My final ode to Nicaragua

Posted in Uncategorized on July 22, 2012 by llaidlaw

I haven’t always treated you well. I have had some dark moments and said and thought some loquitas. Ive called home to let off some steam; I’ve altered some people’s opinions of you. But you have been oh so insanely good to me my nicaraguita.

Your endless green pastures, rolling hills, and many volcanos have been my backdrop and oh do they have a therapeutic way about them.

Your absence of personal space, privacy, or danger stranger has gifted me thousands of connections with strangers…gifted me smiles, laughs, and priceless insight

Your free adventures have provided endless hours of fun…and the best stories.

And hey, thank you for always being down for a chat nicaragua.

Your absence of fences has let me master small talk with my neighbors at every hour of the day.

Your rampant chisme taught me to be okay being misunderstood..and confident of who I am despite others’ opinions.

And man, that bachata music that plays through your speakers–it makes my heart swoon

Your kiddos have lifted me from my lowest moods with their simple joy at having found me walking down the street.

The fierceness of your sun has taught me the importance of caring for our earth.

Your outdoor living has won my heart.

I have basked in the lawlessness of your land which has allowed me great freedom to choose goodness and loyalty and righteousness

You gifted me senoras who call me amor and even though they are strangers and it means nothing more than a greeting to them, have sent me endless amount of warmth.

Your buses have lulled me to sleep, their vendors fed me and stocked my fridge.

You showed me what it actually looks like to put your family first…and to not.

Your unexpectedness has taught me action amidst ambiguity as well as flexibility and creativity.

The resourcefulness and wide-array of skills that kids have here put boy scouts to shame..and could fill dictionaries in my mind.

You have taught me to let go of that which I cannot control…and given me much practice at it.

You have tripped me and kicked me while I was down, but you always helped me back up…stronger.

You gave me sisters nicaragua–sassy ones!

You have given me patience incomprehensible and have ridden me of my need to complain all the time.

Your rain and lightning storms have reminded me of my smallness amidst God’s creation.

You have refined my thoughts on healthy living

You have been my playground, my workplace, my home, my protector, and my teacher. You have transformed my mind my nicaraguita. And I will forever hold you in my heart; I will forever respect you and forever drink your mediocre beer

Posted in Uncategorized on July 12, 2012 by llaidlaw

When students sit down with their friends during recess, they talk about people. They talk about themselves, their families, their friends, their favorite artists, their enemies, etc. This often leads to gossip.

 

When people gather around a world map, it’s rare to find them gossiping about their neighbor and ex-boyfriend hooking up. Rather, you will find them talking about history, and dreams of traveling, and the good/bad of different cultures, and how freakin big Russia is, and how cold it is there, etc.

 

And that seems like a good enough reason (besides the incredible resource it is) to have one in every school. I was also tired of explaining that an entire ocean separates the USA and Europe.

 

And better than a world map in a book in the library is a huge one painted on the main wall at school.

So that’s what we did.

I recruited a teacher and a handful of students and handed over the project.

 

The teacher taught us how to use chalk and string to make a perfect grid

 

Then we taught kids who said they couldn’t draw, that they could, square by square…

And draw they did. Well.

 

Then we taught kids who said they couldn’t paint that they could.

And paint they did.

 

 

Then the teacher showed off his spiffy method for making your own stencils…

 

And after lots of coats and tedious painting.

And all the details of bordering and writing the names of the countries…

 

We put wood varnish on it by accident and ‘antiqued’ it haha. oops. But BAM! a world map!

It ended up being a perfect last hoorah.

