August 31, 2005

Rubbing Elbows

A very exciting moment for my good friend Lauren Argo is that she was one of the extras on a film shot in Lexington called Dreamer (starring Kurt Russell and Dakota Fanning). And what do you know, she can even be seen on the trailer! So I am showing off this photo (she is circled), to prove that I can rub elbows with the bigwigs (Lauren) who rubs elbows with the biggerwigs (the stars). Neat! Click on the title of this entry to see the whole trailer (she's right after "he gave her a chance").

August 29, 2005

I always loved writing implements

but these graphite sculptures on the tips of pencils take it to a whole new level

Wax and wane

Well, in an attempt to stay positive, and not engage in destructive behavior this year, I tried waxing my legs since it is purported that hairs don't grow back for up to 8 weeks (!!!...really??). No hairs visible, no picking of them was my logic. But, woaho-ho-ho, nelly! I don't care if they call it "wax" but I assure you it is NOT that. It is some amazingly sticky chemical that refuses to not drip and dribble everywhere. aw, sad. yes, parts of my legs are baby soft (though my inexpertise has left swaths and patches of stubble and long hair). My bathroom has spackles of purple stickiness that get on your feet and moosh into rugs. ew. As I tried to get the wax off in the shower, I found that soap, shampoo, oil, cold cream and de-mildewing cleaner were ineffective. Scrubbing Bubbles (3 applications) started to release the goo from skin. And while I was at it, I got some in my eye and had to rinse it for 15 mins. Shooot. Well, next time I'll leave it to the professionals.

August 25, 2005

Giddy with my new life

Finally! It's about damn time!
Enumerations of my happiness:
Take Two on BenAndAlyssum.
Meeting and practicing with other contortionists.
Meeting and beginning to participate in aerial dance with other aerial dancers.
Only 3 classes this semester (instead of 9. and 5 next semester instead of 13).
I actually am FAMILIAR with the material this time around.
Good study buddies.
Beautiful weather.
Impetigo gone.

August 19, 2005

Home, summer's end

At last, I am home, enjoying my rest, enjoying my daily warm shower, and the ability to let my infections heal properly. My kitties are soft and healthy, and school is nearly beginning. Strange to be starting. Again. Interested to see who my fellow classmates will be.

August 5, 2005

En Granada

I am in the oldest settled town of the mainland Americas! Granada dates back to 1524 and the conquistador Hernandez de Cordoba. Whoo hoo! Somehow, though it fails to elicit such grandeur...I just can't feel the oldness of it like I could in old places in Europe. Maybe because things just get rebuilt here?
My Spanish is finally feeling comfortable. I have been just sitting in the park, people watching most of the day with the occasional walk to another park, and I have had long conversations with 5 people! (a shoe-shine boy of 14, an old man proud to be Granadisto, a guard on the waterfront (the only freshwater lake to have sharks. Yes! It used to be connected to the ocean, but when the land filled in, the sharks were stuck.), and two hammock-sellers.) They're MUCH easier to understand than the Campesinos out in Siuna and beyond, and they tell me while I need practice, my pronunciation is good, I can speak well, understand well, and they're excited that I spend the time to talk to people one-on-one. Instead of being bothered by the hammock people, for instance, I engaged them in a conversation, which ended in joking and a mini english lesson (they asked how to say, "Would you like a hammock? No thank you, I already have one."). That seems like a much more reasonable interaction.

August 4, 2005

Volcân Masaya

Got out of the quadruple enforced US Embassy home today successfully, caught a bus to Volcan Masaya national park and promptly had to...wait...for 2 hours before they opened the gate. But, 2 germans and myself were the first people up at the crater (caught a ride with the park guides doing morning rounds. Good because it{s a long, hot walk otherwise). Wow. Imagine screeching green parrots in droves that live inside the crater on the rock walls, occasional silence during which you can hear the earth breathing. Strange clangs eminate from the center of the crater along with sufurous fog, and deep bellows of air sounding like an enormous smoking giant, puffing away. The indigenous people of ancient times used to throw human and animal sacrifices here to appease the angry gods, the conquistadors called it the very Gates of Hell, and supersticiously erected an enormous cross at the apex of the perimeter of the crater to exorcise the demons floating out. Nowadays, the park rangers just tell people to back into their parking spaces so that she blows, the getaway is quick. Generally, incandescent lava can be seen at the base of the crater, but the fume/fog was so thick today that I couldn't see any. Wow. I just felt so impressed to be there, to look out over the Nicaraguan plains and see smaller billows of smoke from other tiny pores (vents) in the earth's skin. This Earth we live on, she's alive!

¿Seguridad o carcel?

