Tuesday, December 1, 2009

From Costa Rica to the Campo!

I had about two weeks of crazy.

It all started back around the 16th, I think, of November. I had to go to Costa Rica to renew my visa and that trip happened to coincide with my friend Andy's vacation to Costa Rica. His lady part was down their "surfing" and she decided that the best thing to do was break up with him after he'd bought his plane ticket and shortly before his birthday. What was there for me to do other than go down there and force him to go zip lining with me?

Costa Rica is freezing f-ing cold. After the warmness of Nicaragua, I just assumed Costa Rica was the same. I was drastically unprepared. My first night in San Jose, I was warm. I stayed at my friend Carlos's house and he has blankets on his bed! I hadn't seen a blanket in about 6 months. And his mom is a Christmas freak. She had the most beautifully decorated tree I have ever seen in real life. I wish I'd taken a photo, but I didn't.

Andy came in the next day and we spent the night in downtown San Jose at Hostel Pangea. Dorms are a bit pricy for me (US$12) but the hostel has everything. If you are only in San jose for the night and looking to motor pronto to Monte Verde or another part of the country without worrying about where to go for cocktails or whatevs, Pangea is THE place. You can have tons of fun and make new friends without even leaving the grounds! And there's an ATM about a block away! Hostel Pangea has a swimming pool, free internet, 24 hour tourist information and a bar and restaurant upstairs. The only real downside to the hostel is that Imperial, the beer of Costa Rica, sucks. But you can't really blame Hostel Pangea for that.

We met up with a kiwi in the bar at the hostel and he bussed it with us up to Monte Verde where we met a couple of Germans who were super fun to drink with and zip line with, too! Unfortunately, Monte Verde was just as cold (if not colder!) than San Jose, so I continued freezing my balls off.

We did our canopy tour through 100% Aventura. It was awesome and the staff was awesome (and bilingual for those of you that care) and yeah. They have 11 different zip lines, a tarzan swing and a 15 meter drop. One of the longest cables was called the Superman. They strap you to the cable so you're facing the ground and it's like flying! It was super awesome. I got really good at zip lining after the first 3 or 4 lines. On the Tarzan swing, they hook you to the swing and you step off the edge of a platform. After I stepped off Jody, one of the guides, said, "Wait! Come back!" How do you come back when you're swinging through the jungle on an f-ing bungee cord rope?

After the canopy tour, we ate dinner and drank entirely too much rum. And we danced.

At 6am Friday morning, I forced Andy into a bus and dragged his ass to Nicaragua so he could get a second stamp in his fancy new passport and experience a part of Central America where people don't really speak English and where the weather is not the exact same as Seattle.

After we got to Managua, I realized we were trapped. There were big demonstrations being held on Saturday by the two main political parties of Nicaragua. (The FSLN (pro ortega) and the PLC (pro human rights and democracy)).

Speaking of Ortega, he needs to be bitch slapped. Last time I checked, Nicaraguans weren't looking for a dictator and his Supreme Court okaying him to run for an illegal third term is bullshit. It's just going to cause problems. I'm pretty sure those problems won't come about until I'm somewhere else, though. But still. Can you go to jail for bitch-slapping the president of a developing nation? What about his wife? She has it coming, too.

We spent Friday and Saturday nights in Managua at the discos and bars, drinking Toña and Flor de Caña and making new friends. Andy was a hit with the gays at Tabú. He got a phone number. I think he should've gone for it. And, on Sunday, we parted ways. Andy went back to Costa Rica to finish out his holiday and I went back to Rìo Blanco where I was surprised with the information that I would be going to Telpaneca for an entire week to do survey work in a small community!

The bus ride home was pretty uneventful. I slept for a bit and, around Matiguas, was awoken by "Eye of the Tiger" playing full blast on the bus. Not the best way to wake up, but it got me in kung fu mode. I was back in my Pueblo by two and was finally able to wash all that Costa Rica out of hair. I called my friend Mike, who is in the Peace Corps here and is the only other English speaker I know in my pueblo, and I went to his house and watched some weird Mexican movie called Japón. I didn't get it. At all. And neither did Mike.

I got back to my house around 7 and found it full of French people! My roommate is French and I was expecting to see her, and there is the other French volunteer, but now there are two more French volunteers and another French girl who lives in Matagalpa! The French are taking over! I was frightened for a moment, then I remembered that I can say "carpet" in French and I relaxed a bit.

