After finishing what the little ones could help on the mural, I put them to work making thank you cards for the people who made this project possible. Most of them just wrote thank you for helping us, and some even made the effort to write thank you in English, for the non spanish speaking audience out there. One of the older children however took the time to write that he hopes all the contributors in the States are well and that he sends a thank you the size of texas from his heart for giving him the materials to paint. He is one of the most gifted artists that I have worked with and it made me so glad to see him write that this project had made a difference.
Archive for July, 2010
My little shell of a room is mostly dim. The only light that enters the house during the day enters from the carefully designed missing bricks in the side walls, and the front and back door, which remain open from 5am to 9pm daily. At times I get caught in the familiar rhythm of indulging myself in the privacy of my own room, where I could happily pass hours reading and writing and thinking of the little space I´m carving here in this canopy of spanish-speaking newness and babies laughs and trying not to rush. I spent that latter half of the week bedridden after a tremendous adventure out to Caracol, a neighboring farming community about 3 hours away on bicicleta and a short hike despues. Apparently the cows butter I ate is parasite ridden and contains every kind of fatty richness that will make the stomach turn. Without too much detail, let´s say I spent a good chunk of Thursday making continuous trips out the latrine to empty my system. And it was pretty miserable until Friday afternoon when I decided that despite feeling wholly exhausted, I would make the short trip to stop by the library and platicar un poquito con Payita, the librarian, because I felt bad that I had missed three precious days of my time there. And so glad I was that I did! About a half a block from the library three little girls come up and grab me from each sides (shhh… secretly their my favoritas) one, Katerin, a fierce and obstinate little one with too much smarts for her own good, the other, Yharitz, a sneaky dark-skinned and wild one with always a trick up her sleeve and finally Cristel, the quiet sidekick of Katerin. And when I got in best of all who was there but one of my less trustworthy teenage helpers Mario, working on the mural on his own initiative! He was putting the finishing touches on the world map so that it will be ready to paint next week. I was so çontent and relieved to spend the next hour and a half doing watercolor with the çhavalas (little girls) and smiled and took a deep breath, remembering the light that hits me each time I step out of my little brick shell and find myself amongst the people of Achuapa. Today the same phenomena happened where I found myself without ganas de salir (didn´t feel like leaving) and I decided to just go out for the heck of it and of course I saw this chavala I work with named Ghrety and I talked with her mom a while in the street and just stood with all the time in the world (here the expression is hay mas tiempo que vida, which means, there is more time than life) And its so true! The less you rush things the more you can feel your feet on the ground and be true. Which reminds me that i´ve started a daily yoga routine! Ashtanga to be exact. But enough of this cyberworld, I´m taking to the streets again.
Accompanied by a Nicaraguan origami artist and orchid specialist, Molly and I made out way into the valley of a campesino artisian, a man who spent 33 years of his life tucked away into the rocks of Esteli on a journey to transform the face of a mountain that overlooked a war. With nothing but a few simple tools, this self’taught sculpture carved religious and symbolic images into pure rock, with nothing but his own spiritual growth as incentive. A man with such humility and a forceful gentleness I have never seen. We stopped repeatedly as he stopped to explain images and examine the beauty in every leaf. Mire! Que bonita esta! We heard probably 1,200 times. And each time with the same sincerity I thought for sure I couldn´t be in the same place as so much suffering. If all it took is a green leaf to make each of us feel so full… I guess its this green leaf we´re all looking for. The other photo is Aldo holding a Mr. Guayaba head, in honor of dad, and me on the top of La Mirador. On a clear day, you can see the 4 volcanoes lining the horizon to Leon.
