Sometimes travel is part of the job description. When I wrote this, I was on an 8-day-out-of-site binge, which was preceded by whole other week out of site. Things come up, and this past month seemed to be one of those things. Here is what I do when I’m not in site:
- Get inducted into Peer Support Network (PSN): Mid-February, I went to a retreat to get trained as a new PSN member. We give various charlas during training events on themes ranging from coping with stress to cultural adaptation. We are also available to chat anonymously with volunteers that are having difficulties in site. As an exercise, a select few of us were secretly chosen to be “problem children” during a facilitator training charla. There were various players: the Distracts Others By Playing with Baby, the Talks on her Cell Phone, the Sleeper, and me, the Inappropriate Joke-Teller. I may have gone too far when a fellow PSNer was talking about the importance of “give and take” in relationships and I blurted out, “that’s what your Mom said last night.” Unfortunately, as the new kid, I might never hear the end of this.
- Go on vacation with my family: Right after my PSN retreat, it happened again: Mom, Dad, and Sister came to Nicaragua. Since they had already seen the important sites last time they came to town, this time around we went to an all-inclusive resort on the beach, and I put on 5lbs. It wasn’t just the all-you-can-eat-gluttonous-stuff-your-plate-to-the-maximum buffet at meal times, it was also the conveniently placed nacho bar in between meals that got me. Nishant also came along, which proved to incite in him a Boston accent, which is weird, since he has never lived in Boston.
- Work on the latest issue of Va Pue:After only a few days back in site, I was off again to work on Va Pue in Managua. Va Pue is the volunteer-run magazine for Peace Corps Nicaragua, in which volunteers and staff write and contribute articles, poems, short stories, and photos, and we, the editors, put it together 3 times a year. I’m really proud of the most-recent issue, which should come out this week.
- Do a 10k- Careful word choice of this headline will reveal that I did not necessarily “run” the 10k. I valiantly ran/walked, or as my sister would put it, ralked the 10k, with the puppy in tow. It started off a bit rough with Mani nearly losing her breakfast at the start line, but overall, we did well with our walk-a-little, jog-a-little pace. The race had its moments: beautiful mountainous views; a plethora of people yelling, “Look, a puppy!” or “Give me your puppy!” and me, jogging by while replying, “no, she’s my daughter!” [cue laughter–Nicas love this joke]; and a couple stray dogs that made me have to carry Mani in my arms for a few paces. Once we reached town, I passed the pup off to Nishant and finished the race running.
- Give a charla to the new health group: Right after the 10k, I packed up my things, spent a day and a half in Esteli, and then headed back down to Managua to give a charla to the new health group. The charla was entitled, “Working with Counterparts” and I did it with some other volunteers from my group, including Kate Lena, Anna, Gabe, and Deanna.
- Take away Mani’s reproductive rights: Just a few days of being home, and I was off again–this time, to Granada. My cousin Matt the (almost) vet told me about an organization called World Vets, which offers free consults and spaying/neutering services for pets. The brigade came to Granada from the 13-15, so despite the week-long roadblock blocking my passage to anywhere outside of Matagalpa, I traveled down on the 13th. Of course, I got stuck on the bus in the middle of a rice paddy for a while, but that’s another story. The ending of this story is happy: Mani is alive and will never ever give birth to puppies, which is great, because she’s still a puppy herself. My friend Natalie wrote an excellent blog post about getting her pup, Javier Antonio neutered. She discusses her town’s reactions: “I was simply shocked at the number of people (women included!) who told me that they can understand why female dogs should be operated on, but male dogs should never be touched.” I am able to joke with my neighbors and friends that Mani and I are “planificando,” or rather, family planning; yet it seems as though operating on male dogs takes away their, well, doggy manhood.
- Go to a concert: It can’t be all work and no play, so I tacked on an extra day to my Operation: Get Mani Spayed and went to the Calle 13 concert in Managua. It was awesome. Calle 13 is a rap/reggaeton group from Puerto Rico made out of a couple of step-brothers and their sister. A bunch of us all went together. Can you believe this concert took place in the parking lot of a mall?
Being out of site is stressful: on one hand, it’s great to see other volunteers and hang out in bigger, more cosmopolitan places than our rural sites. Yet on the other hand, being out of site for so long stirs up pangs of guilt–we’re supposed to be in site, working for our communities. Because of all of my out-of-site-ness of late, certain projects that I had been promoting have been put on the back-burner. But I have to remind myself that sometimes being out of site is part of our job too. We’re here for two years, so it’s okay if we’re busy from time to time. Now that I am back in site, I plan to hit the ground running to really aprovechar the last few weeks in site before I leave yet again for–vacation in the States!