming. We called a taxi and drove all the way back to Leon to the hospital, but not after a few people attempted putting his shoulder back in place. It looked incredibly painful--I felt horrible for him. Additionally, his dislocation was apparently the rarest form of shoulder dislocation. His shoulder was inside his armpit. Gross. The hospital was free and universal. Just thought I'd throw that out there. People present in the room: one Canadian, one US. Both attested the care he received was better than he would have received in the states. Just mull that over in your brain for awhile...better care, free, universal, and in a third world country. So that's what free health care looks like...why is everyone so opposed to it again?

Now, you can stop reading this entry at this point if all you wanted was the fun stuff. Now I'm going to do some reflecting.
P.S. Sara Carothers is coming to visit me in a week and a half. I plan to take her to Ometepe. More fun stories to come!

I think I need to intern/work for a law firm, as well. I've now done the NGO/non-profit thing twice. Once at Consumer Health Coalition and then once here at La Isla Foundation. I definitely think this kind of stuff fulfills my soul, or whatever cliche thing I can say about it, but there's also some kind of toughness about it that I don't know I can do for the rest of my life. It's hard never having money. I have to just come right out and admit that I really don't want to be poor for the rest of my life.

But then again, this brings me to something else I've been thinking about. Why does my life have to follow the strict career path? Can't I just do something for awhile and then do something else if I decide I don't want to do it anymore? I met a friend here who was particularly inspiring to me in this aspect. She is a few years older than me, in her 30s, and I like to think that her life trajectory is how mine is going. She and I discussed the sadness we see in saving for having kids...etc. Sure, she's not THAT old, so she is still figuring herself out as well, but I think she's the first person that's ever really understood what I mean when I say these kinds of things.

I think I need to take a trip like this at least once a year or every two years. I come home with a different perspective and a stronger drive to get what I want...because I start getting closer and closer to knowing what I want. I am reaching the inevitable point in every trip that I've ever had where I feel ready to come back home and hit the books. I was so discouraged by my grades before, and now I just don't really care. People back in Pittsburgh keep asking me about OCI stuff, and I don't even care to know what that is. I'm done with the law school bullshit. Everyone is so competitive and weirdly arrogant, and it's something I just can't understand. So I'm going to remember that this school thing is about ME and no one else.

Which brings me to yet another point. Once you leave the school system, you're stuck with your loans, your sad little degree, and no job. I've decided that when I finally do leave the school system, I am NOT going to immediately start looking for a law job. I think I'll apply for Americorps, the Peace Corps, or some other job that enables me to get some loan forgiveness and loan deferment, while building my resume. I also will always have my eye on job openings at Yes, I realize that doing things this way means it's going to be a long time before I start making money. But right now, I don't really NEED money. I have no children, no mortgage, and no husband. I have no reason to worry about anything, except to find someone to take care of my cats. Which, as much as I love Rascal, I really regret having got him at this point in my life because now I love him too much to ever give him away, but he's holding me back from all these ideas. I know, that sounds so stupid, but I really do love him. I'll figure out some way. My friend here said, "I will watch your fucking cat if it's going to keep you from going into the Peace Corps." Okay. I'll remember to call her when that day comes.

This is the time to do all of these things. And this trip--the people I've met, the things I've seen, the working experience--has reinforced this idea I keep having about being alive. We only live once, and I don't want to spend it being a robot in a cubicle.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Where do I begin?

I almost don't even want to blog because it seems like a chore because there was so much that happened this past week. But I will. And so it begins...

On Wednesday our boss took my friend Darryl and I out to learn how to drive stick shift. Why? Because we were renting a truck to go up to the mountains with the group and someone else needed to drive. So, Thursday afternoon we got all 15 of us together and drove to the mountains with two pick up trucks. How to drive in Nicaragua: watch out for dogs, watch out for chickens, watch out for pigs, watch out for cows, watch out for horses, watch out for small children, watch out for potholes, watch out for motorcycles, watch out for bikes, don't drive too fast on shitty roads or you will get a flat tire and also break a window. I don't want to harp too much on the drive there, but really, driving in this country is pretty amazing/terrifying/difficult. And it was fun.

