*thoughts as of late

It is striking that a journey traveled so many times before must, in some sense, be new for each person who travels it. And because each traveler is different, whether in some small detail or in their entire constitution, the travel will never repeat itself exactly. For there is no journey without the journeyer, only a road. Some rush along it. Some take their time. Others travel in caravans and yet others trek it alone. Whether the traveler chooses an efficient and comfortable means of travel or if he/she makes it infinitely more difficult than need be (bringing too much stuff, refusing help, walking backwards barefoot) they are still traveling the same road and are moving towards a common end. They will invariably encounter one another, be it by choice or not, be it on the road or in travel-logs from years past, but they will find each other. Regardless of whether or not they like each other, they will be connected by the journey, that is, by walking on the one ROAD.

After I count every grain of sand, more will have formed and mixed with those of a thousand years. After I count every star in the sky, some will have died and others burst to life and my work will begin again. After I count every reason to love you and weigh every risk of being yours, I will no longer be the same person, and I will have to begin anew. I will, instead, enjoy the dunes, wonder at the night sky, and take you as my Love.

Take away my firm belief and graft my soul to your tree.

God is the God who gives life to the dead and CALLS THINGS THAT ARE NOT AS THOUGH THEY WERE. Romans 4:17

To drink tea with you would be a grand thing. Some people did, Jesus. They sat with you and ate and drank. I would have many questions. Some of them I think you would answer with surprising directness, without thought, knowing that the truth of the matter is of infinitely more value than my feelings, my thoughts, my pride. With other questions, I think you would just look at me, saying nothing, because its my heart that matters above all else.

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travel rhythms

Well our time in San Juan del Oriente came to an end and it was time to move on to Granada. Unfortunately however, on our travel day Brian and I were both terribly ill with bad colds- so we coughed up the cash, got a cab, and arrived at the home of our new host family. There had been some error in our communication apparently because the prior house guest had not left yet and we were taken far away to the home of a daughter, where we (still really sick (and hot and tired)) were shown ONE small room with one smaller bed and no bathroom. This, on top of the negative vibes I was getting from the family, put me over the edge and Brian and I ditched the house and went out to look for alternative lodging.

We found a little house that rents out rooms and we bunked down there. It has a TV(!), fan(!), internet(!), and our own bathroom(!)- all for $10/night. It’s a nice place but the good things are dependent on having power and water, which is not always the case here in Granada. Also, the roof leaks over our clothes and on the bed when it rains a lot, and it has been raining a lot, so our room now has a scattering of pots strategically placed to catch the gross roof water. We also have a little kitchen we can use to cook in which has been nice. I am quite proud of the meals we’ve whipped up over the little gas stove. We have made, all from scratch, no-bake chocolate cookies, lime-pepper chicken with mashed potatoes, curried chicken salad, macaroni and cheese, curried pasta, beef and rice with peppers, rice veggie stir-fry, and oatmeal. 😀 Yummm.

Before I came to Nicaragua, my mother told me, “Don’t cross any rivers!” Ok, mom. Random, I thought.

Currently we are working with an organization called Empowerment International which works in a rural community outside of Granada. On good days it is accessible by truck but even then its a pretty rough road to get out there. Because the said road is so rough, the truck has frequent breakdowns and last week it wouldn’t start. That however didn’t keep the team from going out so we hopped on a bus to take us out of the city and took a little moto-taxi (see picture below) as far as we could out into the countryside and then started walking in deep mud (me in sandals, idiot).

