>> Friday, June 05, 2009

To have been posted June 5, 2009
In May, 2007, the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) group came to Nicaragua as its 44th training group. Each training group is referred to by its number, so we're TEFL 44. We started off with 20 and lost a few here and there and are now down to 13.
June 7, 2007 at Volcán Masaya during training. This was before anyone "ETed" (early terminated) but three people are missing from the picture.
Here we are at swearing in on July 20, 2007. At this point two had left, so we were 18.
This is from the despedida (farewell party) for our first boss, Deepa. We had three bosses while we were here--Deepa, Lizzet, and Joayne, and for about 6 months had no boss (though Karen did a great job doing her job and the boss's job during that time):
Finally, here we are near the end at our Close of Service conference in April, 2009.
It's hard not to compare other PCVs to family: you don't get to choose who else is in the group, you have lots of forced quality time, and they're the people that you'll probably spend most holidays with, so you end up liking each other despite pretty big personality clashes. We also know that these people are the only others that will really understand what our time was like here, understand the drama and chisme that comes along with being a Peace Corps Volunteer, and for with it is totally normal to use words like chisme, pinche, como no, and fachento in an otherwise all-English conversation.
Today was our final Close of Service presentation to the Peace Corps staff, and the last time we'll all be together. We had a nice dinner and began saying goodbyes. Fortunately it's not too difficult to stay in touch now with email, text messages, Skype, Facebook, and $29 flights, but we'll be sad to anyway and we're looking forward to seeing everyone again soon.



To have been posted June 3, 2009.

Now that we’re about to leave, we’ve been thinking a lot about what sorts of souvenirs we’d like to bring back with us to remember Nicaragua by. Masaya is the undisputed capital of arts and crafts in Nicaragua, so we have a lot of things to choose from, all right under our noses.

Masaya’s Old Market is its tourist market and it housed in an... old market that looks like a castle.

It’s really nice and clean and well lit, but it’s also a lot more expensive because it caters to tourists. We generally took our visitors here to get a feel for things and to pick out what they want, and then we took them to the other market. They do have a large selection of the wide variety of goods available here.
The New Market is Masaya’s main market where Masayans do their shopping for nearly all goods, but it also has a separate artisan section for the brave tourists. Here’s the parking lot of the market and some outside shops. The entrances to the actual market are past the big tree on the right:
This market is closed in and is therefore dark, dirty, and provides a fairly overwhelming experience. We don’t have many pictures of the inside because it’s too dark and there’s just too much stuff crammed inside to be able to take a picture that does it justice. Here are two attempts:
Finally, the city of Masaya isn’t the only place to find good souvenirs. The entire department is full of artisans, and each little town is known for its own type of work. Masatepe is known for its woodwork (and sometime in the future Paul and I plan to return and buy a nice set of rocking chairs), Catarina has tons of plants and gardens, and San Juan de Oriente is known for its pottery:

We will probably make a couple more trips to the markets to scout out the wares we’d like to buy and bargain to get a good deal on them. We’ve decided to take some art home with us so that we can display it in our home as a recuerdo of Nicaragua and of our markets here.



Taxis are way more common in Masaya than privately-owned cars. It's how we get around when where we're going is too far, it's raining, or too hot. Taxis don't have meters or anything--in Masaya you know that no matter where you go it's supposed to be C$10. In Managua you have to negotiate a little bit before you get in. No ride costs less than C$20 ($1), and the most expensive taxi I've taken was around C$50 per person from one end of Managua to the outskirts where the airport is. Holly and I realized recently that in an effort to avoid getting ripped off, we drive an exceptionally hard bargain. Most Nicaraguans accept the first price that the taxi driver gives them... we usually negotiate it down at least C$5.

Taxis are supposed to be highly regulated, but anyone with a car can try to turn it into a taxi for a while. The white car below is a non-registered taxi, or a pirata. The one behind it has the official red and white taxi plate.
The bane of our existence, the announcer-taxi: it's pretty self-explanatory, but those speakers are so loud that when they pass our house we can't hear anything else.
Taxis are usually really old, barely maintained enough to run cars, but it's a pretty inexpensive way to get around (and we don't have any other choice). It's unlikely that we'll be nostalgic about that time that we fit 8 people in a taxi, but maybe after taking a few taxis in the US our pinche halves will miss the prices.


