Was it all a dream?

It certainly feels that way at times.  Living in Nicaragua has taken on this dream-like quality in my head.  It already feels so long ago and separate from my life here.  Two completely different lives.  Overall, though, I feel like I have re acclimated into “large family life.”  Living with six other people can be a challenge but I’ve adjusted for the most part!

I’ve been thinking a lot about going back to school in the fall, specifically University of Massachusetts.  I’m getting excited about it!  And tonight, I booked my ticket to Europe, so that’s one step closer!

All for now.

 

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Aaand, I’m back home!

It’s 12:30 am, and I should be fast asleep, seeing as I have just returned from a full day of traveling.  But there are so many thoughts and feelings running through my head, keeping me from sleep.

It is SO strange to be back.  A few minutes ago, I was lying in my bed, struck all of a sudden by how QUIET everything is here. In Leon at night there is CONSTANT noise — trucks honking, music blaring, people shouting, fireworks exploding, etc, and it continues all night long.  It is never this quiet, in part because the house I was living in was totally open to the elements (no roof.)  Sound-proofing is not a concept there.

Earlier, as  we pulled into my driveway, I found myself thinking how unbelievable it is that I can wake up in one country, and end my day in an entirely one.  Air travel is incredible that way!  When I traveled by bus to Guatemala, I at least got a sense of the changes in landscape as we crossed through Honduras and El Salvador.   In a way, I think that it is easier for our brains to travel by bus than by plane because we can visualize / experience the distance in a concrete way.

Nicaragua and Leon feel millions of miles away from here.  It’s just so DIFFERENT in Leon.  Wilder, almost.  More chaotic.  LOUD.  And of course, BLAZING HOT.  For the first time in a long while, I am wearing long pants, a sweatshirt, and socks!  WHAT IS THIS?

Reverse culture shock is for real!

But even if it is a disconcerting feeling, as I watch my dog Josie sleep,  everything feels just as it should.

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The Departure

I’m leaving Nicaragua in three short days.  Am I ready to leave?  This is an impossibly hard question to answer, in part because the reasons I am ready to leave have little to do with Nicaragua itself.  There’s plenty I’m NOT ready to leave behind — the sense of community, the ability to walk everywhere, the less stressful pace of life, the friendliness I encounter in so many, drinking 5 cent natural juice out of a plastic bag, eating fritanga behind the cathedral, treating myself to the most delicious coffee in Cafe Libelula, staring out at the ocean, being crammed tighter than sardines in a chicken bus… I will miss all and more of this.  That being said, I am ready to leave in the sense that I need more focus in my life — at times I’ve felt like I’ve been “floating aimlessly” these past few months, and too much aimless floating can drive you crazy!  I have also been working a little bit, but not enough to offer me a steady daily structure, which is something I have come to appreciate. For all I know, though, I will still be floating aimlessly on my next adventure.  As it stands now, the plan is to au pair in Spain for three months, starting in February.  First, I’m heading back to the US to spend time with my family, and then, in mid-January, will visit extended family in England, and eventually fly to Spain from there.  All plans, though, have the possibility of falling through, so who knows if it will pan out?  What I DO know for certain is that I am leaving Leon, Nicaragua in three days time, and there is SO much I will miss about this place!

Topic Switcheroo: National Adoption Month

Total change of topic, but something relevant in my life.  November is National Adoption Month.  Why is this relevant to me?  Well, because my two younger brothers were adopted from the US foster care system 3.5 years ago.

My thoughts on the subject might be surprising.  I’ve seen a lot of posts from parents advocating for adoption, usually featuring their smiling, precocious child, maybe holding a sign that says something along the lines of “I found my forever family but there are so many others waiting,” or “Spread the joy of adoption.”  Maybe I’m just a bit cynical about the whole thing because I can attest to the fact that for many, adoption is not a rosy affair.  Instead, it’s an emotional draining, exhausting, experience, because it’s not as simple as “opening your family up to someone else”  It’s also letting in a shit ton of trauma into your family.  But I guess I’m speaking of a very specific type of adoption — older child adoption in the US foster care system, where kids have been through neglect, abuse, been exposed to violence in the home, etc, and recovering is not something that love can fix.  I say, do away with the whole notion of “All you need is love” in regards to adoption.  All parties, the adopted children, adoptive parents, siblings, need more that just love to make it all work.