The French told me that there was a trip to the campo near Telpaneca in the morning and we were leaving at 6a. I was so not prepared. I borrowed a hammock and a rain coat from my roommate (the French girl, Amelie) and then I wandered around the house like a chicken with it's head off while I tried to figure out what the hell I needed to pack. I'm certain it was strange and exciting to watch. The last thing I really wanted to do after traveling for a week and riding a bus all day was pack to go traveling again. This time it was an 8 hour ride in the back of a pick up truck. Luckily it was a great opportunity to break in my fancy new rubber boots! They were $6!

Have you ever slept in a hammock before? I mean, like, for real? Like, for a week? Sleeping in a hammock can be very difficult. Especially when you're fat and in the cold highlands of a tropical country. We hung my hammock at what seemed to be a resonable height, but after placing a good 1800 pounds or so of yours truly in there, my ass was on the floor. On the cold, stone floor. And there I remained, not sleeping much, and rotating regularly to prevent different parts of my body from freezing. I had no blanket and was curled into a ball, wearing a hoodie and a beanie and was covered by my towel in a feeble attempt to stay warm. It can be hard to stay warm when your ass is heating the cement.

Following my night of glorious rest, I woke up early where I was awarded with the opportunity to take a cold bucket shower while children and people going to work gathered around to watch! After the show, my compañeros de trabajo and I went to have breakfast (gallo pinto, eggs, and sardines! I'd never had sardines for breakfast before!) And we went off to the community meeting.

After the meeting, Lilian (the head of health and sanitation) and I went out to houses to do potable water and latrine surveys. I now have an eye for latrines and am fairly confident the entire community thinks I'm insane. Can you imagine living in a small community of 60 houses in the middle of nowhere, where nobody really goes, and having some blue-eyed blonde girl come to your house, speaking with a thick accent, asking you if you have a latrine and, when you say yes, asking if she can see it? I probably looked at over 40 latrines last week.

Three little girls from the neighborhood decided to wander around with us and help us with our survey work. It was rad because they carried our paper work and our water... Free labor is awesome, especially when you're a free laborer, too!

Lilian and I were walking towards the house when one of our helpers told us we couldn't go their because the lady is "loca." I just assumed she was a cat lady or had a bunch of random statues or home made garbage sculptures in her yard or something. But no. She appeared to be mad in the traditional sense. She has 4 kids, the oldest being a 14 year old girl, and she was the one we talked to. The mother of the house had long, unkempt hair and her eyes were wide with crazy. Every time she saw us, she opened her mouth wide and laughed. And not a normal laugh, the laugh of insanity. It was a bit spooky. I felt like I was in a horror movie for a moment. Her daughter explained to us that, earlier this year, her mother had had another baby but the baby had parasites and, I think, the daughter said the parasites were coming out of the babies nose and it died. After the baby died, the mom cracked and all the crazy came leaking out. It seems like her family is trying really hard to keep the house operating normally and to clean up the crazy as it pours along, but it was really sad. That's the house I remember the best. It was the third one we went to.

That night we moved my hammock up higher and I had a blanket. It was much better. In the morning, we went back out to do more survey work and I noticed how incredibly dirty all the kids are. I had a shadow who really liked to follow me around and was really clingy and creepy. Her name is Rosa Elena. I had to draw the line in the morning when she followed me to take a shower. I asked her not to watch and to go home and take a shower herself. She pointed down the hill to a group of men standing around looking up towards us and said, "But they're watching!" Thank you, Rosa Elena. I wouldn't have noticed if you hadn't pointed that out.

All the babies and small children I see either cry when they see me or pee when I hold them. Apparently, I don't look Nicaraguan. Who'd have thought? On Wednesday, one peed on my arm. On Thursday, one peed on my leg. On Thursday night, Lilian and I were waiting for our compañeros at a church where the pastor lived and his family and a few neighborhood kids were all hanging out there. The boys there (all around 9-12 years old) told me I look like a muñeca (doll).

That's what I look like, apparently. I thought I was a bit cleaner than that, but I suppose after a week of bathing wth your clothes on and sleeping in the country, you're not as clean as you think you are.

I told the boys that I am, in fact, a muñeca and I am 2000 years old and belong to a witch. I also told them I eat children. Then I proceeded to say that all people with blue eyes eat children.

Lilian said it's no wonder the kids are afraid of me.

We said goodbye the next morning, had sardines for breakfast once again and started heading back toward civilization. Sylvain and I hopped off in some town that starts with a P so we could catch a bus to Somoto for the carnival that was going on that weekend. But that, my friends, is another blog.