Well, I know I am safe at Hansell's house where we effectively live in jail, complete with guards 6pm-6am, thanks to the government and your hard earned tax dollars. I woke up late yesterday (after being jostled awake at 4am and again at 6am to an earthquake I somehow, in my sleepyfog, thought was Hansell making her bed and doing very roughly on the other side of the roughly that it was causing my whole room to shake) and left the house to go exploring on my own for a few days before meeting up with Hansell and Etienne this weekend. After carefully making sure I had all I needed for 5 days in my knapsack, I closed the house door behind me (*click*...locked out), closed the iron gate door to the house behind me (*clang*), closed the other iron gate door (*clang*), walked to the driveway gate and found that I was locked in. No going out. Perused the perimeter: 10-20ft tall walls topped by electric razor wire. That's a no-go. And, well, I just had to content myself to sit outside all day and wait for Hansell and her roommate to come home. Luckily, the pool was within the area that I was locked into, and I had my swimsuit in my pack. Several laps, chapters read, and a sunburn later, I heard the keys in the front gate lock jingling and sprinted to catch Jose before he disappeared behind many doors into the impenetrable house/jail. Just another day in Nicaragua, waiting. How apropos.

August 2, 2005

En Managua

I arrived in Managua yesterday to a holiday, Dia de Santo Domingo, and Hansell (a woman my age I met at Miranda's wedding who used to work at Bridges to Community, and now works at the US Embassy) took me along with her friends Ericka (a Nicaraguan guard at the Embassy), Etienne (a med student from Quebec), and Jaime (a Nicaraguan body guard to the US Ambassador) to the parade of horses. Over a thousand pure-bred horses with crazy complicated dance-like stepping are the supposed attraction, and while that was pretty neat, I think the real attraction was simply the excuse for thousands of Managuans to go out, be seen (if rich), sell trinkets or vend food (if not rich), and GET DRUNK (everyone). I had an amazing time people watching! Lemme tell you though, the combination of the heat, the sun, the crowd and the cerveza made me more than a little loopy. Whoooo! But, wonderfully, Hansell has been provided with a pool at her posh US Embassy house, so we lazed in the water when we returned. AND.... (I can't believe it still...) we ordered pizza, took warm showers, FLUSHED our toilets, went to bed in AIR CONDITIONED rooms. Very very posh. I am so amazed that all these things EXIST in Nicaragua.
In fact, yesterday I was just psyched about it. But today, I have ventured to a mall to use the internet, and I am rather perturbed by the fact that nearly everything that is available in the States is available in Nicaragua, but only if you have the money. The lifestyles and incomes of the people in Nicaragua are too vastly extreme to be fair. While it is funny to see the food court filled with business men and women in dapper suits rather than teenagers and rednecks, it's sad to me that the prices are expensive american prices, and that no one else could even dream of even walking into a place like this mall. Sad. I am getting ready to spend the next little while in places decidedly more touristy, and I wonder how this seed of insight will mature before I leave.

Ya lo terminá

My project is done. And I am glad for that. Because I was starting to get really annoyed by things that can’t be helped like my poor Spanish and the fact that the Campesinos speak something other than Spanish anyways (read: the equivalent of Stantonese as compared to the Queen’s English), Carlos and his damned radio on all the time, the fields and mountains of mud, slow moving horses through the mud, never knowing what EXACTly is going on and just having to be patient and hope everything works out, boots that don’t fit, etc. My Spanish is actually better these days. I can have a conversation with cabbies and with Carlos, and I generally understand most things even if it takes them several times of repeating and me searching my brain for what in the hell “vuelta” or “salgo” mean (what tense of what infinitive verb IS that?!). Now that I’m done, I will wait for the plane to leave to Managua on Monday or Tuesday, and spend a week visiting more touristy locations: Granada, Masaya, Ometepe. And then return home to re-appreciate things I forgot were luxuries like q-tips, salads without parasites, yogurt (pasteurized no less!), warm running clean water (each of those four words is a luxury), comfortable beds and quiet nights, washing machines.


There’s a med student named Ben here who did some work with a surgeon in Kenya and also worked here for 8 months on a water quality improvement project and is back to visit and check on the repercussions of his work—he happened to bring his pathology textbook with him and we had some fun looking up what the fuck is going on with my poor legs. Yes, it is impetigo, but it’s the advanced type, marked not just by pimplish things that weep honey colored crusties, but also by big blisters that you can see through to see tiny ropes of pus streaming into the weepage. Gross but totally fascinating. Terribly itchy but very contagious, so I can’t scratch them because getting the bacteria under my fingernails is the fastest way to spread it. The pustules—I think this is really interesting—are caused by a toxin made by the bacteria that separates the desmogoin molecule, which holds the layers of skin together. This is the difference between impetigo and pemphigus folliceaus, which is an autoimmune problem. Neat.
Finally found some antibiotics to treat it here in Managua. About damn time, it's nearly covering my legs, and all the Nicaraguense stare them. Funny, for once to be stared at for a reason other than simply being white. They joke that my legs are like the Sandanista flag: red (impetigo) and black (hairy). Thanks, guys, thanks. One of the pustules, I think, has caused a boil. It's right at the side of my knee and it really hurts. Hope it is relieved SOON!