Personally, the people I think that ought to be celebrated during National Adoption month are the mothers who are able to make the decision to put their children up for adoption BEFORE exposing them to abuse, neglect, violence, etc.  But then again, families like mine should also receive recognition.

Trip to Costa Rica

Last week, my roommate/friend and I went to Costa Rica.  The purpose of the trip, in a technical sense, was for us to renew our Nicaraguan visas by crossing the border, and then being reissued one when returning to Nicaragua.  It was quite the trip, for a number of reasons.  One of the craziest things was that Nicaragua temporarily closed the border with Costa Rica right after — in fact, our bus was one of the last ones to cross the border into Costa Rica with relative ease, as another friend of mine was stuck on her bus for 24 hours.  Luckily, they reopened the border after a couple of days and we were able to get back to Nicaragua as planned.  The reason for all this was a group of 1500 Cuban migrants who were trying to get to the US.  They had flown from Cuba to Ecuador, then Panama, and had walked several months until they reached Costa Rica ,where they were issued transit visas but were ultimately blocked from entering Nicaragua, and, after protests at the border (which we witnessed from our bus) were tear-gassed by the army and sent back to Costa Rica.  These were families, many with children, by the way.  When we were going back to Nicaragua, they still hadn’t been allowed through, and were camped out in front of the immigration building.  They had hung up all their clothes along the fences and were lying on blankets, cardboard boxes, sleeping bags, etc.  According to the press, they are still there, stuck in limbo, until it’s decided what “should be done with them.”

I’ve never seen anything like it, and my mind immediately goes to the hundreds of thousands of refugees/ migrants across the globe…

Another day, another post: Kids in Ocotal

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I mentioned in the last post that I taught kids English during my study abroad program.  In fact, this was probably the highlight of the entire experience.

For the program, I was living in the small town of Ocotal in northern Nicaragua, close to the border with Honduras.  While there, I had the opportunity to teach in the afternoons to a group of third graders.  This school, or “Centro de Desarollo Infantil,” was a free school / childcare program for kids ages birth – 10 years old.

The kids I taught were amazing in that they possessed a desire and enthusiasm for learning unparalleled to anything I’d seen before.  Whenever I showed up to teach, they would run up excitedly, “Profe de ingles!” and immediately bombard me with questions.  They would participate to the utmost in any activities I came up with, whether it be a song, a worksheet, a story, a game, etc.     Worksheets, in fact, were some of their favorite activities, and they always wanted to bring extra copies home with them so that their parents/siblings/cousins could learn English too.

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They were a wonderful group of kids because they possessed a natural curiosity an and unfaltering eagerness to learn.  I enjoyed every minute of teaching them, because they were so responsive to my efforts.  I hope one day to feel as inspired/invigorated as I did in their classroom!

Changing course

Ok, ok, this is the same day as the last post.  But I can’t sleep, so I though, why not?

So, basically, when I got back from four months in sunny Nicaragua, I found myself deep in the throes of a FREEZING New England winter, which is where I’m from.  And I mean FREEZING.  And SO much snow.  And I made a discovery about myself — I much prefer to be sweating than shivering.

After three weeks of being at home, my grandmother died, 😦 , and so right before I headed back to the spring semester, I flew to Kansas City to the funeral, and then from there, flew to the midwest. (And yes, I’m leaving the location vague on purpose.  PRIVACYY)

It only took me about two weeks to realize I wasn’t where I needed to be.  It started with Jane Eyre.

I love Jane Eyre.

I love it a lot.