The first place we went to was FREEZING. At least for Nicaraguan standards. I was shivering (it was probably only like 60 degrees or more, but still, it felt pretty awful). But it was beautiful...the food was delicious...and the cabins were...rustic. I saw more giant spiders than I would prefer to see ever again. There was, however, BELIEVE IT OR NOT, hot water! Taking a hot shower when you're cold is such a luxury. In Leon, it's hardly necessary, but in the mountains, I was extremely grateful for the infamous electrocuting death showers. For those of you who do not know, these are showers with electric shower heads that are extremely dangerous because water and electricity obviously do not mix well. And furthermore, for those of you who do not know, I succeeded in electrocuting myself in one during my last trip to Nicaragua. Oops.

Our first full day there we took a hike up this mountain where this crazy dude resides. He carved out the mountainside with gorgeous artwork (his culture--he calls it). He said he wanted to see the whole world so that no one could ever tell him a lie. I thought that might have been the coolest thing I've ever heard in my life. As we left, he gave us three parting gifts carved out of rock: a turtle, a tucan, and a dolphin.

Next we went to a freakin' waterfall. And swam in it. It was really hard to top that. But then the next day we went to ANOTHER waterfall! And they were both gorgeous! And swimming in them both was freezing, but it made the air feel a lot warmer. Swimming underneath a waterfall is quite the experience. I felt like someone was throwing rocks on me.

The food in the mountains was incredible. We had homemade cheese and all sorts of different things that we don't usually eat in Leon. They had lemon grass tea, which was absolutely delicious, and they sell some of that here in the city so I will have to pick some up before I leave. Everything kind of tasted like the earth but in a good way.

Unfortunately, one of our friends was robbed when we were hiking. He left the window open and some local kids grabbed his money and some playing cards. That's where they went wrong. In a town that small, it's easy to find the culprit. So the ranch owner called the police, the local kids saw the cops, got scared, and gave everything back. Thank goodness! That was almost a big bummer in the trip, but it had a happy ending sort of. Oh, and we picked up some hitch hikers along the way and they came with us to the next place.

After that, we took a trip to a different area of the mountains. We stayed at a different ranch owned by two Germans. The food there was even more incredible! I couldn't have imagined such delicious things. We even had a typical German meal (sausage, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and mustard). More homemade cheese. And local meat. And by local, I mean that I probably saw the cow I ate for dinner.

At this ranch, we did a lot more hanging out. We had a bonfire and the ranch owner surprised us with pointy sticks for... marshmallows!! So that night we drank and ate and talked. That night was so pleasant.

The next day we knew we wanted to go hiking or horseback riding. As I have never been horseback riding, I chose to do that. Man, was it fun! At first it felt really unnatural and I was kind of terrified, but as the ride went on (it was nearly two hours around the mountain), I began to get a feel for the horse. I was riding a 25 year old horse, which is super old, and his bones were sticking out, so I kind of thought he was going to die at first when I got on him. I was really nervous about overworking him, but the incredible thing was that he really wanted to run! The owner said he always had that personality...never wanted to be last in a line of horses. And he never really was. The cool thing was the control I had over him. I would just lean forward a tiny bit, lift my butt slightly off him, and squeeze my thighs together, and off we ran! I was surprised at how well he responded to my movements. I honestly felt as if I was one with the horse. His name was Rojo (Red) but I nicknamed him Skeletor.

And that was pretty much the weekend trip in a nutshell. I mean, there's so much to be said about the trip there and back itself, but I can't really even put into words what a bonding experience it was for all of us. It was just a great time, and I was so happy to have had that experience with such amazing people. My clothes were filthy when we got back, though, as I only brought two outfits with me for a four day trip (travel'll be glad you did). I was happy to be home in Leon, but also instantly stressed when we returned to the loudness of the city.

And that brings me to one final point. Work. Man, it is stressful sometimes. I know I blog about all these awesome things and it seems like work can never be work here, but it is. We play hard, work harder. Today absolutely blew. I think I'm having a hard time communicating with one of the lawyers I'm supposed to be working with, who is based out of the states right now. I don't know why, and I honestly think it is because we do not know each other and we are trying to do this stressful work without being able to have a beer and a smoke together. I also am picking up the slack since the Nicaraguan lawyer was fired, so I'm reading all these laws in Spanish and trying to understand a civil law system, which I just frankly don't really know anything about. So, yeah, today blew.

And I realize this has been a very long post, so if you're still reading, I thank you for sticking around, and I hope you enjoyed reading about the sweet time I'm having! Hopefully more adventures to come next weekend! Sending all my love to the states...(well, some of it that doesn't stay here in Nicaragua)!