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Day 404

This is a story about Black Nicaraguans and the love I found amongst them. I went to visit Bluefields and Pearl Lagoon, Nicaragua. It is where the “black” people live. I have to say this trip changed my life. I found that their history was very similar to our own. They were initially shipwrecked on the coast of Nicaragua. At that time, it wasn’t a part of Nicaragua. The indigenous people became a British colony. Then the British shipped slaves over from West Africa. When slavery was outlawed in 1840, the slaves became workers and it’s how you get the diverse looks of the people. Some are very dark and have wide noses with afros. Others are light skinned and have big, wide curls, not kinky at all. They are as colorful as you would expect black people to be. When Nicaragua conquered and claimed the land, they were unable to get through the dense jungle and essentially they were spared from the first war of Somoza. But after the war was won by the Sandinistas, there was another smaller war fought to conquer the Coast. The people will tell you they believe it had nothing to do with the land and everything to do with killing all blacks. Finally, a peace treaty was written, allowing the land to be autonomous. However, despite their autonomism, their representatives are Managuan (Spanish) and the government has mandated they teach in Spanish. They are not given the rights they were promised in the treaty. Now, Bluefields is almost entirely Spanish. Everyone speaks Spanish and it’s only about 30% blacks. However, 45 minutes south in Pearl Lagoon, it is 90% black and only 1% speak Spanish. I only spent two days in Bluefields which left me to spend 6 days in Pearl Lagoon.

I have been on a pursuit to study Universal Blackness. Most often, the black perspective is told from an African American lens. But I am sure that being black in America is entirely different than being Black in France than being black in Nicaragua. My trip was enlightening. I was excited to see people who looked like me. I was excited to find grape flavored everything. The rest of Nicaragua seems to have no appreciation for grape although, in my opinion, grape is the best juice and the best soda. I had coconut bread, soda cake and piko. I ate fried chicken for almost the entire week I was there. I was embraced entirely. People spoke creole to me and I tried to understand. I had my hair braided there. (Which is a foreign concept in other parts of Nicaragua. They think my braids are pretty but foreign. They want to touch them.) I wore my afro and no one stared. It was wonderful. I heard my music. While waiting for a boat, Cece Winans played! It warmed my heart to see little brown girls with afro puffs and wearing clocker balls in their hair. I never knew how much I missed those things until I saw it. While I found many differences, I found that a universal blackness does not exist. However, it seems that there is a universal attempt to silence blackness. When I spoke with community leaders, they complained of their history being erased and being forced to speak in Spanish, not their own tongue Creole and the English. It sounded a lot like what I feel when I hear that slavery is being taken out of the history books and how I feel lost when I try to think of my lineage and my history past my great grandparents. It was sad. It both warmed and broke my heart. I could talk for hours on my trip and everything I learned there, but for this email, I will stop while I am ahead.

God knew what He was doing when I was assigned a different site. I don’t think my service would have been as fulfilling if I was living there. For one, I wouldn’t have learned Spanish. For two, I wouldn’t have been able to teach people what it’s like to be an American. They thought I was one of them. However, I am so glad to have had the opportunity to visit there and speak with the people. I was able to see the discrimination between black Nicaraguans and the Spanish looking ones. It appears that wherever there is colonialism, there is colorism. Black Nicaraguans are definitely discriminated against and they hate traveling away from the Coast. When they do, people make inappropriate comments and stare. I have personally felt this awkwardness. It is not always like that. My own community has accepted me. First, they didn’t want to believe I was an American. They kept telling me I was from the coast, in part because I am black and in part because my Spanish is so bad. (Coastians prefer to speak Creole or English.) But then I showed them pictures and told them about my family. But I have heard people call me “negrita” – little black girl and they love to touch my hair. My first host family tried to shame me into straightening my afro. Not everyone is bad, there is always good to be found where people work hard to love. Love is the deciding factor. Love changes things.

If you ever want to come to Nicaragua, the Coast would be top 5 to see!

Sorry for the Wait

I have been locked out of my account for about a month. Having set my posts to auto-post, I was not concerned. I went to the States, enjoyed my family. Then I found myself loving the break and focused on my vacation when I came back to Nicaragua. But, now I’m back, back with an attitude and you can look forward to seeing more posts from me in 2016! Sorry for the way, Happy Holidays and thanks for reading.

