Saturday, January 31, 2009

El Güegüense

Here's some more about my weekend in Diriamba for the fiestas patronales. Diriamba is famous for El Güegüense, which is a dance native to Nicaragua that basically pokes fun at the Spanish. There are several characters and pretty much everyone wears masks and colorful outfits (I was hoping to have the story down a little better before posting this but I haven`t had time). I don't know the story very well but here are some photos:

The whole idea behind the fiestas patronales is to celebrate the town's patron saint and in Diriamba that's San Sebastian:

When they brought the saint out of the church it was like paparazzi madness, you can kind of see in this photo all the people crowding around to get the best shot:

Next the saint is taken from Diriamba in a massive, several kilometer-long procession including dancers, a marching band, and hundreds of people following behind to meet up with the saints from nearby towns Dolores and Jinotepe. Maria and I processed up to the big clock tower and then decided that we should get pizza instead. From texts I received from Maria I guess the three saints make a couple rounds through the streets since they passed by her house later on that week.

I think the fiestas patronales in my town aren't until July and they certainly won't be the spectacle that they are in Diriamba (we don't even get to have an hipica), but I'm still excited to see it.

School starts on Tuesday, should be interesting!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

“Congratulations on your new President”

I missed the inauguration because I was giving exams to students who failed English class and this is their last chance to pass, but a lot of people were talking about it. I heard everything from how handsome Obama is to just flat out congratulations. Overall there's a lot of hope for our new president, not just on immigration issues which are obviously important to Nicaraguans but across the board.

Perdí la toma de posesion de Obama porque estaba dando reparaciones a los estudiantes quien dejaban la clase de ingles, pero mucha gente estaba hablando de esa. Escuche tantas cosas, como tan guapo esta Obama y felicidades. Hay mucha esperanza por el presidente nuevo y no solo por temas de imigracion.

I've been good and busy this week so I'm just going to post some photos from my trip to Diriamba and surrounding country this past weekend. It was their fiestas patronales in which they celebrate the town's patron saint San Sebastian. I wanna do some research to make sure I get some of the stories right so here are some shots from the finca (farm) of a friend the volunteer there and also the hipica in which men ride horses around and people drink beer and watch them. Good times.

Solo voy a poner algunas fotos de my viaje a Diriamba para las fiestas patronales. Voy a investigar algo de la historia entonces aqui son fotos de una finca y la hipica.

Maria (the volunteer in Diriamba) and I at the finca, Volcan Mombacho in the background.

Wildlife on the finca.

Streets of Diriamba before the hipica. You can just make out the clocktower in the distance which was a gift from Germany at some point in the past and has become the defining symbol of Diriamba.

Guys on horses.

One last thing. When I arrived home from Diriamba I was shocked to step off the bus and be staring directly into my living room (one way I've integrated here: some of the bus drivers know where I live and since it's right on the highway they drop me in front of my door). I knew the landlord was going to be doing some work on the roof but the project ended up being bigger than either of us expected and they replaced almost half the roof. Here's what it looked like from inside:

Una cosa más. Cuando llegué a mi casa estuve bien sorprendida a bajar del bus y ver directamente en mi sala (algunos de los choferes saben mi casa en la carretera entonces ellos me deja enfrente de mi casa). Yo sabía que la dueña quería arreglar el techo pero fue un proyecto muy grande.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Creepy Crawlies and other Creatures living (and dying) in my House

Last week I was quietly sitting in my kitchen when I heard a rustling sound. I looked up to the ventilation space between the top of the wall and my roof and saw a dark thing moving around. First my mind went to the small furry animal my landlord told me about that's common in the area but is completely harmless. Then I saw a tail, a loooooong tail and automatically thought: RAT! Luckily the thing moved its head into the light and this is what I saw:

La semana pasada estaba sentando en la cocina cuando eschuché un ruido y encima de la pared miré algo oscurro. Primero pensaba en algo que la dueña me ha dicho sobre un animal comun que no es una molestia ni nada. Proximo, ví una cola larga y pensé: raton! Pero el animal se movió y ví esta:

