Things to find

So, the following is a list of things I am looking for! All of these are for craft projects that I either want to start, or have already started and can’t finish until I get…

-Cheese Grater (s)- the 3D ones with four sides, not the flat ones

-Clear incandescent bulbs- they don’t have to work

-String lights- they do have to work!

-Stuffing (or quilt batting)

-Felt- even small scraps, any colors whatsoever

-Old crayons (broken or not, any brand)

-Small glass jars (with or without lids), and by small I mean anything same size or smaller than a peanut butter jar

-100% wool anything- even little scraps

-old picture frames (almost any)

-old drawers

-those l-shaped shelf hardware things.  The ones that you attach right to the wall and they hold the shelf up

 

Wish me luck in finding all this stuff— I have high hopes, since Dump and Run, the annual event where students at my university are too lazy to clean through their items and dispose of or donate them properly so they just leave them in heaps around campus, is coming very soon!

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22 days til I’m 22

Life since Managua has been busy, jumbled, and drastically different, but mostly wonderful.

I came back to the states December 2nd, and I won’t deny the tears that filled my eyes when I landed in O’Hare, saw all the Christmas decorations, and realized I was 1)home, and 2) Christmas was right around the corner.  Thank you Nicaragua, for confusing me by starting to celebrate Christmas in August.  

I spent a few weeks with my family in upstate NY, and I have been back in Chicago since early. January.  New apartment, new job, new classes.  In English this time, which is refreshing.  

Overall, this semester has been quite joy-filled.  Let me explain what happened.

Nicaragua was a wonderful country, I was just in a terribly disappointing program.  The frustrations with my program and living situation compounded with a painful break up, dislocated ankle, and pneumonia, led to an inability to write anything that wasn’t either completely negative and depressing, or something totally unrelated to the situation I was in.  Some of the latter was interesting, but not stuff I was prepared to post on the world wide interweb, so I just didn’t post anything at all. There were wonderful places and experiences and people for me in Nicaragua, it just turned out that the negative sometimes overwhelmed those positive things in a BIG way.

One highlight of this semester is a Creative Nonfiction class I’m taking, which has encouraged me to write, and so I’m back at it, and I have a lot to write about.  For one thing, I’ll be 22 in 22 days, which is halfway to 44, which, based on my family’s history, is well over halfway to dead.  So, there’s that.  

And so, let me list a few of the things that are on my mind right now- things that I will definitely be writing about in the coming weeks:

1) Birthday party theme ideas.  Must have something awesome. Any thoughts? Stoplight parties or anything having to do with business formal sluttery are an absolute NO.

2) This awesome project I’m working on which will result in a performance about stories of racism beyond the black and white conversation.  Very excited about it!!!

3)My transition into a diet free (or at least containing small tiny amounts of) corn and wheat.  OH Lawd help me.

4) The new sewing machine that my awesome mother bought for me for my upcoming birthday.  Oh, the adventures are on their way…

That’s what’s coming up. Werp.

Finally

Ok, WordPress… you really have been the worst lately. The last few weeks, I’ve written a couple of my best posts yet. And through unfortunate WordPress errors, they ended getting deleted. WordPress, your instant draft saving system is a sham, and I’m done trusting you.

Speaking of things that are born out of frustration, today was Nicaragua’s election. There are so many things to say about that, and only a very few of which are mine to say. Today I traveled around the entire city for hours, from barrios to the national palace, to several universities, even to the mall and several national monuments, assessing the state of the city on this election day.
The city was unbelievably calm, perhaps more peaceful than I have ever seen it. This was a shock to me, after I was warned by many to not leave the house. Oh, the politics of fear.
Anyways, here are some photos I took of things that I saw today.
One thing I don’t have a photo of- wish I did!!!- is of a female taxista who drove me from UCA to the national palace today! In 3 months I have NEVER seen or heard of a woman taxista. Very interesting.

Flooded and trash infested shore of Lake Managua

Street art by UCA: "Long live the revolution of thought", and the blog address for a popular graffiti/tattoo artist who's work is visible all across Managua

Another piece of street art I saw today...Absolutely beautiful. More on all of this in another post though...

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View from Managua of the lake and mountains. The pink billboard and Christmas lights hung everywhere are all part of Daniel Ortega's campaigning.

Finding beautiful things

These last few weeks have been the hardest I’ve experienced for quite some time.  Between my still less than healthy ankle (and the transportation difficulties and limited mobility included therein), several interpersonal conflicts with people in my life, and the stresses of my difficult classes here compounded by efforts to make graduation and post-graduation plans, I can’t help feeling completely out of control.  Some days it nearly feels like I am a bystander to my own life.

My wise friend Elsa has been encouraging me to establish morning and evening routines that are life-giving and empowering, a way to start and end each day in a-dare I say that word-  intentional way.  Doing so has given me a sense of peace and has anchored my time here, rather than just letting the time move as it will.

But this morning, I found myself getting discouraged again.  Reading Nicaragua: Revolution in the Family provoked thoughts of the big picture of peacemaking, and I ended up lying on my bed doing some deep, dark, soul searching.  I found myself listing a lot of ugly, hurtful things that are in my life and in the world, and letting those things swamp me.

To counteract my murking, I spent the next 2 hours focusing on the beauty I have been experiencing, and refusing to let it get overpowered by negativity.

