Thursday, July 16, 2009


It was the standard collegiate tshirt, navy blue with “Michigan” written in bright block maize letters across the front. And since “where in the states are you from” came immediately after “what’s your name,” “how many brothers and sisters do you have,” and “how much money do you make” in the horribly predictable Nicaraguan meet-and-greet conversation, everyone knew what my tshirt meant. Michigan was Daveed’s pueblo, and when I wore that shirt around town people would read it aloud. Meecheegan. So it was always a good day when I wore my pueblo around town, and it was a great day when I wore it on a Sunday afternoon during my second year of service.

Walter and I had become, for lack of a better term, drinking buddies. Though it only happened three or four times, our routine was as predictable as the meet-and-greet conversations I had with countless Nicaraguans. He’d see me walking through town, catch up to me in his car, and invite me out for a drink. Swooning over a private car and the thought of alcohol, I’d quickly oblige and hop in. We’d swing over to the local gas station to buy a six pack of Toña cans before driving around town and picking up a few more of his friends. Three grown men in the back and two in the front of his green Hyundai Excel, we’d pound the first couple of beers while on our way out of to Bar Titanic along the Panamericano. At the bar, we’d switch over to rum and coke and waste the day talking about Nicaraguan politics and how, no, I couldn’t easily get them a visa. The one drink he invited me out for always turned into several drinks, and by the time he’d drop me off at home, it’d take all my concentration to lock my doors, neatly tuck in my mosquito net, and pass out. I’d wake up the following morning with a headache.

The Sunday I was wearing my Michigan tshirt was no different. I was on my way to visit Maria’s family when the green Hyundai pulled along side me and offered a drink. Two hours later I was a few drinks deep sitting at Bar Titanic listening to my compañeros sing along to Mexican Ranchera music. And in the middle of Javier Solis’ ballad, Walter finished off his rum and coke, threw his hands up and screamed “Vivaaa…MEEEEEcheeeegaaan!” He looked directly at me when he said it and finished off his proud exclamation with a hearty laugh, gazing around at all of us for approval. I responded by grabbing the letters of my shirt to flip the sides out aggressively (think LeBron James grabbing the sides of his jersey after a thunderous dunk) and, nodding my head, said “Meecheegan!!!”

We stayed at Bar Titanic all day drinking an unhealthy amount of alcohol. After every drink, Walter would raise his hands and salute my home state with his rallying cry, laughing each time as if it was the first time he said it. By the third or fourth drink, all of us had enough liquid courage to join in and help him finish off the salute. By the fifth and sixth, we all knew to start watching for the last sip when the ice in the glass melted, and we joined in right from the beginning. Viva! MEEEcheeegan! By the seventh and eighth, we didn’t have to wait for Walter. When the spirit moved you, you’d put your drink down and raise your arms. Your compañeros would follow suit and we’d cry together, "Vivaaaa……MEEEEEEEEcheeegaaaaan!!”

I woke up the next morning with a hangover, and in an attempt to “work it off” I walked out to my backyard and started doing laundry, scrubbing my tshirts on a concrete slab. When I came to the Michigan tshirt, I was more gentle than normal. I only gave it a couple of scrubs along the concrete and only slightly ringed out the excess water. Instead of hanging it in the direct sunlight, I found a premium spot under the shade of my mango tree. That was my ranchera rallying cry I was holding. It was my pueblo I was guarding. I had to be gentle and caring. I couldn’t let those colors fade. I thanked Walter under my breath, went inside and slept off my hangover.

Viva Michigan!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Peace Corps Expansion Act

Maybe boring for most, but a good history of the origins of the Peace Corps and certainly worth watching for fellow RPCVs.