Archive for March 2013

A Simple Easter Reflection

March 24, 2013

The following poem written by Guatemalan poet, Julia Esquivel, resonates deeply with our experience over the last two and half years in Nicaragua and seems especially significant during this Easter week.

El siguiente poema escrito por la poeta Guatemalteca, Julia Esquivel, hace eco con nuestra experiencia durante los últimos dos años y medio en Nicaragua y me parece especialmente significativo durante esta Semana Santa.

Compartir                                                                       To Share

Compartir de vez en cuando                          To share from time to time
con los amigos                                                  with friends
un poco de pan y vino                                      a bit of wine and bread
es compartir trabajo y vida                             is to share work and life

Compartir ese mismo pan                              To share that same bread
con el costado herido                                      with a wounded side
es compartir                                                       is to share
lucha, muerte, y resurrección.                      struggle, death, and resurrection.

Thank you, Nicaraguan brothers and sisters, for sharing your bread, your lives, your struggles, and your wounds with us and in that way sharing as well resilience, hope, resurrection, new life. We are deeply honored. We will never be the same.

Gracias, hermanos y hermanas Nicaragüenses, por compartir tu pan, tus vidas, tus luchas, y tus heridos con nosotros y de esa manera compartir también resiliencia, esperanza, resurrección, nueva vida. Nos honran profundamente. Jamas seremos igual.

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That weekend when we did ALL the fun stuff

March 18, 2013

This weekend was full of new adventures.

On Saturday night, we attended our first big-name concert in Nicaragua. We saw the Mexican band Maná play their last show in their Drama y Luz tour. The venue was the national soccer stadium, which holds upwards of 30,000 people. We hopped out of our taxi and walked along the blocked off road, unaware of the adventures that lied ahead…

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We got to the stadium and we had absolutely no idea where to go. We saw a short line and hopped in it thinking, wow how awesome. We got here just in time to avoid a long line! Adam decided to call his dad since he forgot his birthday last week. While he was on the phone, I realized that we were in the wrong line and we had to climb 100+ weirdly irregular steps in order to get to the top. Rounding the bend our faces fell as we realized THIS is where the line was. And it was a huge, huge line that criss-crossed the dusty parking lot. We finally found our way to the back of the line and realized we were in for the long haul.

Oh, and did I mention the dust? It was like standing in a dust storm. Every time a car passed (which was often considering we were standing in the middle of the parking lot), the dust enveloped us. There was a visible layer of dust all over our clothes. My hair was so dusty I couldn’t run my fingers through it. I got an eye infection having so much dust in my eye. You get the picture.

Anyway, after almost 3 hours of waiting in line, we finally arrived at the entrance. We bought the nosebleed seats, which were so high up we had a beautiful view of the Managua city lights.

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The opening band was almost done by the time we entered. Maná came on stage around 10:15pm and played a full 2 hour set of their greatest hits. The crowd was INSANE. People knew every single word to every song. They were shouting along so loud that it literally drowned out the actual band.

It all proved to be worth it in the end!

***

Sunday we went to a baseball game! The Managua team played the Army team. Baseball is Nicaragua’s beloved pastime and it was great to finally experience it for ourselves. The stadium was pretty empty, we were sitting in the shade, it was great! We had great Nica-syle stadium food of vigaron (yucca with vinegary coleslaw on top) which we washed down with ice cold cokes.

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Our MCC co-worker Kevin said he thinks the Nicaraguan baseball experience is probably what it was like to go to a game in the 1940’s in the U.S. (but since none of us were alive then, we don’t really know what he meant).

