Monday, December 3, 2012

"Era Espantoso"


 A couple of weeks ago when the US election was happing up north we also had municipal elections down here in Nicaragua. This means every municipality’s office of mayor was up for election. The day of the election Jacinta and Oscar both came home with ink on their thumbs, a symbol that they had voted, as you have to put your fingerprint on your voting card. Jacinta was so excited about the results that she left the radio on all evening to hear about what was happening. Of course, we didn’t know anything until well into the next day, but it was fun to stay up and wait. Alex and I played cards and read a book in Spanish. Alex and Jacinta also taught me some new vocabulary words. Later in the night Jacinta was talking to me about her political opinions, and got talking about the war in the 80s, and what it was like after the Sandanistas (the liberal party down here) came into power. What she shared with me made me feel blessed for not having to endure that type of hardship, but even more so that she wanted to share her story with me.

Jacinta spent the time she told me about in her stories on her mother’s farm, which I have actually now visited. After the war resources were scarce, and she told me that once a month there was one little store open per neighborhood to go buy supplies. A lot of items were rationed by amount. For example, in one month each person was rationed half of a block of laundry soap. There was also one place to get food from. She said a lot food was bad and smelled terrible when it was cooked. She also described making “fresco” or juice with the sugar they were rationed. The sugar was so dirty that it turned the juice black. You couldn’t really buy anything you wanted, including good clothing. Every Sunday it was required to do communal labor as a group for the whole day without pay. There were also town meetings, and if you weren’t present Jacinta told me people became suspicious of you. She also mentioned how scared all the children, including my host brother Oscar, were to leave the house, saying they walked around nervously. It sounded like everyone was on edge, not just the children. And what I’ll never forget is that she just kept telling me “it was terrible” over and over again.

Watching her play with Tanya’s (my host sister) baby after telling me all these stories and seeing how happy she is today truly inspired me. How can I ever complain about anything in my own life when after all that, this family is happy to sit down and share a laugh with me? I remember thinking that these are the type of stories you read about in books. These are the types of stories you feel bad about, but are always just a little out of reach. Just far enough out of reach, that you can step back and not feel bad about what you heard tomorrow. These are the types of people that most people just hear about, but never actually connect with. When you do, I think it changes you. I had another similar experience that I felt I had to add to this post as well.

Recently, I went to an old city in Nicaragua called Leon for a little rest and relaxation time. Our new US arrival and a fellow Nova grad, Julia, came with me on this trip. We spent our second day wandering the city and visiting a cool art museum as well as a museum for the revolution, or the war that took place in the 80s. We didn’t know it at first, but we got a tour guide. My Spanish is good enough at this point that I understood almost everything he said which made the tour really special for me. He started the tour by saying that essentially the US government has done some terrible things to Nicaragua (which is completely true), but that he differentiates the people who visit like us, from what our country does. And he appreciates our friendship, and that people like us want to visit and learn about Nicaragua etc. I think some people in America need to take a page from his book in that regard. 

At the end of the tour he took us to the roof. (I was a little concerned at first) We had an amazing view of the city, and he pulled out an old black and white photograph. It was him at about 17 years old, and he pointed to a building in the distance where it was taken. He was holding a gun and smiling in the picture, and explained to us that he was a sniper during the war. He told us about how he thinks it’s terrible that young people in the US need to go fight on foreign soil. He said that he knows one day North America will find peace, and that he only wants the young people of our country to be able to pursue a great education and live happy lives. Again, I was inspired. This man clearly didn’t have high opinions of US policy but here he was walking us, two Americans, around the museum and telling us his country’s and life stories like we were old friends. And it was voluntarily, because no one at that museum is paid for what they do. We took some pictures and thanked him for the tour, and went on our way after that. But again, I feel the connection I made with that person is something that has changed me a little, and I will never forget that.

A lot of my experiences in this manner are hard to explain but I’ve tried to explain it to myself like this. I’m meeting so many people whose lives and stories are so different from my own. I will never fully be able to understand the struggles the people here face though I may try. I feel like, for just a short time, my own life is crossing with those a world away. However, we can connect with each other, and laugh, and form friendships. And when I go home, these stories will still exist and continue to happen. My only hope and fear now is that when my life changes again I’m still in contact with people who want to hear these stories, and who want to imagine what another life is like. If you want to disregard the struggle that is the rest of the world, you’re only selling yourself short. In a way my experience here has made me uncomfortable, but there is a desire for change in the discomfort that I know will fuel my actions for hopefully the rest of my life.

