Friday, May 13, 2011

A Mango a Day...

keeps the homesickness at bay.

It´s mango season here! You can find mangos everywhere – in the market, at school, in the streets. There are several types of mangos. I actually just got a lesson about all the different types of mangos from one of my students yesterday. There are mango mechudos, lisos, dulces, manzanos, limónes, largos, and rosas. Each has their own flavor, texture, and size. I have already lost track of how many mangos I have eaten over the past week. Needless to say, I love mangos! Until recently, I have not purchased a single mango because coworkers and neighbors continue to give me mangos from their trees at their houses.

So why am I writing all this information about mangos? I wanted to give you a little taste (pun intended) of an aspect of life in Nicaragua that I love. Everyday, I wait for the bus to go home on a corner in Bello Amanecer (the neighborhood where I work). There is a house on this corner and I have been able to slowly get to know the kids that live there. They told me that 11 people live in this house – aunts, cousins, and siblings. When one of them sees me as I approach the corner, they yell to the others that Adriana (my name in Spanish) is coming. Sometimes, one of the little girls who is about 7 years old will pick up a mango off the ground, wash it off and reach her hand over the little wall offering it to me. Of course I accept it and she gives me a big smile. No matter if I am feeling completely exhausted or overwhelmed or close to tears, this tiny gesture of generosity and hospitality brightens my outlook. I am reminded of why I am here. It is not to accomplish a great task or to see the results of teaching – I am here to receive mangos and huge toothy smiles.

As the first line of this blog suggests, I have been experiencing waves of homesickness and culture shock these past few weeks. I want to be honest on this blog and while there are many, many things I love about being here, some days have been really hard. The newness of many things has started to wear off and I find myself frustrated or annoyed with the littlest of things, things that have not changed since I have been here. Waiting for the bus for over half an hour to return home after a long day and receiving catcalls or men telling me I am beautiful or a student who follows me around asking me a million questions are all examples of things that rarely phased me until recently. I have also been getting upset with myself that I still find myself tripping over my words in Spanish sometimes. One trait about Nicaraguans is that they will tell you how it is straight up. In one way it is great that they are honest, but in other ways I find myself wishing they would just sugar coat things. For example, kids will say to me, “Profe, you don’t speak Spanish very well like other white people I know,” or “Profe, it’s hard for you to talk in Spanish, isn’t it?” While both are true statements, I like to think that I’ve come a long way since I first got here and it’s a little disheartening to hear those things.

A lot happens in a month. Some highlights include celebrating my birthday – my community was wonderful and they decorated the house and made M&M pancakes and banana bread and coffee for breakfast and we had a combined birthday party that night for one of my community mates, Andrea, and I with Nicaraguan friends, going to Cañon de Somoto – a canyon up north where we hiked and swam in the river that goes through the canyon, celebrating Semana Santa (Holy Week) with lots of visitors – a few of the JVC volunteers that live in Belize came to visit and it was wonderful catching up with them and going swimming at Laguna de Apoyo again, Día del Verano (Summer Day) at school – the kids brought food and baby pools and we spent the day eating, playing, and watching kids throw each other in these baby pools, and of course I eventually got doused with buckets of water, going on retreat – the theme was talking about what we believe in regards to spirituality and at the end, we each wrote our own personal creed and shared it with one another. The retreat was a great chance to step back from all the craziness of visitors and school and be able to re-center myself.

To finish off this post, I wanted to share this little combination of words that I wrote back in March when I was having a really rough day. I just shared it with my community and I think it does a good job of expressing a lot of my feelings from the past few months.

