I have been thinking a lot lately about how to accurately describe in words what our time at language school has been like. There is a tendency, as human beings, to share about the parts that make us uncomfortable. The parts that I would say, in Spanish, “me molesta.” [Bother me.] Because the parts that bug us are so visceral. And sometimes, so overwhelming, that it seems like it it all that is happening. But as we have shared with one another about our days, or how we feel like we are progressing with the language, there is always a hope. A sliver of ‘but it won’t be like this forever’ in our voices that lets the other know that we’re still in this. Still committed to learning, growing and stretching, no matter how uncomfortable the moment might be. And I believe we have both begun to listen for the hope. For the parts of the other’s explanation that reminds us that life here won’t always be stressful, or at least not in the way we are experiencing right now.
On a side note, I hope you don’t read this and think, “Oh its terrible for them. Poor things.” Just like anywhere, the frustrating/painful/stressful moments are intricately intertwined with the beautiful/triumphant/joyous moments. We are realizing, day by day, that the two must coincide, and do so perfectly. Even if we only see the perfection in retrospect.
- Being in Granada has been both exciting and heavy.
Our language school exists to assist kids in potentially vulnerable home lives. Much like Open Hearts attempts to reach out to kids before the situation becomes too detrimental, Casa Xalteva does as well. So just like we begin class at 8am, so do the kids enrolled in the program at Xalteva. And seeing them each morning, full of life, laughing and playing, makes my heart grateful and relieved. The school is able to continue and do well in Granada because it is a tourist spot, so the amount of people who travel here to learn Spanish is immense. However, not every tourist comes with the best of intentions, and there is a dark underbelly of prostitution and child exploitation here in Granada. For instance, one of our fellow language school students, was walking around the second day we were here, taking in the sights, when a young boy on the street tried to sell him something like gum or a souvenir. When he politely declined, and began to walk away, the boy called out, “Blow job for $5.” Our classmate is a father himself, and was incredibly upset by the interaction. He told Landon about it the next day at class, and essentially said, “I wish you and your wife the best of luck with what you are trying to do here. Because it’s not going to be easy.”
- Be careful where you walk. Seriously.
As is the case everywhere else in Nicaragua, stray dogs are everywhere in Granada. There are three or four who ‘live’ on our street alone. These mangey, haggard animals don’t ‘belong’ to anyone, but everyone seems to feed them scraps, so they stick around. That means that they also ‘do their business’ anywhere. On the sidewalk, in the street, wherever. (There does not exist here a culture of ‘picking up your pet’s poop’ either). So, very seriously, you have to be careful where you walk, or else you might add a little extra scent to the bottom of your shoe.
Also, there are holes in the sidewalks here you have to watch out for. And by hole, I mean it looks like there should maybe be a cover on it, since its about the size of two dinner plates and about a foot deep, but there is nothing covering it. So you learn to watch where you step, every moment.
- Delicious pastries, on the cheap.
Even though buying food in Granada is definitely more expensive than other places in Nica, there are some treasures you can find for less than a dollar. For instance, about three blocks from our school there is a little pastry and coffee shop called Maria Elena. They make delicious, from scratch, pastries which cost, on average, 20 cordobas. With an exchange rate of C$28.40 to $1, that makes a delectable treat about $0.70. And, an added bonus for me is that the fresh made breads and pastries here in Nicaragua do not both my stomach the way they would in the States. Coffee and cinnamon roll? Yes please.
- Please don’t ever ask to visit us in April.
We joked the other day about how we would suggest in the strongest way possible to anyone asking about visiting, that April is not a good time. That we are closed. I thought we could deal with it just fine, being a little uncomfortable, but otherwise ok. I was wrong. The heat is so overwhelming and unrelenting, that you find yourself completely exhausted by about noon. It is usually everything I can do to sit at the table and eat my lunch, because all I want to do is go lay in front of the fan and sleep for three hours. And because it never really cools down, our sleep has been hit and miss, which obviously adds to the exhaustion during the day. For those of you wondering how hot is hot, 100ish in the day and 85ish at night, with no air conditioning. I seriously get so excited when there is a breeze on the porch in the evening. “Mas fresca,” I exclaim, with a huge smile.
- Rice and beans. Beans and rice. Rice with beans. Gallo pinto… All day. E’ry day.
With nearly every meal here in Granada, we have been served beans and rice. Sometimes mixed together. Sometimes separate on the plate. Sometimes with a few slices of onions mixed in. But every day. It is an incredibly inexpensive way to feed numerous people, and in a country where lots of people are struggling to feed their families, it makes a lot of sense to be served it everyday. We just may choose to not eat it in our home, when it is up to us. That is all.
- Mobile grocery stores may be my favorite thing.
Every morning a man comes buy selling milk out of giant jars, on his bike. He rides up and down the streets yelling, “Leche!” but all you hear, usually, in the ‘LAY’ part and you know that it’s the milk guy. He’ll sort of stop at our front door, and Zoila (our host mom) will say either, “No,” or, “Ya, voy.” [Ya, I’m coming.] Then she grabs a container, and he scoops out the unpasteurized, local milk. (Unfortunately, for us, drinking this milk would be very dangerous for our digestive systems, so we don’t.) There is also a bread guy, who walks by each evening with a large crate full of bread, and a fruit/vegetable guy who rides by each morning with bags of different fruits and veggies attached to his bike. The need to go to the grocery store, ever, is very minimal for a local.
- “Lets cross. There is shade over there.”
It turns out that if you live in Nicaragua for any time at all, you begin to understand the aversion locals have to the sun. Its blazing. So anytime there is shade, we walk or stand in it. Even if that means crossing the street on the way home from school twice as many times as needed.
There are numerous other random day to day things I have noticed, but I’ll save those for another post.
Thank you for your continued prayers. We have one more week here in Granada, and appreciate any extra prayers you can offer on our behalf.