10. Ten Things I Hate about You (Nicaragua)

>> Sunday, June 07, 2009

One of the things I think I fear most about returning home after Peace Corps is having to answer the inevitable question, "So did you like it?"

Peace Corps' motto is that it's "the toughest job you'll ever love." It was without a doubt tough, and we're still not sure what the experience meant to us, let alone sure how to condense it down to a sentence or two to explain it to friends and acquaintances. Part of the difficulty is that it's been quite a roller coaster, often with lots of emotions even within one day. We've celebrated little victories and felt helpless during little crises.

Now that we overcame our housing crisis, I feel much more at peace with my Peace Corps service; though it was really stressful at the time, I'm really happy it helped us get closer to Romel and Azalia, and I'm happy we are back in our old neighborhood with people we know well.

That doesn't mean I have a wistful, romantic view of everything that happened here, though; many of the things that I love most days are things that I hated on others. As our time here fades, I think we'll begin to forget many of the things that were so difficult about being here, or that made us want to pack our bags and head home. In case we're feeling sad about leaving, here are some of the things that we won't miss:

10. Daily Life: Even the simplest tasks are just much more complicated here. Seemingly pleasant things like going to a restaurant or ordering a pizza can be complicated, un-fun tasks, and these little things seem to happen nearly every day. Even venturing out of the house can be difficult as we have to avoid the crazy drivers of Ministry of Health trucks, people zooming down the streets in their motorcycles, and other everyday hazards.

9. The Weather: It's unfortunately that Nicaragua only has two seasons since one of them is decidedly annoying. It rains a lot during October. During March right as the rainy season is beginning, it is really hot and downright miserable.

8. Food: No matter how good food may look, there could be trouble lurking. We've imported more boxes of Kraft Mac & Cheese than I'd care to count, and even the most basic supplies can suddenly disappear. Outside the home, our options are limited to pizza or gallo pinto, both of which can get a little old.

7. Inexpensive Wares: Stuff here is cheap, mostly in the "poor quality" sense of the word. Most of our Nicaraguan possessions seems to have a two year lifespan and are now giving out: handles are falling off pans and pots now have holes, clothes we bought here (even from the nice mall in Managua) are falling apart, and most recently our prized plastic furniture started giving out:

 6. Transportation: I will never miss being stuck in a tiny microbus intended for a dozen people that has 25 people in it with no ventilation because all the windows are closed because it's sprinkling. During the strike there was no transportation and we were stuck, and we also really hate being overcharged in taxis or buses.

5. The Critters: We've had a lot of critter encounters during our time here. Lately our most vicious enemies have been scorpions, culminating with me getting stung by a scorpion in my arm pit at 2 in the morning a few weeks back. Eww.

4. Culture: It's hard to live in a culture that's not your own, and as much as we try to integrate and accept it, about some things we just have to agree to disagree. The machista culture that's so accepted here just isn't cool, I don't like that people make things up instead of just saying, "I don't know," and politics here caused a lot of uncomfortable situations. Another thing we never came to accept is the different views on personal space and privacy--it's perfectly acceptable for people to blast their music any time, even if it's the Alvin and the Chipmunks birthday song over and over at 5 in the morning.

3. Being different: Missouri isn't known for its striking diversity, and I looked just like everyone else there, so coming to Nicaragua was a double whammy: we came to a place even more homogenous than our own home, and we were totally different from all those other homogenous people in appearance, culture, and speech. People make lots of assumptions about us (like that we're rich, stupid gringos that can't speak Spanish) and it's impossible to blend in and do anything anonymously.

2. Spanish: Related to number 10, any little thing becomes more difficult when it has to be done in a different language. I am not a fan of the usted/vos distinctions or preterit and imperfect split, and a lot of people pretend not to understand what we say even though we're pronouncing the words just fine.

1. People: Some people I just won't miss. We won't really miss the people who tried to take advantage of our volunteerism, people who throw rocks at dogs, the cobradors and other vendors who charge us more because they think we're rich and/or don't know any better, or people who steal stuff from us, and I don't think we'll be sending "We Miss You" cards to our landlady anytime soon.

The bad things are often easier to list and recall because they happen every day and stick out in our minds, and I don't think it would have been fair for anyone to expect that we would love everything about this place and our time here.  Overall, though, I think the good probably outweighs to bad. I don't want to end on a negative thought, but I promise that tomorrow I will have a list of the 10 things we will be sad to leave behind.

With only ten days left, I think we'll make it!


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