Jungle Trail Ubiquities

Swallowtail butterflies swarm
Like bats against the daytime sky

Ants crusade, brandishing
Green-leaf dorsal fin blades

Bamboo, like fireworks, vault far from Earth
Then explode in your face to grab clothes and hair

Ass is saved from the saddle
By clenching buttcheeks

Howler monkeys argue yonder,
Always in earshot, never seen

Haunting heart-shaped leaves everywhere leer
Constant ironic reminders of inhospitability here

Yellow clouds of butterflies
Make shit appear gold.

Between Astounding Vistas

I arrive from an astounding vista,
Behind a tall curlyheaded prince
Who carries a gleaming spear.
No, that’s just his radio antenna.

Other things sparkle and gleam here too:
The people’s teeth, with their star or initials-in-gold inlay
And rubber boots, slick with mud.

¡Buena’! we call to the children who stare, silent
From thatched houses that go up in two days.
The pet love-birds answer us though.

We dismount and tie our beasts to a post.
The animal life here is as abundant as the plant life
Of the neighboring jungle, though not as verdant.

Dog skeletons walk around scavenging what they can
And wear scars of scolding scalding oil on their flea-bitten coats
From the woman who guards and never leaves her wood burning adobe stove.

She serves me cuajada, cheese from the cows, and rice with beans
But I sometimes swallow only my appetite as bald
Ugly chickens with occasional sparse feathers “cheep” by my feet.

Slingshots hang, alongside names written in charcoal
On the boards of this minifalda home, to shoot down mangoes.
Curly wire from an old notebook, too, for some future use.

The rain passes, the cows arrive, we tie one still,
I collect some blood, give my tests, mark her
Thank the jefe, bossman, mount again and ride off
Into another astonishing vista.

Mi favorito juego

My favorite game to play here is “How Many Times in One Month Can a Gringa Go Back and Forth Between Hormiguerro and Siuna While Still Getting Data from Outlying Communities”. Each week I have to change a little bit of American money in order to pay our guides ($6/day) and our horses, or bestias ($3 each/day). Somehow during my week-long Doing Nothing In Siuna Week, I never managed to find a place that was either a)open, or b)able to change a $50 bill. And so Monday morning I had to catch the truck out to Hormiguerro without any money to pay my weeks worth of “staff” with plans to return mid week and pay the guides the second half of the week.
Monday we went out to Consuelo, just Carlos and myself (Cristobal went defunct when he learned he wasn’t getting paid since he’s a student. Crappy), with our guide. This, certainly, has been the most intense ride out to any community thus far, which is saying a lot. Not just hillsides of mud, but steep mountains of mud for the horses to slip down. Three rivers to cross that were deep enough that just the very tip of the horses backs were out of the water. My horse, of course, stopped in the middle of one. All the spurring, whip cracking, and prodding, squeezing, yelling wouldn’t make her budge, so I had to jump off into the river, hold my backpack above my head and drag her to the other side with me. After the day of work, we walked from our guide’s house back to a building (couldn’t determine if it was a monastery or an empty health outpost. Could be both, I guess). That’s when the sole of one of my boots (the ones that were sprouting funguses) fell off. And then I got stuck in mud to my thighs. Tee hee! One less thing I have to carry home with me. They’ve served me well; I got them almost ten years ago when I went to Scotland. Always good to give the locals something to laugh at.
As I was walking on horseback between the fincas, looking out over the view, I saw trash in the mud, and cow shit if I looked down, but if I looked up I saw butterflies migrating (there are thousands, it’s really cool), amazing clouds and coconut trees and parrots and rainforest vines. So I decided to look up and imagine everything sparkling and new and pristine, pretend that I was a princess, walking through my kingdom on my fair white steed (fleabitten grey, sunburnt nag). Then I remembered the quote from Monty Python’s In Search of the Holy Grail:

“How’d you know he was King?”
“’e ‘asn’t got shit all over ‘im”

and decided, therefore, since I had shit all over myself, that I couldn’t be Princess afterall.
We stayed in Consuelo at the Monastery/Health post in our hammocks, which was surprisingly nice—No bugs because they (the bugs) don’t know to come there to chow on people since people usually don’t live there. Also, no animals there to attract bugs. The sound of the rushing river nearby was lovely too. This morning, we rode our horses through the rivers, mud (sometimes a half mile at a time) back to Torno, and I continued to Hormiguerro on horseback from whence I walked to Siuna (20 km). Had a drunk man give me a ride on his horse until I realized he wasn’t even GOING to Siuna, he was just giving me a ride to “keep me company”. He started asking me if I was married (I told him yes, and showed him the ring Dad gave me that I wore on purpose in case this exact situation arose), and telling me he loved me and that’s when I slipped off the horse, and profusely insisted that I was strong, didn’t need a ride, asked him to return to his finca, seriously. No, seriously, señor! He eventually left, insisting he was respectful, that he just felt sorry for me and wanted to show me that Nicaraguans take care of foreigners. I assured him I appreciated the gesture and, playing his own game, that I felt sorry for him missing a day of work on his finca. I walked 15 km and then got a lift on the back of a pickup truck for the last five. Changed my dollars for cordobas, and am now resting. (internet is closed, hence this message comes several days/over a week late).