Being a JV is thrilling. Soul-shaking. Fulfilling. Challenging. Insane.
And sometimes boring. That´s right. Too bad life can´t always be a roller coaster...no, I don´t mean that.
What I mean is, it strikes me that I have grown bored of my daily routine in
I wake up reluctantly around 5:50, usually go for a run or crazy dance for a half hour, and then it´s a banana-milk-peanut smoothie with Thomas and Sean while Tobin does yoga in her room. Thomas and I both work at Proyecto Generando Vida in Barrio El Recreo, so it´s usually an unspoken race to leave for the bus first, around 7:20.
Mornings at the Library
After walking to the project from the bus stop and greeting co-workers, a lengthy feat in a country full of such chatty, friendly people, it´s about 8:00. Then Damaris, Clara, Eliezer and I get to work. Damaris is a mid-30s Nicaraguan señora with beautiful sad eyes, a round face and figure, and a very difficult home life. She is incredibly strong and loving. Clara is a spitfire Guatemalan possible-nun-in-training, who likes joke-complaining to God and talking about beautiful men. She´s a riot. Eliezer is possibly my best friend in
Upon opening, we always sweep, mop, and dust everything for the first thirty minutes (though this has always seemed silly to me), because either dust or mud takes over the library overnight. Then we help the earliest ¨usuarios¨ to find their textbooks and ¨hacer investigaciones¨ while housekeeping—organizing puzzles, indexing literature, searching for good children´s stories in our collection.
Between 10 and 11:30, children who come to the project for a free breakfast every day usually run by the library to borrow a game, playdough, or, in rare cases, a book. I like to sit outside the library reading a story in a funny voice to get them interested. These are poor kids with bloated bellies and an interesting smell. But they´re beautiful and resilient. When they peace out for afternoon classes, we take off for lunch.
When my three co-workers leave, I close the door, turn off the light, turn on the precious air conditioning, and sit in front of it for ten minutes. I don´t do anything; it´s a necessary break for a reality around me that can be pretty taxing. I then meet Thomas for lunch at a local family´s home.
Though they´re poor, they´re probably one of the wealthier families in El Recreo. Doña Sobeyda, a sixty-something, busy and chill señora, makes us rice, beans, tortilla, chicken for Thomas and steamed vegetables for me. Four generations live in that house, eight people sleep there, and it´s always full of lunch-buyers, friends, cousins, kids. I usually bring a story to read to Melitza y ElsaMaría, two adopted nieces who come for lunch, showers, and playing.
I´m at the point of relationship with this family where Kenia, Sobeyda´s 30-year-old daughter, can make fun of my hair, or Melitza y Elsa can climb all over me.
I then escape from the girls and head to the hermana´s house. PGV is run by the Congregation of the Sisters of Zion, based in
Insane Afternoons at the library
I return to the library no later than 1:50 to prepare for the usual onslaught of post-morning-classes users. Some days as many as one hundred arrive within a three-hour period to borrow text books and copy passages to use for homework. It´s always a challenge to promote the library as a place of quiet study, in a neighbourhood where firecracker noises and reggaeton music are perfectly normal and capable of passing through the windows in broad daylight. It´s even more of a challenge to get kids to think for themselves when they´ve grown up in a broken education system that stresses absorbing information and spitting it back out.
Once, for instance, a sixth grader came in looking for what animals the colonizers brought to
The small victories keep me animated amidst these realities. I know one seven-year-old in first grade who simply decided to arrive every day to read with me, and now, a year later, reads at her age level and has surpassed her classmates. And I know an eight-year-old boy who defies cultural norms and borrows stories every day to read at home while his parents watch soap operas.
Dinner and the Aftermath
As much as I love the project where I work, I admit I´m usually relieved to walk to the bus station with Thomas and head home. We stop and talk to familiar faces along the way. I love that we´re perfectly safe in a dangerous barrio because of these people.
When I get home, there´s usually something to be done before dinner—making it, which is my job once a week, or handwashing clothes, or preparing the month´s budget, or making some calls to plan a dance outing. Nevertheless, there´s usually a few minutes of relaxation time, where I catch up with my community mates or play guitar. I really cherish these minutes. Personal time is such a privilege, people! Parents know that well!
We sit down and pray over rice, beans, watermelon, pineapple, tomatoes, squash, soy meat, etc. Sometimes we talk about haircuts, apples and spinach (HOW WE MISS THEM), memories from the States, or silly things we do that make Nicaraguans roll their eyes. Other times we talk about poverty, oppression, faith and doubt. But mealtime is such bonding. No wonder Jesus dug dinners with disciples.
Once a week we have spirituality and community night, where we pray, play, and reflect together. Other nights we have friends over. Other nights I don´t want anything to do with any of this and I close my door and bury my nose in a book or my fingers in a guitar. And that´s okay sometimes.
But I´m being honest when I say I always go to bed grateful and looking forward to the next day´s challenges...and smoothies.