Monday, November 19, 2012

What's New?

It's been a while again everyone! Not much has changed down here. Municipal elections were a few weeks ago and the party changed in the municipality of Waslala. It's funny that the US elections were just 2 days after the one's down here. I heard about who won in the US early in the morning before catching a bus, and I think my host family actually heard before me watching CNN late at night. People down here are pretty interested in what happens in American politics, as it affects them too.

Right now I'm spending some time (a day or 2) in Siuna where my friend Meaghan lives. She works for an organization called Bridges to Community which hosts a lot of student groups who come to volunteer from the States. Siuna is an old mining town that's also in the RAAN or in the Northeast of Nicaragua. In a lot of ways it really reminds me of Waslala, except for a few things. For one, there's hard line internet which has been amazing. Another is the water situation. We almost never have water problems in my house in Waslala (the water isn't drinkable untreated or without a filter for me, but it's there for other uses at all times) The water here almost never works. Meaghan's house and office both have plastic barrels to store water in. The water comes about twice a week I'm told. This is then transferred to smaller buckets to flush the toilet, wash hands and dishes, do wash, etc. This was something I didn't know about before, and apparently Siuna is known for it's bad water systems. A few other things: Siuna has a bank and Waslala doesn't. It has an airport, which actually just looked like a gravel field to land planes in. People can actually walk on the field when there's no planes coming in or out, but apparently the police get rid of them during landings and take off. Another thing is I feel a little safer walking around the streets here, which is always nice. No one has yelled at me today!

We arrived today in the truck, which meant the ride wasn't too back. Usually it takes about 6 hours in the bus. Thankfully, you no longer need to cross a river just before Siuna in canoe, which apparently just a few months ago you had to do when the bridge was broken. All in all, the ride wasn't too bad. Tomorrow there's a community meeting in Rosa Grande which is on the road back to Waslala. After the meeting and a quick look at the chocolate factory there I'll be on my way back to Waslala on the bus.

This week is also Turkey Day! Plans have been made for me, Iain, and my friend Julia (another Nova grad spending some time down here with us), to go visit some friends who live near Esteli for dinner on Saturday. I'm super excited to be in charge of dessert. My current plan is to spend Thursday at the beach (that's right people up North, it's still warm down here!) This is the first major holiday I'll be spending away from my family, but I'm sure it will be full of good food, company, and delicious Nicaraguan rum. For that, I am very thankful.

Another thing that's new is I originally booked a flight to come back to the States on December 18th. However, it looks like I'm no longer in a hurry to get back so I may be spending some more time down here for the holidays! I'll definitely be home in early January though or my parents are going to kill me when I do get back :)

Hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Guilt.


Lately there’s been a lot of guilt floating around in the back of my mind. I’ve decided that I’m going back to the States in mid December and I’m having a hard time dealing with the fact that I’ll be leaving everyone behind. It’s hard to think about living the way I usually do in the States versus how I do here. This article by a Peace Corps volunteer helped me deal with this a little, because I’m not the only one who feels weird about all the privilege life has randomly given me. Hopefully it will help you understand a little bit better how I feel too:

Someone is drowning in a lake and you are watching. She is sinking lower and lower, her head tossed back so that she can just barely manage a gulp of air. You can save her. Most people would argue that ethically you must save her. In his 1971 essay "Famine, Affluence, and Morality," ethicist Peter Singer compares the general moral obligation to help the drowning to every privileged individual's moral obligation to alleviate global poverty.

People all over the world are dying. They are suffering and we are watching. It is immoral, says Peter Singer, not to do everything in our power to help them. iPods, spankin' new cars, vacations to Disney World... we spend money on these things instead of paying for life-saving surgeries, feeding hungry children or investing in third world economies. According to Singer, the fact that we don´t need to watch the poor suffer doesn´t change the fact that they are drowning and we know it. And we let them.
I can't claim that reading Singer's essay was the reason I joined the Peace Corps, but it definitely instilled in me a sense of... duty? No, something more uncomfortable than that. The scratchy sand pressing all over you under your bathing suit on the way home from the beach.
Guilt.

I'd been to Disney World. I'd gone on very expensive trips all over the world. And -- the horror! -- I had an iPod.

