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.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My favorite readers (Part one)

Just a quick photo post with some cute stories of my favorite library frequenters. I will first say that showing up to a community library in Nicaragua for fun is an INCREDIBLE feat. That is, showing interest in reading, or even just leaving your house and street during ¨free¨time as a kid, is a miracle. That´s why these two deserve center stage for a few moments.
The young lady in this photo is Brenda. She can´t afford breakfast or lunch, so she comes to get a free meal at the project every morning. She´s eight years old and one year ago read like a pre-schooler. But after a year of coming to the library and asking to read a story to me after eating, she´s reading at a first grade level, and advancing fast. More importantly, her confidence and positivity have visibly improved. What I love about Brenda most are her deep dimples, which barely show in this shy photograph, and the toothy open smile she greets me with.
Stay tuned for future favorite reader posts...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Think Twice

Happy Holidays. To the Christians, Merry Christmas.

Today I found myself walking home from the bus in a drizzle and passed an open sewer. One of many that I´ve passed multiple times. Twenty feet long, ten feet wide, and thirty feet deep, there is room enough that a large car, let alone a small human, could easily plunge into it. Which has almost happened to me during rainy season, when torrential downpours turn streets into rivers you can´t see your feet through.

It´s hard to describe the choking odor of gathered garbage, but I´ve encountered it plenty of times in Nicaragua, and this was one of those times. Thousands of styrofoam plates, chip bags, straws, chicken bones, and soiled toilet paper floated threateningly to sea. Very slowly. Like they were enjoying themselves with sneers on their greasy faces.

Managua is a big city that thrives on consumption, but it isn´t like major US cities, which hide the scars of wasteful living behind investment. That is, the reason we middle-to-upper-class Estadounidenses can afford to live the way we do, with televisions, and cars (I will never forget the embarrassing moment when I told my best friend here that my family owns three cars), and plastic and microwaves, is that we have money to avoid suffering the effects of them. The majority of Nicaraguans can´t afford to do that. And since, through JVC, I´m trying to live more in tune with the majority of Nicaraguans, heck, the majority of humanity, I stood my ground outside that sewer and let it choke me for a minute. I thought twice. I recalled that the past three days I had purchased three delicious kalala frescos (passion fruit juice) in a plastic bag with a plastic straw. Three bags and three straws in three days. How much will I contribute to that plastic river in a week? In a year? How much do people who live like me contribute in a year? I shuddered at the thought. But was glad for it, the second thought.

December is the craziest month in JVC Nicaragua world. 2nd years leave with tears and gratitude, newbies arrive with energy and anxiety, families fly in with dumbstruck faces and suitcases packed with cookies, peanut butter, and new underwear, and Heather goes to stay with the JVs in Belize for a week (!!). I left the JV house today after a delicious banana-oatmeal smoothie, flying through my to-do list of people to visit, dishes to bake, emails to send, questions to ask. I was carrying 400 cordobas--about $17--with me to pay for a light bill.

Then I passed a young man rummaging through a trash river on its way to another sewer, looking for something to sell to a recycling stand so he could buy breakfastlunch. I doubt he´ll get dinner. Slow down, H, I told myself, and think twice.

That´s what I hope to do this Christmas.