You see, upon arriving in our communities, we desperately want to be needed. We want to prove ourselves, we want to help, we want to be important. It’s human. But our goal is that in the end, the community says “look what we did” not “look what the gringa did”. And this was just a simple, straight-forward example of me being able to be an encourager, engager, connector, facilitator, and trainer all from behind the scenes. I got to work with the teacher, guiding the project, but then it was him leading all the students. When they need help, they looked first to him. When they wanted to do a similar project with their favorite brand logos, they interview him about how to break up the photo and put a grid on it. When their fellow classmates said they couldn’t participate, they patiently encouraged them to try and then taught them the techniques the teacher and I had taught them. There was sufficient joking and joshing and inappropriate behavior just like in any other school but there was also constant talk of culture, sharing of opinions and telling of historical tales. And now there’s a plan to do another one in the other high school–without me. Just like it should be.


one month out…

Posted in Uncategorized on June 25, 2012 by llaidlaw

I never forgot about you.

I have been writing and I’m hoping to get some things posted in this little space soon. In the meantime, I thought you might find this interesting.

As volunteers we fill out entrance and exit interviews for the purpose of filling space in our little volunteer-run newspaper that comes out every 4 months or so. 

I think the exit interview is a good glimpse of my life here so I’m posting it here for you all…and because lots of it is culturally-specific, I did a little explaining. Enjoy.

 

Favorite Nica Dicho (dicho=saying): uff que clase de calor! 

In my head this means ‘shiz it’s hot’ but directly translated it’s ‘geez what kind of heat’. The phrase que clase de…is common and can be used to negatively describe just about anything. So if you saw a mom telling her son to pee in public, you could say ‘que clase de mujer…’ and then ramble on about what horrible woman would teach her child to do such a thing. It’s my favorite saying because it’s hot every single day here and yet I hear this phrase numerous times, every single day.  As if yesterday wasn’t this hot and tomorrow won’t be. As if it’s something new. To me it’s like stating, “oh look, the sun rose today!” to everyone, everyday. You see why it makes me smile? Yup, that’s why I like it.

Number of Nicas Kissed:

What did you miss most from home? Social freedom, my dearest friends, live music, and dinner parties

I miss being able to go out, sit down for dinner with a guy friend and not hear gossip about it from 10 people the next day, drinking beer in public without stares, having the right to wear shorts without sexual commentary, etc. That’s what I mean by social freedom.

What did you do during your service? I’ll tell you about that over coffee but there were a lot of blue and white uniform wearing teenagers, business terms, trash, bureaucracy, and adventures involved.

Favorite Nica food or drink: chica de pina, tamales relleno, güirilas con cujada

I’m seriously going to miss these. Every time I buy a pineapple, I give the skins to my host sister who leaves them to ferment for two days and then prepares chicha de pina. It’s a deliciously sweet, alcoholic, pineapple juice. Tamales relleno are a sweet corn dough tamale filled with cinnamon instead of meat. Guirilas are a sweet corn pancake looking thing the size of your face and they serve it hot with fresh cheese and you want to eat 10.

Your PC Nicaragua theme song? Anything by Aventura or Romeo Santos

When were you at your most Nica? A year and half in…that’s when I started elbowing grandmas and small children out of the way to get a seat on the bus

Favorite thing about your site: The high-pitched bickering and constant joke-playing that defines my relationship with my host family…I never had sisters or a vulgar mom. I have thoroughly enjoyed both.

Best memory: The feeling after pulling off a huge event even semi-successfully.

Worst memory: all the ones involving nica men inappropriately touching me…they are so dang sneaky and creative.

Most embarrassing moment: needing the instructional ‘how to correctly mash your poop with the iron rod’ from my host family during training to ensure everything went down the toilet nicely…when that happens, just two weeks in country, nothing else can possibly leave you embarrassed.

How many times did you have to poop in a cup? Not enough to get good at it

Pooping in a cup in the basic parasite test and it’s the first thing they make you do when you have upset stomachs and irregular bowel movements…and you should see the miniscule size of the cups they give you.

