Archive for October 2012

What my life would be like if I were (part two)…

October 26, 2012

… a Nicaraguan recycling worker.

I would wake up before dawn each day to get to the trash bags left out on the sidewalks before the trash trucks do. Nicaragua has no formal recycling system, instead hundreds of people make their living picking through other people’s trash to find pieces of recyclable material. On trash collection days it is common for us to hear people going through our trash and look out to see a man or child with a hug bag full of smashed plastic bottles or aluminum cans. According to an article from 2004 in one of Managua’s main newspapers, La Prensa, recyclers can get about 4 cents for a pound of plastic.

Whatever gets missed by ambulant trash sifters gets sorted out at Managua’s municipal dump, La Chureca. An estimated 10,000 people live in or around the dump and subsist by picking through trash for recyclable items to sell, material that they can re-use, and occasionally food to eat. This article gives the example of Ana Flores one of the thousands of workers in the municipal dump who on a good day can earn about $7 from selling the recyclable material that they collect, but the average Nicaraguan “Churequero” makes only about $2 a day. Check out our fellow MCCers (Kevin and Cassie Zonnefeld) blog post about the La Chureca dump.

A third recycling job involves collecting scrap metal. Trucks that seem like scrap metal themselves comb the city streets anouncing over portable loud speakers, “Scrap metal, scrap metal, we’re buying scrap metal. Old rims, old fans, old matresses.” Any unwanted piece of metal seems to be fair game. The scrap metal is then sold to recycling plants. In 2011, Nicaragua had an income of 60 million dollars from scrap metal exported as raw material.

This reality, people who struggle to survive day after day by going through my trash, has made me stop and think before I throw something away. Marisa and I have learned to bag up our plastic and aluminum seperately from our other trash to make it easier for people to collect. I now find myself pausing at the trashcan in our kitchen wondering if someone else will be able to use something that I have determined to be useless.


What my life would be like if I were…

October 19, 2012

…a Nicaraguan mother

I would be quarantined in my house for 40 days after giving birth so that no stranger could look at my baby with an “evil eye”.

My baby would wear a red bracelet to ward off any wayward “evil eyes”

During these 40 days I would eat nothing but tortillas and cheese so the baby doesn’t get sick (but, let’s be real, also to lose weight)

I would be a teenager**

I would carry my baby in my arms everywhere I go, even on the bus. Usually people get up and give me a seat.

I would breastfeed wherever I want without feeling immodest. (Unlike in the U.S. as evidenced by this recent tragedy)

I would give my baby a bath in the middle of the market (baby standing and holding onto the back of a plastic chair while I dump bowls of water on him)

My baby would always smells and looks amazing. I never leave the house before dousing him with baby cologne or putting some gel in his hair!

**Nicaragua has the highest rate of teen mothers in Central America:

  • One out of every four mothers in Nicaragua is an adolescent. 
  • 119 births for every 1,000 are to teen moms between the ages of 15 and 19.  
  • 56.8% of girls in urban areas have been pregnant before age 17, compared to 70% of girls in rural areas.

Root causes:

A young population – due to recent war and a population explosion, 49% of women are in the “fertile age”, with 54.5% of them between the ages of 10-19.

Government policies – Nicaragua is one of the few countries in the world to ban therapeutic abortions.

Lack of education – Half of all births in Nicaragua are unplanned

Cultural – Conducting my own informal observations, I sense that babies are very important to Nicaraguan society. If there is a baby in the room, the whole conversation revolves around them. Babies and giving birth are seen as a normal part of life and life would seem empty and boring without them (which is why it is hard for people to understand our childless state)

Lessons learned:

To chill the heck out about parenthood. I can’t believe how uptight many people are about parenting in the U.S.  There are countless “mommy blogs” where picture perfect families seem to do everything right, or others who over think baby’s schedule: nap, feed, diaper change, repeat 5x per day. Granted, I am not a parent so I don’t know how I would act in the heat of the moment. I have learned from these courageous Nicaraguan mothers to not freak out over every small detail. If I ever have a child of my own, I hope I am able to remember the countless young mothers I have encountered in Nicaragua.