Speaking with a good friend in the States last night, I realized it´s been at least half-year, yikes, since I last sent out my news from Nicaragua. Perhaps it´s because my time with JVC has become less an exciting adventure I want to publicize and more a transformative experience that deserves my full attention. And so I like to think that since I last emailed (almost) everyone I know, I have been less and less communicative with the States side of things, and, I hope, more available to mi gente aquí.
This, in the end, is problematic, since in one month I´ll be on a plane back to Oregon, and the impermanence of being here will set in (please spare a thought or prayer for me on December 19th). And so I send out this email in hopes of connecting heart-to-heart with some of you, who may be able, physically, emotionally, or spiritually, to help welcome me back.
Life is good. Other than a few stomach bugs and a bad cold, I have been healthy. I have also been happy, though acknowledging that is more complicated. It´s hard to be happy when children you see every day are hungry, and you go home to too much food. Or when diabetes and lupus are considered lethal diseases because there isn´t money to combat them. Or when your friend Jorge, whose house straddles the line between gang territories, tells you, ¨I´d like to live to be forty. That would be a nice long life.¨
What I´m trying to say, and what I go everyday discovering more, is that oppression is no longer an unfortunate word written in the news. It´s a reality that affects me personally, through my friends. Actually, it affects all of us personally, whether or not we want it to. As Mother Theresa said, ¨If you truly have eyes to see, Calcutta is everywhere.¨ And at first reflection, it´s hard to stay I´m happy within that reality.
But one of my favorite songs says, ¨Look at your life through heaven´s eyes.¨ And so I make an intentional daily effort to go to bed watering the flowers instead of fretting about the weeds. And there are many flowers in my life. For instance…
Every other Friday, the library hosts story time with some of the kids who come to the Comedor for a free meal. These kids are mistreated by almost everyone. Because they have live, and can´t read, and have learned to swear and scream a lot, it was a long time before they enjoyed Story Time. But with pep in my voice, the right animation, puppets, and patience, these kids come and participate in the dramatization of a story, exercising their imaginations for a few sweet moments. It´s a beautifully unexpected half-hour that always leaves me smiling and sweaty. Picture included below.
Though it´s pretty make-shift, I also have continued to form a reader´s club with eleven seventh graders (nine are male. Bummer). We can´t read together every week (reading is so BORING, Heather!), but by mixing reading with games, questions, and theater, these kids continue to show up. We recently took a trip to the zoo (picture included). We´re also planning to act out Rubén Darío´s poem ¨Sonatina¨ during the project´s end of the year bash (it was their idea). Aerobics classes continue to go well. Six to fifteen young women (and a couple brave young men) show up twice a week to crazy-dance to popular music (including ¨Sexy and I know it¨ and ¨Boom Boom Pow¨ by the Black-Eyed Peas—I never said it was the cleanest quality) with commate Jana and I.
I´m not going to miss working with large groups of children all day (though I´m apparently good at it, and need to be a mother, they say). But I will miss these spaces where my passions meet the need of the world, and I hope to find a place to plug into them in the States.
Speaking of that, I am excited to be back. Really! (As my mom pointed out when I was considering staying another year, ¨Heather, you love it everywhere you go.¨) I am not excited to say goodbye or lash out at family and friends because I´m experiencing a cultural car crash. But I am excited to the challenge of continuing to grow in the States.
The truth is, being here has been a grueling test of humility, guilt, and exhaustion, exemplified by JVC´s emphasis on accompaniment. Our role is not to ¨do¨ or ¨change¨ things—that, in the Freirean sense of the term, is only something Nicaraguans can do for themselves. Our role, rather, is to be with people. And though I have grown in my ability to sit powerlessly before suffering, and to acknowledge the complicated power dynamics at work by my presence here, I am ready to stop stepping on Nicaragua´s toes, and go apply what I´ve learned amid the people who formed me. My prayer is one shared by all returning JVs—that we do not grow complacent, that we do not forget whom we have become. ¨Live the ruinage!¨ They say.
Because US Americans like ¨plans,¨ I´ll share a couple of mine. I´m going to spend Christmas and New Year´s with my family in the Portland, OR area. I then hope to take a train trip through California, visiting (and taking advantage of hospitality from) everyone I know, in mid-January, until, well, I run out of money and energy. I´d like to try woofing and visiting a couple intentional communities along the way. Then, back to Portland, where I´ll take my time to discern what´s next—be it work, learning to farm, studying, volunteering more. I have no idea. I´ve never had no idea what to do with myself. This is a scary sponge soaked in privilege.
First, though, I have one more month left in Nicaraguita. I plan to hug, cry, and thank a lot. I don´t plan on making much contact with people in the States during this time—though I would love to hear if you´re thinking of me, and would love to skype or talk on a cell phone (those still exist, right?) when I get back.
Until then, thank you for your support, and I wish you open eyes and an open heart during the Holiday season.
P.S. Enjoy the first picture, of my friends Kenia and Zach, and a gringa who dressed up like the Grinch for Halloween because Nicaraguans tell her she has a protruding stomach, perturbing serious face and a green tint to her skin. They´re more honest than estadounidenses.