We made it out to the community, worked for the day and then noticed that a HUGE DARK CLOUD was approaching. And it was approaching quickly. So, because we didn’t have the truck to high-tail it out of there, we scrambled to collect our things and set out to search for someone with a horse to take us out to the main road. We found a horse and cart, piled in, and prodded along for about 15 minutes. We all kept glancing back, watching the wall of rain close in on us. When it was finally overhead, the rain fell heavy and we were all soaked within minutes. Eventually the horse and cart could go no farther due to the mud and the risk of not being able to make the return trip, so we unloaded, waved goodbye to the horse and its driver, and sought cover in a small home alongside the road. The family welcomed us under the overhang of their roof and we all stood there, cold and wet, watching the rain fall and the light fade, waiting for the rain to lessen. A ways up the road we saw a truck driving which then stopped and turned around. We went out into the rain and walked up the road to see what had deterred the driver. Where earlier that day there had been a dip in the road, there was now a full fledged current, rushing past at an impressive speed, carrying tree trunks and mud down the newly born river. I thought of my mom and before knowing if the others intended to cross the water, knew that I could not do it (“Don’t cross any rivers, Emily”- how did she know???). Fortunately no one in our group had a death wish and instead of crossing the freak-flash-flood river, we found a doctor who invited us to wait out the storm in a clinic up the road. It was almost dark at this point and we agreed that was a good idea. The rain continued and although it was warmer inside the clinic, I was still freezing. A woman who lived nearby sold us some coffee and bread, we toured the clinic, and sat around killing time. Brian took advantage of the time to see a doctor about his cough and got a prescription. Then we did nothing for about 2 and a half hours. Finally, a truck rolled by and offered to take us over the current, which had lowered and slowed significantly by this point. We piled in the back, waited our turn at the river edge as some moto-taxis got stuck in the mud, and then four-wheeled it through the water and successfully crossed over. The office staff was waiting for us at the road and finally, we headed back into the city. The trip back had stretched itself from the normal 45 minutes into a five hour ordeal.

Upon arriving back in the city- dirty, tired, and wet- we found that all of Granada was without power and water. So, we dried ourselves off in the dark, fumbled to get on some dry clothes, and went to sleep in the heat (no power = no fan). The next morning there was still no water so, just as dirty as we had been the day before, we left the house to go to work. The storm stormed for the rest of the week and the power and water came and went sporadically. My sense of adventure had worn off and I was not amused by the whole situation.

I am convinced that all trips have a pattern to them. It doesn’t matter if the trip is 5 days or 7 months, the rhythm is always the same (at least for me). The first, say, 20% of the trip is devoted in large part to getting oriented with the place, letting your body adjust to any climate or time changes, getting comfortable with one’s travel partners in the new environment, and being hyper-aware of new smells, colors, sounds, etc. It is exciting but exhausting. The middle 55% of the trip is focused on the trip itself- working if its a work trip, relaxing if its vacation, exploring if its travel. During this part of the trip one is not thinking too much about what was left behind at home or what he/she will be returning to. This is, I would say, a very nice part of most trips. The following 15% is the hump of the trip and is the most difficult. The body somehow knows that the time to go home is approaching and it responds with tiredness, irritation, and some indifference brought about by a lack of energy. Then, right before the trip ends, the traveler realizes that time is almost up and he or she tries to soak it all up before returning home. This last 10% of the trip is when the traveler becomes belatedly aware of the great value of the trip and he/she tries to take advantage of the last few remaining moments. There is a clarity of thought and a surge of sentiment that accompanies goodbyes.

The last week or so I have definitely been in the hump stage of this trip. Brian and I have been sick, we are tired and irritable, we are starting to wonder what the heck will happen after we arrive home, and the energy required to live here (by those, such as myself, who are accustomed to comfort) has been lacking. This last weekend was not spent taking advantage of our last chunk of free-time in Nicaragua, but rather sitting around doing very little, trying to pull ourselves out of weird moods and funks. This upcoming week I anticipate entering the forth and final stage of our trip during which I will realize with emotional force that all this is ending. The rough ride out to the country side, the sweat and heat, and our little house will all acquire a charm that I have not been able to see lately. Such is the way of things. If we had four more months here in Nicaragua, I would still be in the working, productive stage, but as it is, I am readying myself to say goodbye.

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Strange People, Famous People, Little People

Ometepe is an island in the middle of a huge lake called Cocibolca. It has two volcanoes on it. A man told us that native peoples from all over the Americas used to bury their dead at the base of one volcano, in hopes that they would be reborn on the other. There is a lot of mystic history surrounding the island. On the ferry ride over from the mainland, as the volcanoes emerged from the fog and clouds, I leaned over to Brian and told him we were going to Shutter Island. (For those of you who haven’t seen the movie Shutter Island, don’t watch it. It is a disturbing thriller. It messes with your mind. Its about a man who goes to an island thinking everyone there is crazy but in the end it turns out he is the crazy one. He never gets off the island…)