Last week went by in a blur. Trying to get the library painted in a week was stressful and exhausting but well worth the effort. Monday we got the estimates done for paint by a friends brother. Then they suggested that their father, Ruben, could help with the painting job. On Tuesday morning Payita, the librarian, and I worked all afternoon to get the walls cleared of dusty posters, drawings, tape, etc. On Wednesday we labored all morning washing the walls and scrubbing them down as best we could so that we could paint on thursday. I found this project a nice way to get to know Payita better, and also to realize the incredible resolve of just a couple who are willing to help in what was quite a ton of work. Ruben and his cousin Chago painted from 7am to 5 in the afternoon on thursday and all morning friday without pay and hardly any breaks. They were like a machine that just kept going it they were INDEFATIGABLE I thought Id never get the chance to use that word. This week I also got much closer to Payita, and though she´s going through some personal difficulties I can´t help but feel an enormous amount of respect and inspiration and the incredible amount of work she does in such horrendous conditions. And by that I mean that I found out she makes an appalling 600 cordobas a month- not even 30 dollars, and the library is an unairconditioned infierno without even a well working fan. She works with patience and resolve and kindness with all the kids who venture into her domain of books and cuentos and offers the little bit of resources she has to give to anyone who sincerely comes to learn. I am figuring out that the most I have to give while I am here is not really the materials afterall, but my time and my concentration and my attention. Really what a lot of the kids look for when they come in I think is not necessarily to draw or paint, but to feel like they are special and appreciated. This is universal of course with children but I think it is at least one thing here that I know I will not run out of, and that is sincere affection for what the kids are and are creating. Even if by the end of the day Im worn out and want to just lay down on the ground and melt. Because the best moments I have had, the most gratifying feeling is knowing that the chavalos look forward to coming to class and having me be there. And there is nothing that makes me feel better than that. The photo is of Ruben and Chago working on the outside of the library, where the before and after difference of their work is remarked. I will post more photos when I return to Achuapa, at the moment Im visiting Molly in Esteli, we went on a hike today to this mountainside southeast of esteli where a humble campesino man carved a sculpture into a cliff using only a blunt machete and a rock. It was an incredible experience and an entirely new post all together. I am behind on writing and struggling to catch up, unfortunately time moves fast here and emotions come and go like the rain. For now I am getting to know people and myself better every day. And am confronted with stories and histories of this people and nation every day that are stacking themselves up like little cuentos in the corner of the room, waiting to be shared and read.
Another week gone by I feel my corneas infused with the green of this countryside. Last Saturday I had the pleasure and fortune of going horseback riding at the farm of a friend of Marginis. Afterwards I took the bus out to Caracol, a community about an hour north of Achuapa, just to see the landscape. And instead of taking pictures I decided to try and memorize the mountains, the pastures, the people. The cultural details such as how houses are built and how farms are laid out, visual details such as where clothes were put and how far apart the cows stood from the road. The time to stand with my nose stretched out of the window was both spiritual and calming and the only place I wanted to be in that moment. The pictures above are of a mural in Esteli and Achuapa in the early morning. I just returned from Esteli where I spent Monday to Wednesday buying art supplies. The trip was great to vent to Molly about all the goings on and I came back to Achuapa yesterday with a fresh mentality and in itch to get to doing artwork. So I began class with these little origami animal cards that we began making last week, but it got hectic because waaay too many kids wanted help. After having a box of markers stolen by a mysterday chiquiena number 46, I decided to call it quits for the day and establish some order! I have now broken the classes into 5 parts, each with approximately 8 kids, and fridays left for the reading competition. I was only disheartened about the markers for a second before I laughed when I realized that a band of girls had organized to hunt the girl down on their bicycles. Also it was more a reflection of my lack of organizational togetherness than anything about the kids. More than anything it was just upsetting that there were kids who wanted and needed my attention that weren´t getting it. So today is a new day and now some law will be laid in terms of the art supplies. Can´t wait to get started this afternoon! And tomorrow with the first weekly reading competition, will let you know how it goes! All I can say is there is so much more to say but my tummy is grumbling for some rice and beans and avocado! Love from the south.