But what to do about all that? Well, I started by not buying a new iPod after my old-school Nano broke. But would that help the hungry children of Africa? I couldn't just donate the money saved. I was an Urban Studies major. I knew about the complications of development work, the band-aid solutions, the causes that just sound good, the charity that unmotivates the beneficiaries, the money that doesn't always reach the ground. The only way, I told myself, the only way is to understand completely what the people need to fish themselves out of their lake. Then I could support them with my iPod money.
I tell people I joined the Peace Corps to understand what it means to be poor, but that´s just part of the story. I joined the Peace Corps to figure out how to escape the guilt of having so much while other people have so little.

Well, now I'm in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and surprised to find that it was not the way to go for moral masturbation.

Here in my rural-ish urban community in Paraguay, I am living in a vat of perpetual boiling hot guilt. And I've found that I am not the only one. All of the following causes us volunteers to feel that little pang in the chest that means we are doing something pretty horrible:

1) Taking time for ourselves
We feel guilty for staying in the house all day, or for being out of site and missing our neighbors' birthday sopa. We feel guilty for watching a movie alone instead of with some Paraguayan neighbors. We're servants of the community, right? It's supposed to be a full-time job. Every hour spent watching a movie is an hour we could have helped a child with his homework. Every trip to visit a friend is a leadership retreat for teenagers that never had the chance to happen.

2) Not sharing personal possessions
Just this week I was called a bruja for not lending my computer to someone. And maybe I am a bruja. Families share with me whatever little food they have and I share nothing. I feel like the meanest witch alive.

3) Being too chuchi (fancy)
How can we live in a house with a modern bathroom if no one else has one? How can we buy the chuchi chocolate from America when our neighbors can't afford a bag of rice? How can we be paying someone to wash our clothes, how can we go on vacation, how can we have hot water, how can we have running water, arrrrghhhhhhh!

4) Being unsustainable
Apparently the whole point of this helping others thing is sustainability. Don't give stuff to the community, get them to work for it themselves! So, that sounds awesome... until you have the opportunity to get 40 free pairs of reading glasses from America. You can nix the freebees or you can help 40 impoverished ancianos to read again. But then you have to accept the hot-headed guilt that comes with it, the possibility that you jeopardize your community's motivation because they realize the truth that their lives would be so much easier if the first world shared some of its money.

5) Failing to save the world
A couple weeks ago, a 9-year-old girl showed up at my house for the first time. I was surprised by the visit and amazed -- María had come a long way since she first joined our girls group six weeks before. She was the girl who smiled but rarely spoke, and even then rarely in Spanish -- only in the indigenous language Guarani. And now she popped by just to hang out. But something struck me as odd, as I glanced at my pizza in the oven and then at my watch. The time was 11:50. Almost lunch time... the holy hour of the only meal that really gets eaten in Paraguay.

¨María, what time do you have to be home?¨ I asked her.
¨No, my mother isn't cooking today,¨ she replied.
¨What?¨ I was shocked. Even the poorest families I know eat something for lunch, even if not very much. ¨Aren't you hungry?¨
She told me no, she'd had tortillas at 5AM.

It wasn't a question of feeling generous and tossing a dollar at a beggar child on the street. This was María. My María. Her immune system, her literacy rate, her confidence level and her general growth rate all depended on me in that moment. I shared my pizza with her.

She ate every bite. Even the green pepper and onions sprinkled on top... and you would be hard-pressed to find a child where I live who would eat a vegetable you can see. Then she asked me what I was making for dinner.

I immediately felt thrown into a moral crisis. All my guilt -- for leaving site, for being too chuchi, for not sharing and for being unsustainable -- charged forth dressed for battle.
I can't feed her every single meal. I can't be responsible for this little girl.
Stop being selfish. Yes, you can. You make more than enough on your Peace Corps stipend to feed another person.
But what about her eight siblings? What about her neighbors? What about everyone else who is falling through the cracks? How can I do this just for her?
You took a vacation to Peru. You did that instead of feeding a little girl.
It's not even sustainable to buy her food, I should try to develop the soup kitchen at our local community center instead.
You know that is unrealistic. The soup kitchen is open for three lunches a week and is already a strain for the women who cook. You are going to stand back and watch this little girl fall.

All this seems to me a pretty depressing lose-lose situation. Either I ignore the hunger of a child, or I create jealousy amongst her peers. And either way she will be hungry again next year after I go back to America. How do I cope with all of this burden? How do any of us cope?

