Thursday, July 1, 2010

The C$1000 Question

About face or full speed ahead? Or: Should I stay or should I go? That is the current question.

I've been here in Nicaragua for 13 months now and I recently received some bad good uh... interesting and potentially life changing news.

I moved back to Managua from Rio Blanco at the end of February to take a position teaching English in the English Language Institute (ELI)at the American Nicaraguan School (ANS). The director at the time I was hired was super awesome, super nice and was from Bluefields and spoke English, Creole and Spanish. Unfortunately, he was very ill and was unable to continue as the director, so they brought in someone else. We will call him Mr. Lame. So, Mr. Lame took over as the director and told me what an awesome job I was doing and let me know that the students really like me and my coworkers enjoy working with me and blah blah blah. Then, 5 days before the term ended, I received an email from Mr. Lame stating that, unless I could prove I am either a resident or in the process of getting my residency, I would no longer be working.

First thought through my head was, fu-uck. Second thought: I have all my documentation down here, all I need is to go to Migracion and get some translations and authentications, hit the US Embassy and that should be good. So, I spent the next few days spending all my money and going all over town to get things taken care of.

This is where I went and what happened.

1)Migracion. The main office over near Ciudad Jardin. You can renew your tourist visa and apply for exit visas in the Migracion office in the mall, but you have to go to the main office for most other stuff. I paid C$3 (about $0.15) for the paperwork I needed to fill out, then talked to a lady who gave me a long list of all the things I would need for an application. The list was very long. But, it turns out that a friend of my Papa Nicaraguense works at Migracion, so I talked to him and I saw my Papa Nicaraguense at the Migracion office. It all seemed very promising.

2) Metro Centro (aka: The Mall). I went to Metro Centro because it is right by my house and I needed 2 passport sized photos and copies of my birth certificate and every page of my passport that has a stamp in it. The place I went to had a deal and I got 8 passport photos and 10 copies for C$64 (~$3).

3) US Embassy. I went to the US Embassy to get 3 documents authenticated. My birth certificate, my police report and my university diploma. I heard that they would tell me where to go and what to do next. They did not. I had actually never been in such a large compound of unhelpful people before. I felt like I had left the Embassy with less money and less information than I had going in. They charged me $70 to not even authenticate my documents ($30 for the first and $20 for each additional). They wrote me a note, essentially, with the US seal on it, stating that I swear these documents are true. Why couldn't I just go somewhere and not pay money to swear these things are true? But I digress. $70 lighter, I caught the bus to UCA (Universidad Centro America) and went to visit a friend and sit in her air conditioned office and see what she knew about having documents translated. She works in the Centro Superior de Idiomas at UCA and, as it turns out, I had come to the right place.

4) UCA-Centro Superior de Idiomas. After sitting in the a/c and drinking a Coke Light with one of the loveliest Texans in Nicaragua (I get why Miss Texas always makes it to the finals in the Miss America pageants) I brought my 3 documents over to an office three doors down for translation. $45 ($15 each) for the translations. And, luckily, since I am at UCA fairly often to visit my friend, they told me I could pay later, but I needed to bring a receipt from the Caja (cashier) proving I had paid when I came to get the documents.

5) Centro de Salud. On the form from Migracion, it says you need a health certificate from your doctor in your country of origin. I am not in my country of origin and do not have the money to be flying to Seattle to go see my doctor. So, I called Migracion and they told me I could go to whichever Centro de Salud is nearest my house. So, I cabbed it over there and everyone stared at me. (Centros de Salud are free. They are public health facilities. And, as always, I forget that I don't look as Nicaraguan as the people I see.) I went to an information desk and told them what I needed. They directed me to a curtained office on the left. I went in, told the ladies what I needed, they gave me a chewable tablet and a tetanus shot and sent me to another office where I was given a certificate of health. Who knew that a tetanus shot and a chewable tablet were all you needed to be healthy?