Hugo Chavez, Presente

March 8, 2013
images

The Good Ones

©2013 by Alice Walker
March 5, 2013
For Hugo Chavez, Presente
 
The good ones
who listen
to women
to children and the poor
die too soon,
their lives bedeviled
by opposition:
our hearts grieve for them.
This was the world my father knew.
A poor man
he saw good men come and mostly go;
leaving behind
the stranded and bereft.
People of hopes, dreams, and so much
hard work!
Yearning for a future
suddenly
foreclosed.
But today
you write me all is well
even though the admirable
Hugo Chavez
has died this afternoon.
Never again will we hear that voice
of reasoned anger
and disgust
of passionate vision
and of triumph.
This is true.
But what a lot he did in his 58 years!
You say.
What a mighty ruckus
Hugo Chavez made!
This is also true.
Thank you for reminding me.
That though life –
this never-ending loop-
has passed us by today
but carried off
in death
a hero
of the masses
it is his spirit
of fiercely outspoken
cariño
that is not lost.
That inheritance
has gone instantly
into the people
to whom he listened
and it is there
that we will expect it
to rise
as early as
tomorrow;
and there
that
we will encounter it
always
soon again.
Hugo Chavez’s funeral was today in Venezuela. Chavez leaves behind a complex legacy; standing up for what he thought was right, championing the cause of the poor, not caring about who he offended. He led Latin America away from neo-liberal economic policies and therefore was often pegged as an “enemy” of the United States. He called George W. Bush the devil, cursed Israel, and often denounced what he saw as the hypocrisy of these two nations who decry terrorism when done by people they don’t agree with and support terrorism when committed by “legitimate” actors.
***
What does his death mean for Nicaragua? Venezuela has developed a oil-sharing relationship with various Latin American countries. Chavez was seen by Nicaraguans as a kind of “godfather” whose goodwill allowed the Ortega government to continue important social programs and subsidize transportation costs. Many Nicaraguans who support the Sandinista government are mourning Chavez’s death, but we’ve also encountered other Nicaraguans who, although they don’t support the current Nicaraguan government, feel like Chavez did a lot to help Nicaragua through trade agreements that are mutually beneficial to both countries. It will be interesting to see what will happen when Venezuela elects a new president next month and how that election will affect Nicaraguans.
***
On the other hand, many question whether the positive changes that Chavez made in Venezuela and the positive cooperation he fomented between Latin American countries will outlive the man himself. Chavez had a huge personality and people saw him as a benevolent father who single handedly changed the fate of many struggling Venezuelan people. Can this “godfather” or “strong-man” style of leadership be a positive one if the “godfather” is just and does more good than harm? Hugo Chavez’s legacy and the future path that Venezuela takes now that he’s gone should be a good indicator.
For more on the subject:
Democracy Now – Hugo Chávez Dead: Transformed Venezuela & Survived U.S.-Backed Coup, Now Leaves Uncertainty Behind
The Onion – Area Man Unsure If He’s Supposed To Want Hugo Chavez To Die Or Not
Venezuela Analysis – Yo Soy Chavez, Tu Eres Chavez, Todos Somos Chavez (IN ENGLISH)

An introvert in an extroverted culture

March 5, 2013

in·tro·vert

noun

1.

a shy person.
2.

Psychology . a person characterized by concern primarily with his or her own thoughts and feelings.
I just finished reading the book “Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking” by Susan Cain. Cain strives to redefine introversion from the obviously negative definition seen above to a more broad and positive one.
From the Amazon review: “In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture.”
There is an interesting section in the book about how culture relates with and affects personality. Cain specifically talks about Asian cultures being uniquely introverted, placing value on studious, quiet individuals who think carefully before speaking.
Cain did not touch on Latin American culture, but from my own informal observations the overlying culture is extremely extroverted.  As an introverted person living in this context, I have often found myself “acting” in social situations.
extrovert-and-introvert-boss
Here are some instances where I’ve been forced to do something that goes against my nature:
1) Striking up small talk with taxi drivers. (We have been told that by talking to the taxi drivers we show them that we aren’t tourists, but that we actually live here).
I would much rather spend the ride home processing what happened that day.
2) Friends coming over in the evening so I don’t feel lonely when Adam works late.
A night to myself every once in a while is AWESOME, but instead I’m forced to think of things to talk about.
3) The expectation of going to all church meetings (4 times a week) and how people are genuinely concerned when you’re not there
Adam and I have had to make a conscious decision to step back our church attendance to a level where we feel comfortable – 2 to 3 times a week. Also, we’ve realized the importance of letting people know if we’re going to be out of town.
Examples of the extroverted Latino culture:
1) When we lived with a host family, our host dad would see me laying on the couch reading and ask me if I was sick.
2) People sitting out on their sidewalks in 2s or 3s, but rarely alone. Even if they aren’t talking to each other, they feel less “alone” by sitting with someone.
3) In any kind of group sharing session everyone in the group speaks, often at great lengths, rambling sometimes incoherently in order to be heard.
4) Strangers easily strike up conversation with each other, quickly moving from mere acquaintances to calling each other “cousin” or “uncle”.
5) The frequency with which people are expected to give flowery, off the cuff speeches in front of groups. People seem perfectly comfortable going into these situations without preparing beforehand.
In conclusion: I have learned a lot of things from Latino culture and have appreciated the friendliness and how we are welcomed with open arms. BUT, it can be exhausting. I have to make sure to take care of myself and realize that it is ok to define my own boundaries.