One of our final training requirements was to do a readiness to serve presentation. My wonderful group made a music video. Enjoy!
One of our final training requirements was to do a readiness to serve presentation. My wonderful group made a music video. Enjoy!
After 13 weeks of living in our training town in Masaya, we went to Managua to swear in as ~official~ volunteers.
This week has been, to put it lightly, a clustercuss. We wrapped up our training the day after the U.S. elections. My host dad had let me use the internet from his phone to keep up with the election results as they rolled in, and at about 11:00, I went to sleep with a sense of dread, praying for an electoral miracle.
I woke up the next morning after fitful sleep and learned that Donald Trump had won, and then I spent the day at the Embassy.
We watched this USAID video and I cried when the Obama voiceover started.
Peace Corps staff knew that we were all wrecked by the election results, and they told us that we’re needed now more than ever, and then we had a 40+ person group hug. Staff cried and I cried (snot all over my face. Pretty gross.)
We talked to the ambassador, and she told us to remember that we don’t represent the American government; we represent its people.
It’s very, very easy to be cynical when the country elects a xenophobic, sexist, racist, inarticulate, hotheaded moron who boasts about sexual assault and is endorsed by the KKK, but at that moment, in that room with my Peace Corps family, I felt like there is hope both here and in the United States. There are people willing to stand up and speak out against racism, sexism, homophobia, islamophobia…the list goes on.
We are all here for a reason, and right now, there is nowhere I’d rather be but here, showing the people of Nicaragua that the ideals of Trump are not shared by everyone.
Yesterday morning, we officially swore in as Peace Corps volunteers. The country director of Peace Corps Nicaragua and the ambassador gave speeches. They both reassured us of the value of the work that we’re doing here. Our country director got a little choked up as he was talking about moving forward in times of change. I shed a few tears and had to hug the closest person to me. (Shout out to Ashley for being such a superb hugger.)
Later that day, we went had dinner at the house of the incomparable, incredible Miguel, who has laughed and cried with us and provided endless support over the last few months. He’s also an incredible chef, so after hours of talking, swimming, and dancing (shout out to Greg for leading me so fearlessly), we ate some delicious gringo barbecue and chocolate cake.
It was a wonderful way to end training, and it momentarily distracted me from the shitshow of U.S. politics.
(Just a side note: remember when the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln? Y’all know my great emancipator? It would be great if we could get a little more of that instead of standing behind a bleepity-bleep like Trump.)
Anyway, I’m now in my permanent site, ready to serve and thankful to be here. Now I’m gonna bombard you with pictures because we look pretty spiffy.
We’ve entered our final week of training. We’ve been in Nicaragua for three months, and it’s honestly a little difficult to picture what my life was like before this. It’s also still pretty difficult to imagine what my life will be like this time next week, when I’m living in my permanent site away from my friends.
Honestly, it took almost no time at all for these people to feel like my family. I feel so supported by other volunteers and by Peace Corps staff, and I know I’ll continue to have their support even after I move to Matagalpa. It will just be different. It will be an adjustment.
Adrian won’t be able to walk me home and talk Harry Potter. I won’t be able to look over at Amanda and feel like I’m reading her mind. Maddie won’t be there to laugh every time I tell a story and use ridiculous voices. Caley and I won’t be able to retell the story of how we met in the airport shuttle in Houston.
We won’t be able to walk down the carretera and get pancakes and calala from the nicest woman in town.
On Friday, we gave our readiness to serve presentations, and it made me a little emotional. Everyone’s presentations were so different and so wonderful and it forced me to reflect on the last 12 weeks. (I’ll try to post our video sometime soon. It’s in Spanish but I think you’ll enjoy it.)
We’re already planning on times when we can see each other (friendsgiving? Movie night? Dinner? Definitely New Year’s.)
I can’t anticipate what will happen in the next two years, or even in the next two weeks, but I feel ready to face the inevitable challenges. I know I have a wonderful support system to help me along when things get tough (both here and at home.)