Although Brian and I did, fortunately, get off the island a few days later, we did not leave without encountering a number or peculiar folk. Brian, on a previous trip to the Island a few years ago, met some guy who apparently makes great brownies (which are not common in Nicaragua). So we set out to find him and after walking through the little town we did in fact find his shop. We went inside, accompanied by several pet dogs, and sure enough found a platter of brownies freshly made. Everything else however was quiet and no one seemed to be around. We announced our presence and waited. No answer. After a few minutes a man came out of an adjoining room and we all sat down to chat over some delicious brownies. This guy was very strange. He had a huge heart for animals and no patience for what he perceived as corruption in the US government. From his stories, it seems that he has been living the ex-pat life for many years now. His mannerisms were quirky and his speech was marked by a slight drawl on some words. During conversation he smoked a lot of cigarettes and pulled up one of his big three-legged dogs to sit in his lap. He said two things that I found interesting: 1) Ex-pat communities are composed of the wanted (criminals) and the unwanted (those who don’t fit in) of a society. I wanted to ask which category he belonged in, but I held my tongue. 2) Stamps in a passport mean nothing. Stamps are like fake trophies for travelers. A stamp does not mean that someone really knows a place, nor (in the case of certain people) does the lack of a stamp signify that someone has not visited a place. This man was complaining about the snap-shot, fill-up-your-passport, ‘travelers’ who have been everywhere and yet know nowhere.

In the brownie shop we met another young man who had unnervingly intense eyes and a woman from Quebec who was in the process of setting up a commune of sorts on the island. They were nice but strange. Their social interaction was a bit forced, or maybe too lax, I’m not sure. The whole time in the shop I felt like I was in a weird movie. At our hostel we met some more interesting individuals. One man had all his hair dreaded into a single star-warsy mass that extended down his back. He told us that he doesn’t sleep. Another woman had a tattoo on her face and always seemed a bit caught off guard every time we spoke to her. There was also a deer who lived at the hostel.

The big attraction on the island is obviously the volcanoes and most people hike them when they visit. We, however, did not do the 10 hour trek because of the rash on my legs and instead went to rent motorcycles to tour the island. Unfortunately, our lack of experience driving motos meant that we couldn’t actually rent them. The rental guy suggested that we pay for an official tour but it was to expensive so we went to leave. He then, so as not to lose any business, said that him and a friend could take us around the island for 35 bucks if we waited until 1pm, when he got off work. We agreed.

At 1pm we went to meet our tour guides, Xavier and Elton. Elton had neon green shoes, a neon green shirt, and neon green sunglasses. Javier told me that Elton and him had always been best friends. In fact, they were in a reggeaton band together, just the two of them. This was a little bit surprising because they were both, especially Elton, soft spoken and neither one struck me as the performing type. The tour was nice, not overly eventful. The island is almost monotonous in its beauty and green-ness. When we arrived back to town, Javier and Elton invited us to go out that evening. So later that night we all met up and went to an outdoor shack/bar that belongs to Javier’s aunt. During the next few hours we were informed that Javier and Elton were better known locally as Char and Toy, for reasons that were not altogether clear to me (something to do with X-Men and being serious…?). They are indeed a band and write their own music. They made a music video and are hoping to make it big. Everyone should check out their video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPGrdJ-QBok). We promised to spread the word about the new hott band from Ometepe.

Although our work here in Nicaragua is focused on education, we haven’t actually worked very much with kids. We’ve been mostly interviewing teachers, directors, families, etc. In San Juan del Oriente however we had the chance to help out a church group from California with their art camp and there we met lots of kids. There were a few that Brian and I absolutely fell in love with. One little girl named Daniela would come everyday to art classes but she was terribly shy and quiet, probably only about 4 years old… and adorably melancholic. Because she was so timid she didn’t participate much in the art projects at first. One teacher asked me to help her and it quickly because apparent that Daniela was actually quite the little artist. As her confidence was boosted, she did her projects with amazing precision and lots of attention to detail. She totally won my heart. The second day of camp, she showed up wearing her hat that she had made the day before. She didn’t smile very often.

The other little kid that I love (but I think Brian loves him more) is named Jorge. He didn’t come to art camp because he was scared of the California gringos: the first day he went home crying. Brian and I however went to play with him and his siblings after classes, made him some crafts, and bought tortillas from his mother. Jorge kept his teeth closed when he talked and was very small (5 years old maybe?). He liked to take pictures with Brian.

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high skies

What high skies came to rest on the ground.

Some days we went looking for the sky,

But Lord, it was a long walk upwards.

The hour of our wandering has been,

and passed and been and passed again.

-Zoli, gypsy poet

Pigs seem to be a theme in my life. Here’s a quick recap: my sister always wanted a pot-belly pig for a pet, I witnessed a pig slaughter at a wedding in the Dominican Republic, a stuffed pig was given to me by my love, there is a cute baby pig here in Nicaragua who plays with a puppy, we saw a giant pig on the back of a motorcycle (which fell over onto the pig), and now, here in San Juan, the pig theme has resurfaced… During the fiestas patronales in San Juan del Sur a pig is covered in motor oil and grease and then released to run for its life down the street while people try to tackle it. The person who captures the pig gets to keep it as a prize.

