Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Peace Corps volunteers here in Nicaragua put out a quarterly magazine for volunteers which among other things includes printed interviews with all the volunteers that are ending their service and all the volunteers that are beginning their service. An exit interview and an entrance interview. I’m obviously not quite finishing my time here yet, but since I’m exactly half way through my service in Palacaguina, I’ve decided to post a mid-service interview. Here it goes…
Dabeeeed (long “e”), Daveeees (long “e”), gringo de cero, Saquir del futuro (my neighbors claim that a six year old kid named Saquir looks like me. Hence, I’m the Saquir of the future.), chele (slang term/name used for anyone fair skinned), Profe, Teacher, Hombre David
Va a dar su vuelta? – This is asked when I’m wondering around my town making the three or four visits to the houses of the families and friends I have here. You making your rounds?
Voy a hacer un mandado- Living in a small, small town is hard and the gossip is fierce. I can’t leave my house without one my neighbors asking me where I’m going or running into someone I know who asks me the same. Initially, this was annoying…why do I have to tell them where I’m going every time I leave my house? Now, I’ve learned how the Nicas handle it and it works like a charm. All I have to say is “I’m going to run an errand.” I can say this no matter what time it is and what I’m actually going to do and the questions stop. There’s a nice, unwritten agreement to quit asking questions when you get this response.
Adioooos- If you walk by someone here and say “hello” it means that you’re planning on slowing down and chatting for a few minutes. Luckily, you can conveniently say “goodbye” and quickly convey that you have no intention of talking at the moment. This is great at ending unwanted conversations before they even start.
Ni quiere a dios – God doesn’t even want it! After anything describing something undesirable, you can add emphasis to just how undesirable it is by saying “God wouldn’t even want it!” This is used A LOT. In my case, I like to use it with older people that I don’t know well because it’s a surefire way to make them laugh. For example, they might be asking me what Nica foods I’ve tried and when they ask me if I’ve tried their famous cow stomach soup, I’ll reply with all the emotion in me and a wrinkled up, disgusted face, “Ehhhhh…Ni quiere a dios!” This is met with all the little, old ladies looking amongst themselves confirming that the gringo actually just said what they heard, and it’s normally followed by hearty laughs. Stupid gringo.
Si dios quiere – If God wants it. After you make any type of commitment to do something in the future, you can end your promise with “If God wants it.” This is super convenient when you’re not sure if you really want to be a part of the commitment. For example if I try to set up a meeting with someone, we’ll plan it for the following day at a given time, but the conversation might end with me saying “see you tomorrow” and the man or woman saying “If God wants it.” How do I argue with that? If they don’t show up (this is often the case), I’m comforted knowing that it’s not their fault. God just didn’t want the person to walk the three blocks to my house or call me to say God didn’t give him the motivation today to have the meeting.
Hay mas tiempo que vida – There’s more time than life.
What have you done during your service?
I’ve learned Spanish, I’ve been laughed at, I’ve lost my dignity, I’ve read a lot, I’ve written a lot, I’ve cleaned my house one million times, I’ve taught a business course to 16 year olds, I’ve sweat, I’ve started a community bank, I’ve filled my quota of awkward moments for the rest of my life, I’ve helped out some businesses with accounting, I’ve appreciated my family, friends, and life back in the states more so than at any other point in my life, I’ve pretended like I know what I’m doing, I’ve learned a lot and taught a little, I’ve spent countless hours hanging out in rocking chairs talking about when the power will return.
If you could change one aspect of your time here so far, what would it be?
I’d make a little extra money every month. I’d come into my service knowing more Spanish than I did. Though the latrine really isn’t that bad, I might spend some more time searching for a house with a flushing toilet. I’d also change my roof to the much cooler tile roof.
What will you miss?
I’ll miss my five year old best friend/son, Sergio Luis. I’ll miss being able to show up at anyone’s house around lunchtime and be given a huge plate of food. I’ll miss the collective scream of excitement of an entire town when the power returns around 7pm. I’ll miss the coffee and biscuits that I get when I’m hanging out at my friends’ houses. I’ll miss being able to immediately round up a countless number of kids to play soccer, Frisbee, football when I’m sitting in my house bored. I’ll miss my hammock. I’ll miss the excited looks I get when I say “adios” to the 5-10 year olds that stare at me. I’ll miss my students that want to learn. I’ll miss working within an organization that is filled with passionate, caring, optimistic hard workers that believe in what they’re striving for.
Who/what would you bring back?
I’d definitely bring back Sergio Luis. It’s not that he has a terrible life here…quite the opposite, but I wish I could give him all that I’ve been given. I’d bring back the finger wave gesture to say “no” to anything. The lazy days…not all of them, but it’d be nice to have one or two every week in the states. I’d bring back the ability to have a best friend that is 5, another that is 25, and another that is 65.
How has the Peace Corps changed you?
I shave once every other week, not once every other day. I haven’t worn a shirt and tie in a year. I walk more slowly because really, there’s no rush. I no longer use the most efficient routes from point A to point B, I use the routes that offer the most shade. I’m much more patient. My friends in the states are 21-28 years old, while my friends here are less than 16 years old or older than 50 years old. I’m more outgoing. I dump a lot of salt on everything. My table manners are worse. I’m less judgmental. I’m over my aversion to public toilets. I’m more assertive. I show up to all engagements 30 minutes to an hour late. I’m more laid back.
Gained weight/lost weight:
I’ve lost about 10 pounds that I couldn’t afford to lose in the first place.
Would you do it all over again?
This is hard to say. I would definitely still do it if I was the same age and in the same situation I was in last year when I started, but I’m not sure if when I’m done here I could sign up again for another 27 months. It might just be too hard to ever want to do it again. Ask me two years after my service.
Have you thought about leaving early?
I’ve dreamt about it a lot, but I’ve never considered it seriously. I’ve just occasionally wanted to get Dengue Fever or break a bone so that I can get a couple of free weeks in Managua or the states.
Things you’ve missed the most:
Family and friends, trash meals, hot showers, carpet, couches, delivery pizza, Fall, Winter, anonymity, customer service, manners, having my own car, draft beer, Big Ten Burrito, Qdoba, clean streets, UM football, privacy, washing machine and dryer, new music, Best Buy, Borders, American convenience.
Posted by DA at 6:39 PM