Ryan and I at Visitor's Day, notice the "friends" pose.
Roberto, our knowledgeable guide.
So, I know that my blog entries have had new installments about every 10 days as opposed to every week as promised. I very much like to keep all informed and don’t want to leave things out. Sometimes, though, the days run away from me and I find myself needing to be in the right mindset to write a thoughtful entry. The good news is today is the day!
Island of Ometepe
This past weekend we were able to enjoy a couple of days of break on the island and I have since realized I am living in a truly beautiful and unique place. It was nice to see and meet other travelers and say…”yeah, we live and work on the island. We just have a couple of days off.” We encountered a bunch of backpackers, a very nice U.S. family who reminded me of my own, a lovely couple from Galicia, Spain, and two blond, dreadlocked women who were fire throwers. Yes, fire throwers who are touring Central America and spontaneously putting on shows. They were on their way to a full moon party on the other side of the island. It’s good to know there is something for everybody here. We took a kayak trip for the morning on Saturday and saw some awesome birds all while being led by Roberto, in whom we had some doubt when he fell in the water while standing up in his kayak. We also got royally sunburned from the adventure and are molting now. There is much to explore and see including hiking the Volcano Maderas, and Conception. The population of the island is 38,000 people who mostly are farmers and/or involved in the somewhat underdeveloped tourism. It is larger than Maui, Hawaii and has so much potential. It’s rural and sometimes quaint character make you feel that you are indeed in a special place.
In true Nicaraguan fashion, though, it seems like people have tried to make an effort, but in reality the notion of hospitality is not fully realized. It has become a running joke as to how unfriendly some of the wait/hostal staff can be in this country. The island is famed to be more relaxed than the rest of the country, but when your waitress looks at you like you are an idiot for ordering a beer and doesn’t smile despite the most polite of interaction, we have begun to deduce that the lack of interest in Nicaragua in tourism is due to the hot and cold attitude of those you might meet.
Getting around the island is no skip and jump. Buses are slow, but the paved road is only from the two largest cities. Half the island is rocky, bumpy, muddy, and nearly impossible to travel. Taxis are common and quite expensive compared to the rest of Nicaragua. As a result, Ryan and I had the glorious idea of renting a rugged motorbike and taking our sweet time to the other side of the island. Almost all island natives have a moterbike and it is their main mode of transport, so we thought, hey, we can do this, but upon an hour of practice, two people, two full backpacks, and realizing that our lives were truly in danger, we decided to pass and coughed up the cash for a taxi and decided it was the best decision since January.
On Sunday, NPH had its first of three Visitor’s Days of the year at the main offices of NPH which are on the mainland in San Jorge. Everybody got on the 7 a.m. ferry and spent the whole day hanging out, playing games, painting faces, eating ice cream, and some saw family. Visitor’s Day is an opportunity for the kids’ families to visit for the day. Unfortunately, following the past, it was apparently a poor showing. Some kids were able to see grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins and siblings. It was a bittersweet day as some kids have never had visitors and some can count on Aunt so in so to always show. To keep those with no visitors occupied I now can play the game Uno and win with my eyes closed. As with most things, economics keep many families from visiting as some kids come from at least a 12 hour bus ride away. It was a long day, but nice to see some organization take place and some of the kids very happy.
The Volunteer House
As of now there are 11 volunteers living in the “casa de los voluntarios.” It has a lovely setting away from where the kids live and we can hear the lake water from inside. The view from the porch filled with banana trees and sugar cane is wonderful when the sun is right and at sometimes I feel like I should breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the free style living. Other times, which unfortunately is more than I will admit, I think, what the hell am I doing living here? The bugs are disgusting and we lately have had problems of rodents. The electricity will go off right when you are cooking something or writing an email. At times there is a waiting list for the outside laundry station. As with any community living there are serious frustrations about who eats who’s food, who doesn’t refill the water, who leaves what light on, who is making that noise, who doesn’t do their dishes, personal space etc. It can be even more blood boiling when some view things as “part of life here in Nicaragua” when, in fact, with some structure people might be more comfortable. Can you tell I am venting? Now, as some of you might know, I have lived in some pretty crappy living situations. This is better than those to some degree, but let’s just say, it is one of the most annoying parts about this experience.
Here at NPH there is a policy that boyfriends and girlfriends are “officially” not permitted. In effort to wane some of the inevitable hormonal issues that arise with over 100 pre-pubescent kids it is probably not the worst idea. This policy, however, applies to everyone including the volunteers and that means Ryan, my boyfriend and I are officially unofficial while on NPH grounds. What is a bit confusing is that upon applying for our positions we were led to believe that our “relationship status” would be a good example to the kids and it was encouraged. As we arrived, on the other hand, one of the first things we were told before meeting the kids was that we could not reveal that we in fact came together, are boyfriend and girlfriend, and plan on spending a significant amount of time together when we aren’t around the little buggers. Of course, the volunteers know and are very cool with it, the other adultus/Tios are too. Not wanting to upset the powers that be Ryan and I have thus indeed remained “amigos” (friends) while around the kids. I pretty much lie to a child everyday when they ask or accuse Ryan of being my novio (boyfriend). These kids aren’t stupid, nor are they secret keepers, so until further notice we are just two people from the same country (who don’t know each other’s family), speaking the same language, showing respect to one another, spending breaks together, usually walking together, teaching together, and sharing a plate (sometimes there are not enough plates at dinner and like we want to share with any of the biohazard kids who don’t wash their hands) who happen to be friends.
As of today I have been in Nicaragua fro two months. I cannot believe how time works here. Much has happened both here and home. This past week I found out my brother is officially going to college and will playing soccer for the Air Force Academy, one of my dearest friends now has a diamond on her ring finger, and I can do a load of laundry here in a hour. Life continues to move and sometimes the pace of it scares me to death.