Another activity which I found interested is similar but different from the pig-run. In the middle of town they set up a pole which is also covered in grease. Its about 3 stories tall and there is a flag at the top. If anyone can get up to the flag, they win a prize. This sounded, to me, like a difficult but fairly straightforward task. What I didn’t realize is that a group of men have devoted themselves to the development of techniques which will allow them to scale the greasy pole. Although only one person can actually win the prize (money, I think) everyone seems to have realized that it is an impossible feat and therefore they all work together. They start by stacking four or five men on top of one another’s shoulders and then tie sticks of wood to the pole. From there a few select individuals shimmy up and try to clean off as much grease as they can. This is followed by more stick tying and more shimmying. We left before anyone reached the top but I found the whole affair quite amusing and could have watched it for hours.

San Juan del Sur was, in general, comfortable and touristy. I enjoyed our time there. We stayed with a nice family who had a little chihuahua named Papi. He was significantly more enjoyable to be around compared to the dog at the previous home. I told my sister that I found her Pomeranian (Cupcake) a Latin lover here in Nicaragua.

On Saturday we took a slew of buses, shared cabs, and moto-taxis to get from San Juan del Sur to San Juan del Oriente. Our new town is small, quaint, and laid-back. The majority of the people who live here are artisans. Our family makes decorative and pre-colombian pottery which they sell in a little shop and on their web-site. They are terribly friendly and the home is nice. Unfortunately however there are frequent power-outages and no running water. This complicates several every-day routines such as: using the bathroom, brushing your teeth, showering, etc. I thought I had the system figured out (go get a bucket of water from a big barrel downstairs and use that for whatever you need) until the big barrel had no more water. When Brian and I asked about how to get more water, we were told that there was none. Ok.

Although I would prefer to have water, I was feeling ok about the whole situation until I got an awful allergy all over my right leg. I think it may be a heat rash, but I have no idea. Anyway, it feels like a horrible swollen sunburn that itches and looks disgusting. Finally one morning I just freaked out and started crying because I couldn’t shower, my leg itched really bad, my stomach was not doing well, it was hot, blah blah blah. Brian made an executive decision, hailed us a moto-taxi, and we went to a neighboring town called Catarina to see a beautiful crater lake called La Laguna del Apoyo. We walked around a bit, got some juice, and went to find a pharmacy and an internet cafe.

Later that day we found out that an old woman in the community had died. In the evening everyone in the town gathered under some tents and outside their homes for La Vela. This is a custom: when someone dies, everyone comes out to show support for the family and keep them company late into the night. People stayed out until 2 or 3 in the morning, just chatting and being present. The sense of community here, in all its beauty and inconvenience, is quite foreign to most of my experiences in the United States.

The next day around noon it started to rain. The family spent the next half hour running around positioning buckets and barrels to collect water, washing their hair, and cleaning the truck. Now we have water. I’m still not sure if that is where all the water comes from or what will happen next time we run out, but at least now we’re good for a day or so.

Our second day here in San Juan del Oriente Brian and I went to meet our friend Lukas at the Laguna del Apoyo. He was staying at a funny little hostel on the lake where they had kayaks and inner-tubes for use. It was a gray drizzly day but we decided to go swimming anyway. We all grabbed tubes and made our way out towards the middle of the crater. We spent a few hours out on the water and I was so happy. I do not consider myself to be a happy person but I think that makes the happy moments really spectacular. Happy moments are clear and uncomplicated and although I don’t search for them, I welcome them.

I would not say that most of my time here in Nicaragua is happy but it is full and good. I am very aware that this is the stuff of life: relationships that weigh one down as much as they lighten the load, good books, silence and long talks, people who are happy, people who are beautiful, psalms that speak to my heart, heavy long rains, late nights of peace but no sleep, early mornings, travel, misunderstandings that get cleared up, faults that are pardoned, mental photos, the unknown tomorrow, sickness that makes you thankful for health, sharing and hating it, wonder, faraway love, utter confusion, killing time, longing for a piano, songs in my head, moments that change everything, being disoriented, getting oriented, taking a cab in search of snickers, praying, braiding beads into my hair, sometimes not wanting to be anywhere else, sometimes wanting to be anywhere but here, walking…

“When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was upon me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch…”

John Steinbeck

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Week 2

We are meant for skies not ceilings. *Old Gypsy Grandfather

“I hope I don’t sound too insane when I say that there is darkness all around us. I don’t feel weak but I need sometimes for her to protect me and reconnect me to the beauty that I’m missing… I understand her because my heart and hers are the same.” Avett Brothers

The past week Brian and I spent Monday-Saturday out in the rural communities: interviewing community members about local education, talking with teachers and students, and becoming painfully aware of how many things work against education in poor, rural settings.

