Oscar, Jeffery and I.
The past 2 weeks have been some of the most eventful weeks here at NPH. A wedding, the 16th Anniversary of NPH, and the regular schedule. It has gone by fast and in just over a week I will be visiting home. Time continues to frighten and fascinate me.
Juan Pablo and Aura’s Wedding
As mentioned in my previous entry Juan Pablo, a Tio (caretaker), here at NPH and his wife were wed two weeks ago at the chapel here on the NPH property. All the kids were able to attend and many of the kids were part of the wedding party. It was a true gift to witness the couple’s ceremony. Aura grew up here on the Island at NPH and seeing her life sort of come full circle by ways of NPH was very cool. After the ceremony there were 6 piñatas, lots of candy fights, and dancing until 10 at night. It was awesome to see the kids all be apart of the special day too. Not many of them have seen such a celebration of such a respectable pair. It was beautiful, but also very Nicaraguan in the planning. Earlier that day we ran some errands into Moyogalpa (the hub of the Island) and asked Aura if there was anything last minute she needed from town. She happily responded and gave us the responsibility of finding the wedding music that would be played as she walked down the aisle and for her and Juan Pablo’s first dance. Yikes! The gringos in charge of wedding music at the eleventh hour! We found the requested music at the makeshift CD/DVD stand on the street corner and got it back safely and successfully. Phew! It was good to have a hand in the celebration and see a family in the making.
Now I know in my previous entries including the paragraph above I have not been keen on the way some things are planned here. It works out just fine in the end, but I can say that most of the time I would do things differently if I were in charge (which by the way I am very glad I am not). HOWEVER, the 16th Anniversary of NPH Nicaragua was a logistical miracle and a ton of fun. About a month ago there was a grand meeting with all the volunteers and Tios about the grand day. It even got a little annoying at times because it seemed that that was all anyone cared about, but nothing here has been so meticulously coordinated and planned. It was basically a fun long day best described as the NPH Olympics. There were 16 teams; they each had a name, flag, song, t-shirt, presentation, and lots of enthusiasm. All competed against one another for the most points to be able to go to Managua and see a movie and go out to eat. All the volunteers were assigned a game to coordinate and also be the judge. My game was the Telaraña (Spider web) where 2 teams had to take apart and remake a spider web made in the shortest time possible. The day started off with Mass, of course, games followed, lunch, more games, the election of the NPH queen, dinner, cake, and fiesta until midnight! Also fun, I was able to judge the queen election and the youngest, Katerine, won because she was clearly the most confident. All the kids were totally into the day and very tuckered at the end along with the volunteers. The best part was seeing the kids forget about a lot of the stuff that bothered them: other kids, adults, school, chores, grades, teachers, family and just have a good time.
The long talked about rain has finally arrived and I love it in the middle of the day when a big storm rolls in and cools everything off. Things are getting greener too and it is a nice change from the dust. I am glad my family will be visiting when it is more lush and fresh. The changing seasons also unfortunately has brought on a lot of colds, headaches, and overall strange corporal feelings. It’s beginning to be “winter” here and I had no idea that people adjusted to the seasons just as they do in the Midwest. When winter rolls around everybody is worried about catching a cold and people start getting moody, same thing happens in a tropical climate.
Malcriados , Milagros y Mangos
This past week I finally figured out that I could look up past records of some of my students and look at the notes from other “teachers” from past Aula de Recursos tutors/volunteers. It might sound a little funny, but I was under the impression that such files were only available to the occupational and physical therapists. Anyway, I was able to find out a little more about some of the kids here at NPH. It was a very interesting experience to read notes from the social worker and know more about the backgrounds of the children and now that I know more I am not sure if ignorance is bliss or knowledge is power.
Regrettably, I forget at times that these kids do not have families that can take care of them. The majority come from families of extreme poverty paired with drug abuse, violence in the home, abandonment, illiterate parents – overall terrible situations. All the kids know it too. They know that some people have parents that don’t leave, hurt them, that can feed them and give them all the attention they deserve. In Spanish, there is a term to distinguish these kids from others - malcriados (badly created, or better said, dammed). The kids here will openly admit to being malcriado/a and almost use it as a way to band together. Up until reading some of their histories do I truly understand why they feel that they are distinguishable by such a term. They have only received that message. Here at NPH, too, they are constantly reminded that they are one of many, and special, but that all together they sort of represent the brokenness that exits in the world.
Many frustrations exist here at NPH for me personally, and sometimes I don’t understand the decisions that are made, but this organization works. NPH is not for every child or every situation, but those who have grown up here and gone through all the ups and downs of adolescence seem to be functional citizens who truly just want to raise families without the past of theirs haunting them. The majority of the older kids of 16-18 years old who are in their “Service Year” doing dishes, helping with the smaller ones and doing all the annoying chores are respectful, goal-driven and recognize NPH as their saving grace. In reflection, it has so far been a milagro (miracle) to see and be a part of.
So with the changing rain not only comes more foliage, but mangos. The mangos here are wonderful and sweet now and we have a joke that mangos actually control our world more than we do. Mango trees are all over the property here. The kids are constantly figuring out ways to collect as many as they can and trade them for things like marbles, pens, etc. I have not gone an unsleeping hour without seeing a kid with a stone/stick in his hand pointed at a mango tree. Somebody always seems to be in trouble because they left school to look for mangos, so and so took so and so’s mango without permission, they climbed the tree to high and fell, or left to many seeds as evidence and didn’t clean up. When kids come to work with me their hands are always sticky and if you tell a kid to draw a tree that isn’t a palm tree, you will get something that looks like an apple tree, but those apples are yellow/reddish mangos. I have grown very fond of them myself and it really is a unique experience to eat a just ripe mango from a tree.
Back in Illinois in a week!
By this time next week I will be packed and ready to get on the plane to visit home. I am VERY excited to see my parents, my grandmother, and see my brother receive an awesome honor. I can’t wait to give friends a hug and eat my parent’s food. I already know it will go by WAY to fast. What will be notable upon return is how perspectives of life at home and life here change and don’t change. At least it will be an excuse for another blog entry!