Friday, August 7, 2015

Day 10 -- Arrival to Limay / San Juan de Limay

Already mixed feelings. We just traveled back in time. Limay is much different than Esteli, more quiet, peaceful. More religious, conservative. We have to be more modest in dress in this town, Maria says, because the men cat call way more. The bus to Limay was suggestive of how different this place would be — a school bus packed with people. There were a few men who were riding the top of the bus because there was no room and also probably to make sure luggage stays put throughout the whole commute. I didn’t get to view much of the scenery on the way there because it was so packed, but we did see mountains and luscious rolling hills. The closer we got to the town, the more fat women made from marmolina we saw. The more I sensed the change in the way I was perceived, the more withdrawn I found myself becoming. Withdrawn and nervous. Life out here is way more raw. Definitely a culture shock, a change. Being introduced to new people this evening definitely made it somewhat apparent. Perhaps I’m being sensitive. We had a homemade dinner at Doña Nidia’s home. The food was amazing, but I feel tired and shy. I’m adjusting to these new surroundings. Emma asked me if I had trouble with new environments. I guess I do. Plus I don’t know how prepared I feel for this workshop I need to teach since there are no supply stores around here. this is the definition of a small town. The people are what make me nervous. I didn’t even want to interact with the animals. Interesting duality of conservation and taboo shit. Interesting how the most religiously devout places tend to have the most vices. I was sharing this thought with Aleks after our dinner meal. He brought up the interesting thought of when there is repression of some thing that is considered “demonic”, it shows up elsewhere in more sneaky, subtle ways. I think of catcalling when he says that. There was a little boy named Herty who for a moment showed Emma an adult cartoon video he was watching on a smartphone, most likely the only smartphone in the house. I’m being forced out of my comfort zone and it’s making me realize many things that make me look so foreign, como una extranjera. What I don’t like is all the staring, it makes me uncomfortable. The sounds out here are beautiful and perfect. We are sleeping outside tonight on tijeras until we meet with our host family tomorrow. Until tomorrow…this place is going to make me write a lot. 


Something that keeps coming to mind for me as we eat the food here is how fresh all the produce is. Passing a small market today we saw a basket of papayas as big as a baby, enough to each a fairly big family. In the U.S. the food is not as fresh. I remember an artist we ran into our first or second day in Estelíand as we were passing through the market with him, we saw some dragon fruit. I told him how much that fruit costs in the states, around $6-8, and he told me the fruit and produce in the states is not good. Because it is imported it is not as fresh. Almost all the food in the U.S. is processed in some way. Usually I am afraid to eat a lot of things in the U.S. because of all the articles you read and the documentaries you see talking about how much sugar or preservatives and other chemicals into food that keep it fresh longer or taste richer just so you will consume their product, and when it comes to the meats, injecting it with hormones & shit. I’m pretty aware of these things; my taste buds tend to be my strongest sense. But here, it feels safe to eat almost anything. Even eating the meat here is somewhat more tolerable (but not something I can keep up for long). The U.S. is also very wasteful in comparison to this country, which is concerned with maintaining their environment. There were many people I met who were interested in going to school to be a veterinarian or a natural scientists, pursuing some degree that involved maintaining the environment. There were mosaics glorifying the environment. Here it seems people have a relationship with their country that is healthy in comparison to the U. S.’s relationship with its land. A place that was once rich with resources gradually cluttered with stuff til the atmosphere changed. A profound disconnect created. For the sake of profit, natural green replaced with the synthetic version, in a different form. Marijuana: the only green that allows some gringos feel somewhat connected to themselves. I am an advocate of marijuana use, I just find it interesting that its usage has increased in certain areas where there is not as much nature present.

