With little else to do, the beginning of the week was just spent in Achuapa doing the normal socializing and lounging about – my now super familiar routine. When Wednesday finally rolled around, I headed to Chinandega to meet with Luis. He went from being completely in love with Costa Rica to hating it more than anything in around a week…thus bringing him back to Nicaragua for a second go around in less than a month. Either way, it was still good to see him.
That day we met up with his former school principal for a lunch. We spent a good couple hours chatting and eating before heading over to his house a little later to pick up a “gift” he had for Luis – a bottle of rum. We killed some time later that day in the hotel before meeting up with a friend of his whom recently opened a business in Chinandega – with all the furniture that Luis had sold him when he left. We had a good time hanging out and even called our old TEFL volunteer friend who quit in my first couple months of service. Furthermore, a couple hours after hanging out some random guy showed up and starting drinking with us. A few hours (and drinks) later for the new random guy, and he said he’d drive me down to Managua the next day (I had to be down in Managua for training stuff). I reluctantly and apprehensively accepted this offer. I also didn’t think he’d actually come through when I needed to leave…even though we were leaving at the same time. Surprisingly enough, when I called him at 6 AM on the dot, he picked up and was at my hotel within minutes – very un-latino of him. It was kind of weird getting a ride down to Managua (its about a 2.5 hour trip in car) with a guy I’d met the previous night drinking and another guy who I’d never met in my life, but it worked out in the long run. Not to mention I saved around 3 dollars! I’m always up for saving.
I spent the day in Managua meeting with the new trainees and did a presentation on the business advising process, thus killing the whole day. Nothing too exciting. That night, Luis and I headed out to some local bars in Managua with the 2 guys I drove down to Managua with and the son of Luis’s former principal. It was a good time until the the booze brought out the anti-gringo in the guy who gave me a ride down to Managua.
The next day, following another series of presentations and work with the trainees, Luis and I went to have dinner at the son of his former principal’s house. The whole night we chatted with him and his wife about politics but in a totally intelligent way. The conversation lacked all of the fanatical irrationality that unfortunately is super prevalent in political discussion in Nicaragua. Unfortunately, tons of booze was consumed on the part of our host – our driver. Since we were WAY away from the hotel we were staying at, he had to drive us – and what a drive it was. Though it scared the crap out of me, we made it back.
I had yet another day of work to do with the trainees on Saturday and then headed to Leon where I met up with Luis for one final round of shenanigans. We’d planned on going to a movie, but…it just didn’t happen. We were just too beat – I even convinced Luis to go cheap on dinner. It was my first (and not the last) rotisserie chicken I’ve ever gotten in Nicaragua.
The next morning, I headed to Achuapa on the early bus so I could get there in time to get my house looking presentable by the time the trainee showed up for the volunteer visit. Little did I know, but the trainee was on the bus that left an hour after mine. So instead of showing up around 4 PM, he was there at noon – thus undermining my attempts to unwind and clean my house at the same time.
For the visit, I gave the trainee a rundown of how my life has been throughout my two years of service. He too graduated with a degree in Economics and was health crazy like me, so we definitely related on many levels. Furthermore, he was super laid back and was looking forward to not be bogged down with all the pressure of being in training. To keep things light, that night I made some Wang Chai Ferry sweet and sour chicken (check your local supermarket!) and topped it off with some delicious brownies (obvious thanks go out to a person that doesn’t even need to be named).
The next day, we woke up at around dawn so we could catch the morning Esteli bus so we could go to the waterfall near Achuapa (and thus avoiding the 5 km uphill hike to the entrance to the town it’s near). It was really great to go back there one more time before I finish my service (I’d gone last April), and it was especially good to see it during rainy season (though the mud was unbelievable). Roughly 5 and a half hours later, completely exhausted, we stumbled into my humble hovel. We were so beat that we needed a post-lunch siesta.
The last days of the volunteer visit, I hauled the trainee (Jonathan) to my class where we co-taught the class (we’re 3 months ahead of schedule – so why not?) so Jonathan could get some more teaching practice in before he heads to his site. On top of all that, we did some pretty good eating during his visit (my cooking skills are definitely getting better).
He took off that Wednesday, which would leave me with some downtime of my own…or so you’d think. Instead, my boss had me go to Chinandega to meet with the counterpart of a volunteer who had quit. She wanted me to gauge how she was doing in the class and get an idea of whether or not they’d be able to compete in the competition this year. My initial plan was to leave at noon…till I missed my bus. I left an hour later and ultimately rolled into Chinandega right around 5 PM.
The game plan had been to meet up with the counterpart when I got there, but after numerous phone calls and even a couple visits to her house, it seemed like it just wasn’t going to happen. I went and grabbed some dinner to kill time and resolved to stop by her house one more time before I turned in. As “luck” would have it, she was at her house and told me that “sometimes she goes out,” which is why she wasn’t at her house earlier. This was in spite of our conversation the previous day discussing exactly what we were going to do and when. Que será, será.
The next day the class went pretty much how I expected and the teacher even bailed on me in the middle of her class. But hey, she’ll get a replacement volunteer to help her out. Everybody also was under the notion that I was going to be the new volunteer for some reason, and thus offered to lend me a bike so I could take a tour of the town where the school was (a small town called El Realejo). I was in a rush, so I had to decline the offer and instead made my way to León to wait for my bus back to Achuapa.
