day twenty three: cemeteries, cathedrals

we start our trip to granada with a trip to the cemetery.
it isn’t your average tour beginning — way to start off our day trip with a bang, right? — but it is an introduction into the city of granada because it’s the only one of its kind in nicaragua.
see, granada was colonized by the spaniards, which explains why the houses and the cathedrals and the graveyards look the way they do. the indigenous nicaraguans weren’t the ones who built giant churches. they weren’t the ones who constructed to-scale replicas of european cathedrals. they weren’t the ones who buried their dead in elaborate monuments complete with hand-carved statues and life-size crucifixes.

faith — and capitalism — seem like the strongest influences on the architecture here. the stones near the center of the cemetery, the tallest and most elaborate ones, are owned by hugely wealthy families. the others, the littler ones with names and dates in a larger structure, are rented out to those with money (rather like smaller, more morbid apartment complexes). and the smallest ones on the outskirts of the cemetery, marked sometimes only with a cross or a stake, are those that belong to the poorest people.

i can’t help thinking how ironic it is, these white white stones under blue blue sky covering dark dark injustices. this continuation of colonization and religion even when bones and bodies no longer care, when both death and love are “the great equalizers”, and yet those who love their dead insist on obvious inequality.

under the rule of the spaniards,
 we’ve turned the cemetery into a business
and the cross into a status symbol.

if you were to ask me which part of my identity i am consistently the most conflicted about, it would be religion.

i grew up believing in a God that loved people and loved me, one that brought truth and light and softness, one that championed the oppressed and cared for the marginalized, that was always trustworthy and always just and always good. and that’s the one i still believe in, even though my understanding and interpretation of Them (does God have pronouns?) has changed and deepened over time.

but there are other versions of who we call God, versions that are white and/or rich, that advocate logic but not love (or, alternately, that produce emotion but ignore truth), that defend the innocence of the oppressor and place blame on the hurting, that are used to justify colonialism and invasion and injustice and prejudice.

and it’s hard, sometimes,
to remember that i share a faith with people who believe
in that God, too.

it’s harder
to remember that i am constantly trying to separate
what i have learned from Christianity
with what i have learned from capitalism.

and it’s harder still
to remember that i have directly and indirectly inherited
a religion that has silenced and exploited and crushed so many people so many cultures so many lives
so many so many so many

and i don’t know what to do with that.

i end my trip to granada with a trip to a church.

i’m alone for the afternoon — i wasn’t feeling well earlier this morning and so skipped out on lunch and ended up exploring the market and the nearby square — and so i climb up the stairs and duck into the cathedral partially because it was in my friend’s guidebook but mostly because it’s hot and i’m in need of a little quiet and a little shade and a place to catch my breath. it’s a beautiful beautiful building, as are many of the cathedrals in central america… the product of colonization, probably, but also a community space and a major landmark.

i used to visit churches when i was abroad during my junior year, too.
while church gatherings, ironically, don’t always feel like good spaces, the empty church cathedrals usually felt right. they gave me a sense of reassurance, somehow; being alone in a place that was strong and beautiful, that had stood for centuries and promised to stand for centuries more.

i don’t think i can erase histories of violence and oppression, nor do i want to. i can’t change the fact that christianity now is messy beyond belief, and i don’t know enough yet to fully sort out all the tangles of capitalism and imperialism and colonialism that are inherent in challenging my own faith. if anything, all i know from exploring this country (nicaragua is still a deeply religious country) and this city (granada is the oldest colonial city here) and the graveyard this morning is that, well, these tangles aren’t new.

the people in the cemetery are dead,
but the issues aren’t.

this religion came through conquerors, and yet
it comforts my grandmother, sustains my mother, guides my father, challenges me.

the issues are alive,
but so are we. so am i.

and i don’t know what to do with that.
(but i’m working on it.)


day twenty two: real talk (heat and health and hydration)

while we were on the boat tour in granada, chester told us to drink water.

i, working busily to translate the rest of the tour, take pictures, and keep the four-year-old from falling out of the boat, did not do a good job of listening.
i was also in the sun for most of the day, and i didn’t do a great job of applying my sunscreen either.