Part of your body or health that will never be the same: everything made it out pretty well besides my now severely used and stretched out sweat glands

Best place to be vago (vago is basically ‘out of site’): any beach, drinking beers in a hammock

Craziest bus story: so thankful I have nothing to put here

If I’m honest, I have cried multiple times on buses solely due to the mix of sweating, suffocating, someone else’s crotch rubbing against my cheek while someone’s pulling on my hair, and the vendors are screaming and the bus is idling because people refuse to move towards the center, and the smell of rotting shrimp is flowing through the bus, etc. you get the drift. But other than being miserable, nothing scary like buses rolling backwards into ditches and flipping over ever happened to me.

What you’ll miss the most: culturally appropriate stalking and staring…for real

Best care package item: chocolate from my dear friend in Germany

Advice on dating a Nica: worth the dramatic disaster I guarantee you it will be…no further comments will be made

Break any PC rules? Apparently we’re not supposed to get on motorcycles…

Ever wanted to ET(early terminate ie go home)? Never seriously

Would you do it all over again? I think I got it all I the first time, thanks though

Gained or last weight? yes

Biggest challenge? Nicaraguans obsession with saving face at the cost of honesty…and the anything starting with fijense que…

Advice to remaining volunteers: don’t try and decide your own legacy in your community…it’s not about you anyways.

I am known not only in my community but also stateside for building plastic bottle buildings. This bothers me to the core. It is not what I came here to do, was assigned to do, or something I care deeply about. It was just a successful solution we implemented. Well, it was a lot more than that and its effect in the community has been startling beautiful. But nonetheless, it’s taken me a while to come to peace with the fact that most people think that’s what I’m here doing. And it’s what I will be remembered for by many. And that’s ok. In fact, it’s great.

Regrets: not climbing San Cristobal…the tallest volcano here in Nicaragua and also the one in my backyard that I spend every bus ride, run, and day staring at.

Where can we find you in 10 yrs? Hopefully on an even crazier adventure, with a dashing husband, investing in and supporting local entrepreneurs in developing markets.

Parting words: Bueno. Because everything ends with bueno.

leaving a beautiful life

Posted in Uncategorized on April 14, 2012 by llaidlaw

3

Months

Left

that little phrase holds some heavy meaning. Topped with a generous serving of anxiety, excitement, fear, and work.

I lose my job in 3 months. More importantly, I lose my life. This beautiful life I have here, I have to sit on a bus one day and drive away from it. To move back to a place that left me itching to flee but awkwardly enough much of which I now crave. Crave like an addict on a sobriety attempt. I’m torn between what I miss now and what I know I will miss. I’m experiencing all sorts of emotions regarding entering corporate America and a lifestyle defined by an obsession with time.

I’ve got to find a job and a place to settle. I have to find new distractions and adventures and relationships. I have to start over…again.

Oh but I am ecstatic to call my friends any moment I want and to have a coffee pot. I can’t wait to not be sweaty all the time and to not listen to men banter about me in the street.

I have a lot to do. I have no intentions of sneaking out. The things that need to be finished I plan on finishing and those that need to be carried on without my oversight I plan to transfer completely into capable and powerful hands.

Specifically, I have to get my counterpart teachers prepared to not have my support. With some, we’re planning ahead to finish all lesson-planning before we begin the 2nd semester. With others we are beginning to fund raise for the competition in October. I am personally compiling all necessary and helpful documents onto a digital format to leave behind for them.

We have to finish our youth center and have an epic inauguration party.

We have a world map to paint at the high school so that not one more kid graduates promoting the idea that England and the USA share a border.

I have a workshop to give about entrepreneurial teaching.

And I want to see my kids with the BEST biz ideas.

Those are the things that fill my mind and energy right now. Besides the heat and rain and the vulgarities we discuss within the security of my trusted host family.

I canNOT wait to see all of your beautiful faces in July!! It’s just around the corner!

days like this

Posted in Uncategorized on March 20, 2012 by llaidlaw

Monday morning my alarm went off as per usual. Except this time instead of heinous beeping it played the luscious voice of Jose Gonzalez. It made 4am lovelier.