The next step, which I was planning to do last Friday, is taking the translated documents to the Ministerio de Exterior to have them Authenticated by the Nicaraguan government. I was so close. I was only lacking 2 things. And both were things I needed from work.

So, Thursday afternoon I went to work a little early to talk to Mr. Lame and ask him if they could help me out. One of the things I needed was a contract stating that, if I got residency, I would have a job. He told me they could not help me. I asked why he didn't tell me that a week ago. And he suggested I get married and I kind of went off on him. In my defense, he isn't a joking kind of guy and was serious in his suggestion. So, I basically told him where he could go and what he could do when he got there.

So, I think that now, even if I got my residency, he wouldn't want me working there and I would rather suck Daniel Ortega's dick than work for a total douche. Word on the street is that Mr. Lame was charged with the task of getting rid of all the expensive teachers He offered a gringa friend of mine with a Masters in Education $8 an hour for the same job I, with my BS in Chemistry, was doing for $10 an hour. But really, I have no business teaching English when I came down here to be working on clean drinking water projects, you know? So, I emailed a friend and went off about how completely fucked I am (I have about $500, which is not even enough to buy a plane ticket). This friend is the Lancelot to my Gwenevere. If ever there was a damsel that was in distress as often as I am with a knight always ready to ride to the rescue, she was very lucky as well. This friend is sending me money to buy a plane ticket home. I was only planning on being here for a year and I've been here longer than that so far. And, as soon as the money gets here, I was planning on buying a plane ticket. Then came an alternate option.

Before I get into it, enjoy this picture of a dog on a pig to clear your head a bit.

That was from a community out near Siuna.

Okay, so a few weeks ago I met a local businessman named John Wyss. He informed me that I was the first chemist he has met in Nicaragua and he and some associates had been looking for a chemist for a while. I had a meeting with him last week and we discussed the potential of me working for him, checking antioxidant levels in the chocolate his company makes. (Momotombo Chocolate is super good, just so you know, but they are always out of the type I like.)

Yesterday, John sent me an email asking if I could meet with a friend of his yesterday afternoon. This friend of his is one of the co-founders of a bio-scientific start-up. They sell a lot of biomass to a company in Costa Rica that makes pharmaceuticals. Apparently, there is more money to be made if they actually do the extractions. So, John's friend, Bob, spoke to me about the possibility of setting up a place for extractions at the site that currently sells the biomass, finding lab space that we can use here in Managua, or finding a location and setting up lab space, super cheap and ghetto style.

Bob told me to think about what kind of salary I would want for working on the project and to think about whether or not I am interested. I think I will know more after we check out the facilities. I know the quantity and quality of extract they want, but I'm not familiar with the source material and I haven't done organic extractions since university. I've been working as an environmental inorganic chemist.

And, additionally, this may be the opposite of the kind of work I want to be doing. I want to provide clean drinking water to people, not exploit their natural resources so pharmaceutical companies can make money.

This company is a start up. Since I have the potential to enter at ground level, if it takes off and I negotiate profit sharing into my contract, I could make some money. But I hate money and I want to burn it all.

So, I don't know what I want to do or what I should do. On the one hand, this is could be a great opportunity. I could commit to 90 days and if I don't dig it, I could say "adios" guilt free.

On the other hand, I have so many friends that seem to want me home. One of them, when I sent her an email saying I may be moving to her town and could use help finding a job, had this to say:

"I am so glad to hear! I have been thinking of you everyday!

You want a job? I'm a gonna cover you in jobs.
Can't wait, we can sit around and watch old movies and eat brie and get the bread all over the carpet and be totally beautiful. I will wear a push up bra and try to make cleavage to catch the crumbs with, and then we will fly away on our crumby carpet, feeding a flock of white doves with the bread cascading from our bosoms.

How can I not want to come home after a message as full of love and insanity as that?

So, I am going to check out the bio-science group's facilities next week and make a decision, I suppose. What else am I doing with my life, really?