Sunday, October 4, 2009
4 octubre 2009
Hello! Good news – I survived my 2 weeks in Nicaragua, and I am now back safe and sound at “home” in San Jose. It was an amazing trip and an experience I wouldn’t change for anything; however, I was nonetheless thrilled to return to my family here in Costa Rica. I don’t even really know where to begin, and I can’t possibly include everything in a blog post (especially if you want to be able to read it in one setting), but I’ll do my best, and that’ll have to do until I get home and can share stories and pictures face to face.
Well, first of all…the trip from San Jose to Managua, Nicaragua (the capital city, where we spent the first 3 days) took over 12 hours, including stops and border crossings and flat tires and all. But we made it! And we spent from Monday night to Thursday morning in Managua, where we had different lectures and special speakers and “field trips” to different monuments. I could talk for hours about just those two days, but instead I’ll just share the 2 things that stuck with me the most. One is that we visited the site of a protest camp of people who worked in banana plantations (owned by US multinational corporations) and were affected by the use of a chemical called Nemagon, which has proved to have terrible side effects on both the workers and their offspring for up to 3 generations. The worst part is that the use of this chemical had been outlawed in the States because its effects were known, but it was nonetheless used by US companies in these Nicaraguan plantations. The people have been camped out (living in “houses” constructed of wood, tarps, and any other odd materials they have access to) in an area close to the national legislative offices for 3 years now! They are attempting to sue the multinationals and are seeking the help of their government, but they remain practically ignored. This was difficult to see, to say the least. We got to talk to the leaders of the protest group, and also with some of the people who have been physically affected. To see the conditions in which these people are living and to realize the hopelessness (in all reality) of their fight was heartbreaking.
Another part of the Managua experience that will stick with me for a long time (and slightly less depressing) was a talk we had with a political leader named Dora Maria Tellez. She was a leader in the Sandanista Revolution (at age 22) in the late 1970s, and now she is the leader of a minority party here. Some years ago, she was actually offered a position as a professor at Harvard University, but the US would not grant her a visa, because she is considered a “terrorist” threat (leftover from the Red Scare) because of her participation in the Revolution 30 years ago. Anyway, all that to say, it was fascinating to talk to her; we had an open floor to ask her any and every question we wanted, so it was a very good conversation. I could also talk more about that for hours, but now on to the most important part of my trip: the homestay!
Thursday morning I was sent off to live with a family for a week in “el campo” (the country – RURAL community) living with a Nicaraguan family. Now, at first I was nervous, because I am a busy body, and for this week, my only task was “to be.” Our sole purpose was to live with a family, to get to know them and their community, and to experience a way of life far different from our life in the States or even in Costa Rica. And that it was. It was unlike anything I’ve ever done in my life, but it was amazing and I loved it. I learned for the first time in my life what it truly means to ‘live simply.” I had absolutely none of the comforts I am used to at home – TV, computer, running water, bathroom, mattress, washer machine – you name it, we didn’t have it. But the strangest part is; you can actually live that way – and even be happy doing so! Weird huh? I also learned the meaning and the importance of just being rather than doing. I spent my days either playing games such as tic-tac-toe and hangman, reading my Bible or the 1 book I brought, journaling, talking with my “mom,” sitting and watching my family live their lives. It was a strange feeling at first, but I grew to appreciate it. Definitely 100% contrary to my North American busybody nature. I learned more doing nothing than I would have ever thought possible, and when I get back, I would LOVE to go deeper into all that, but for now…some highlights?
Some “firsts” for me were: bathing from a bucket outside in the open air behind a concrete wall, witnessing firsthand the death of my lunch (a chicken), sleeping under a mosquito net (and waking up one morning with lizard poop on the outside of it), washing my clothes by hand, drinking Coke 5 times in 1 day (that’s apparently the hospitality offering of choice there), going to church and seeing a live chicken seated on the platform the entire service, eating white rice for 19 meals straight, and…I’m sure there were others, but those were definitely the most memorable.
All in all, it was a very thought-provoking and humbling experience, and as crazy as it sounds, it was harder than I ever thought possible to say goodbye to my new family whom I had grown to love so much in just 6 short days.
After several tearful goodbyes, I met back up again with the rest of the students in Granada, where we spent the last 2 days relaxing before returning to Costa Rica. Granada is a beautiful city, and is located on the Lake of Nicaragua – biggest body of water in Central America, 2nd biggest in Latin America, and like..7th? in the world; also, one of the (if not the) only bodies of freshwater that is the home to sharks! Fun fact of the day. Anwyay, one of the activities we got to do there was take a boat tour of the islands in the lake (over 130 islands, formed by the eruption of a volcano located in the middle of the lake). One of the islands we stopped at was some sort of monkey haven, and a couple of them actually boarded our boats, walked (on 2 feet) up and down the isles, digging through bags in search of food. One found a fiber bar in a girl’s bag, opened the wrapper, and proceeded to eat it sitting on my shoulder – another first for me. Also, in case you were wondering – yes, monkeys do actually peel their bananas, because this one did that as well.
So….I’m going to call it quits there, because I’ve already written a novel, and I know your time is valuable, but…that’s a brief summary of my life the last 2 weeks! Now it’s back to the grindstone. I have about 5 papers/presentations due in the next 2 weeks, so…pray for me there! I hope you all are doing well and that life at home is great. I miss you all and, as always thank you for your prayer and support!