I love that Jane is such a real character, in a time when that couldn’t be said for many female characters in literature.  I loved that she isn’t this beautiful, giggly, blonde-haired girl with flowing locks.  And she’s witty.   And, it’s such a delightfully spooky book at the same time.  So, yeah, I love the book.  What I DON’T love, is having to improvise bullshit inner meanings, or comb through the second for literary devices.  And by the end of the first week, I was starting to dislike Jane Eyre, and that FREAKED me out.

Add onto that some family drama, cramming classes because of transfer credits, claustrophobia, and I kinda had a breakdown.

I felt that I had to be where I was, and I didn’t want to be.  I felt stuck.  I wasn’t sleeping.  I was depressed.  I kept on having self-degrading thoughts about my self-worth.  Stupid, lazy, loser, etc.  I was extremely overwhelmed with work that didn’t feel meaningful.  And, I kept on thinking about what I had loved the most about Nicaragua.  I kept on thinking about this group of kids I taught English to, and the sense of community in Nica which is so different from the US, and walking everywhere, and feeling connected to everything around me.

So I made a drastic change.  I dropped out of college.  Well, technically, I took a leave of absence, to “keep the door open” even though I couldn’t imagine returning.  I knew I wanted to finish my degree, but I felt there was some other stuff I had to do before.

People have asked me, “What did your parents say?” And my parents were fully supportive of the idea because they are adventurers and travelers themselves.  Also, they could tell I was very unhappy at school, and I had to do what was best for me.

All of a sudden I found myself back home on the east coast, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.  Going to college is convenient because it gives you a plan, and I had just pulled the plan out from beneath me.  I had received from my deceased grandparents a small sum of money to put towards education, and I made the decision to expand “education” to outside the classroom.  So I signed up for a TEFL course in Leon, Nicaragua, and a few short months later, I found myself on a plane flying back to the place I had left!  Life is funny sometimes.  Part II of my Nicaraguan adventure!

A blog? Like, for reals??

I am not particularly smart, or funny, or talented, but, like so many, I am putting my fingers to the keys and starting a blog.  Why?  Well, I suppose to keep track of things going on in my life — I used to be quite the record keeper, dedicatedly transcribing my thoughts in a journal every other day, and I’d like to get back to that.  It’s a nice to have something to look back on and say, “So that’s what I was doing.”  More likely, I’ll look back on these posts and think, “I was such an idiot!” but that’s also part of the experience.

So, basically, it’s for myself. Aaand to anyone else that somehow managed to stumble into my little corner of the internet.  Welcome, fellow human!!

To bring my future self, and all the rest of y’alls, up-to-date, I’m currently living in Leon, Nicaragua.  What am I doing here, you ask?  Well, I’m teaching English (occasionally), stumbling through speaking Spanish (on a daily basis), reading lots of books, (right now it’s David Copperfield) eating lots of Gallo Pinto, drinking Tonas, sweating profusely, (always) swimming, going to the beach, among other things.

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I’ve been in Nicaragua for a total of nine months, (Leon for five) but it’s an interesting story of how I got here.

When I first arrived in Nicaragua August 2014, I was going on a Study Abroad program with a small liberal arts college in the Midwest USA.  To say the program was easy, or even an entirely positive experience, would not be the truth.  When I first landed in the land of lakes and volcanoes, there were nine participants in total, but by the end of the first month, the numbers had dwindled to six.  People, I believe, can regress when they are put in an unfamiliar/foreign environment, and this regression happened to some of the participants in the program, which meant a lot of drama!  Long story short, it was mentally draining, and, I should add, not a very well-organized study abroad program.  (There was very little possibility, for example, to interact with people outside of the five other students, which might have added to the issues..)  But, and this is the most important part, I absolutely fell in love with this amazing, vibrant, dynamic country, and when I left it after four months , I knew I would be back.  I just didn’t realize quite how SOON I would be back…

TO BE CONTINUED…