I feel like the go-to answer is to try drop it behind somewhere on our two year journey. Just throw that heavy sack in the arroyo. Remind yourself of the hours of work you put into that project, the tears you shed as you squatted homesick in your host family's overflowing latrine. The opportunity cost of doing the Peace Corps, all those tens of thousands of dollars you like to think you could have made if you were employed these two years in the U.S.

But unfortunately, that reasoning doesn´t do it for me. Nor does the argument that extreme wealth needs to exist because people need a goal to strive for. I mean, what would María say if I told her I'm going to the Lady Gaga concert in Asuncion so that she can strive to have enough money to do that too some day? She doesn't get enough to eat, can't read and lives in a wooden shack with no water. It´s not about how hard she tries. And I don't really believe the people who say that helping others is not morally obligatory, just a praiseworthy act. Because in that case, allowing that person to drown in the lake would be the norm. And I don't think that is the world we live in.

The only comfort I can give myself -- for now, while I continue to search for the answers -- is the last place I would ever expect to find consolation. Peace Corps goal 3. Something that a year ago didn´t really seem part of my PC experience, just something that naturally happens when you go home and don´t have anything exciting to talk about anymore.

Peace Corps goal 3: To bring our life drinking terere back to the United States of America.
I went back to the States in July and was not very astonished to hear a lot of people say narrow-minded things about global poverty. I'm not sure what bothered me most: the couple who thought they understood my community in Paraguay because they took a vacation to China once or the students who didn't care because we have to help our fellow Jews first. The old man who asked me why Paraguay's own government couldn't provide for them? Or the girl who asked me if I cook or order takeout in my site?
It wasn't until a random Facebook chat that I found a sort of hope in these tiring, often repetitive conversations. I went to elementary school with Adam, wasn´t friends with him, and hadn't talked to him in at least five years. Now he chatted me to say that what I am doing is "an inspiration" to him.
It wasn't his compliments that encouraged me nor was it his reminder of opportunity cost of doing the Peace Corps. It was just the simple fact that someone I barely know said that my actions give him inspiration to give up money to do something he loves. That he wanted to have coffee to hear about what I've learned in my experience. I couldn't read the word "inspiration" with a straight face, but his openness to hear from my experience made me see the value in Goal 3. I have -- we have -- a real opportunity to help others back home understand the amazing culture of Paraguay, the complicated nature of development work, and the lives of those who fight for their communities.

For me, this is the solution to the heap-ton of Peace Corps guilt clamping down on my shoulders.

Goal 3: to help people back home understand human need and realize their responsibility to throw that lifesaver. In a sustainable way, of course. Because the guilt that we are allowing people to drown is not mine. It is ours.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Past Month!

Alright everyone! For the past month I've been super busy with a million things. The WfW president and VP Matt and Nora have been visiting and we had a group of Nova students for a week. Also, although I'm healthy now I was sick a lot before that. Here's a tiny taste of all the projects and work and social activities I've been up to the past month.......


Topo survey in Ocote Kubali. The water source was wayyyyy up there so I got some pretty beautiful photos. It was a long couple of days though. See my post about keeping things in perspective.

 Working in Ocote on the survey

Getting followed to work by my dogs. The one on the right runs around town so much that Oscar decided he needs to be tied up all day, poor thing. They stood out there crying for an hour and bothered everyone arriving..

How I have to use my laptop now. Villanova doesn't consider the extreme conditions in Waslala when they decide what Dell they are going to give me when I graduate I guess.

Meetings in the community with Iain, Denis, and Virginia.

Independence day!! Even though I was sick on this weekend including my birthday on Monday I made it out of the house to watch the parade in the street. All the students in town dress up and dance or play the drums.  It was really cool to see.

More students in the parade.

My host niece Alex (left) and her best friend that used to live next door to use before she moved.

My host family! This was the day of the parade. On the right is my host mom Jacinta, Alex on the left dressed up for a dinner with the other students after the parade, and Oscar in his bath towel (this is typical Oscar behavior).

Lots of political rallies have been going on in and around town! The election for mayor is next week and everyone is getting ready to vote and sporting their party colors lately.

Giant river crossing in Yaro! Someone has already tried to use it as a footbridge due to the lack of a way to cross the river in this community, another problem that really needs to be addressed there.

Me, Nora, and Matt in El Guabo with the storage tank. It was awesome having them around this month and getting to hear and learn more about the history and goals of WfW.

