Tag Archives: Integration

Felices Fiestas from Nicaragua

Dearest friends and family,

christmas-card-2016

When we joined the Peace Corps in 2014, we never thought we’d be this comfortable and at home in a foreign country.  Yet throughout our 27+ months and extension we’ve slowly come to understand and embrace our Gringo Pinolero identities.

Like any year, 2016 brought it’s own ups and downs.

We grew closer to our friends and host families here, but we also greatly missed our loved ones back home.  So we visited home – once to IL (for a funeral) and once to OR (for a birthday/GRE).  And we hosted so many (11) different friends and family members! Showing them our Nicaragua has been an honor and we hope that they now understand a bit more why we love it so much.

We survived a hurricane, and zika, and the long recovery of chikunguyna.  Don’t worry.  None of them were as bad as they sound.

We experienced two national elections – of our host and home countries – through a lens we’ve never had before.  It was quite the experience to be abroad during an election year.

We said goodbye to our cohort since we extended our service, counseled/co-directed 4 camps this calendar year (ACCESS, GLOW, CHACA, and ACCESS again), and celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary.

Gallo pinto is now a welcomed staple in our diet.  We learned a lot from teaching in a completely new setting.  We continued to immerse ourselves in Spanish and up our Nica street cred.

We worked hard and earned our keep.  One of our PC Nicaragua staff members says that the longer we’re here, the more qualified we’ll feel to dive deeper into our work.  Now that we’re almost done, we keep thinking of new projects that we could do if only we had the time.

And we’re starting to feel that pressure of time.  So we’re taking as many pictures as we can, celebrating small moments, and striving to live into the intentions we set to aprovechar our time left in Peace Corps.

Life is full of comings and goings, of challenges and lessons, of transitions and blessings.  We embrace what we can, while we can, and strive to have the lessons we’ve learned from our journey guide our way on.  That is what we wish for you this holiday season, and for ourselves in the (big transition) year to come.

Feliz navidad y prospero año nuevo.

Love and light,
Emily and Andrew

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Combating Late-Service Burnout (Part 2)

Miss Part 1?  Find it here.


Coming from a profession that also has a high level of burnout (teaching), I think it’s important to be aware of the difficulties life-encompassing work like Peace Corps can bring. When you care so much, how can you not give your all until there is nothing more to give? Instead of pretending it doesn’t exist, the more we can acknowledge and affirm each other’s struggles, the more supported we will feel. From this place of affirmation, we can then look towards steps to counter burnout, and re-embrace our passion for life-changing work.

Here are some steps that I am taking to help combat my burnout and to ensure that I am still able to give my best during our 4-month extension as well. I invite PCVs (and even those in other high burnout professions) to join me and give one or two of them a try:

 

  1. Remind yourself of why you made the 27-month commitment.

Continue reading Combating Late-Service Burnout (Part 2)

Combating Late-Service Burnout (Part 1) 

Being a Peace Corps Volunteer demands your full attention, resources, and effort. You left your friends and family to move to an unknown land to work with unknown people. The lessons to learn and the family to gain continue to make it the “toughest job you’ll ever love.” But let’s be honest – toughest is also a part of that description. Sometimes, it’s a completely draining job. Unlike many 9 to 5 state-side positions, at the end of the day, you don’t get to leave your work at the office. In fact, you probably don’t even have an office outside of the room you’re renting from your host family.

As I sweep the puddles of water out of my house after it runs down the stairs and floods in the rain, I can’t help but remember the warmth that is to curl up by a fireplace. As we check for rocks and bugs in our rice, I can’t help but remember a clean pantry where animals and bugs didn’t run the show. When I stand on a crowded bus for 4.5 hours to ride from Managua to my site, I can’t help but remember that I used to own a car and drove to work in style. When mosquitoes make people sick and the regular fumigations worsen my asthma, I can’t help but long to be out of the tropical zone of strange diseases and not have to worry about our health.

This far into service, some of those US memories start to be idolized. The States becomes a land of dreams and hope and cleanliness and prosperity. It’s easy to forget the struggles that also exist there and that nowhere is a perfect paradise.  Continue reading Combating Late-Service Burnout (Part 1) 

Water, Water Everywhere

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When it rains, it pours…literally, which often leads to flooded streets and leaky roofs.  While the rain is good for the crops (and way better than the droughts that Nicaragua had the last few years), all the standing water creates the perfect breeding ground for mosquitos. Our local hospital is completely full of people with Chikunguyna, Dengue, or Zika symptoms and many work colleagues and friends are out sick with one of those three pesky mosquito-borne viruses. Here’s to abate, fumigation, mosquito nets, and bug spray!

A Puddle Sweep on the Roof

puddle sweeping

We’re back in Nicaragua and so is the rain! Chimney sweepers aren’t so common here (nor are chimneys for that matter), but now that the dry season has thankfully past we do need to puddle sweep our roof frequently.  If we allow stagnant water to build up, not only do the leaks in our bedroom increase, but it’s the perfect breeding ground for mosquitos.  Andrew sure doesn’t want Chikunguyna, so he’ll try to improve his luck and sweep away.

Dicho for the Impossible

In case flying pigs don’t seem unlikely enough for your tastes, you can now add this bad-boy to your repertoire:

Cuando las loras escupan. – When parrots spit.

Turns out that these sorts of hyperbolic expressions of impossibility are an incredibly universal phenomenon across cultures and languages.  They even have a fancy Greek name: adynata.  Click here to enjoy a list of adynata in 20 different language!

Dicho for Not Sweating the Small Stuff

Few dichos capture the essence of an entire culture.  Usually, they represent specific feelings or experiences to be applied in certain contexts.  However, every so often I come across an expression that encapsulates the Nicaraguan ethos.

Hay más tiempo que vida – There is more time than life.

On the surface, this dicho may not make any sense to you (I know it didn’t to me).  However, after living in Nicaragua for over a year and a half, it’s starting to sink in.  I see this dicho lived out by the ladies sitting outside in their rocking chairs, chatting with neighbors and passersby; school ending an hour early so the teachers can attend a vigil for a beloved community member; or walking an 11-hour pilgrimage instead of taking the 90 minute ride in the back of a truck.  Although life may be short, that doesn’t mean we have to meticulously schedule every second in an inflexible quest to cross off tasks from ever expanding to-do lists.  Instead, take time for what matters most, even if that means what you had scheduled for today doesn’t get done until tomorrow.