To Acompañar

To be broken, stripped down, unravelled
To be lost and constantly searching
To question, to dream, to discover
To fall apart and then be rebuilt and put back together by a smile, an “adios”
To wonder what the heck I am doing here
To feel helpless, dependent, like a child
To be wrapped in the arms of community
To discover a persevering strength in the people
To cry, feel defeated
To have dance parties with a battery-powered strobe light
To eat lots of rice and beans and hang clothes on the line to dry
To take naps in the hammock
To feel terribly helpless and yet to see so much hope and possibility in the eyes of another
To discover who I am, me, at the very core, no longer having familiar and comfortable surroundings with which I have defined myself
To hold a hand, give a hug, laugh, listen
To be humbled, to try and fall short and try again
To be taken care of, welcomed, carried
To receive love freely given and to share my heart and love without reserve

I posted this the other day but it somehow disappeared! I also wasn't able to read any of the comments so if you could re-post those, I'd appreciate it. Love and hugs. 


  1. My Adrienne!

    I was missing you something fierce today, so I thought I would check your blog. And you had just uploaded this story today! I'd like to think that it means you knew I was thinking of you :) You'll be happy to hear that I am officially moving out of the Millers at the end of this month and moving into my own apartment! I was in a pretty nasty car accident last week, and my car is totaled :( I was hit by a Ford F150 that had flipped and came into my lane. Few bumps and bruises, but I'm okay - my guardian angel was with me! Therefore, I'm not only moving into a new apartment, but I'm also buying a new car. I was just in the middle of stressing about money when I read this - you always know how to make me feel better :)

    Love you and miss you more - Eat a mango for me!

  2. I love hearing from you. On Sunday at Grandma's, Uncle Ed made a fruit salad and convinced Christina that you had personally shipped mangoes to him. I love mangoes but I love you more! You are such a strong individual, I am so proud of you for everything you have done! I miss you like crazy and I am ALWAYS thinking of you! I love hearing all about your stories and everything that has been going on in you life! I love you and miss you!


  3. Hi Honey! This blog was so took a lot of courage to share from your heart! Maybe I should find a Ft Wayne food that helps me not miss you so much! I am so thankful for the insight you have and the appreciation for the "little things", like mangos and smiles. I know you are touching many lives as ways you aren't aware of. What a blessing you are to all those on your path and most especially to our family. I love being your Mom! I can't wait to experience some of your world in December! I love you and miss you! Mom

  4. Hahahaha to Missy's post. Adrienne, as soon as I read your title about mangoes, I burst out laughing. As Miss mentioned, Uncle Ed convinced me that the mangoes used in his Mothers' Day fruit salad were personally shipped by you. What can I say, he was very convincing! I LOVE YOU! Adios - I'll email you soon!

  5. Hi Adrienne! I'm sorry you lost all the previous comments! I'm thankful we got to talk on the phone last night. It is a busy time of year here! Can you believe Austin will be 16 this week! Me either. I love you and miss you, Mom

  6. Adrienne!
    I love reading your blogs! For some reason it makes me feel like I am not alone. I was so excited to graduate and get a real job, and every day I go in it's a real struggle! I know it is not near as difficult as what you are going through, but for some reason it gives me peace of mind that I am not alone. Anyways, glad you are doing well, and keep eating those mangos! We should have more in the states...I love them!
    p.s. I sent you a package yesterday, so be on the look out for it! I have no idea how long it will take. Hope you enjoy it! :)

  7. Hey lady,

    Loved your honest reflections. It was SO great to see you! I'll get a letter your way soon. Sending much love and positive energy your way, and hoping the homesickness abates in the coming weeks.

    Miss you already,
    All my love,

  8. Adrienne,
    Your words brought tears to my eyes. Prayers and thoughts of you to get through those feelings of homesickness.
    I felt like I could taste a mango while reading your blog. Finding peace in the simple things in life is wonderful.
    Keeping you in my prayers, You were missed and warmly thought of during Bronson's graduation party and many other times. Your Uncle Ed is a great cook and funny guy.
    Love and Hugs,
    Mrs. Lapp/Juli ;)

  9. Adrienne!
    I've been hearing so much about you recently from the Rutkowski girls, that I wanted to check out your blog. I am so impressed by you and what you are doing! The world needs more Adriennes!
    -Gina Lesniewski