Thank you all for your love and support. For laughing at my bad jokes and telling me funny stories when I need to laugh. For sharing desserts and movies and music. For texting me football updates. For understanding that the wifi is unreliable and our phone conversations may be few and far between. Thank you for everything.
We swear in on Thursday and move to our new sites on Friday. Lots of exciting and terrifying changes coming my way!
Oops, I just realized I’ve had this post saved in my drafts for almost a month! Sorry, y’all.
Last weekend, a group of TEFL trainees decided to go to the Laguna de Apoyo. Remember the first time I went, when Caley and I hiked and climbed the equivalent of 121 flights of stairs?
We didn’t hike this time. We took a bus to Masaya, then another bus to the laguna. Most of the trainees in my town didn’t go because they were nervous about time: We had to be back home by 3 to prepare for our movie night, and nobody was sure of the bus schedule.
Now, I’d already told my friends from other towns that I was planning on going, and I really, really wanted to go. I figured I could go, swim for a little bit, and then hopefully figure out a way back. I talked to a couple other people and they thought I’d be fine. So I made a decision ( one that was simultaneously impulsive and responsible): I roped Adrian into coming with me, and we met up with the trainees from the nearest town, and we went together.
We got on the bus to the laguna, and then we learned that the only bus back home arrived at 4, so the very earliest we could have made it back was 5 p.m.
I said we’d find a way to be back by 3, and we went with the rest of our group to a restaurant on the water. It was picturesque and perfect, and the water was wonderful.
Sometimes, it’s just nice to let your hair down a little, just relax and lounge in the water and see how far out you can swim and panic a little when you swim back because the laguna used to be a freaking volcano and it goes from shallow to oh shit really fast and shouldn’t I be able to touch by now?
Anyway, we swam and talked and ate tostones and lounged around for a few hours, and then Adrian and I arranged for a taxi back home. (FYI – the bus to the laguna was C$30. The taxi back was C$300, and then the guy didn’t have change, so we ended up paying 400.)
But we made it back in time for our event, and even though we had just about every technical difficulty imaginable, and even though I had a full-scale emotional breakdown after, it was still one of the best days I’ve had here by far. And that’s saying something, because I’ve had some pretty good days.
Oh, I got a little bit of sun, too. I got home and my host mom and sister both immediately commented on how quemada I was.
I’ve spent the last few days living in my new site with a new host family and meeting/working with new teachers.
Yesterday, I walked about 9 miles around town trying to figure out where everything is.
It’s hot here. When I got home, the camisole under my shirt was completely drenched.
These hills are unforgiving too.
Eventually with these blog posts I’ll find a modicum of eloquence, but for now, I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.
Leaving this gorgeous view mañana. Be back soon.
A couple weeks ago, finished teaching English classes in my training town. I taught my last class, and then a few days later, after a workshop for the local English teachers, my counterpart asked me if I’d be back the following week, because the kiddos wanted to say goodbye.
At that point, I was feeling ready to move to my new site, but I wanted to go to the classroom one last time to see my students, so Amanda and I agreed to go see them for a few minutes.
It was overwhelming.
I was not always thrilled with my teaching, but my students are wonderful. On that last day spoke to me a lot in English and Spanish, and we took a lot of photos, and they presented me with gorgeous gifts. I felt appreciated and welcomed into their community, and now it’s almost time for me to leave.
I’m excited to be starting a new adventure in a new site with new teachers and students, but I’m definitely going to miss the life I had in that community.
Also, I’m very nervous to transport the gifts they gave me. They’re very fragile and the bus to Matagalpa is bumpy.
I just realized how long it’s been since I wrote a blog post. My last one was a massive downer, but I assure you that I’ve been feeling awesome since I wrote it. I’ve just been very very busy and haven’t taken the time to compile my thoughts.
A few days ago, we got our site assignments! I planned to write a long post about the whole process and my thoughts for what it would be like, but it’s too late for that, because I’m actually in my site for a quick visit!
