28 March 2011

in the spirit of three cups of tea.

On my first day of class here in Costa Rica, my wise intern Annie used this quote to introduce us to one of the challenges of living in Latin America:

"That day Haji Ali taught me the most important lesson I've ever learned in my life. We Americans think you have to accomplish everything quickly. We're the country of thirty-minute power lunches and two-minute football drills...Haji Ali taught me to share three cups of tea, to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects. He taught me that I had more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever hope to teach them."
-Greg Mortenson

Life is slower here in Latin America, which is both awesome and awful depending on my mood.  Slowing down was easy in Nicaragua because I didn't have anything to do but play with adorable kids and hang out by the river.  However, here in Chahuites, a beautiful little town in the mountains of Costa Rica, where I have a "job," I'm still learning how to slow down and take three cups of tea.  I am here to work in a school and spend time with my host family and there have been both good and bad parts to my experience so far.  Last week in school, I helped teach the English class once. I wish it was more, but the teacher didn't do much teaching herself, so there wasn't much need for help.  This week I am helping teach a bunch of precious first graders.  It seems like the teachers in this school don't care much about teaching.  They leave the class for long periods of time, leaving the kids to just color and talk and goof around.  Today the teacher prepared the day's lesson in class as the kids were sitting there, waiting to be taught.  It's frustrating for me to be there and see so much potential in these kids.  But, I am here to learn not to teach.  So, I walked around the class and talked to the kids and helped out when the teacher gave me something to do.

Likewise, at home, slowing down takes patience.  I live with my mami and my 78 year old abuelita (and my host brother Fabian, but he's always at work).  My family is wonderful, but they're a little older and spend most of their free time relaxing on the patio in rocking chairs or watching t.v.  My adventurous, young self longs to play soccer with anyone who can kick a ball or talk with people my own age or even play with rocks with little kids.  Anything active that involves moving.  Alas, there are no little kids in my family or 20 year olds, so I'm learning to put aside my restlessness and enjoy just sitting.  Tonight after watching a bit of tele, my mami, abuela and I ate an apple and sat on the front porch watching the birds and the random dogs go by.  My mom commented on the trees and we simply sat and enjoyed the beautiful evening.  I must say, it was really enjoyable.

I don't think I have to give up being adventurous and active, but I do think it is valuable to take time to slow down, relax, reflect and enjoy life.  When I'm not in school or eating delicious meals with my family, I spend my time reading, journaling, running at the local soccer field, watching the afternoon novella with my mami and abuelita and simply relaxing on the porch, talking and learning more about my host family.

I can't lie, the first week was a little rough.  As in, I felt homesick and lonely each afternoon.  But an afternoon nap helped with that and so did my splendid weekend.  It's hard to be here on my own with no American friends to talk and laugh with, but the internet is a miracle and I am learning to rely on my host family when I feel lonely.  Even though I can't express to them all my deepest thoughts, nor am I able to say all the little things I want to say, they are people who listen if I have something to say and talk to me and greet me each morning with "buenas dias mi linda!"  My family here is great and I have a lot to learn from them.  Each day I feel more comfortable and everything gets a little easier. Before coming on my internship, I really wanted to be fully present here and just be completely engaged in my family and community here.  But, I realize that I can't be fully present here because some of the most important people in my life are not here.  Joshua, my family and my friends are often on my mind and I don't think I should ignore them just because I'm in a different country.  So, I am trying to be fully engaged when I am with my family and stretch myself to constantly think in Spanish in their presence.  But if I get the chance to skype  with my family or Josh or read a wonderful letter from Niquita, I will thoroughly enjoy that as well. 

Although my life here is slower, I can't deny that it is an adventure in it's self.

20 March 2011

something different.

This is just a little post to say that I am off to Heredia, Costa Rica to work in a school for three weeks.  I think I will be working with an English teacher and I will be living with a wonderful little family in the mountains.  I don't know much about what I will be doing, so I can't say much.  However, I am not guaranteed to have any internet access, so if I don't blog much (or at all) in the next three weeks, that is why.

Also, this coming Wednesday marks two years of my togetherness-boyfriend-girlfriendness with Joshua.  I have to tell the world that he is the love of my life and I am so thankful for the past two years we have spent together.  Josh, thank you for being so kind, generous, funny, goofy, humble and everything else that is good in the world.  You are the best and I miss you so, so much.

18 March 2011

Nicaragua

I have been bad at blogging.  I realize this, but I sort of have an excuse. Not really, but here it is.  Recently, I spent 10 days in Nicaragua without internet.  I was in Managua for two days, then I went to el campo, the countryside, to live with a Nicaraguan family for 6 days and my trip ended with two days in Granada.  The point of the trip was to form relationships with Nicaraguans.  So after a couple days of field trips and lectures in Managua, we hopped on buses and ended up in rural communities.  We all stayed with host communities affiliated with the Mennonite Church.  I lived in the community of Boqueron with a pastor, his wife, two daughters, three sons and one grandson.  My time in Nicaragua was challenging, fun, rewarding and eye-opening.  It was so many things and I cannot possibly convey all my thoughts about this incredibly unique experience.  But, I will give it a try.
My days were filled with lots of children, LOTS of food, the river, church, soccer, lots of Spanish.  Everyday I usually woke up to see at least one neighborhood kid in my living room, playing with the beach ball I brought or just waiting for me to wake up.  I spent the majority of each day playing with these kids, swimming in the river, lettting them guide me around their community.  

One of my favorite days in the community was they day I spent 5 hours playing in the river with the kids in my community.  We had a mud fight, played in the sand, kicked the soccer ball around and talked together.  There were so many beautiful little kids in my community who I enjoyed getting to know.  Another amazing experience I had was going with my host mom to the market in Managua to sell her produce.  We woke up at four a.m. to get ready and catch the bus.  After arriving in Managua, I did a lot of sitting while my mama passed out her produce to different venders.  Then we got breakfast and I got to spend time talking with my mama and getting to know her a lot better.  I was amazed at the little information she knew about Nicaragua's history.  It is really astonishing how little everyone in my community knew about their country, politics, geography and the United States.  Pretty much everyone there makes a living through farming, so they don't have a pressing need to be educated.  My family seemed happy and they ate well, but I have a feeling that was mostly because I was there.  I gave them money to eat, so maybe they have days when they only eat one meal.  Maybe my 21 year old sister is discontent with her life.  Maybe my favorite little five year old, Cristhal, has dreams of being a doctor or an astronaut or an artist.  It devastates me that I can do pretty much anything I want with my life and it will be almost impossible for Christhal to ever leave her community.  If she were to leave her community, she would have to leave behind her culture, her family and her community, where as if I wanted to live in Australia I could see my family multiple times a year because I have the money to buy plane tickets.  So after ten days in Nicaragua and six of those living with wonderful, genuine Nicarag├╝enses, I am full of questions about life and poverty and my purpose in life.  I think I will be asking some of these questions all my life.  I learned so much from these people and will never forget them.  One of the hardest parts about saying goodbye were the many questions about when I was going to return.  I don't think my family there knows how hard it would be for me to come back.  However, through LASP I will be able to send them packages and letters.