From "Creed," by Dom Helder Cámara

I want to believe that the whole world

Is my home, the field I sow,

And that all reap what all have sown.

I will not believe that I can combat oppression out there

If I tolerate injustice here.

I want to believe that what is right

Is the same here and there

And that I will not be free

While even one human being is excluded.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New Flickr Photos!

Most of these are from my week spent at Spanish school in a VERY Sandinista campo community called El Lagartillo. Enjoy their randomness.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Campo Lessons

Picture a herd of staring cows followed by a grinning six year old, a pig lying every yard, and Spanish teachers decked in colorful bufandas (scarves) bustling about a single central dirt road, making sure all of their students are ready for class and happy with their families. This was the final week to my one-month orientation. The five new JVs spent January 2 through January 8 at language school at a tiny mountain community called El Lagartillo. This was a community torn by US-trained contra troops in the 80s, who pillaged and destroyed families to fight the pueblo-raised revolutionaries who abounded in the area. Now, the community is pulling itself out of poverty.

I have learned much in the campo (for those who haven’t read…okay, memorized…my other blogs, “campo” refers to rural Nicaragua), and a week of Spanish school cemented these lessons. At the risk of glamorizing poverty (thanks Jess Vega, JV in Anda, Peru), which I’m probably doing, I’d like to present a list of life lessons, as observed and practiced for a week by yours truly. What’s funny is, these are things I’ve always had to try really hard to do in the US, and sometimes in Managua. They’re counter-cultural things…but not in the campo. They’re default, like it or not.

Waste Not
On day one, I arrived with my burdensome backpack and asked for a basura (trash can). I had a plastic bag I wanted to discard that came from my lunch enchilada. Yelba, my 23-year-old host mother, looked at me like I look at abstract art. She took me to the edge of their property, where there was a shallow cement pit that contained a five-gallon rice bag and a single cookie wrapper. “I guess you can throw it here,” she said, and explained this was all the trash they had used in a year’s time. I felt silly at the time, but loved living the intimate, earthly-friendly campo life during the week that followed.

Buy local
I ate rice, beans, cuajada (a spongy cheese), plantains, pineapple, mandarins, and eggs during that week. Sure, I missed cereal and peanut butter, but all but the rice and beans were obtained within a ten mile radius of my host family’s house. Sure beats the 2,000 miles that food travels on average from farm to fork in the US. Or was it 200,000?

Water is precious
This is a recurring theme, resurrected when I see silly Managuans spraying their dusty doorsteps twenty times a day, or when I realize I’m enjoying long showers too much. In the campo, I used a latrine--which requires no water at all! How magical!--and took bucket showers, to the point that toilets and showers anger me now. How wasteful, to let that dying breed of sustenance drown me for 10 minutes a day. And yet I keep doing it!

Love your community
Yelba, Oswaldo, and their son Oswaldo Jr. lead simple lives. Yelba plays with her son, cooks meals, goes to the market, and cleans their two-bedroom house everyday. Oswald walks a few feet to the library to work and comes back for meals. As such, the highlight of their days was when a next-door-neighbor would come over, just to sit and talk about the weather or what so-and-so accidentally swallowed the day before. It takes a lot of thinking for me to remember the last time someone came over to my dorm room or apartment just to be there, no TV or favors or homework involved.
Another occurrence that reminded me of this point. Yelba told me I was one of her favorite students because she loves the students who make an effort to talk, regardless of whether it’s convenient or easy to understand. ALL people are beautiful; many aren’t given the chance to prove it.

Dirty is okay
This, especially with latrines, is still a struggle for me. I read a sentence in Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth recently, which called a clerk-monk with too much money “pale, pudgy, spick and span with inactivity.” Shoot, I thought, lying on my back in my campo bed reading this, that’s me. And the campo, and Nicaragua in general, challenge that. I didn’t have much chance to wash my hands. Oswaldo Jr. ran around all day with soiled hands and diapers. And things smelled bad, not going to lie. But I’m tired of living in fear of that; I’m tired of the toxic, wasteful habits of cleanliness that my culture has instilled of me. Easier said than done, of course…I don’t like getting sick or dirty. But that’s life, says the campo. You’re right, I say. Though I do miss sparkly clean! Won’t be seeing it for some time.

To close out this post, I present you with a silly poem.
Heather in the Campo: A Love Story
Sun burn, milk churn
Tales of war, bugs galore
Didn’t spend a dime, mountain climb
Bucket shower, mixed corn flour
Fed a pig, taught a jig
Went on walks, Dirty socks
Ate too much of such-and-such
Fried things, grew wings
Passed too fast, had a blast!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Second Week of Work Report!

The USB onto which I had uploaded a well-planned blog isn´t working, so you´ll have to wait until sabado for my introspection. OHNO. Until then, here´s a run down of my work placement!

I´m out the door and on the bus by 735, and by 755 I´ve walked the half mile through a poor barrio called El Recreo...I´ve taken photos of the area and will post them the Life-Generating Project where I work. My days have consisted of dusting toys and book shelves, re-binding books, painting chairs and offices, and cataloguing donations, all in preparation for the kids, who will start coming in next week. I´ve also been busy with community and spirituality nights with the fab four (me, Tobin, Thomas and Sean) and with learning guitar.
Stay tuned until Saturday, when I´ll be a little more complete regarding the last month or so!

I´m still happy and healthy and thinking of you.