…ergo, heat exhaustion.

according to the internet,
heat exhaustion is a condition whose symptoms may include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse, a result of your body overheating. it’s one of three heat-related syndromes, with heat cramps being the mildest and heatstroke being the most severe. causes of heat exhaustion include exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity, and strenuous physical activity.

it’s also typically accompanied by thirst, weakness, headache, and loss of consciousness… and/or nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps, and dizziness.

not fun.

anyway, lessons learned:

  1. it’s much safer (and more convenient) to be sick when you have a range of pals to take care of you and buy you medicine and look out for you in case you almost throw up in the street. thanks daph, you’re a literal angel.
  2. medicine is cheaper in nicaragua. like, 30 cents kind of cheap. also electrolyte water costs about three dollars and tastes kind of like gatorade. thanks socialist government of nicaragua.
  3. don’t ever forget to drink water. thanks chester, even though i didn’t listen to you at the time… i appreciate you.
    (and look how much i’m hydrating now! two waters, lemonade, and electrolytes, ft. the only thing i really felt like eating that day)

day twenty: “why aren’t your updates on time?”

a series of responses:

  1. i don’t have a computer here (mine, in a fit of petulance, decided to malfunction the morning i was moving out of Bryn Mawr and right before i left for Nicaragua), and so most of my time on the computer is time i’m supposed to be working (i.e. writing blog posts on La Mariposa’s blog rather than my own lil personal one).
    (shameless work promotion: you can find my most recent posts here and here.)
    but what that means that most of my posts are written on my phone, and phones aren’t exactly the best gadgets for maintaining a blog presence.
  2. my wifi access is (somewhat) unpredictable.
    while i do have access in La Mariposa (AND in my homestay, which is a welcome luxury), it’s wet season, and the electricity is prone to go out, and since my host family doesn’t have a generator, any “scheduled” posts are at the mercy of my connection at the moment.
    also, especially on weekends, i tend to be on trips with the students or exploring on my own, and i usually don’t have access for long periods of time there.
  3. there’s a limit to the amount of relatively coherent content i can produce daily.
    while english-major me appreciates the fact that i’m constantly creating, i’m also having to remind myself that what i produce cannot always be edited to the point of perfection. in any given day, i’m writing public blog posts, responding to emails, studying and writing in spanish, producing and revising handouts for La Mariposa’s guests or Asociacion Tierra’s volunteers, and attempting to keep up with personal things like my journal and this site.
    so this blog is somewhat less polished than i’d like it to be, and that needs to be okay.
  4. i have a life here!
    i’ve realized in the past few weeks that this internship is oddly tailored to a lot of my skills-that-aren’t-actually-skills: being abnormally good at children’s crafts, surviving road trips, occupying children for random periods of time, writing diplomatic emails, keeping track of large groups of people, designing blogs with a limited amount of free templates, explaining technology to people, editing mission statements, putting together handouts, remembering names, etc. etc. etc.
    are they useful in other contexts?
    possibly? probably not all at the same time? but they are here
    and it keeps me busy and it means i can be helpful and it makes me really really happy…
    even if it means i neglect this blog a little.

TL;DR: for the most part i’m thriving even if i don’t update this blog entirely regularly!

also, keep an eye out for my (late — is anyone surprised) update on my weekend in granada and some random musings… but only after i get the chance to type them up. 😉

day eighteen: dia de…

el niño!
(it’s children’s day!)

some background:
the 30th was mother’s day in nicaragua.
we had a cake, and as my five year old host sister watched it being carried carefully to the table, she leaned over to me and whispered loudly that it was her cake too, since thursday was children’s day.

well, she was right about today being children’s day, but i’m pretty sure she was wrong about the cake because today she got another one…

she was very happy.

day seventeen: cooking class

on monday (yes, still monday… not a lot of truly photograph-able things happened the other weekdays) we also went to cooking class!
la mariposa has activities every day for its guests, and paulette wanted me to go so that i could see what the regular activities were like and take pictures and write up a blog, so i accompanied all the students there and prepped myself to bake.

the first thing we noticed was the oven, which was enormous — a good four feet tall and easily wide enough for me to fit (i didn’t try, but what i’m saying is that i COULD have).

we mixed dough out of flour, butter, cheese, and milk (and by mixed, i mean that we literally all stuck our hands in a giant bowl and kneaded it until it “looked right”) and formed it carefully into different shapes.

empanadas, rosquillas, y viejitas, oh my!
(the empanadas are the folded over ones — they’re filled with cheese and sugar. the rosquillas, which i didn’t take pictures of, are little round doughnut-shaped things. and the viejitas were little cups that we filled with brown sugar)
all of them were made from the same dough.

when we were done forming all the dough and filling all the viejitas, we put them into the oven for twenty minutes to bake.

they were delicious!
(so delicious, in fact, that i forgot to take a picture before we ate them all.)