Day 7 -- Estelí, Las Mujeres Ambientalistas, the muralists

Didn’t get a chance to write yesterday because I was tired, but things happened. There are always things happening. We’ve been having Spanish classes in the morning since we arrived, from  8:30 am to noon, which has been in the past 2 days.  I notice myself getting more comfortable speaking Spanish the more I practice conversing with Emma and our Spanish teacher, Indira (which is the prettiest name in my opinion). Last night we visited the studio of the David Alfaro Siquieros Collective, where Maria led an exercise where we made drawings responding to the following questions:
*Who am I? 
*Who are we? 

The first was a drawing made by each person individually, which we then shared with one another in Spanish/English. Then we passed our drawings to the person on our left and responded to the second questions by drawing over the original, as a way to complete it. After taking time to do that, we hung all of them up on the wall to see what everyone did. It was interesting to see how everyone creatively approached completing the other’s drawing. We then proceeded to do a PowerPoint presentation of our work. I still have some anxieties about showing off mine because of the degree of vulnerability but I know they stem from being concerned about what other people think. Everyone else’s work — Maddie, Carrie, Emma — was awesome. I am working with such talented people on this trip and I am so grateful for it. I thanked Maria this morning for keeping a trip like this going strong for so many years so that we could all experience her country. I told her I couldn’t remember the last time I smiled this much so consistently; i’ve been smiling since the day I arrived. Twice for lunch we have gone to this all vegetarian / yoga + meditation center called Ananda. The food there is good, although my stomach hasn’t desired  much food lately because I’ve been stuffing it with so many new things. It’d be cool to come back once I’m a certified yoga instructor and teach classes there. Or better yet, have my yoga teacher training intensive in Estelí (actually it appears that the former might be better). As we were waiting for our food Maddie and I had a mini yoga / meditation session in one of the open rooms. It was humid and full of mosquitos but a peaceful place. It was a really nice session. She followed every gesture and pose I did; she let me lead her. Over Chinese food later she was telling me how much she loved doing yoga and meditation with me. She says that I breathe very well. That lady is so full of love <3 Today, after our Spanish classes we walked with our teachers to Las Mujeres Ambientalistas, a collective of women who make recycled paper goods. We saw some of their works —notebooks, posters of Che Guevara & Augusto C. Sandino, bookmarks, cards. They were simple and fun. I got a few things for my sister’s birthday / going-away-to-college things (sheesh, I can’t believe she’s in college now). I decided to do a watercolor workshop with my students when I arrive in Limay. I’ll show them a few techniques, even though I”m not sure what because the way I use watercolor is pretty free-form and intuitive. But I have plenty of watercolors and supplies  for a 3 hour class in it, and I was thinking of just having people paint what they see in front of them. Well see how it goes. A few more days til we are on our way to Limay. 

Day 5 -- Bobby and Frida’s birthday / Estelí

Learning more about the history of Nicaragua and its relationship to the US. Really affirms for me how shallow minded and ill-informed our country (wants to) make(s) its people. Those of us who are aware already know it is pretty damn corrupt but when you read up on the other side of the story, its history and see for yourself its political and economic influence on developing countries, especially those in its backyard, through actually being present in that country, it truly makes it more clear to you. There’s a charm to the simple way people live here, but I know it’s because I know they have no choice other than to live simply — at the most extreme degree in utmost scarcity — due to historic exploitation and borderline lack of resources in exchange for what it can provide to other economically/politically powerful places such as the U.S. We were passing by a bunch of colorful homes that looked similar to each other while driving through parts of Masaya and Managua, and i commented on how pretty they were for the simple fact that they were colorful. When making that comment to Maria, she told me that many of these homes were Nicaragua’s form of public housing; they just look drab without color so they were painted different blues, pinks, yellows, bright like the sun. Seven people tend to occupy one housing unit , which is usually the standard size of a family living in the barrio (can’t make certain assumptions like that without fact checking which I haven’t but I’m sure its around that number). When she told me that I felt pretty lame for making such a comment, for taking things at face value like that; for romanticizing the simple lifestyle many in this country have no choice but to live in, because I know comments like that come from a place of privilege. Many times on this trip I was wishing I knew how to “turn off” my privilege in some way. I am aware that I am far luckier than most in the world when it comes to privilege, and for that I have felt shame anytime I was whipping out my smartphone and avoided doing so in some areas. To me it seems like I am showing off my wealth to them. Sometimes while walking through these streets, I’m reminded of my desire to let go of all that I own of value and live among a poor family enduring below - poverty — level conditions for the sake of acquiring that knowledge which is transformative. My upbringing was very cushioned. When I’m reminded of the way the masses  — which usually tends to be people of color, indigenous looking people — live, I feel a combination of shame and gratitude. Or shame for feeling great. My heart turns on and it activates my tear ducts.