I got out of bed and could barely walk for the 8th day in a row. (I always liked routine.) All because of a water slide. Not a water slide accident, just a normal ride down a normal water slide. Actually it wasn’t really a ‘normal’ ride or a ‘normal’ water slide. We were at a nica-made wannabe water park with basically no rules. We drank beers and did whatever we wanted all day, including sending people up and down the slide at the same time, chasing deer around the compound, and making trains of people to send down the steepest slide. It wasn’t until the boys mounted the kiddie carousel to film shots for their rap video that the administration shook their finger at us. Go kill yourself but don’t let the grown men near the children is kinda what it seemed like.

Anyways my back hurt and it was 4am. So I made coffee. Typical. Then I made a hot compress and sat in my hammock sipping coffee and warming my back in the darkness of the pre-dawn hours. Relaxed. After 20 min or so I could move my shoulders without shooting pains and I easily convinced myself to go run.

It was extra cool that morning. I found myself throwing my head back and flinging my arms out to the side to thoroughly enjoy the breezes. I sang out loud. I enjoyed the sunrise behind the volcano and smiled into the blinding sun. When I got bored and wanted to be done, I started pep talking myself through the last 3 miles. You know all those embarrassing remarks like ‘you got this’, ‘keep at it laurel’ and the like. Yup. Out loud. There may have been fist pumps involved. It just felt right that morning. It felt weirdly right.

I got home, opened my back door, picked a mango off one of our 9 trees out back and ate it like an apple. Mmmmm. I played with my dog, chatted with my counterpart, and pumped water from the well without a sour face. OH and I found the BEST pancake recipe.

Then I went to work.

But as I was getting dressed I realized how many small victories I had already had before 8am.

After a few lousy, discouraging weeks, it felt refreshingly weird to be unshakably positive.

I know they say that we have full control over our attitude and livelihood but I’ve had a lot days where survival mode was the best I could give. Sure we can choose not to act on feelings of frustration or to always act graciously but can we control the fount from which those actions flow? Can we really choose to always FEEL joyful?

None of my circumstances have changed this week, in fact some of them got more frustrating, but it all feels different. I feel stronger than it all again. I find pleasure in the details of life and steadiness in my position in the community.

I will have many more discouraging months and trying times in my life. I will again tell people that ask me how I’m doing that I’m just truckin. I will have more fallouts with my bosses and may be far away from loved ones. I will struggle and fail and want to complain. I won’t be able to shake it. But you never lose sight of goodness or hope. Because one day-maybe even a Monday-it will FEEL good again and you will jam out to some Van Morrison singing about how there will be days like this. Just like my momma told me.

And it will feel right to let your dog tackle you and to get up at 4am to clean your house for a surprise visit from your boss. It won’t cross your mind to complain about an injury or an inconvenience. It won’t feel childish or embarrassing to celebrate everything. It won’t seem necessary to take a break or vent. It will be a peaceful love for life that fills you. And it will be glorious.

Who says? I do. After moving to another country and losing my entire identity and working a job I didn’t know how to do with insanely minimal support, I feel like I can say.

