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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Holidays and More

The holidays have come and gone, and they were pretty low-key here in Nicaragua.  I spent Christmas here in La Concordia with my host family and then went to Niquinohomo for a few days to spend New Year's with my host family from training. 

Leading up to Christmas, I kept asking my host family what they do to celebrate, and never really got much of an answer.  Mostly they just said that they don't do much of anything.  Leading up to Christmas, the people from the Catholic church celebrate the posadas.  This means that they wake up at 4 a.m. every morning (which isn't that hard when there's loud Christmas music playing and fireworks going off) and go to a different person's house every morning.  They start at the church and bring figurines of Mary and Joseph with them.  They also all carry little plastic tambourines, which they make noise with while singing (and none of them have any sense of rhythm haha).  They knock on the door, and sing back and forth with people inside the house, a song about why they should let Mary and Joseph in, and the people inside give excuses why they can't.  Finally, at the end of the song, they are let in to pray, sing, and drink coffee.  The first day of the posadas was at my house, so I decided to wake up for it.  After that, I usually was woken up by the music/firecrackers but rolled over and went back to sleep.

our Christmas tree

On Christmas Eve, I went to church.  When I was a volunteer in Honduras, I used to go to Catholic church with my family in Sulaco almost every Sunday.  There was something about that church that I really liked.  It seemed like a big community, it was pretty informal (stray dogs and children wandering around), and I usually liked the sermon that the priest would give.  The priest would usually walk down from the pulpit and stand in the aisle, talking about things that the people would relate to, often asking questions and getting people to participate.  It was very different than what I pictured in my head when I thought of Catholic mass.  On the other hand....here in La Concordia, Catholic mass is exactly what I picture in my head.  Really boring.  Priest constantly telling people that they are terrible and do terrible things.  Stuffy and formal.  To make a long story short, I left mass on Christmas Eve after being there after maybe 15 minutes.  This was the 3rd time I had gone to mass, and I just decided I wasn't going to try any more.  Sorry, Catholic church in La Concordia, it's not gonna happen.

Later on, I had a nacatamal at my house and then went out to the bar with my host brother.  My town has various bars, but only one of them is a place that's acceptable for women to go to (or at least that I'm comfortable going to).  It's a cute little bar-restaurant on a dirt road fairly close to my house.  So, I spent the night of Christmas eve at a bar---definitely a first for me, but I can't say I hated it.  The drunker people got, the more they decided to talk to me instead of just staring at me from across the room.  I was grateful that my host brother was there with me, and it was hilarious how all the guys would come up to talk to me every time he went to the bathroom and then go back to their tables when he came back.  We shared quite a few liters of beer and then headed back home at 12:30.  Merry Christmas!

A few days after Christmas, I headed back to Niquinohomo to visit my host training family.  I was met with the warmest of welcomes, especially from Diego, the 2 year old that is probably the cutest thing ever.  I spent a lot of time just relaxing and hanging out with the family.  At midnight on New Year's Eve it was crazy all of the fireworks and loud noises.  Everyone was out in the streets laughing, yelling, and lighting things on fire.  There's a tradition to make scarecrows filled with fireworks "el viejo" and burn them at midnight to symbolize the end of the old year and a fresh beginning for the new one.  I did a little drinking and a lot of chatting with some other family who I hadn't met before and didn't get home until around 4 a.m.

What else have I been up to?

Not too much! haha.  Like when I was in Honduras, I have to get used to a certain level of boredom that comes with living in a small town in Central America.  And I have to stop feeling bad about not really doing much. (at least I'm pretty self-aware when it comes to this, I can't help it that I'm a work-a-holic!)  Awhile back, I started working on my garden, which I'm doing at the uncle's house who lives across the street (because there are tons of chickens at my house that would eat EVERYTHING).  I asked the grandmother, who lives a ways away and has a bunch of cows, if they could bring me some sacks of cow manure because the soil here doesn't look all that good for planting.  This was probably a month ago.  I keep reminding them.  Apparently there are 2 sacks there, ready for me to use, someone just has to drop them off.  I've been really patient, but I NEED to get things planted in my garden.  This may mean me walking over an hour and then lugging sacks of poo all the way back to my house...stay tuned for that story.

The other thing that I've been doing twice a week is meeting with a group of kids in the park to do crafts out of recycled materials.  So far we've made chains out of chip bags (which can be made into bracelets, belts, or purses), flowers out of plastic bottles, paper beads out of magazines, and bracelets out of magazines and plastic bottles.  There's a solid group of 3 or 4 girls that always shows up, and then any other kids that happen to be around usually join in.  However, at this point I'm really running out of crafts, so if anyone has ideas let me know!  We're working with minimal materials.  So far the only things I've bought are a couple of glue sticks....crafting on a Peace Corps budget :-)

So, that's about it so far.  Next up...another visit to Niquinohomo (next weekend) and hopefully hiking Volcan Mombacho.  Then in February my town celebrates their fiestas patronales!  There's going to be a hipico February 10th (parade of horses, lots of people dressed up like cowboys, and drunk cowboys on horseback!) and the party is on February 11th.  Looking forward to it!

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