Friday, August 8, 2014

"El Tope" in Diriamba / Transition Period

    I got into Diriamba right on time to see La Procesión del Tope and St. Sebastian's return to Diriamba. In Nicaragua, just about every city has a patron saint (Diriamba's is St. Sebastian) and the city celebrates their saint's day with festivals, processions, and folkloric dances. On August 3rd, Jinotepe (a neighboring city) celebrates its saint's (Santiago) day. A statue of St. Sebastian and one of St. Mark (for the city of San Marcos) spend the week in Jinotepe's main church to celebrate Santiago. On the last day of the festivities, the statues are returned to their city/church in a procession from one city to the other. 



 In the above picture, St. Sebastian (left) is being returned to Diriamba, accompanied by Santiago (center) and St. Mark. 

Along with the procession of the saints from one city to the other, the festivities include a marching band, a group of people on horses, carga cerradas (chains of fireworks), and the folkloric dance of El Toro Huaco. The dance has it's roots in an indigenous legend known as "El Cacaste". It used to be an indigenous ritual but was adapted into a Spanish and Catholic dance in celebration of St. Sebastian. Each of the dancers is a promesante which means they prayed to St. Sebastian for a favor and promised to dance in the procession in return. 


One of the dancers lent me his hat to take a picture with. It was surprisingly heavy! It is decorated with an array of fake colorful flowers and a crown of real peacock feathers.


    I noticed a lot more graffiti in Diriamba than I did when I visited last year. Some of it is vandalism and others are murals that were legally painted. At first, it was a little disheartening seeing so many historic or antique buildings in ruins, covered in graffiti, and/or breaking down. It is giving Diriamba a look of a run down city, a ghost town, or of a "bad neighborhood". However, after some thought, I realized there is actually a lot of potential for restoration and beautifying without ignoring this popular medium.
    I would love to one day have a cultural and art exchange in Diriamba like AOS provides in Estelí and San Juan de Limay. Seeing all the graffiti made me think that a collaborative spray paint mural could have a positive response or would muster up a lot of interest. However, there is also the possibility of it being tagged or vandalized.
 

      It was also so great seeing my family. My great grandmother really did not look well and I was worried that would be the last time I saw her. Fortunately, she is recovering and when I left, she looked so much better! If all goes well, we plan on going back to celebrate her 102nd birthday next summer. My visit gave my great aunt and I time to talk about family, my dad's childhood and father, my great grandparents, and the revolution. 
     My visit also worked as a transition period between the independence I experienced while in Esteli and Limay and depending/responding to my parents as the ones in charge. During the time we had in Esteli to work on our independent projects, I could explore the city alone, eat whenever/wherever I wanted, and make my own schedule. At home in Miami, I am under my parents rules and can't freely roam around because of responsibilities I have to attend to and a lack of a car. So, in Diriamba my dad and great aunt were making family visit and eating decisions for me, but I could walk from one grandma's house to other's on my own. It was unexpected and a little annoying to be told where and when I could go or couldn't go places, but it was helpful for getting when I got back to Miami. Now, I want to go back, but experience Diriamba on my own in order to discover things I wouldn't otherwise if I had a family member looking over me (just as I experienced in Esteli and Limay).





An Fluid Writing of Reaction


It has been two days since I officially landed back in the states, still in a constant turbulent motion of the return. This has been the first chance I have had to just sit and think and it is a bit overwhelming. I will be getting back on a plane on Monday (today is Friday) to head to family on the west coast, accompanied by one of my best friends, and I am still in the process of figuring out how to tell my experiences to whomever wants to listen. What do I share and what do I choose to keep to myself? In the silence I keep today I am able to reflect how keeping busy has allowed me a safe space from my thoughts for now. Making my way from airport, to doctor's appointments, then answering the millions of questions my parents have for me, I haven't had much time to sit with the affects of my re-admittance into the society we call "home". I find it easy to move back into the fast-paced existence of the United States because it requires little thought. I can now understand the conversations people are having and I am able to navigate my way through this world without any second thoughts, following rules that have been set by a government with the intentions they will be followed, along with consequences prepared for those who chose to break them and scattered throughout the country through simple signage thrown up on walls and barriers of concrete and metal. It feels much colder here and time is made into something more than what nature originally intended. As connected as I feel to this place, there is a major disconnect I am feeling as well (as only to be expected from living in such opposite cultures) and it isn't necessarily a bad one. It is a feeling of confusion within myself and how I will continue to move forward, which will inevitably happen whether or not I am ready. Simple things like our plumbing system, along with the vast amounts of foods we are presented, to the air conditioning flooding our buildings are all small things that keep hitting me like a ton of bricks, reminding me of changes I have endured within my own being. I am not scared, but highly interested in see where these new insights will lead me and excited to find solutions for each of these newfound obstacles within the culture that was once one with which I didn't have as many questions for.