Why Food Equals Traveling Home

Today, I’m traveling home.  I have been counting down the days for this! There are only two things I miss about the states: my family and food. While I will be home I plan to eat everything in my sight! I am going to be doing happy food dance. Do you hear me?  Something like this:
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As a matter of fact, I have compiled a list of the things I miss and plan to inhale.

Continue reading Why Food Equals Traveling Home

4 P’s to Beat Writer’s Block

It’s 4 am. You’re awake. You do no want to be awake. You have to be up in 3 hours and you want to sleep. Sound familiar? What do you do? Drink warm milk? Meditate? Start cleaning? Take a little sleep medicine? Who knows, but the point is you don’t just sit there trying to fall asleep. If you do, you know that does not work. Think of writing like sleep. Don’t just stare at the page. That’s just like waiting to fall back asleep. It doesn’t work. Try something new. This article includes technical suggestions to beat writer’s block, if in fact, even exists.

Continue reading 4 P’s to Beat Writer’s Block

Avoid Being A Taxi Crime Victim While Traveling

I came to Nicaragua in March and while I have never been robbed, I was attacked during training. Peace Corps has alleviated that issue for us in the capital by providing us a service of taxi drivers pre-screen and paid to work primarily for volunteers. You call ahead and they are waiting for us. Still, away from the capital, you need a way to be vigilant. How? Easy.

  1. Set a price for the ride BEFORE YOU GET IN. If you can, talk to a local before you even get in. Know what the typical rates are. DO NOT be duped because you look like a tourist.
  2. ALWAYS  get the license plate of the driver. It usually is both in the front and back of the car.
  3. Get their name. Usually, their badge is hanging from the mirror or on a sticker in the corner of the front window. After I was attacked, I wasn’t able to get justice because I did not have any information on my attacker. His description wasn’t helpful because, no offense, Nicaraguan males tend to look alike. If his badge isn’t visible,
  4. Start a conversation. Get their name. Ask when did they start driving a taxi? Do they like it? Does anyone in their family drive taxis? Just starting a conversation shows you know the language, you are less likely to be targeted as a tourist.
  5. Give someone that information. After being attacked, I begin texting my friend the taxi number of every taxi I get in (because my memory is not the best).
  6. Be vigilant. Stay woke. Pay attention. What do you see? Are you alone in the taxi? Are you a woman and the driver is a man? Most likely the driver will be a man. If the surroundings don’t appear to be what you expect or are not the way to your designated stop, GET OUT!
  7. Have a safety precaution. For me, mace makes me feel safe. For others, a key-chain knife. Whatever your vice, have something to make you feel safe.
  8. Have your money in your hand. If you can, have exact change.
  9. If at any time you feel unsafe, call someone. Tell them why you feel unsafe and describe your location. Don’t quit if the first person you call does not pick up. Call someone else. No matter what, a real friend will talk to you until you reach your designation. Your safety is more important.
  10. Lock your belongings. If you can, put a lock on all your things. Your money to pay should be in your hand so you can lock your purse/wallet away in your backpack or suitcase.
These are the ways I have had success in my safe travels. Traveling alone isn’t a problem when you practice safe travel habits. I wish you the best in your travels. Be safe and have fun!

 

Featured Interview

Hey guys! I have a featured interview on TravelBloggers Blog! I had a great time! Below is a preview and to read the whole thing click here!

 

Have you had any bad experiences whilst travelling?

Yes. During my first three months of training, I was assaulted. I went through the proper security procedures and thankfully I wasn’t hurt. Although it was a bad experience, it didn’t tarnish my view of Nicaragua. It just made me more cautious of men here.

Do you have any funny travel stories?

Sure. It’s mostly stories of me integrating. My host mom laughed so much at my blunders. There was a time when I screamed and thought I said “cockroach, kill it!” But I actually said, “SPOON! Kill it.” My host mom not only cried laughing but she casually swiped the cockroach off the table, like it was no big deal. There’s also this story, I will never live down. The first week here, I was describing a woman and I said “she has a lot of butter on her face” instead of makeup! The difference in mantequilla and maquillaje.