We stayed with a few different families throughout the week, one of which had a small pig. This little pig made my heart so happy. It had a puppy companion who was equal in size and they would play (and sometimes fight) and sleep next to each other in corners. Animals were a sort of motif for the week. Apart from the pig-puppy duo, there were numerous fluffy chicks running around in nervous packs. Pastor Gesary had a baby pet deer. There were howling monkeys everywhere (they are sooo loud). In the jungle you can stare at the ground at any given moment and it will inevitably be moving with caterpillars, spiders, ants, flies and other critters. Randomly a disturbed flock of butterflies may flurry up and create a little show of yellow, white, and red.

Our main mode of transportation were horses and mules. Now, let me preface this little story by saying that Brian is a big guy. He’s about 6’2” and probably weighs 200+ lbs. At one point during the week we were met by Don Castro who brought us a good looking horse and a pathetic mule to get to the next community. I assumed Brian would be on the big horse, but no, apparently the horse was for me. Don Castro directed Brian over to his mule. The first leg of the trip Brian lagged behind, too kind-hearted to whip the poor animal. I kept looking back, expecting the mule’s knees to buckle under Brian. Don Castro, less patient than Brian and working on a schedule, took things into his own hands. He waited for Brian to prod alongside his horse and then proceeded to whip its ass for the rest of the trip to keep it moving. I think Brian and I were both surprised by how light the mule’s steps became under the whip. I laughed and laughed and laughed seeing Brian bounce uncomfortably as his little mule trotted along. For me, riding horseback was a highlight. Moving through the jungle, crossing rivers (not flowing rivers, mom), and trekking under big skies was made even more magical by the prodding, rhythmic steps of a horse under me.

On the same note and yet of a completely different tone was our transportation out to the edge of the forest: huge dirt-bike motorcycles. I rode a moto a few times in the Dominican Republic and I remember liking it but I’d forgotten how much. Let me just say this: When I’m on the back of a moto, flying past the greener than green scenery, with the wind hugging my body, I am happy. For me, its a deep-down, wanting-to-cry-with-happiness, so-alive-you-might-just-die type of joy. I hope everyone can find something in their life that makes them feel this way.

The rhythm of life here is different and it feels healthy. Even though people have electricity, most people still go to bed shortly after it gets dark and wake up when it gets light. Every morning roosters begin crowing about 4am, a band somewhere in the city starts playing by 4:30, and the streets start to bustle. Out in the jungle people wake up as early as 3:30am to start the day. By 5am its impossible to stay in bed with all the noise and activity that accompanies farm life. But generally I don’t feel tired when I get up, even if I didn’t sleep much during the night…

Saturday morning we went to visit a secondary school before meeting our motorcycle pickup at noon. By 9am we were done and had three hours to kill in the middle of nowhere. So, because we had nothing else to do, we decided to start walking back towards town. It was the same road (trail?) that the teachers walk along to get out to the schools each week, so we figured it be a good experience for us to have. By the end of a week out in the jungle, needless to say Brian and I were pretty gross and our clean clothes had long since run out. Walking in the Nicaraguan heat (finally a day without rain) left us just as soaked as the rainy days had, but with sweat instead of rain water. There is a hill that is forever long (about 45mins) and unshaded. I’m pretty sure I was partially delirious halfway up but in my delirium I articulated something to Brian that I had never really thought about before:
Brian asked me if I believed in the immaculate conception of Jesus. I said yes. And then we talked about other times when stories in the Christian tradition break with nature’s patterns. For example, Jonah swallowed by a giant fish, or a donkey talking. I’ve entertained several ideas about how one should interpret the Bible: literally, figuratively, etc…and I’m fully aware that in many circles it is not en vogue to believe that bible stories actually happened (after all, even Jesus taught with stories and parables, why wouldn’t other parts of God’s word do the same?). However, I have absolutely no reason to NOT believe that Jonah was swallowed by a fish, or that a donkey talked, or that three men walked out of a burning furnace unscathed. I know that God is the creator of the universe and that he raised Jesus from the dead, and when I remember his creativity (which continuously blows my mind), then there is no problem believing that he can (and does) do crazy things. God put in place the patterns of nature and I don’t see why he can’t easily deviate from them for his own ends. Anything is possible.

