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.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Special Thank You... Blanca Vega, Jessica Vega, and the rest of that clan, and to Beth and Eric Colbert Moline. Last night was Christmas for me. Seeing Blanca was beautiful and I miss you all very much and owe you lots of hugs.

Káterin: An Angela´s Ashes Attempt

Everyone from the States, particularly those with Irish ancestry, should read Angela´s Ashes.

Now then. I have started making frenemies (somedays she hugs me, somedays she doesn´t want to talk to me and sticks her nose up in my direction) with a very expressive, very smart ten-year-old who always comes to the library alone, first to do homework in a hurry, then to read stories. Though I shouldn´t say I have favourites, she´s one of them, because she´s one of the only Nicaraguan kids I know who reads for fun.
I also know a little bit about her family, home and reality. I recently finished reading Angela´s Ashes and have composed this little blurb about her life, through her eyes, in the manner of Frank McCourt´s memoirs.

Me llamo Káterin. I am ten years old. I have brown eyes, short, straight brown hair, and pig lips, dice mamá. I think I am prettier than some of my friends but I can´t ever get all the dirt off my face and arms and my shirts are all too small so my stomach shows and I think if I were clean and had clothes that fit I would be prettier.

I live across el cause (the channel) from the library. There used to be water but now it´s full of trash, so mama laughs that even though we don´t have a water river, we have a trash river. My house is made of tin and cardboard. When I pass the adobe houses with two floors on the way to school I wonder if the kids in them get their own rooms and have toilets and kitchens.

I go to school most days. Some days the teacher has a mandato to do or she´s sick so she doesn´t come and I go home. Some days papá is at the house and says I need to stay home to watch Miguelito and when I say I have to go to school he hits me and I already have too many marks on my body so I listen to him and stay home. But I go back to school when he leaves and he can´t do anything about it because he is barely ever home anyway.

My favourite place to go, other than the beach where we only go on Easter and it´s always full of people and the sun almost melts my skin so sometimes I don´t like the beach, is the library. It is colourful and full of pictures of kids from around the world and books I want to read someday.

I like reading most when I am not hungry or worried about Miguelito and when my head doesn´t hurt, because then I am not distracted and can read forever, at least until the library closes. I also like going to the library because they listen to me no matter what I am saying. I sometimes laugh because Heather says all the time that she doesn´t understand me, and then I say, ¨So why are you listening?¨ And then she laughs too. Clara, the one who always wears pretty skirts, touches my hair like mamá used to. And Eliezer and Damaris are always arguing and it makes me laugh. I like to laugh.

My favourite thing about the library is that they have a cabinet that Heather, the new librarian, says has 2,000 stories inside. When she opens the door to show me I feel like my mamá just put a big tray of dulces on my bed and I can eat all I want. Except books are better than dulces because they don´t disappear and you can stay reading a book longer than it takes to eat a dulce. And a dulce goes inside you, but you go inside a book. What I mean is, when I read I like to imagine the castles and green and smells of bread around me. They make the dust and heat go away.

It´s late and I´ve been at the library for two hours. Mamá will be mad but I don´t care because I can always come back tomorrow and the cabinet will always be there.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

5 months!

Happy spring. In Nica, and perhaps wherever you find yourself, it is a time of renewal and of change. A few days ago, the first rain of invierno (winter) fell, signaling the start of the rainy season, although it’s currently 95 degrees without a cloud of mercy in sight.Además, I’m five months, or almost one-fourth, of my way through life as a Nica JV. WHAT. Incredulity aside, I would like to share the movements of my soul based on that observation. I feel that I am settled in…I no longer double-take when piling on to a crowded bus, or hand-washing clothes, or getting diarrhea. I feel comfortable in community and inaugurated into my library position. Though I still feel the pangs when a co-worker or Nicaraguan friend shares some of her poverty, telling me of her murdered cousin or pregnant 16-old-daughter, these moments too have passed into a zone of acceptance.The question is, what next? Because it’s wonderful that I’m currently comfortable, but I am also sensing that I am ready for more. A few minutes ago, I was reading Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed in a rocking chair, contemplating popular education and solidarity, when an ice cream vendor passed our barred windows, ringing bells to announce his business. He wore a torn baseball cap from LA, had bug-eyes and was soaked in sweat. He strained against the weight of his ice cream as he pushed it up our dirt alley beneath the sun.I was struck by the world of difference between us. Here I am, comfortable as a JV in Nicaragua, and there are the Nicaraguans, the workers, the hungry, the oppressed, with whom I am forming relationships. Do they feel comfortable with the situations in which they find themselves? My co-worker Yelba goes home to an abusive husband and a load of her children’s laundry every night, and comes to work the next day having shrugged it off. She has accepted it. Is that fair? Where do I fit in?And so, about to start the second quarter of my Nicaragua time, I am ready to dive deeper into relationships, to make more of an effort to be uncomfortable…because I have grown through my initial discomfort, and I am ready for more.I challenge you to read and reflect on Dom Helder Camara and the following poem Pry Me off Dead Center. They very much touch my heart in its current state.Thank you for reading and thinking about what you have read. No go out and set the world on fire. You know what to do.