Their visit also meant lots of hanging out with Junior and cooking dinners. This is us at his house playing foosball which got really competitive. There was also games of Uno and talking late into the night. Well, maybe until like 11 pm because that's late for us here in Waslala.

Me and Iain at the new storage tank in Yaro, all painted up in Nica flag colors.

We had the privilege of using a rented truck during Matt and Nora's visit and not having to use public transportation! I know for a fact this has made me incredibly spoiled. But even with the truck you need to stop sometimes to wait for the cows to cross the road....

While the Nova students were here for a week we started making the columns for a river crossing in Santa Maria as well. This is me and Julia, who is planning on staying here until May working on her master's thesis, in the giant hole they dug for the column.

Setting up to pour concrete for that same column.

Aaaaaaand finally, there's never a shortage of good food here.....

I hope to post something a little more substantial to come. Be sure to check my "List" page to see what other activities I've been up to. As another side note, although my flight hasn't been booked I know now that I will be coming back to the States in early December! More definite information to come about this later.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

El Hospital

The laptop is still broken but finally I have a little time to sit down and tell you an adventure I will never forget: a trip to the hospital in Waslala.

It was around 11 Thursday night on September 13th that I woke up feeling nauseous. (This is a reoccurring theme for me) I ran outside to the latrine and ended up getting sick. Jacinta gave me some lemon juice which is pretty common here when someone throws up. I actually felt better and went back to sleep for a bit, but when I woke up again I felt terrible. I was laying in the hammock outside waiting to die when Jacinta told me I had to see a doctor. It was 3 am. No, I said. I'm going to wait until tomorrow it's the middle of the night. She told me I had to go, but I said I wasn't.

My choice in the matter disappeared when she woke Oscar up, who I didn't even know was home. He came out of his room in less than 5 minutes and demanded that I got dressed to go to the hospital. I was too sick and tired to argue so I put my jeans and sneakers on and off we went. Thankfully, the hospital is just up the hill from my house, practically on the same street. I took this short walk to yell angrily at Oscar in English. He couldn't understand a word I was saying but it sure made me feel better. "I want to go back to bed. I don't want to go to the hospital. I'm tired and sick and it's the middle of the night and I'm pissed." This only got me "En Espanol!!"

When we arrived at the hospital the sign over the door read "Emergencia", however, the place was deserted. In fact, we couldn't find a single person on staff. We walked the whole hospital, which was about one hallway, and found no one. What I did see though was rooms filled with 10 sick people. Most of them looked terrible even sleeping, and some were randomly hooked up to IVs. NO ONE was working. I felt like I was in a horror movie. There was no way I was going to stay here.

Finally, we knocked on the doctor's sleeping quarter's door and some one came out to help us. The only reason he did, I think, is because Oscar works at the hospital. I think had it been anyone else we might have been turned away. At this point I felt sick again and dizzy. Voicing this got me a bench to sit on and a bucket. I put my head down on the table because I just wanted to go home. Soon, without so much as asking for my name, the doctor was doing something with a needle. In terrible Spanish I tried to explain that needles made me pass out. I didn't even know what they were giving me. Oscar told me it was for vomiting but I was still freaked out. Finally, I gave up and was injected in my hand (which still hurts), and my arm.

I lied down for a bit after this because I couldn't walk home. Finally, I felt ok enough to leave. Going to the hospital here is free. Unfortunately, in a place like Waslala the term "emergency" is relative, and seeing a doctor quickly is usually near impossible for people. You can go to private clinics here, but most people can't afford it. I don't want this to be a story that reflects negatively on where I live so much as a lesson in being thankful for the health care you have access to. I'll never take going to the hospital or emergency room in the States for granted after that experience.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Broken Computer....

The reason I've been so lazy on my posts lately is surprise surprise: my computer screen broke! I was in Managua last weekend to renew my visa (which I couldn't even do because my 3 months aren't up yet!) and the back light on my screen went out. I took it someone in Waslala but they don't have a replacement here. Luckily, Matt and Nora from the WfW board are visiting next month and they are going to bring one down. Until them I'm using this giant monitor in our office in Waslala that looks like it's from the 90's. It's always something here. Anyway, at the end of September when they arrive I hope to upload some photos. A few things coming up that I'm looking forward to telling you about:

Tomorrow is Nicaragua's (as well as all of Central America's) independence day! I'm getting up at the crack of dawn to watch Alex play the drums with a bunch of other kids in the area. It should be really fun.