I’m in a lovely town in the department of Matagalpa! I was thrilled with that announcement, because I’m going to be living surrounded by mountains and rivers and places to hike.
The journey here felt a little long. It’s Sunday, so there wasn’t an express bus to my town. We ended up taking two separate ruteados, and one of them blew a tire and added a good hour to our trip.
When we arrived at the bus terminal in Boaco to change buses, I was starving, and I bought some quesillo from a vendor who came on our bus. (I feel like this is one of many, many inside jokes that I shouldn’t try to explain, but I’m going to try anyway.)
On most buses, there are vendors who come on and walk down the aisles trying to sell you everything from food and drinks to flashlights and razors. For about 10 weeks now, I’ve jokingly said, “gotta get me some of that bus quesillo,” because there’s nothing sketchier than dairy products being sold by a stranger on a crowded bus.
Anyway, I bought and ate the quesillo and it was delicious and I have no regrets.
Ok I’ve rambled long enough. I mostly just wanted to write a quick something to let you know that all is well in the life of Jade.
Just to reiterate, I haven’t OFFICIALLY moved to my new site. I’m just here for a few days to meet teachers and get to know the town. I’ll move officially after swearing in as a volunteer in a couple weeks.
Mufasa: Simba, let me tell you something my father told me. Look at the stars. The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars.
Young Simba: Really?
Mufasa: Yes. So whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you. And so will I.
Today, as part of our training requirements, we had a movie night in our town. We planned to watch Frozen, but a few things went wrong and we ended up watching The Lion King.
Almost immediately, I started getting emotional. (Note: for me, emotional means feeling a tightness in my chest, remaining stoic, and shedding approximately zero tears.) I realized how long it had been since I’d seen this movie. I can’t pinpoint a day, month, or year, but I immediately, overwhelmingly realized that the last time I’d seen it was before Dad’s death.
(Remember how my life feels divided into Before and After? The after continues to be confuse me daily.)
Watching The Lion King today—after—I was hyper aware of any and all connections I had to the story.
Like Mufasa, Dad scolded us very, very rarely and he was always quick to forgive. He had a strong, silent presence that I miss constantly.
When Mufasa died, I almost left the room. (And by that I mean I considered going outside but stayed firmly planted in my chair, eyes stinging but dry, and forced myself to confront my feelings, but my friends likely had no idea that I was having a silent breakdown.)
The way Simba runs to his father’s body, touches him, urges him to wake up, and feels extreme guilt for his father’s death…I’m not saying that’s autobiographical…actually, fuck it, yes I am.
It was a Wednesday. I’d been planning to see him that morning at 11. At 10:45, I missed three calls from Bev. I called back and Uncle Greg answered and said we’d talk when I got there.
I sped. I called Jasmine when I got to the roundabout and left her a voicemail, and then she called me back and I told her that I was driving to Dad’s but that I thought something was wrong. I didn’t know exactly what, but I felt like I needed to prepare her. She’d been planning on coming back home to see him in two days, and I thought maybe he’d gone into a coma. Maybe she’d never hear his voice again.
I got to his house, and people hugged me and comforted me, even though nobody had told me what happened. I went into his bedroom and sat in the same spot I’d occupied the night before. I held his hand as I had before, but everything was different. Now was after.
That was my moment after the stampede, and the silence was excruciating. It was just me and him…actually, maybe it was just me. There were no sounds of his breathing. No rustling of blankets as he turned in his sleep. He wasn’t going to wake up and say, “Hey, baby.” There were no sounds of old westerns playing on the TV. It was too quiet, life without him. Life after him.
I held it together for a minute, and then I sobbed, because I knew I had to call Jasmine. I didn’t beg him to wake up—at least not out loud—but I felt like he should just be able to open his eyes at any moment and give us—give Jasmine—one more day with him.
And then I felt crushing, crushing guilt, not because I felt responsible for his death, but because I’d led Jasmine to believe that there was more time. On Monday, I’d told her I had a feeling she should come home soon, but that of course she didn’t need to get on the train that night. Of course she could wait until Friday.
