At the beginning of May we had an in-service training (IST) with our counterpart teachers. It marked a year in country for us, so the training also served as a bit of a retreat in a nice hotel… nice for most of us. The six of us guys ended up getting kicked out of our super big room to make room for counterparts and then crammed into what must have been the smallest room on the compound. We took it like champs though. We’re PCVs. We take whatever is thrown at us in stride.
After the IST, most of us stuck around in Esteli and spent the weekend hanging out. My buddy Gonzalo came down again and we did some exploration of two new sites that have some potential for tours. La Estanzuela is a waterfall just outside of the city that many people already visit, but we threw in the added adventure of rappelling down the waterfall. Who doesn’t want to do that?? The next day we explored another “canyon” off the Panamerican in between Esteli and Somoto called Cañón Cucamonga. It was pretty fun to scramble over large boulders and end up and a sheer cliff face. In the rainy season it is most likely a waterfall, but at the time we visited it was still pretty dry.
The rest of May flew by. I went to Managua a few times for charlas with the new group, but I didn’t take any pics (sorry).
The big news recently is that I’m moving! I signed a lease and got the key to my new apartment yesterday and am super excited about having my own place. I love my host family here, but it has been different living with a family again after living with roommates or alone for several years. I have never really felt like it has been “my” space. More like I’ve been using the space of my family. I’m excited to have my own space. I think it will be great for my mental health during second year of service.
Things I won’t miss from my current housing arrangement:
The number of animals in my backyard. I told Maria recently that it was like an animal chorus in the morning. She just laughed and said “Oh Aaron…” Chico’s response was “It’s a good alarm clock right?” Whenever I call someone from home they usually ask, “Where in the world are you???” because one of the several roosters is crowing in the background.
Sebu, the “family” dog. Technically, he belongs to my host brother, but my family takes care of him. The dog has lived his life chained to a tree stump and has no idea how to react to people coming near him. He and I get along, but I won’t miss him barking incessantly. Especially at 5am.
The new turkey. My host brother apparently decided that buying a turkey was a good idea, so he went for it and then threw it in with the other chickens that the family has. As with the roosters, the turkey does not make an endearing “gobble gobble” before quietly going away. It makes noise all day. Also starting at 5am.
If you’ve noticed, there’s a trend. 5am. The world wakes at 5am.
Things I will miss from my current housing arrangement:
My host mom, Maria. She’s hilarious and laughs at my stupid jokes in Spanish. Here’s a video of her making tortillas one day. For those of you who speak Spanish, sorry my math skills are terrible in Spanish.
My host dad, Francisco, or Chico. He loves this shirt, especially once I told him what “Old Fart” meant. He walks around now usually saying something that sounds like “Ode Fart” when he’s wearing the shirt. He thought it was hilarious and lives up to the part. He has been a great host dad for the last year and we have spent hours talking about everything from coffee prices to the ridiculousness of some beauty pageant that I had to sit through at the high school.
Exposing my host family to new foods. I’ve made cookies, hummus, pita, banana bread, tacos, nachos, pizza, and a few other things. Each time I’ve let them try a bit of what I’ve made. It’s fascinating enough to see a male cooking, let alone trying the food he makes. So it has always been enjoyable to see their reactions to what I’ve made. Usually it ends with, “You’re very inventive, Aaron.” I just kind of go with it, even though I know that the things I’ve made are pretty common place in other areas of the world.
Luckily, Somoto is not that big, and I’m moving just over a block away from where I currently live, so I can always still stop by and shout “BUENAS” the window and then sit down for a visit. It’s a very Nica thing to do to just stop by for a chat, maybe a cup of coffee or glass of juice, and then be on my way. I’m also glad that they seem to understand my reasoning for moving (basically I just want some more space). When I told them they were very supportive, so that either means they really do understand or were getting tired of me being in the house as well. I’m hoping for the former over the latter. ;)
My group and I passed the one year in country mark on May 9th, which means we are right in the middle of the 11-15 month phase of the mid-service crisis. I certainly feel it, and I know from talking to several friends that they are feeling it too. Progress seems slow and seeing any kind of results from our efforts is scarce. It is easy to become discouraged and apathetic about the whole idea of international development.
According to a handy “Lifecycle of the PCV” handout that Peace Corps gives us, we can expect: impatience with self, program, and system; place blame on the program; lethargy; doubt about program role, self, and government; disillusionment and confusion in resolving frustrations versus victories. In other words, a lot of wondering, “What’s the point?”
That’s kind of the latest on how things are going mentally/emotionally. In a word: frustrated. It’ll get better. Or I keep telling myself that. I’m realizing that I only have a year left, and I’m doing my best to keep going with the projects I have and not get discouraged about the projects that have fizzled in recently months. I’m at the mid point of service. It’s all downhill (or uphill?) from here…. So poco a poco things keep moving.