Thursday, 28 July 2011

Stirred but not Shaken

So there's a lot that's been happening since the last time I posted and now.
Last Saturday I went to Ganacha on that special workshop I was talking to you about. Ganacha is a sort of artist town and is a cooperative that makes artisanal ceramics and gardens and provides retreats. FUNARTE hosts kids' workshops every Saturday but this Saturday they wanted the kids to get out of the city, explore some nature and show off some of their art. It was also a way for some parents to come along and have some parent-children time together. It was a really nice time out and now I've come to realize the stark differences between being in a city, even if it's small, and outside of it.

I've forgotten to mention the FOOD! La Comida! Well, it's good. Their cheese grilled in a tortilla is my favourite, along with plantain chips and fried and boiled plantain. My host mother makes a delicious vegetable and chicken soup on Sundays. But the best thing is the little bags of snacks that are everywhere on the streets - a small bag that has like 15 cheesesticks, for example, for 2 Cordobas (about 10 cents). For those of you who know how I eat, this is perfect for a snacker like me. There's also some buns I eat every morning that have the perfect combination of salty and sweet. Most buns in Canada and even Hong Kong-type buns are too sweet. These have a hint of cinnamon and the slightest bit of crystallized honey or sugar near the bottom and the rest is a light, fluffy, not-too-buttery bun. So good.

The public buses here are the same models as school buses. The buses come pretty frequently. You can get on in the front or back but sometimes you have to stand during the ride. A ride costs 3 Cordobas. Like a train in the olden days, there are fare collectors who come along during the ride and collect the fare. I love these fare collectors and I would love to make a documentary about them. They are also the ones who hang onto the back door of the bus and see if there is anyone at a particular stop. They whistle to the bus driver at the front if someone wants to get on or off. They are very good at remembering who has paid a fare and who hasn't. They have a really busy and energetic job and they go through these lively streets every day for I don't know how many times a day. But it must not be good for their lungs because the exhaust pipe is right next to them all day.
Taxis are flagged down and shared with others who are going the same way.

Finally, Toronto FC is playing against Estelí. The moment I heard this, I bought a ticket. Up until now, Estelí's football club has not had any money to host or go to any foreign matches. But according to my source, FIFA took a look at Estelí's stadium and said yup, it's big enough, and out of all the football teams in the world, Toronto will be the first foreign team playing here! I am so excited.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

This is How it Goes

We have crazy next door neighbours and I was always wondering who lived there. Well last Saturday I found out. On the Liberation holiday of Esteli, I went next door for a baby shower. The moment I entered I was put into a contest against a stranger. I had to drink-chug Coke from a baby bottle. I do not like pop but eventually I won!

On the Independence Day of the country, another holiday, I went to my counterpart's friend's (and by extension my friend) farm. There were many dogs, a chicken, papaya (?) trees and more. It was at least a day out of the fumes and smoke and dust and sand of the city.

Esteli is really modern in all its conveniences. The only thing that really reminds me that I'm in a country in the South is its frequent blackouts. For about a week there was a blackout every night and for one day the electricity and water wasn't working for the whole city for the morning and afternoon. Another Canadian in my group who is interested in urban development told me that India is really good at building cities, but not good at implementing basic infrastructure.

This Saturday I was selected to be part of a group who will be going out of Esteli (I haven't been out of the city for 3 weeks) to help conduct an adult art workshop. We'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Waiting and Hopping

Hello dear friends. We meet again. Did you know that the words ‘to wait’ (esperar) and ‘hope’ (esperanza) have the same root in Spanish?

The most curious thing about Nica is that all the buildings are open to the air, al fresco. It doesn’t matter if it pours buckets of rain every day. They let the rainwater indoors then just mop it up later. Very close to nature.

The mosquitoes are still biting everyday, but the good news is that my stomach is more and more agreeing to gallo pinto and the diet of beans and rice than before. My 2 weeks here has confirmed my love for thunderstorms, disproved my love for cities (car fumes are bad).

I am staying in Esteli, a place of about 100,000 people that has 180 murals around the city. 300 if people hadn’t erased them from before. The oldest mural is one by the founders of FUNARTE, the organization I’m working for. It is along the wall of the miitary and it is very grand. There’s a lot of motion and emotion in the mural. And our team will be painting one son enough!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Nicaraguense mashup

I am not partisan to any Nicaraguan politics (yet!), but here is a campaign spot for the FSLN pary that I saw on tv for the election this November:

It may seem to you that this blog is becoming an ad for wikipedia and youtube links!

Estelí, Estelíta

I am writing to you from Esteli. I don't go on the Internet as much as I thought I would so I'll make this succint: Another week of Spanish classes and art classes and after that I will be placed in a public school to sort of guide children through selfesteem inducing art.

I am eating foods that before I only ate with my family like dragon fruit and taro and chaote. It's pretty cool to see these foods being used elsewhere too.

I am picking up Spanish surprisingly quickly, gallo pinto is good but there are many beans and you know what beans make you do (not what you'd think), the weather is cooler than I thought, and I learned one thing so far: in movies, roosters crow only in the morning but in reality they can keep you up all night with their crowing, especially if they on the other side of the wall where you sleep. I'm thinking there are two roosters because there's a crow with a particular fundamental frequency (F0) and then a higher pitched crow following that. There are no streetlights but somehow all the traffic manages to be controlled at intersections. There are dogs all over the streets but I don't touch them because they might have rabies! Both dogs and cats, even as pets, are very skinny. Normal sized Canadian pets are obese compared to these!

Finally there is so much street life. Here people live closer to, what can I say, a more natural way of life. At my homestay I have to relearn everything from the beginning. Instead of throwing clothes into a laundry machine, instead of having differences in air pressure powered by electricity suck up the dust, instead of electric stoves, they use more of their hands, less water and less electricity. I feel so incompetent and my counterpart laughs at me because I don't know how to do much.