Paul's Book List

Here is my book list starting at the beginning. At least 75% of these I read in the first year before I got too busy with work (and TV). Going over this list, I remember what else I was doing while reading a certain book or I tie a memory of a person to a book. I read Underworld during my first weeks of training when I didn't have anything better to do than read an obscenely long book. Sputnik Sweetheart I read on the plane going home for Christmas the first year. I know that Nicole gave me Three Cups of Tea and Danny loaned me Amerika.

I realized when I started to keep this list that a lot of the books I read were about people in unfamiliar places or circumstances. I'm not sure if it was totally a coincidence, but it was comforting to know that I wasn't the first to deal with being a foreigner and that people had survived much worse.

Like Holly, I'm really glad that I had a time that was relatively free of modern distractions that I could use to read. Some of my best reading got done in the hammock when the electricity was out. I'm not going to count the pages (because I'm lazy and have limited internet time), but with Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings, I'd say well over 4,000 pages were about wizards, vampires, and elves, and I'm not at all ashamed about reading about wizards and elves.

1. A Wild Sheep Chase, Haruki Murakami
2. Underworld, Don DeLillo
3. Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder
4. Empire Falls, Richard Russo
5. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
6. To Bury Our Fathers, Sergio Ramirez
7. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
8. Shalimar the Clown, Salman Rushdie
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling
10. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
11. Dance Dance Dance, Haruki Murakami
12. American Gods, Neil Gaiman
13. Interview with a Vampire, Anne Rice
14. The Two Towers, J.R.R. Tolkien
15. The Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien
16. Raise High the Roofbeam Carpenters & Seymour, an Introduction, J.D. Salinger
17. The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac
18. The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Nifenegger
19. Einstein: His Life and Universe
20. Running with Scissors, Augusten Burroughs
21. Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins
22. Naked, David Sedaris
23. Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, James L. Swanson
24. For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
25. My Car in Managua, Forrest D. Colburn
26. Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami
27. Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson
28. Sputnik Sweetheart, Haruki Murakami
29. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers
30. The Death of Ben Linder, Joan Kruckewitt
31. The Dante Club, Matthew Pearl
32. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Patrick Suskind
33. The Celestine Prophecy, James Redfield
34. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Chuck Klosterman
35. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
36. A Million Little Pieces, James Frey
37. Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
38. Life of Pi, Yann Martel
39. Ella Minnow Pea, Mark Dunn
40. The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq, George Packer
41. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
42. After Dark, Haruki Murakami
43. Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller
44. A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini
45. Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, Ben Fountain
46. The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri
47. The Third Chimpanzee, Jared Diamond
48. Haunted, Chuck Palaniuk
49. Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Aron Ralston
50. Law School Confidential, Robert Miller
51. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
52. The House of Spirits, Isabel Allende
53. A Dog Year, Jon Katz
54. Lamb, Christopher Moore
55. River Town, Peter Hessler
56. Dry, Augusten Burroughs
57. Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer
58. Marley and Me, John Grogan
59. Amerika: The Man Who Disappeared, Franz Kafka
60. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
61. The Yiddish Policeman's Union, Michael Chabon
62. Straight Man, Richard Russo
63. Oracle Bones, Peter Hessler
64. Survival of the Sickest, Sharon Moalem
65. Oh the Glory of It All, Sean Wilsey
66. What is the What, Dave Eggers
67. The four Twilight books, Stephanie Meyer
68. Sex Lives of Cannibals, J. Maarten Troost
69. Getting Stoned with Savages, J. Maarten Troost

I'm sure that there are at least a couple of books that I'm forgetting about, and I have another 3 that I've been reading on and off for way too long. We just gave away our TV, so maybe in the 12 days we have left I can finish another couple of books.


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