So I can´t believe it´s been almost a week since I last posted. I guess I intended at first to wait until I had at least started to do something, and all of a sudden I´ve been swept up in this storm of happiness and anxiety and exasperation and complete relaxation. It´s been a wild ride already and I don´t know where its headed. I have greatly benefitted however already from a dose of structure in the last couple of days, establishing my routine. That is, I get up around 8 (if this sounds early, my host mom, Gladys, gets up at 4am every morning to start making tortillas) and Gladys makes me a breakfast batido (a milk’based smoothie) with bananas and sometimes pineapple for energy. Then I wash a couple items of clothes by hand, put them out to dry and take a cold shower. Gladys heads to work at 9am, at which point i start to get my things together and dawdle a bit, getting to the library about 10am. The morning is my planning period. From 10 to 12am I do practice examples for the afternoon activities. Today was my first day of doing this, as I felt it would be nice to do Father´s Day Cards for this weekend. It is a simple popup card, but as with any art activity that goes on, it is not easy to be doing anything for long without a gang of anxious energetic youngsters to come flocking toward the activity. So I started with two compañeros, Randel and Katherin and we got to it. I showed Rafaela, the librarian, what I was doing when I was finished and she was so intrigued and delighted that she wanted me to teach her how to do it as well! So we all sat and talked and drew for 2 and a half hours making these precious little animal cards, which i will show later with photos. It so happens that Rafaela has to go to this taller, workshop, tomorrow, it’s like a meeting for teachers and librarians. She exclaimed Oh Kati!As for little Leonardito, I have had many adorable moments with him already. He is only one year old so he is just learning to walk but he has to keep momentum to stay upright or he falls down PLOP right on his butt. On Tuesday Gladys and I had to watch him while Margini, his mom, went to a job interview in Managua. This was the first time he had ever been left along by his mother and so when I woke up and walked into the kitchen my host mom said to me, Kati, estamos jodido con este chavalo. Kati, we are screwed with this little one. We did fine though! And Margini got the job! This one girl who keeps coming into the library for help with her English homework is a gorgeous, terribly timid girl who I think was at first afraid of me (imagine!) but has recently shown a great interest in art classes and even showed me some of her little ink drawings that she sketches between the pages of her algebra homework. What amazes me is actually how much kids here like to draw or actually do draw despite the fact that, for example, sketchbooks or really any kind of real art supplies are in great scarcity here. All the library has for example is a little tin of stubby broken colored pencils and a little jar of sorry looking paint brushes.
After a bumpy one and a half hour ride from Esteli to Achuapa, I laid my eyes for the first time on the place that would become my home for the next two months. We came in with the rains, which pounded on the horsecrap laiden streets and many closed door store fronts. But when the sun emerged in the morning, we found ourselves in a great valley, with achuapa nestled again in the palms of mother mountains. There are oxen carts pulling wagons and horses greatly outnumbering any other form of transportation (rivaled only maybe by little motorcycles or bicicletas). We made our way to the natural medicine clinic, where my host mother Gladys and the homeopathic doctor awaited us to conduct energy exams. Among us were diagnosis of swollen ovaries, pancreas and of course, abounding tightness in our stomachs. For one of us with migraine probelms, the simple solution of mugwarts and incense made the burning sensation quite real and the headaches (hopefully) less. We also visited the Achuapa Co-op, which is the sole supplier of (i now can´t remember what kind of oil it is) to the Body Shop in England. I think its some kind of nut. This morning we went to Lagaritillo, the site of a peasant community that was attacked by the Contras. It is one of the only communities of such attacks which has maintained the revival of this loss through continued celebration and memorial to the lives lost. They have a plaque and annual reanactments on the day of the attack (Dec. 31st). It is also one of the only peasant communities that has used this tragedy as a factor which has unified and help to make constructive efforts toward collective progress– a few years ago, the community opened the only peasant run Spanish school in Nicaragua. This is a community only a few kilometers outside of Achuapa.
So school starts Monday!
I have so many ideas for what I want to do– murals, planning for the music festival in August, classes and possibly getting a women´s baseball team organized.. we´ll see.
Hasta pronto, pues.