GERMS

Posted in Uncategorized on March 7, 2012 by llaidlaw

I have not washed dishes with hot water in almost two years. Our water sits in an exposed cement basin until it’s used and refilled. We dip our toothbrushes into it before brushing, not phased by grains of rice, bracelets, and soap suds visible in it. We buy our food out of 100lb plastic sacks after we run our hands through it to somehow decipher it’s quality by touch. When we buy corn on the cob on the bus, we touch every single cob until we find the perfect one, just like every other customer before us did. When we eat meals we put our elbows on the table and stuff the food in our mouth by way of our hands. Our hands we most likely didn’t wash before eating. Most likely because there are a lack of sanitary stations in the country. We cook rice once a day and leave it on the stove, in 90 degree weather, to eat with every other meal, not seeing a reason to reheat it before the subsequent meals. When we buy prepared food, it’s most likely been sitting uncovered for numerous hours before our consumption. I don’t remember the last time I ate a meal hot, unless I made it. We take public transportation everywhere. Each bus on my route carries between 300-500 passengers a day and they have deemed it necessary to only wipe down the seats twice during their 12 hour shift. Babies chew on the seats and windowsills without as much as a glance from their parents. We drink water out of plastic bags that have been handled by numerous people before entering our mouth. Our soda and beer come in refilled, must-be-returned, glass bottles with dirt caked around the opening. We touch everyone, all the time. Even those we don’t know. We’re all sweaty, all the time; we rarely have a chance to wash our hands; we’re constantly shoving our fingers in our mouth eating; and yet we still find the need to touch everyone. Nothing is packaged. If it is, it’s too expensive to afford. Fresh foods are sold in an open-air market that reeks of sewage and resembles LA traffic. The food sold there was transported in open-air trucks from all parts of the country if not from neighboring countries. It was likely sprayed with pesticides just days before harvest and brought directly to the market. Soaps expensive. It’s almost solely used to wash dishes and mop the floor. I often wonder if the floors are cleaner than our tables and chairs since we daily disinfect them.  When we use a cup for water, we don’t consider it dirty. We put it back in it’s place to be used again. If you walk into a workplace nice enough to have a water dispenser, there will be one metal cup next to it that everyone shares. We cut raw meat on cutting boards and with knifes after which we splash some water on and call clean. Our chickens and pigs ravage through our trash piles to feed themselves. Then we kill them and eat them. We buy food off the street, prepared in the street, without sanitary regulations. We swim in fresh water swimming holes littered with trash, leftover food after people washed their dishes in it, and filled with infected water from an estuary. We don’t think twice.

 

I’ve had two head colds and one parasite since May 2010. Take that FDA.

Shiz Nicas Say

Posted in Uncategorized on February 10, 2012 by llaidlaw

(there are no pics because i have no more patience for wordpress malfunctions–you lose)

no one argues that Nicas aren’t hospitable. It’s uncomfortable how hospitable they are. They will give you their best bed, blanket, spoon, cup, and chair if you come visit. They will serve you first, they will boil water so you can take a warm shower, and they won’t let you leave without armfuls of gifts.

but what isn’t hospitable is the shiz they say. can we just talk about that?

friends visiting.

i recently said goodbye to two girls i’ve called friends for almost 20 years now. it had been more than a couple years since we’d been together (reason #387 growing up stinks) and we made every moment of our nicaraguan reunion count. We boated and bused and drove. We got pulled over and escaped a ticket. We climbed a volcano and got heinously dirty. We ran through the forest in the dark of the morning lugging our suitcases in efforts to catch a bus. There was vomit and upset stomachs but much more laughter. We ate nacatamales and arroz relleno and chicken soup and reallly delicious tacos. oh, and cosas de horno. We drank beers in hammocks and in natural swimming pools. We cheered on my departments baseball team in the nica series finals. We celebrated my host sisters birthday with chocolate cake and dancing like idiots. We bought mints from a woman that asked for my shirt and than asked for Ashley–all of her. We designed cowboy boots and met my dog. We slept on everything from hammocks to cots to shared twin beds to mattresses in rooms chilled by AC units. And in the end, beautifully exhausted, we said goodbye until August.