I called Jasmine and somehow the words “Dad died” left my mouth. I remember almost nothing else, except that I apologized to her over and over and she just kept saying “it’s not your fault.” She was so calm in that moment—she managed to save her breakdown until after she hung up—and I was sitting in his house and the funeral home hadn’t come to pick up his body and I felt the enormous weight of life After Dad. The rest of the world was going on the same as it had before, and I had to call Jasmine and Mom and I had to tell my boss that I wouldn’t be coming back to work yet, that my early lunch break had turned into a long weekend.
When my brother called and asked “How’s Dad?” I had to break the news.
I had to tell friends in St. Louis that I needed to drive up there and sit on their couch and wait for Jasmine’s train to come.
All I wanted to do was run away by myself, pick Jasmine up from the train station, and listen to Jimi Hendrix and Gil Scott-Heron on repeat.
(To this day, when I need to feel calm, and especially during literal storms, I sing “All Along the Watchtower.” Over and over and over.)
I told Dad’s family that I was planning to go get Jasmine, and they all insisted that I take someone with me. That they could go with me. I said that I was fine, but obviously Mom and Daddy Mike and sisters and all the people who love me weren’t about to let me cry-drive into a telephone pole, so Mom drove me. I didn’t cry for the rest of the day.
Okay honestly I didn’t mean to go into that much detail about my equivalent of the post-stampede scene, and I am sobbing in my room and I gave myself a headache so I’m moving on.
(Mark your calendars, y’all: on October 8, 2016, Jade had her first cry in Nicaragua. I think the first since Dad’s birthday week, actually.)
Anyway, moving on. THIS IS A LION KING REFLECTION, REMEMBER?
When Simba asks Rafiki, “You knew my father?” and Rafiki responds, “Correction: I know your father,” I felt a tightness in my chest. When I speak English, I almost always, on instinct, refer to Dad in the present tense. Even eight months later, he feels present.
When Rafiki makes Simba look at his reflection to see his father, he says, “He lives in you.” That seems like such an obvious statement, but some days I need the reminder. I think if you’d asked Dad at any point during the last 2+ decades, “what are you proudest of?” he would have responded, “my girls.” Are we his legacy?
The weight of a legacy can feel really heavy when people have high expectations of you, but I never felt like Dad expected us to do great things; he simply knew we would. He has no Pride Rock. I don’t think he’d ever see my life as an extension of his, as something that he started and left me to finish. He just…sees me and believes in me. He sees me completely differently than I see myself.
He wrote that I’m a wonderful daughter.
That I’m warm.
Everything that one could ask for in a daughter.
I feel that I think pretty highly of myself, but for years, I’ve described myself negatively in the following ways:
Bad daughter. Cold and unemotional. Rude. Unfriendly. Selfish.
But damn it. He loves me. Loved me. Loves me. He’s never blamed me. He sees me for all the things I’ve done right, and he forgives all the things I’ve done wrong. And I’ve done a lot of things wrong. I feel like I did fine when I was a kid, but as soon as I got a whiff of independence, I spent a decade being a shitty daughter. Then two years being an okay daughter.
All he sees is wonderful. Everything one could ask for in a daughter. Can that part of him live in me? I want it to. I want to forgive. I want to see the best and let go of the worst.
Sometimes (often) I’m angry that I have to live the rest of my life without him, that I didn’t have more time to do better with him. That I didn’t do better with the time I had with him.
Sometimes I feel like I’m growing into a new person and he can’t witness it. Maybe…hopefully…hopefully I’m becoming the person he always saw. Maybe I can become more like him in all the right ways.
Funny without trying. Patient. Calm. Forgiving.
(Okay this post used to be about The Lion King and now that I’ve stopped crying I think it’s gone waaaaay downhill and also it feels sooooo loooooong.)
It’s hard to compare much of my experience to The Lion King because Simba ran away in a way that I really haven’t, and he came back in a way that I haven’t needed to. (I’ve actually been pretty open with my feelings since Dad’s death. Mostly with Jasmine, but that still counts.)