Back in Achuapa (with a loaf of whole wheat bread – a first for me in site!) I got the same flood of questions/assumptions:
“Oh, you really want to go, that’s why you haven’t been around.”
“You’re bored of Achuapa, aren’t you?”
“You don’t like Nicaragua, do you?”
“You’re a vagabond.”
The list goes on. It bothers me that instead of looking at my 2 years that I’ve been in Achuapa, people tend to look at a short amount of time I’ve been outside of my town (even after explaining that it’s been for work related reasons). Instead of seeing the end of my service, my increased absence is associated with a lack of pleasure derived from my life/work in Achuapa. Then all the negative talk on their part makes me want to leave even more – I´m just of their negativity. It stresses me out.
Back in Achuapa, not surprisingly, I spent little time before taking off yet again. I kept as busy as I could to kill the time before I headed off to Managua yet again on Tuesday. There is a new “volunteer” in Achuapa who is working in the library for her summer vacation from college. She kind of got the raw end of the deal as the handful of other volunteers here with her are in huge cities around the country.
I kept reading and finished another book, Thunderstruck, which makes it the third book by Erik Larson that I’ve read during my service. Coincidentally, his book was the first one that I read when I got to Achuapa, and it’s quite possible that his book is going to be the last one I read in Achuapa.
Tuesday the 22nd I made my way back down to Managua for another training session with the new volunteers. I’m park of the business advising committee, so basically my task is to convince them the idea of advising isn’t nearly as terrifying as it seems (I was so overwhelmed by it in training that I’d resolved to NEVER advise anybody during my service). While this time it wasn’t a training session, I visited 2 of the training towns to see how the trainees were doing with their “trial run” of business advising. Some were terrified, others were fine, and some didn’t even care. Nevertheless, everybody had at least one question that needed answering, thus rendering the trip useful.
The next day we had the yearly idea exchange among the 3 small business groups that are in the country (2 current and the trainees) about best ways to run the competitions. The meeting lasted a few hours and then I headed to León with Jordan. That night was the first time I’d spent the night at Jordan’s house since she got married. It was also weird to start thinking about her being married. Her boyfriend is now her husband. It’s hard for me to make the transition. It’s also hard for me to believe that I now have friends getting married.
The next day, I headed back to Achuapa for another couple days in my town. Nowadays, my time is spent going around and taking pictures of the things that I’m going to miss about Achuapa, people/friends, buildings, etc. So it keeps me temporarily busy and also gets me out in the town. This is also a good thing since half the town thinks I’ve already left anyway (since I’ve been out of my town for multiple days every week for a while). In addition to taking pictures of my town, I’ve spent some more time with my sitemate since he’ll be all alone in the big scary world of Achuapa.
Come Monday, I put out the word that I was selling all my stuff – and by the end of the day, I’d “sold” almost everything. I say “sold” because nothing is truly sold until people actually pay me. Tons of people always say that they’ll buy things but then don’t come through with the money. So, everybody has until July 3rd to pay me, but after that – it’s a free for all. The first person with the cash gets the goods.
Monday, while doing my rounds, I was invited to the teachers appreciation dinner at the elementary school where I started my spelling bee. Though I worked with 3 of the high schools, I really got more out of working with the elementary school simply because of the unconditional support I got from the staff there. It was good to hang out with the teachers and talk to them about what we’d done together over the last 2 years. It was also nice to hear them say they wouldn’t forget me because of the spelling bee, since no school in the whole municipality had ever done anything like that.
The next day, I continued selling my stuff and took some more pictures. It was going to continue that way until Jim somehow convinced me to go to the teacher appreciation dinner for all the teachers from Achuapa. It started out fine, and Jim gave me some good classified gossip. However, it dragged on and on and on. It went so long that I had to leave before food was even given out. I had to head to Managua the next day for my last medical appointments, so I still had to pack and eat (on top of going to bed early).
The next morning, I got into Managua around 8:30 and did the first of my med appointments. Why there was nothing exciting about the med appointments, I received some very sad news: John Harrington, a 75 year old volunteer business volunteer (from the group after mine) died on the 30th. I went out for lunch with him the day before he was medically evacuated and he gave me his Spanish joke book and told me a bunch of stories about his life. He was a great guy and had an amazing attitude. If I have half as good of an attitude as he did at his age, I’ll consider my life a success. I was convinced he was coming back since his medically condition seemed so harmless. He’s the first Nicaragua Peace Corps Volunteer to have died. Sad times. He’ll be missed.
The start of July meant but one thing – I’m done with my Peace Corps service THIS MONTH. It’s hard to believe that something I wanted to do for so long is almost over. While I’ll miss the novelty of having this job (I mean, I can pretty much do whatever I want), it will be nice to have a non-government job afterwards. I’m really looking forward to continuing teaching. We’ll see where it takes me – you might be surprised…
And the book review:
Thunderstruck – A.
The third book I’ve read by Erik Larson. He really researches the hell out of every book he’s written, which I think is what makes it so interesting. He writes the story like a novel, but with completely factual information. It’s a refreshing way to dive into history.