i was on my way home, catching the string of buses north, jamming out to my ipod, and still reveling in the blissfulness i felt just being in their presence when my bittersweet mood was interrupted by the shiz nicas say. i was on the last bus of the trip, the one that would carry me to my community, and i was standing in the aisle because there was well over a hundred of us and all our city purchases on it. a woman sitting to my side began telling these young children standing in front of me and traveling with their dad about how lucky they are to be dark-skinned and not white. the father then made a comment about how the white girl(me) heard her comment and just like that I had to join their conversation. the woman asked me if i had kids, didn’t approve of my answer, and launched into a public lecture (she must sell shit in public places cause her voice booms and echos into every nook and cranny) about how my eggs are aging, i’m missing the train, it’s time already, i need to stop screwing around, i’m thinking horribly wrong living like i do, i’m going to miss out on the best part of life, etc. You see, while American’s joke about single women missing the train once they close in on 30, my community jokes about childless women missing the train once they hit 20. The American train is marriage but the tonaleño one is being a mom–dad involvement optional. this is a lecture i can’t go a week here without hearing at least once so i just nodded my head until she grew tired of her own voice. later i was explaining to a friend how frustrating that lecture is to me and how just once i’d like to be respected for my decision to want to be married and have lived a little before bringing kids into the world. he responded by telling me that a woman has the best chances of getting pregnant between the ages of 18-28. ugh. i don’t remember but i bet i rolled my eyes at him. within minutes of that conversation, we arrived at his house and exchanged a half-hearted adios before going our own ways. His sister happened to see us and quietly said “goodbye sister-in-law” to me.

by the time i arrived at my house, i knew exactly what had made vacation so incredibly beautiful. it was the absence of unecessary commentary and verbal judgement. i’ve grown a disgustingly thick skin here. because the truth is, it’s astonishing what nicas will say to you. or what they will say about you while standing next you and talking to someone else. and it’s one of those cultural things i don’t think i will ever completely get over. i just don’t agree with it. it eats away at the acceptance i feel from you as my friend or family member when you criticize me at every opportunity. that thick skin allows me to brush off the comments about how skinny or fat or pregnant i look, about my running wardrobe or the muscles on my back, about who’s my boyfriend, ex-boyfriend, and lover, about how filthy white people are and how we are lazy and only eat canned food, about where you saw me what i was doing and who i was with, about how much money i have and how i only want to marry a white boy. it allows me to respond respectfully when someone asks me if i know how to open a can or iron or wash clothes.

but the thick skin can’t stop me from the constant feeling of being judged. i would NEVER ever claim to be less judgmental than my fellow nicas, but there is power in silence. at least the power for me to forget that you are always judging me. i know my dearest friends are always forming opinions of me but they let me be me without throwing in all the unnecessary commentary; just as i am always considering the actions of my friends but in the end letting them be them. and this constant verbal judgement wears on my soul. i am weary.

project.
one of the best ways i can serve the people in my community is by helping them network and linking them to new opportunities. As a pcv, i have the opportunity to help my community apply for small grants through USAID for community projects. a group of youth that work in sexual health in our community applied for a grant to build a youth house. it will be one of the only public spaces for meetings, workshops, counseling sessions, work stations in our community and will also house the office for the youth group.

so we wrote the proposal (all 20 some odd pages of it) and they defended it in managua and the project got approved. the defense was perhaps one of my favorite days of my time here. my counterpart for the project is 21 years old and i’m a big fan of him. I am not kidding that this kid could serve as a top-notch mayor in our town. He fearlessly leads hundreds of people in our municipality, organizes huge events, manages large projects, and brilliantly designs new ones to meet needs. He’s a motivator, a teacher, and comes through on his word. Basically, he’s a gem. But he’s not really recognized for the amount of quality work he does. But this day, this day in managua, the approving committee just fell head over heels in love with this boy. It was SO rad to see them affirm his leadership, accomplishments, professionalism, goals, etc. Nica to nica. Adult to youth. He is an amazing kid and they recognized it immediately and let him hear it. It was one of those rare moments where affirmation was pouring from someone’s lips and i was just beaming and nodding my head.

in fact, this kid is kind of famous among the pc community here in nicaragua. the staff is obssessed with him, many health volunteers would die to have him as a counterpart

so now construction is underway but at a standstill. why? because my local government made promises they didn’t intend to keep. they said lots of things to us and i knew they sounded to good to be true but there wasn’t too much to do about it. so we hesitantly and perhaps ignorantly moved forward and now there is no other explanation than being screwed over and at their mercy. it’s really upsetting. sure, there are legal documents tying them to their promises but what are going to do, take the mayor to court? as if i wasn’t famous enough in my community. just think, i could be the girl that took the mayor to court. WHAT a legacy.