My birthday is Monday! Can't wait to see what a birthday is like here. We are going to have a small dinner on Saturday night for me at the institute with some friends.

And last but not least I'm really excited to have Matt and Nora here as well as a group of Villanova students in the month of October. I often joke that I won't sleep at all that month, as I will also be taking care of Alex when her Aunt and Grandmother (Tanya and Hacinta) leave for I don't know how long so Tanya can have her baby. I tell Hacinta every day I hope we don't starve because she only cooks with fire. I've been practicing but we will see if I can actually cook dinner with it by myself. I'll keep you all updated!

Keeping Things in Perspective (9/4/12)


To understand this story you first need to know something about me: I hate spiders. I really, really, really hate and am petrified of spiders. One of the aspects of life here that’s really taken some adjusting for me is the spider situation out in the communities. Recently Iain, Virginia, and I traveled to Ocote Kubali for a meeting on reforestation in the community, as well as to conduct a topographic survey for a new water system. Our trip was not short on spiders. Our first night there I found about five in the latrine and had Virginia help me kill them all before I would even go in. The house we stayed in as well can only be described as a spider haven. Lining the walls in webs, living and dead, were too many spiders for me to count, all the size of my palm. For someone who’s completely petrified of spiders, if this hasn’t taken some adjustment I don’t know what has. The family we were staying with quickly learned of my phobia, and was surprised on our second night there that I even used the latrine by myself. That night I requested that my hammock be moved in lieu of a large a spider sighting on the opposite wall. However, I can definitely tell you that I’ve become, if only just a little bit, more accustomed to the spiders. Like many things here, it’s all about keeping it in perspective. Once you’ve seen some huge nasty spiders, the little ones don’t seem so bad.

Not surprisingly, there were many other aspects of this particular trip that needed to be kept in perspective as well. For example, you can’t change the weather. Sometimes you get up here and it looks like a gorgeous day, then just the like that at eleven am Mother Nature decides to flip the switch and rain starts to fall so hard you’re forced to take cover. Thankfully, when the rain started on our first day of the survey, we were already stopped at a house. Of course we were served warm drinks to wait it out. It’s the little things that help in these situations. While we were frustrated that we couldn’t keep working, at least we were able to stay dry and relax on the porch before getting back to work. And while I’m sure it was a possibility, it didn’t keep raining hard all day.

The path that we chose to walk as well for this particular survey also required some patience. Over mountains, across gorges, over various creeks, and through cornfields, we walked a pipe line that the community chose but that we would never be able to use. Some areas just made no sense to bury pipe for the water system. So while we would have enough data to make a budget, it wasn’t as exact as we would have liked. By the end of the second full day of walking, everyone was completely exhausted, and we were still walking a line that was incredibly difficult to traverse. Again, I just had to remember that at least we were able to use the data we were taking. Despite the hard work and long days, our trip was not in vain and truthfully we got what we came for. 

And finally, not surprisingly, I should tell you about the transportation. While the bus ride To Ocote Kubali is nothing compared to the truck ride to Yaro, I still found myself significantly nervous. Picture an airport shuttle bus swaying back and forth over a bridge barely wider than the axel. I don’t think I’ll ever be used to the transportation here. While we obviously arrived there in one piece, the trip home was a different story. The bus arrived on time to where we were waiting by the road. Tired and dirty we got on, only to have the bus break down five seconds later. We climbed to the top of the nearest hill to wait. Finally, wonder of wonders, they were able to get the bus going. However, we would have to return all the way to Waslala in first gear because there was a problem with the shifter. I know that sounds terrible, but we made it back when the bus easily could have decided not to make the trip or completely broken down. I was thankful for what we could get.

When I returned to my house that evening, the lights went out for the night. After I finished uttering some curses in Spanish my host brother Oscar said to me, “Welcome to Nicaragua!” Looking back I’ve realized: the lights will always come back on, it’ll stop raining, the van will get fixed, the work will get done, you’ll get home eventually, and we would make the budget with what data we had. In fact, in the future, our problems may not seem as terrible after experiences like this. Like those awful spiders in Ocote Kubali life in Waslala gives you big and small problems. Seeing the big problems keeps the smaller ones in perspective, while presenting you with a chance to develop more patience instead of immediately becoming frustrated. You just need to take everything in stride and remember that tomorrow is always another day. Even those spiders may someday not seem so terrible to me.