On Sunday Brian and I were invited to a small church meeting in someone’s home. The message was about Matthew 13, the parable of the sower. At one point the sermon mentioned plants with shallow roots and the ease with which they can be swept away in rain. At that point I stopped listening and started thinking about roots: A plant without roots is easily swept away by waters or blown over by the wind, it’s more susceptible to the weather, it’s easily upturned. A plant with deep roots however is very different. Even when everything above the surface is destroyed, a plant with deep roots can revive itself and keep living. Deep roots hold a tree steady in the winds. Storms of rain do not wash it away but rather the roots absorb the water and the plant is strengthened (not defeated) by the storm. I want roots: deep, strong, weathered roots. In the parable of the sower, the seed being sown (which puts down roots and grows) is the word of God.

He who forms the mountains,

creates the wind,

and reveals his thoughts to man,

He who turns dawn to darkness,

and treads the high places of the Earth-

The Lord God Almighty is his name.

Amos 4:12-13

More highlights from this past week:

-Fresh Honey from Don Castro’s bees

-Students in Escalante asking me for help with their math

-Fresh milk with cinnamon

-Talking with Pastor Gesary and Brian late into the night about faith

-Learning that Nicaragua has a song about Sept. 11th

-Seeing a giant pig go up a hill on the back of a moto

-Getting a beer and a big plate of plantains upon arriving back in the city

Also, Popie the dog is still the bane of my existence here in Nicaragua.

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Brian’s guest blog-post

Emily has asked me to be a guest columnist on her blog and I have agreed to do so, as long as I get the title and the fame that I am assuming comes with this (presumably) prestigious honor.

There are two things that were very apparent to me on my previous trip to Nicaragua and continue to be apparent on this trip. First, I am much larger here than I am in the States. One would be forgiven for thinking that a person cannot grow on a three hour plane ride from Miami, but as is obvious every day here, I have. I am not sure how much I have grown, but it seems to be considerable. A trip in a bus in the US is an experience of new people and smells, most of which are unpleasant. But here in Nicaragua it is an experiment in contorting my body to get into and out of spaces that are clearly too small for my now obscenely large body. When Emily and I visited the market in Jinotepe I was constantly ducking and dodging tarps, roofs, and other objects that were comfortably over the heads of others. Even today while walking towards the bathroom to wash the ants off of my hands I slammed headfirst into the top of the doorway, which in the US would have been a foot or more over my head, which here seems to be so far off the ground as to warrant a warning light for airplanes.

Second, Nicaragua is a very loud place. Emily has mentioned, I believe, that when it rains here a conversation becomes a shouting match that the rain always wins. Everything seems to be noisier here. A normal morning in my house in the US includes the noises of my own snoring startling me awake or possibly a neighbor trimming their lawn if I have left my window open and over slept. When I start my day in the US I roll out of bed and crawl to the coffee maker and then to the shower for a quick nap, this is not how days begin in Nicaragua.

In Nicaragua there is a law that states that at four in the morning the roosters must start crowing. Shortly thereafter the gang fights between cats in tap shoes and birds in lead boots begin (the birds seem to get away most mornings and the cats then take a moment to dance in sadness at their loss). At about five people start driving on the streets, and while the speeds may be lower than in the US, the lack of mufflers on many of the cars makes the noise level more than a touch higher. By this point I walk over to the bathroom, smack my impossibly high off the ground head against the entryway and my day begins in earnest.

On days like this one enjoys a start to a day that is suitably chaotic and altogether enjoyable. However, on some days the Nicaraguans have a special tradition. Birthdays and Mother’s Day are causes to celebrate the world over, but here in Nicaragua they like to begin around four in the morning, just a tick before the roosters. Bands assemble outside of homes and strike up sloppy, loud, happy music. And as any good host will tell you, song choice is very important. And so today (Mother’s Day here in Nicaragua) the band cranked up their instruments and played an instrumental version of “There are No Cats in America” from An American Tale. That is how everyone should wake up in the morning, at an obscene hour to a band blaring songs from a favourite childhood movie.

That is a noise you can feel.

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Week 2 Photos

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