I do see myself in Simba’s guilt, and even though I know none of this is my fault, I will probably always feel some regret.
Maybe I should try to tie this up with one last cheesy Lion King reference about facing your feelings head on? (And maybe crying more than once in six months, you robot.)
Maybe I could say something about confronting your past (confronting years of guilt over being a bad daughter) and kicking it into the fire and allowing life to continue and flourish without the burden of that negativity?
SORRY Y’ALL, I’m tired and my comparisons fell flat a long time ago but this has been cathartic. Goodnight.
It’s been a while since I’ve washed my ropa de cama so my mom insisted that I give it her so she could wash it.
I was so excited to finally have clean sheets! They were drying on the line this morning, hanging to dry during the afternoon.
And then it rained. And then it poured. She managed to save my pillow, but the rest will be drenched for eternity.
Text conversation about the challenge of finding people who are willing to lose to us during our tiebreaker:
Thomas: yeah, we definitely blew our cover trying to beat each other.
Jade: in my defense, I wasn’t just trying to beat you. You just happened to be on my level.
Thomas: thanks for the clarification. To be clear, I was indeed aiming to defeat you.
Jade: the others are just pawns you sacrifice to defeat the queen.
Thursday morning, we left Estelí, got brunch, and reflected a little on our practicum week experience.
Ok, so maybe our night was a little louder than that. We talked, we played cards, and eventually we ended up playing ERS, a game I never won in high school.
Anyway, it started out with a full table of players. (The objective of the game is to get all the cards. You have to slap different card patterns to take cards. It gets intense.)
I’d asked Thomas if he wanted to play, and his face lit up when I told him which game we were playing.
Finally, a worthy competitor.
Right, so we had a table full of people, and slowly, people started to lose. Y’all know how competitive I am. I wouldn’t call myself a sore loser, but I certainly don’t like losing. This game is crazy, and if you’re playing right, everyone will end up slapping each other’s hands as hard as they possibly can. It’s not intentional, but it is the nature of the game.
We played until it was just Thomas and me. Both of us have quick hands, but I tend to…I don’t know, be more outwardly competitive? I yell a lot. I hit the table when I’m frustrated with myself. This is possibly the only time when I wear my emotions on my sleeve. In every other situation, people tell me they can’t tell what’s going through my head. I’m pretty hard to read.
Thomas is the opposite. He’s infuriatingly calm and I’m flying off the handle even when I’m winning.
The point is, he won the first hand, and I congratulated him on a well-played game, because deep down, I’m a polite and courteous lady (and game recognizes game.) And then we played a rematch. Same people as before, and once again it got down to him and me.
That time, I won. When it got down to the two of us, I asked Amanda to document my win. (Apparently I get really cocky when I play. That win definitely wasn’t a sure thing.)
Today, my pinky is bruised because I jammed it into Thomas’s hand when I was going for the cards.
The injury was worth it though. Just look at the joy on my face! And look at how calm Thomas is as he slowly loses. Somehow, someday, I’ll get my face to look that peaceful.
After playing cards, several of us ended up talking until around 2 a.m. I don’t even remember much of what we talked about (that said, I’m writing this the next day, after getting roughly 3 hours of sleep. I may have fallen asleep on a Nicaraguan man’s shoulder on the bus home from Managua today. It was for less than a minute, but I’m obviously exhausted.)
Really, it doesn’t matter what we talked about. I am so so excited to get to my permanent site, but I’m also very aware that once I leave my training town, I won’t see these people nearly as much. That’s rough, because I feel a pretty crazy connection with this whole group (and I really love a few people in particular.) We’re all very different, but we have a similar purpose that brings us together.
Okay, I don’t even know what the topic of this blog is anymore because I’m so tired. Maybe you get my point? I like to take advantage of the time I have with this wonderful group, especially when that time includes me winning competitions.
6 more weeks of training, y’all.