Here are some of the things I came up with.  Sometimes when everything seems dark and dismal, you just have to find or make beauty in unexpected places:

Nature:  The textbooks I’ve been reading this semester are overwhelmingly depressing.  Latin American Literature texts are all about the horrors of colonization, ruthless dictatorships, and sickening racism.  My 20 and 21st Century Foreign Policy class has me reading more about cruel and corrupt dictators, the endless gap between the rich and the poor, and the countless times the U.S. has inexcusably put their nose where it didn’t belong.

So I found another purpose for my textbooks...

Perspective: I love the Nicaraguan people.  The students in my English class at the community center in particular are a major blessing.  They patiently and kindle answer even the silliest of my questions about Nicaraguan culture and the Spanish language.  In return I don’t laugh at them when they pronounce 33 as “turdy tree”, or when “beach” sounds 100% identical to “bitch”.  But in the midst of my mulling over the search for peace in Nicaragua’s bloody and conflict-ridden history, I have come to understand that in order to truly grasp the concepts of international and intercultural peacemaking, this sort of experience I am having now is necessary.  Without the context of my relationships with Nicaraguans, I would never have the perspective that I do of Nicaragua’s political and social turmoil.  Therefore, knowing the people here and having the (sometimes painful) opportunity to see their struggles firsthand allows me to better understand what change needs to take place, and what the nature of the problem truly is.  So this morning I took time to reflect and remind myself that being able to more accurately study, specifically pray for, and more actively advocate for the specific needs of the people here is worth the pain and frustration that comes through realizing the truth, in that the pain of the Nicaraguan people is neither simple or new, and is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Body: My ankle has been an unbelievable source of sadness and stress.  I have missed out on many things, and spent far more time at my house than I would have liked because transportation is so much more difficult and expensive for me now.  It’s also hard for me to feel good about myself when the only shoes I can wear are bright blue flip flops and, let’s be honest, ankle braces and crutches aren’t remotely cute.

So, I decided to find a way to look at my ankle with something other than frustration and disdain.

What say you? Too many pictures of my feet? Probably.

Three strong.  That’s a start.

Here’s to a more beautiful mindset, even when beauty includes difficult, frustrating, and complicated.

Good Morning Huge Bug

Views of Nicaragua

 

Here are some photos from my -very short- recent trip to the east coast of Nicaragua.

The beautiful view from the bar/restaurant/swimming dock I spent my day at Thursday

 

 

One of the gorgeous views of the mountains in central Nicaragua

Another view of the mountains, just after a storm

 

 

 

 

The Healer

This week my friends and I packed our bags for the longest vacation we have from school this whole semester, and hopped on a bus headed towards the east coast of Nicaragua.  Our intention was to travel all Tuesday night, taking 3 buses in order  to arrive in the small fishing town of Pearl Lagoon on Wednesday morning.  After 2 nights in Pearl Lagoon, we planned to head to the small city of Bluefields, a cultural center of the Atlantic coast built from the influences of the indigenous and African diaspora population.

Me on the nicest of the buses, just moments before tragedy

But things never happen the way we plan, so of course I fell while getting out of the first bus, and dislocated my ankle.  Nothing’s broken, but my ligaments are shredded.

By the time we arrived at Pearl Lagoon, I was so discouraged.  Every bump in the road, and there were thousands, shot pain up my entire leg.  On the next two crowded “buses” we took, which were really more like carts carried by trucks, I had to constantly beg people to try to not step on me.  Some of my friends went off to book us a hostel, and I sat outside with two of the other girls, waiting.  An old man came up, begging me for money, until he saw my foot. “Oh, you’re a cripple, never mind…”

Some women who stopped to chat, and the older men who eventually helped me hobble my way to the hostel, all said the exact same thing: “You need to go see Winston.”  Ironically the hostel owner’s son was there for a visit, and he, Wesley Jr., was a pediatrician.  He confirmed what the rest of the community said, “Sweetheart you need to go see Winston and you need to go see him now.  Don’t wait another moment.”

So we went to go see Winston.

Once, my knee was dislocated, and getting it reduced was one of the most painful experiences of my life.  I was terrified.  My fears were not soothed when we pulled up to the most meager of shacks, with a hammock out front and a dog and a monkey on the stoop.  Eventually 6 or 7 people came out of the tiny house, including a few small children and one very old man.

Winston was about 6’3″, very skinny, with really intense eyes.  He sat me down in a plastic chair and handed me a plastic cup of water.  He pulled up a chair across from me and took my swollen, purple foot in his lap.

“You need to relax,” he said, “If you push back to me, I can’t do my work.”

I cried like a baby, and Winston gave me the most painful massage of my life.  And then snap! snappity snap! and all the sudden my foot felt totally different.

“That’s it.  You still need to be careful, but it’s done.  It’s in place.”

I was shocked at how significantly the pain had decreased.  I asked Winston what I could give him for helping me.

“Liz,” he said in his thick creole accent, “We do not give because of what has been given to us, we give out of love.”

An inspirational bite of philosophy, and a re-located ankle?  What more could a girl want.

On Friday morning, when I was heading back early from my disappointing vacation, I said goodbye to Wesley Jr. and told him how moved I was by the help I received from the community, even though I was a stranger.  Everywhere I went, everyone I encountered tried to help in any way they could.

“Well Liz, all we ask is that when you go forth into the world, tell all of the people you meet of the kindness you encountered in the small community of Pearl Lagoon.”

Will do, Wesley.

 

****Pictures of the actual ankle injury have been excluded for the sake of everyone’s wellbeing****

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