I was finally able to take a picture of my new iguana friend yesterday, he's been quite camera shy (or probably movement shy because whenever I went to get my camera he would quickly slip away). I think this is ridiculously cool. Iguanas aren't exactly dangerous animals and I've only ever seen him in the ventilation spaces in my house so I don't think he even comes down to ground level. It also explains some of the sounds I've heard in my house. Since I have a zinc roof, anything up there makes a lot of noise. I recognized the sounds of birds hopping around on the roof long ago but I was never able to identify the other critter that I could hear moving about. Now I can. I guess I should name the little feller, so any suggestions are welcome!

Pienso que esta iguana es super bien. Iguanas no son peligrosas y creo que queda en la pared entonces el es mi nuevo amigo. Tambien la explica ruidas raras en el techo que no fuera los aves. Si tiene ideas para un nombre, avisame!

I had a much less welcomed guest several weeks back. I woke up and stumbled into my bathroom one morning and was startled to hear plastic rustling, through the shadows (because I hadn't turned on my lights yet) I saw a spindly leg heading from a black plastic bag sitting on the ground for the wall. I slowly moved to turn on the lights and was horrified to find a large spider crawling up the wall:

Tenía otro visitante hace algunas semanas. Me despertaba y fuí al baño y un ruido me sorprendí. En el oscurro (todavia las luces estaban apagado) ví algo moviendo. Encendí las luces para encontrar esta araña en la pared:

The last time I saw a large spider (which was an enormous tarantula) I didn't have my camera so I was determined to document this one. I'm generally pretty good with bugs, but I don't like squishing large things that move fast so I got my trustiest weapon: the broom. I smacked it once and it fell into a pile of stuff, so I slowly pulled the bags away and smacked it again and again as it tried to hide behind the toilet and then threw a couple shoes at it just for good measure. By that time it seemed to be pretty well vanquished so I swept it outside and thought I was done with it.

While the spider itself was dead, its memory lived on. For a good week or so, every movement caught my eye. Every rustling sound made me jump. I was on edge waiting for another scary thing to enter my life. At this point, I'm pretty well used to cockroaches and random semi-large bugs that generally get swept out of the house or smushed or both, but that spider sure brought back every fear of scorpions and tarantulas I ever had in this country (knock on wood, I still haven't had to deal with a scorpion).

There's a little slice of life from Nicaragua. In addition to finding my cold-blooded friend last week, I also started my first community class with the staff at a local NGO and next week the teachers head back to school for workshops and such. My summer vacation is almost over.

Saqué la escoba y la pegué algunas veces y tiré zapatos hasta que estaba segura que estaba muerta. Desafortunadamente, por una semana o mas, cada movimiento o ruido me asustó. Ah, la vida en Nicaragua. Afuera de mis amigos con muchas piernas, expecé una clase con los de CEDRU, un ONG local, y proxima semana los maestros va a entrar en el instituto para tallers. Es el fin de mis vacaciones.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Feliz Año Nuevo!!

So it's 2009. Thinking back to January 2008, I think it's been almost exactly a year since a kitchen cabinet detached itself from the wall in my house in DC and kicked off a month of house repairs, roommate drama, and my last ditch attempts to get medically cleared by the Peace Corps. I really wasn't sure what I would be doing in a year at that point, I only knew that I wanted to move out of DC to somewhere abroad. I'm pretty happy to be able to say that in January 2009 I'm doing exactly what I hoped I would be, how often can you say that?

En enero 2008 tenía muchos problemas con mi casa en DC y con los compañeros. No sabía lo que estaría haciendo en un año más pero sabía que quería mudar de DC a un lugar fuera del país. Estoy bien feliz para decir que en enero 2009 hago exactamente eso!

