Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Parades and Pottery

Nicaraguan Independence Day takes place in the middle of September Even though it’s still a couple weeks away, the local high school band has started daily practice for the upcoming celebration. We essentially had front row seats since our classroom is on the main street and the band passed at least once a day practicing. Really you can hear the band almost anywhere in town. The music is actually pretty lively, but most of the sea of blue and white uniformed students just march alongside the smaller group comprising the band.
We spend most of our afternoons walking around town – for the applied Spanish segment of class. It’s a pretty tiny town and Maria seems to know everyone, having lived here her whole life. The people are friendly and there are tons of little artisan shops selling freshly painted pottery. The main entrance is packed on both sides of the streets with rows of little stores overflowing with every trinket imaginable. They’re mostly handmaid things but all overpriced (comparatively) since they cater to tourists. It’s strange to go up to that area by the town entrance and see tourists, just Americans or Europeans enjoying a cheap vac-ay down south  and then realize that I’m living here, in a house with a local family, further into the depths of the town.
Maria doesn’t take us to that part of the pueblo; the object is to get to know the locals, introduce us as members of the community, and practice our Spanish. One shop we visited belonged to Maria’s family and she told us they make all the ceramics there.  There was one beautiful vase, intricately hand painted… it cost 70 cordobas, which is the equivalent of $4 ! It would be at least $70 in the US; hand made, hand painted pottery. I have to swallow my inner thrift store shop-aholic… and remind myself that $4 is still more than I make in a day here.
Randomly, on the first day of class, the local policia visited us, I guess just to make introductions and warns us about the peligros (dangers) and banditos (bad guys).
I’ve visited the other trainees house: Ellie has a light in her bathroom (I’m jealous). Allison had an actual indoor bathroom, with plumbing- toilet, sink, shower (I’m VERY jealous). Poor John- his house is the most run down and it’s in the hottest part of town, his bedroom is so small that his mosquito net covers the whole area and he has no windows. Not that any of our rooms are that big, but I need a window or I’ll go crazy. (eventhough I can’t really keep it open since it’s just a wooden shutter and a big gapping whole in the wall would be an invitation for all sorts of unwanted critter-visitors. More so that the 1 foot gap between the walls and ceiling.)  But it’s nice to have the option and actually I’m the only one of us four who has a window in the bedroom, so I’m counting my blessings.
Among those blessings being living in a house surrounded by towering mango trees, so it’s cooler and living with an older woman with grown children; that combined with being farther from the center of town leads to some quiet living. Although it would be nice to have little host siblings- Ellie’s litte hermanos are so sweet and fun-loving, they always run up and hug me and chatter happily in Spanish.
It was nice this first week to sympathize with fellow volunteers. It's hard on us all, with  the different food, the language barrier, everything.  As Allison put it, “it's awkward enough being in someone's house you don't know, but now I can't even talk to them!” She told me she  cried the first night and I know the others are also having problems (no sickness yet, thank G-d). I haven't cried yet… scratch that, I cried a little during my cold bucket shower but they were tears of pain. We're all wandering what we're doing here.

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