I can honestly say I have not experienced as much change in the past two weeks as I have in my whole life. I knew life moved quickly, but whoa! It is hard to imagine that just a little over a week ago I was saying goodbye to the kids and Nicaragua, I was riding on a really hot bus and that once again all my stuff that I needed to live on what packed up in a large duffle bag. After a best described bittersweet day at NPH, we took the journey home, which was an adventure in and of itself and now Ryan and I are back in the U.S.A. and starting, not over again, but starting anew in more ways than a change of location.
The last word
Living at the volunteer house has never been a cakewalk and that living and working with the same people is not always the best combination. Well, this week I was again reminded of these things through the lack of respect and professionalism that is continually shown amongst the veteran volunteers. Some volunteers returned from vacation and as we were leaving new ones were coming in. All in all, after some last minute decisions and again poor communication where some of my students were affected, I was very happy to leave that crappy house and the dynamic of personalities that have formed inside. Saying goodbye to the kids, however, was a different story.
Our piñata party was a huge success, but the limbo element was sort of lost in the shuffle when someone broke the limbo stick to use as the batting tool for the candy-filled creatures. Oh well! The kids had a ton of fun, but before our celebration, the kids had a surprise of their own. Each section, about 8/10 kids, had a special presentation/goodbye for Ryan, Carmen and I. We heard songs, poems, received drawings and it was hard to keep myself together when my section of boys said that they loved me and were going to miss me. It was unexpected and hurt your heart sweet. I also received some very touching notes from the kids I have formed close relationships with. When I read them now I cannot help from becoming dehydrated ☺. I have been spoiled with so many hugs, “I love yous,” and “I will miss yous.” The whirlwind of leaving left me with some feelings of incompleteness the next day when I realized there were some kids I didn’t get to hug again or tell them how special they were to me. The entire process of leaving NPH after seven months hit me the hardest as we were on the bus in Costa Rica heading to the airport in San Jose. I put my sunglasses on to hide my red gringa eyes and said goodbye to beautiful Central America and made a promise never to forget the kids and how wonderful they are.
Illinois , Iowa and I
All things wonderful happen in the states that begin with the letter I. The past week I spent getting caught up with my parents in Rockford, IL and used to the first world. It honestly felt strange that I was not in the U.S. just to visit and had to remind myself that I was indeed not heading back to Nicaragua. Unlimited warm showers, driving by myself, my dad’s coffee, pre-inspected meat, seeing good friends, using fast internet, going barefoot, my mother’s comfortable bedroom chair, things being clean, using makeup, all is somewhat new and renewed. As I drove to Iowa to visit some friends and see Ryan at his new job I found myself thinking that the Midwest is really one of the best places to live in the world. The drive through Galena, IL and looking at the rolling farmland made me recall a friend who called the area a fairyland instead.
Being back, however, has some changes that I didn’t expect. Over the past 7 months I had gotten very used to the constant affection that the kids at NPH displayed. Every time I was around the kids I was guaranteed a hug, a how are you, and it usually happened more than once in a 15 minute period. I realized that I miss that ever-present physical response from them. Us Middle Americans are not so quick to throw a hug at someone or to love a stranger without some proof or history that they deserve it. It sounds sort of silly, but I miss all of their hugs! Using Spanish is also something I miss dearly. I have stumbled upon myself using phrases that only Nicaraguans use in response to frustration or excitement. I have concluded too that I need to be more proactive in keeping the language fresh in my mind when there aren’t 100 kids to practice with daily.
In the time I was away from this country, I learned that where I come from is indeed a rich, vibrant, and growing culture, just like Nicaragua is. Prior, I knew that there were traditions and things only people from my hometown might understand, but I never gave it the credit it deserved. It is ironic how I had to spend time in a foreign culture to appreciate my own. I feel at home now, as I always have, but I guess I love it more. Do I wish Americans would slow down and work to live rather than the opposite? Yes. Do I think that kids here are spoiled rotten and woosies? Yes. Do I miss the simplicity and the beauty of the Island? Of course. Do I believe that the Nicaraguan people are beautiful and that their level of poverty is grave? Yes. Do I want to live anywhere else for awhile besides the U.S.A.? No. Will I live my life differently here after being there? I hope so.
Movin’ on up
All in all it is good to be back and it is time to start making some big girl decisions. The first of which happened a little sooner than I expected. The big news that has happened besides some reverse culture shock and the Midwest heat is that Ryan and I are engaged! I am thrilled and he asked me in the classroom we met in at the University of Iowa. It was very special and my parents and friends were in on it too. It was a very fun surprise, as I knew it would happen eventually and I knew my answer already, but I did not think it was going to be a week after coming home. Turns out life moves faster and slower than you do sometimes, but I am ready for the next chapter of “la vida” and I have a great person to write it with.
Enjoy the last of the photos and thank you so much for reading my blog “La vida Nica”. Mucho amor.