New Years was pretty sweet. I was hanging out with my friend Maria in her store like I do pretty much every day and I asked her if there were any traditions for New Years Eve (I had already learned that wearing white is encouraged and most families will eat a pollo relleno- that is a chicken basically stuffed with vegetable mush) and she told me about how in the north families build a doll and fill it full of things about the last year to burn at midnight. So at about 8pm on New Years Eve we decided we had to build a doll to burn! Maria got her hands on some old clothes and we stuffed them full of dried leaves and then stuck an old doll in the top and this is what we ended up with:

El fin del año fue bien alegre. Estaba hablando con mi amiga Maria en su pulpería como siempre y le pregunté si hay costumbres nicaragüenses por el fin del año (ya aprendí que debo llevar blanca y que muchas familias comen pollo relleno) y ella me dijo sobre las regiones del norte donde las familias construyen una muñeca para quemar a medianoche. Entonces a las 8:00 decidimos que necesitamos construir una muñeca! Maria encontró algunas ropas viejas y las llenamos con hojas secas y pusimos una muñeca vieja encima. Mira:

After hastily constructing the doll, I went to my friend Moises' house as promised and hung out with his family for a little while. It was pretty much a typical family gathering: aunts and uncles, cousins, food, the usual. Except that instead of watching a football game or chatting for hours like my family likes to do, they cranked up the music and got to dancing.

Despues fuí a la casa de mi amigo Moises y pasé tiempo con su familia. Era una cena tipica: tías y tíos, primos, comida, lo normal. Pero en vez de mirar un juego de fútbol americano o hablar por horas como mi familia, ellos pusieron música y bailaron.

Then there was more dancing as we headed out to enjoy the nightlife for a little bit.

Próximo fuimos a bailar un rato.

Finally, we headed back to Maria's house to spend midnight in the street with her family and neighbors. For pretty much any occasion it's customary to set off fire crackers and just generally make a lot of noise so I figured New Years would be the epitome of noise and it pretty much was. Fireworks were going off all over, Maria's brother set off some stuff that scared the crap out of me and we tied the doll up and burnt it to the ground (I have a video that I might try to post when I have a fast connection to use):

Finalmente, pasamos medianoche en la calle con la familia de Maria y los vecinos. Había muchas bombas, el hermano de Maria me asustó con algo bien fuerte, y quemamos la muñeca:

And probably my favorite part was that everyone just walked around hugging each other and wishing a “Feliz año nuevo.” I would definitely put 2008 in my top 5 New Years Eve celebrations.

Me gustó mucho que todos en las calles les abrazaron y dicieron “Feliz año nuevo.” Fue uno de mis mejores fines del año.

I spent New Years Day with my other foster Nicaraguan family: my landlord and her cousin. These ladies have taken me in as the child they never had and invited me to go to the beach at La Boquita to spend the day. I went to this beach once during training and it was pretty dead, much like the beach near my site is, but on holidays things are different. It was totally full:

Pasé el primero con mi otra familia nicaragüense: la dueña de mi casa y su prima. Estas mujeres me tratan como su hija y me invitaron a la playa La Boquita. Fuí a esta playa una vez durante entrenemiento y no era mucha gente pero en días ferías todo esta diferente. Estaba bien llena:

and here was our small party, I don't think they were too excited that I wanted to take a picture of them :) From right to left that's Claudia (my landlord, she spends most of her year working in Costa Rica and will be heading back again this month), Linda (Claudia's cousin, she'll be my stand-in landlord while Claudia's gone), Danilo (Linda's brother), and Chico (they guy who drove us there).

Aqui esta nuestro grupo, pienso que ellos no estaban muy emocianados para mis fotos. De la derecha es Claudia (la dueña, ella trabaja en Costa Rica y va a volver este mes), Linda (La prima de Claudia, ella estará la dueña cuando Claudia se va), Danilo (El hermano de Linda), y Chico (el chofer).

Overall, not too shabby! And I have to say I'm pretty psyched for 2009.

En total, todo fue bien! Y estoy emocionada para 2009.