How to sum up the month of December? We welcomed four new volunteers to Nicaragua, two of whom now live with me, at the beginning of the month. As second year volunteers, we collaborated to plan an in-country orientation for them, including setting up different talks and arranging homestays. We also celebrated Purisima, which is a huge holiday here in Nica. Purisima is the celebration of the the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Here, people create elaborate altars in their homes dedicated to the Virgin Mary and open their houses to people to come sing songs about Mary. Then, the hosts give the singers gifts, ranging from candy to plastic bowls and cups to bags of rice. It is kind of like Halloween minus the costumes and add the Virgen and singing. Later on in the month, we sent off our community mates who completed their two years and headed back to the States. That was really hard because we had not only grown close as a community but also as friends.
On Christmas day, my entire family arrived! I was literally jumping up and down with excitement as I spotted them in the airport. Needless to say, it was the best Christmas gift I received this year. I spent the next few days showing them glimpses into my life here: my school, the market, packed bus rides, lots of Spanish interactions. We also went on an adventure that included hiking a volcano and swimming in a lagoon formed by a volcanic crater. While all of the “things” we did were very enjoyable, some of my favorite parts were just being together as the six of us. There is something special about the bond that exists between family and their willingness to come down here and see why I love being in Nicaragua, deepened our relationship and ability to relate to one another. (At least I think so... maybe I should ask them if they agree.) After a sad goodbye, I spent about a week at home hanging out with community mates. Then, the first week of January, I began my adventure to Belize.
[I wrote part of this blog in my journal and am copying an excerpt directly from there.]
I write this as I am about to begin the final leg of my journey back to Nicaragua, to community, to friends, to our dog, Muneco, to a place I call home. I have been traveling for a little over a week now. I spent the majority of this time in Belize, visiting other Jesuit Volunteers that live and work there. The time I spent in Belize reconnecting with and meeting some new inspirational people, soaking in the sun, the sounds of the ocean, and the view of pelicans suddenly diving head-first into the water was all very life-giving and rejuvenating. I could recount many stories of going on an adventure to a waterfall, visiting some of the JV work sites, trying really hard to understand Belizean Creole and being utterly confused about where I was and thus trying to speak Spanish to some of the kids I met, who in turn just stared at me.
View from boat ride heading to Belize from Guatemala
Instead, I want to write about the trip itself: the car, buses, and boat rides that I took to get to and from that beautiful country. I was struck by this thought today as I was explaining to a driver of a “tourist” bus that I am a volunteer and couldn't afford his offer to go in one straight shot to the city I was going to stay in for the night. He was very respectful of what I said and as I was walking away to find the local bus, I found myself wanting to run back to this man and explain that the real reason I didn't want to take his direct bus, which would be so easy and less hassle, was because it's not about getting there quickly, it's about the journey. It's about seeing the Belizean border off in the distance and feelings of excitement swell up as I approach my destination. It's about the ride that I took on the micro-bus, squished in the back seat next to an elderly man, who kindly kept offering me a space to put my giant backpack so that I would be more comfortable. It's about the boat ride on the way from Belize to Guatemala where it started pouring down rain, and we all covered ourselves with tarps and when we finally reached the dock, I realized that I had stay pretty dry except for my bottom which was soaked! I just started laughing and became a source of entertainment for those around me. The journey is about waiting at customs at the Honduran/Nicaraguan border for two hours with the rest of my companions on the bus knowing we were so close to the end of a twelve hour bus ride and just wanted to arrive. It's about reading, sleeping, journaling, zoning out. It's about watching movies on a big charter bus with Spanish subtitles. It's about eating bananas and tortillas and chips and calling it a day. It's about walking in the door to our house in Ciudad Sandino and being greeted by cheers of, “She's back!” “It's Adrienne!” “Welcome home!” Nothing compares to the feeling of being exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally after a long journey and being wrapped up in the arms of community. I am home once again.
Our new community on Christmas
(Tony, Jenn, me, Bianca, and Elspeth)
*I got the title for this entry from a book that I read during my trip called Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott.*