America was funded upon the manipulation of other, among other vices, guised in the ideals of liberty  and democracy. Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Never forget. Nunca olvides.

Day 4 -- Estelí, Managua, Mark Lester Lecture

Arrived in Estelí today. We rode the bus there. 

Clowning: a type of street performance done by Nicaraguan youth on buses (and streets maybe) for money. Two boys in makeup did it for some of our ride and they were so good, they had a strong presence. They recited their lines so quickly, almost too quickly for me to understand [at the time].

Prior to that we visited the Center for Global Education for a lecture on the history of Nicaragua by scholar Mark Lester. Very informative lecture. We are in the mountains  and it is so beautiful up here, the climate especially. The view on the way here was amazing. I tried reading but failed with the view of the rolling hills and rustic countryside out my window. In the evening we have tacos at a local spot and played free form version of pool. They were playing 80s music and the billiards room was full of testosterone.

Journal Entry Day 3: Managua (Independence Day in the U.S.)

Today we took a tour of el Museo Nacional de Managua. Outside of the museum still stands a beautiful church fenced off from public access because it is expected to collapse any day now. The museum tour was very informative. And it helped me realize my fascination with pottery and its connection to traditional, ritual, functionality. I was even more fascinated with the earliest interactions of the Spaniards with the indigenous groups of Nicaragua, or Central America in general. This fascination has been further emphasized with my newly acquired knowledge of the history of Nicaragua after attending a group lecture led by scholar Mark Lester. Imagining the incredible culture shock each group must have felt encountering each other. What would have the world been like today had the conquistadores not encountered the natives? Or if the natives had not mistaken the Spaniards for gods? How terrifying it must have been to foresee the end of your world, all because of one grave misunderstanding. There were questions one of the caciques asked one of the conquistadores, very deep questions about life and why things are the way they are and what the end of days would be like, believing that if they were gods they would be able to answer them. As the guide was telling the story I couldn't help but notice a painting hanging above us. It depicted a conquistador and a native in profile and opposite to one another, and in between them there was a tree that bore fruit. The native held the fruit and looked like he was communicating to the conquistador. It very much resembled the depiction of the ancient Biblical narrative Adam and Eve. I thought of the end of the world of the natives as similar to that story -- the end of innocence, wisdom, the end of pure unity with Mother Earth, and the beginning of humanity's demise with the arrival of colonization.

Continuing the tour I also discovered some new artists as well that are Nicaraguan. Some names include: Armando Morales, Patricia Belli, Raul Marin, June Beer, and Ernesto Cuadra. I will elaborate a little more on one of the more significant female artists, Patricia Belli, in a future blog post.

After the museum tour we went to a local bar to get lunch. There was so much testosterone in the air of that place (no surprise it's a bar) because FIFA was happening on TV. The whole world except for the U.S. seems to be into football (unless it's American football). Thoughts of how disconnected I feel from my roots have been crossing my mind a lot since I've been here, noticing it. It's been years since I've had to communicate in Spanish, since I've been to a Spanish speaking country. I have a lot of catching up with myself to do and slowly yet surely I am doing that while I'm here. I'm slowly cracking that hard American shell I've conditioned myself to adopt just to exist. How to reconnect with my Latin roots was one of my main concerns prior to this trip.