Can you imagine life without travel?

Absolutely, positively, equivocally, NO. I have never been more in tune with myself and been more selfless. Traveling is opening my eyes to other sights and I never want to stop changing my world’s perspective.

Hogwarts School of Wizardry Meet Peace Corps

If you are a Harry Potter nerd as I am, this post is for you.  If not, exit stage right or do yourself a favor and educate yourself.

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The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry  is divided into four houses, each bearing the last name of its founder: Godric Gryffindor Helga HufflepuffRowena Ravenclaw and Salazar Slytherin. Houses at Hogwarts are the living and learning communities for its students. The four houses are separate entities.  Each has its own common room and dormitory, its own table in the Great Hall, and students mostly share lessons with classmates of their same house.  There is no rule against students from different houses mingling, but in practice, a good majority of social interactions occurs within the same house.  Much like how Peace Corps Volunteers are when they are accepted.  We have four sectors, Small Business Development, Health, TEFL, and Environment.  There is a training round done approximately once every six months, where Health and Business train together and come in at the beginning of the year and graduating around June.  TEFL and Environment trainees come in around August and graduate in November.  Once through training, each sector splits off and essentially only work with its sector for things like In-Service Training.  However, social interactions intermingling sectors occur all the time volunteer to volunteer.

635741443846548084533246428_il_570xN.366252169_lqm4Despite its negative connotation, Slytherin is not a bad house. Although their members have a propensity to join the dark side, Slytherin house values ambition, cunning, and resourcefulness.  As a business volunteer, we often are the most ambitious. It is a well-known fact our program is the most work intense.  We teach 11th and 12 th grade entrepreneurship classes as well as consult with community businesses.  That means we have to look for resources all over the place.  Every business and its owner are different, with different needs.  We can be a little cunning as well, from convincing our students into making a business product and competing in a regional then national competition to working with the delegate to make all our coworkers co-plan.

img-thingRavenclaw values intelligence, knowledge, and wit.  This just reeks of a TEFL volunteer.  Often they know a little about everything.  Their entire mission is to teach English, which leaves a lot of room for others things. They are teachers at heart and most innovative in how they share their wealth of knowledge.  It’s what they do, plus they are the quirkiest of the volunteers.  From their style, personality and witty humor, they are the brains of the bunch. They help students get scholarships to go to college and work with whoever wants to learn English. They also work in the schools and host English singing competitions. Karaoke to improve your English speaking skills, really, I can’t think of anything better.

shield_hufHufflepuff values hard work, dedication, patience, loyalty, and fair play rather than a particular aptitude in its members. By far, Health volunteers have more patience than I could ever display.  There are the only sector not partnered with the board of education and don’t automatically work in the schools.  Therefore, it’s up to them to put in the hard work to meet with community members and show their selves worthy of teaching a few health workshops in school. They usually are partnered with the health department to work in houses for pregnant women or the hospital, but that’s not always guaranteed. Some sites are too underdeveloped to have one.  In addition, they teach Sex-ED, which is mostly stigmatized in third world countries.  No one wants to talk about how little they know about sex, and are afraid to appear like they want to know more about sex even though the majority of them are having sex!  You will know a health volunteer when you see them; they have dildos in their rooms and condoms in their bags like permanent accessories. 

shield_01-5B1-5DGryffindor values bravery, daring, nerve, and chivalry. Environment volunteers go where no man has gone before.  They live in the most rural, often the poorest parts of the country, because that’s who tends to own the farms and has land.  They are usually very kind and humble, not wanting to take credit for all the problems they solve. They also work in schools, but only in primary schools, showing the importance of recycling and ways to nurture the earth, which is an uphill battle anywhere outside of the United States. They know all the DIY tips and because of all they’ve seen near their homes and on the farm, their scary, uncomfortable, or nasty tolerance is super high.

 

I, like Harry Potter, wonder if I should have been placed in a different house. I am a Slytherin and do adore my work as a Business Volunteer. Lately, however, I have been thinking of project ideas that scream environment. I can’t change sectors, but thankfully I am in the Peace Corps and can do inter-sector work. Which house are you in?