really the most frustrating part about it is that the mayor holds all of the power. no matter how many visits we pay to the engineer and the finance guy and the mayors house, they just keep saying shit and doing nothing. i walked out of the finance guy’s office the other day REALLY upset and complaining, only to run into the welder who has been working on the project. he explained to me that the mayor’s office owes him the equivalent to 5 months of my pay here for outstanding projects, including ours. This man has huge debts to many food stores in town because he is working without pay and can’t feed his family. He has contracts signed for 50% of his pay to be received before starting work. but they haven’t given him a cordoba. He is at their mercy; knowing one day they eventually will pay him but also aware that demanding money upfront is putting his job on the line.

meh.

you know the best part about shit nicas say? the fact that they talk. they talk to everyone. i’ve written about this before but i love my little community because we talk to each other. we’re social. and that little fact holds incredible power. because sometimes the smallest word or shortest conversation can turn your whole day around. sure, sometimes it’s for the worse, but generally its for the better.
losing my filter.
the last pieces of the communication barrier are crumbling and with it i am losing my filter. words and phrases and whole arguments seem to just slip out of my mouth without even thinking about what i am saying. it’s partly a relief, not having to translate or conjugate anything before expressing yourself. in fact, it’s allowed me to put my sassy pants back on. Fiiiiinallly. but it’s also causing a little trouble. i now always have a response within a millisecond of someone addressing me. you call me white, i call you brown. you slur together dozens of cat calls as i pass you and i will stare you down, roll my eyes, and tell you to shut up. you ask me if i have kids, i say ‘no, praise jesus’. you touch me inappropriately and i will lecture you about it. you make a proposition and i will respond with an ‘in your dreams’. you tell me i’m dirty, ill tell you i’ve always dreamt of being brown like you.

marlo.
my host cousin moved in with us this year. she’s the toughest person i have ever met personally. She’s super outgoing and inclusive. she loves meeting new people and is always down for a good time. she’s always laughing and making others laugh. she’s always helping and teaching and learning. she wakes up every morning with a smile on her face and never misses a chance to greet you. like no other person in nicaragua, i always get positive vibes form her. we are insanely different people; i would never do half the shenanigans she gets into on a regular basis. but she’s incredibly true to herself. when i got to nicaragua she was living in panama. about a year ago she came back and was living in the city which is where i intially got to know her. but now, we’re closer than neighbors and spend a lot of time together.

so about the being tough part. i’ve mentioned that as an outsider, a light-skinned human, and as a young female, I receive a TON of attention here. Constant. Often, I want to crumble under my community’s obsession with me. The thing is, it’s almost all positive. Perhaps not in my mind, but their intentions are not to offend me.

Other than being with other white, female, outsiders, I have never seen someone or something receive more attention than what we get on a constant basis. Except, when I am with my host cousin. It is the only time in this country that I feel as though all eyes are on her and not me. All comments directed at her and all thoughts on her. I feel invisible. It’s incredibly freeing. Seriously. At the same time, it’s incredibly upsetting because most of the attention directed at her is sarcastic, negative, and meant to offend. She identifies as a transsexual.

When we are together, we cannot walk 15ft without something being said about her; even in our own community people say atrocious things. it’s beyond disgusting the way they treat her. i don’t care what you think about her lifestyle, there is just no need for the commentary.

i cannot grasp how she gets through each day. and yet, she does not crumble. she is the toughest person i know because she doesn’t crumble under the shit nicas say.

 

something to chew on. they say between the ages of 15-24, a person is most likely to contract HIV/AIDS. In Nicaragua, women under the age of 18 and men under the age of 21 are not allowed by law to get tested for HIV/AIDS unless they are pregnant or with a legal guardian. Say wwhhaaaaaa??

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