We were going to check out some art galleries in town but both were closed, so we retreated back to La Posada de Abuela and enjoy our last moments here before we leave tomorrow. Tried some ice cream in a flavor that according to Maria is a common favorite in Nicaragua, rum and raisin.  I keep feeling compelled to write in Spanish but I'm still working on my confidence in speaking it. I hate messing up, it brings me so much discomfort, at times insecurity. But I am getting better.

Day 2: Masaya, Lago Cocibolca, Granada

El Museo del Nacional Volcán Masaya. We visited that place today, saw many beautiful views, and swam in the largest body of water in Central America. Carrie and I swam from the shore of the restaurant we had lunch at to Monkey Island (Isla del Mono).

Our day started at 7 am with a traditional Nicaraguan breakfast of: fruta, huevos con queso y plátano (tostones they call them here) con café y jugito de naranja.

Our driver, Reinaldo, is awesome. He let me draw him this morning. Le gustó mi dibujo de él.
He drove us to the National Park of Volcán Masaya. Two were inactive: San Fernando y el otro me olvidó el nombre. One volcano, Santiago (!!!) is semi-active. We all rode horses up the mountain to see the view, and it was all incredible. So many photos taken. We all freed our nipples for el Volcán Masaya.

Virgins used to be sacrificed at the top of the crater, still smoking to this day. It used to be known as "La boca del Diablo" by the Spaniards when they first arrived into the country (one hiker we met joked, "now I can tell my mom that I've been to Hell." Cool story bro). By the time they arrived, they made the natives stop performing their sacrificial rituals. Supposedly the scent of sulfur there was strong near the crater, but I didn't smell it much.

After that we passed through Granada (which looks so much like Puerto Rico and parts of New Orleans if they had a baby in Central America) to meet a man who took us on a boat through the Lake of Nicaragua. There were many isletas that dotted the vast body of water, and many wealthy people owned property on them. They look like paradise to live on. Some places were for rent, some for sale. We stopped at la isla del mono to interact with monkeys that lived there. According to the driver of the boat, the owner of that island is a vet who brought those monkeys to the island, and they have been living there ever since. Many tourists visit that island in particular to see and feed the monkeys. We then docked at a small restaurant along the shore of the lake, where we ate fresh caught fish from that day. As we swam we saw sardines jumping from the water to catch flies hovering over the surface. We saw cranes perched and flying over the water to eat the sardines. The cycle of life around us, a perfect ecosystem. So much inspiration, so much green.

This country I want to call an island, is so peaceful. I love the laid-back nature of things, of people just living. My phone died twice trying to take pictures/videos & sharing them on social media (Instagram @irasantiii). The fish was delicious, served with fresh coconut water right out of the coconut, later cut up into chunks so that you could eat the meat inside. There were many moments I wanted to sit and draw for hours everything around me. That's what I foresaw for myself, the easy life I wanted -- place myself in environments that inspire me to create. To find land of my own and save up for and just spend my days painting. I feel like my work, my aesthetic, has been resonating very much with this place. I still have yet to paint and do yoga.

After visiting the islands via boat (una lancha), we hung out in Granada for 2 hours. We passed through a mini flea market while we were there. You got a sense of the poverty in this country through passing through this market -- the smells of horse and dirt, the rugged demeanor of the people trying to sell their goods to provide for their families, dirty stray dogs everywhere.  I remember when stray dogs used to scare me. They still do, kind of.

Mosquitos chewed up my left forearm.

I've been taking pictures of all the food I eat and now I know why my parents documented every detail of their trips when I was little.

After our time in Granada we returned to la posada de Abuela, where we were staying in Masaya. Maddie, Carrie, Emma and I all went skinny dipping under the full moon. When will there be another time like this? Never. When's the next time I'll come back here? Who knows. Hopefully very soon.