Untitled


Iris painting

Written August 6th 2014


As I sit in the Best Western Hotel Lobby waiting for my room for my final night in Nicaragua, I find myself thinking about some of my most favorite moments on this trip. They were the times when I was drawing and painting with Iris and Marvin, my host siblings. My host family’s house was often loud and crowded, which was sometimes overwhelming after a long day of working in the community. Iris and Marvin were the two youngest children living in my house. Iris was about 8. She was the daughter of Coco, the family’s live-in housekeeper. Marvin was 11. He was a cousin of the family. He was the newest edition to the house, living there only a few months. He moved from Estelí, a much larger community to live after his father’s death. They both always exhibited an excited but calm mood in my presence. We usually worked in silence, experimenting with colors, making simple art. These interactions always remind me of how connected we all are as people whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. We may not always have language or words but we will always have the ability to connect through actions.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Letter to someone back home #2

(written on August 3rd, on the bus ride from Estelí to Diriamba, translated from Spanish)
(To my mom and dad)  

    Here I am sitting on an express bus from Estelí to Managua. Tio Uriel will pick me up from the bus terminal and then give me a ride to Diriamba. I see mountains, agriculture, and the humble houses. In the beginning of July I kept asking myself, "how could you have left this beautiful land?" It saddens me that because your country was ripping itself apart you were forced to leave it behind. However, now I see you both with more admiration after realizing how hard it must have been to move on from this land with the possibility of never seeing it again.
    It must have been so difficult to leave a life so calm, so peaceful, with bountiful air to breathe and space to be, and where you knew everyone and everything to cross into new lands. These new lands led you both to a new country with different habits, customs, cultures, and language. A country that you had only heard said of without first seeing it or testing it out with your own eyes.
    I also think to myself, "how scary,"... and not just you guys, but every immigrant that leaves the comfort of their home, their family, without looking back, to go to a new place to get a "better opportunity".
     Mami and Daddy, my hat goes off to you.
     I have to say, your tierra is so beautiful, your people are so beautiful. Thank you for sharing it with us. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn about my culture, and making us proud of our heritage.

One Strong Country

Nicaraguans are strong. They grow up as children playing on hard floors or no floors at all. They learn not to cry when they fall down at a young age, which is something that American children struggle with. While at Doña Nidia's for breakfast and lunch everyday in Limay, I watched Herti run and fall on the floor just to get back up and do it again. I can't recall a time in my childhood where I did that. When I fell I was "hurt" even if I wasn't. Crocodile tears, as my family would call them, were a way for me to pretend to be hurt even when I wasn't. That isn't even a thought in a Nicaraguan child's mind.
As those already strong children begin to grow up they begin walking to school on their own and helping out around the house with chores that need to be completed. Both of those things are foreign concepts to me and my youth. The youth of Nicaragua grow up fast. Becoming adults at young ages, majority of the time that isn't the case in America.
During the workshops I made a connection with Joseling. I saw a part of myself in her and don't know if she saw the same in me because we had a hard language barrier. From what I can tell she's going to be a single mother at the end of the month to a baby that she already loves more than herself. I know that I never verbally told her how proud I was of her for being such a strong woman at such a young age, but I would like to think that via gestures and laughter, she could feel it.
Between the hot sun and the long days of work, Nicaraguans make their daily lives happen. They don't complain when something goes wrong, it rolls right off their backs. They learn to deal with life's challenges from day one, something that I wished I shared with them. Time is a concept not a lifestyle. I've learned more than I bargained for about my own culture by spending time with a different one. I thank Nicaragua for all that it's given me and I hope that I can make changes in my life to incorporate the things I've learned here.

Re-re-readapting

It is my first day in the United States in 5 weeks. I keep thinking it’s 4:50 am Nicaragua time because right now it is 6:50 am here.
Last night – August 6 – I scooted through customs, security, and many gates in the airport with Beth before finding my own gate and settling in. I didn’t feel a whole ton of culture shock. After landing into Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., I saw my mom (which was awesome!) as she picked me up. We drove home. I rolled my suitcase across the patio into the house. Not a lot of culture shock. A form of culture shock didn’t occur for me really until this morning when she woke up early to go for a walk and I happily dragged out of bed to go with her (our morning walks are a daily ritual where she gets up early, it takes me forever to roll out of bed, and then typically I’m groggily running down the street after her and the dog to catch up). Once I caught up to her down the street and we began talking more about my trip. I was explaining to her some of the words exchanged in the goodbye ceremony with the host families and emphasizing how full of care all the host family’s words were when it hit me. It just seemed like there was something that kept feeling cheesy about the story I was recalling. It was not because she was casting any judgment, she was quietly listening. Though I kept pausing because I felt this sense of cheesiness hanging over the words I was saying to her. Finally I stopped and just told her how cheesy I felt retelling the story.
The feeling of my stories from Nicaragua seeming cheesy made me sad. It also made me confused. How could memories that filled me with emotions in Nicaragua feel different in the states just a day after the trip had ended? It makes Nicaragua feel like a dream or a cloud that drifted by overhead and has now dissipated.
My mom suggested that in a country like the US that is so “sophisticated”, the simplicity of life in other countries is not seen as something of value here. I nodded, feeling distant.


On the one hand, I believe she is right and appreciated her sensitivity to my weird feelings. And on the other, I am struck very blatantly by the reality that it is going to be difficult relaying the true beauty and specialness of my trip to Nicaragua and all the interactions I experienced to anyone here in the US.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Ole Redfeet


Today was my final morning in Nicaragua. I woke up tender and sore from the past two days of beach time with burnt everything (but especially my feet) and cuts up and down my legs from the smart decision of swimming with the rocks amongst a very strong tide. As physically sore as I am I move my way downstairs for a 6:30 am breakfast, devouring a plate of fruit before hopping onto our 7 am bus to Managua. Although my whole body hurts I am not thinking as much about it as I am about how the time has already arrived for departure back to the states. Even after exchanging hugs, going through customs and making it back to my home in the states I still haven't fully come to terms with the fact that I am no longer on Nicaraguan soil...guess the sand in my shoes will have to suffice.