Visit Home, Brothers Visit

Run-up to my trip

In the weeks prior to my visit home for Tyler’s graduation I was pivoting a lot in my work to try to develop stable relationships despite my immanent trip and tie up a number of administrative loose ends. I finished up the intensive two-week course that I was helping to teach for the local university about 10 days before my trip. That was a learning experience, for sure. It was a very positive experience for the students, but the University essentially made a handy profit from my and my fellow volunteers’ free labor. At least we assume that it did, because they were very opaque and not forthcoming about their finances despite charging the students exorbitant fees. It happens to be a private university, so my understanding is that it is a for-profit institution. I will not be teaching for them again for several reasons, the most important of which is my role as a teacher trainer, which means that I will be willing to support other teachers if they want to teach a similar course, but by teaching it myself I am not helping build sustainable capabilities here.

The two-week university course participants

Then, before I left I reconnected with my counterpart teachers after an absence caused by my work with the university course. Things went well, but I felt a bit guilty for leaving so soon. I felt like I wasn’t able to be as dependable as I was used to in my previous site. Also before leaving I had to write a couple of reports about the work I’d done so far this year, one for official Peace corps international records,and the other for our local ministry of education representative. Luckily I had more free time to take care of these things and was able to exercise more regularly and even compete in a 6k road race. I came in second place, only about 5 seconds behind the winner, though my time of 19:51 is much too fast for the race to have been the full 6k. Two days before my trip home, however, discomfort struck in the form of devious microorganisms. I was laid up for a day and a half, but quickly consulted a doctor, had some tests, and began taking antibacterial and antiparasite drugs that cleared things up just in time for my marathon 24 hour trip home.

My visit to the states

I cannot imagine having a nicer time than I had in my 8 days home. Travel went remarkably smoothly and my parents met both me and Tyler’s French host parents in the Chicago airport around 11 pm on Wednesday and dad and I chatted about politics and economics for much of the ride home. We slept in and had a lovely lazy day at home. I felt enveloped in a cocoon of memories, comfort, food, and sub-90 degree weather. The only downside was being reminded of my airborne allergies, which struck with a vengeance until I also remembered that Claritin works great. Friday morning we packed up and left for Minnesota after mom and I got in a nice run together. I’ve gotta say that I am thankful to have somewhat adapted to running in Nicaragua because now, comparatively, running in the states is like running on a planet that has less friction, less gravity, and more oxygen in the atmosphere. We met Tyler and Jon when we got to Northfield and began an afternoon of faculty receptions, presidential picnics, and a bit of sightseeing through Carleton’s new Arts Union. The highlight of my day was when Amanda was able to meet me after finishing with her school responsibilities in New Prague. It was an immense relief to see her and be with her again. This second year has been unexpectedly more difficult than the first year was, so I’m glad that we’re getting time to spend together and I’ll be coming home in less than 6 months.

The family of the graduate.

Together at the family and friends reunion and picnic in Minneapolis.

Breakfast with Tyler’s French host family.

From there it was a relaxed flurry of good food, time with family, watching Tyler graduate, having a really fun graduation party in Minneapolis with the families of Tyler’s college friends, and then a wonderful breakfast and family reunion picnic lunch on Sunday. I went home with my family that night while Amanda went back to New Prague, MN, and Monday was spent catching up with a couple of friends, going for a bike ride, napping, and greeting Amanda again when she caught up with me that evening. We had a huge traditional Wisconsin meal and bonfire to send off our French guests, and then they left Tuesday morning for the airport. I went with Amanda down to Madison to spend some time with her family and on Wednesday we met up with Jon so that he and I could begin our trip to Chicago and on to Nicaragua.

The BoddySpargo brothers in Nicaragua

We arrived in Chicago at about 12 AM and got on a train to take us to where Tyler was already staying. He met us at about 2 AM and walked us to his friend’s house. Two hours of sleep later we went out to the pre-arranged taxi, arrived at the airport, and had a smooth, though bleary, trip through Miami to Managua. We stopped through the Peace Corps office and then went down to Granada, a beautiful colonial-era city to spend two nights. We went ziplining through the forest and took a boat tour of the islands off the shore of Granada that was really cool.

Ziplining near Mombacho volcano.

Tyler and I stumbled across this crab halfway up the Maderas volcano. Apparently there are mountain crabs as well as aquatic crabs!

Bros on a boat.

Next we took a longer-than-expected journey to Ometepe, where Tyler and I climbed Maderas volcano and Jon rented a moped. We also spent time at the beach and the Ojo de Agua, a natural-spring-fed swimming hole. Then we took the overnight ferry (12 hours) from the island all the way down to my current site, but Jon and Tyler didn’t really enjoy this part. First of all, they were both sunburned and the hammocks we had purchased were merciless to the skin. Secondly, Jon came down with food poisoning and suffered all through the night and the next day. Jon rested in a nice hotel with A/C so he would be comfortable and we started him on antibiotics. He was perkier by that evening. We watched the fourth Heat/Thunder basketball game that night over pizza and slept well.

On Jon’s last day in Nicaragua we took a two hour boat ride to an old Spanish fort along the river, though we had only two hours before the last boat left to take us back, so the trip was more river-watching than anything else. We grabbed a few hours of sleep before Jon had to take the 2 AM bus to Managua for his 2:30 PM flight the next day. Darn inconvenient bus schedules. The tricky part was that I was sending him alone. In the middle of the night. In a country where he doesn’t speak the language and doesn’t have a cell phone. I hadn’t planned on doing this, but when I realized that accompanying him would have required me to ride a bus for almost 14 hours and the only thing he needed me for was to tell him to get off in front of the airport, I decided that instead I would give him some notecards with instructions and Spanish translations if he were to run into trouble and to befriend the bus driver so that he would get off at the right stop. Luckily, all went according to plan, and after a long day and night of travel, he arrived safe and sound back in Wisconsin.

Up to the present

Tyler stayed with me, but I had to start getting back to work. It never felt like I really had time to get settled in my new site before I went home anyways, so it has been difficult to try to re-insert myself. I think this move so late in my time here has made it more psychologically challenging to invest as completely as I had on Ometepe. I know that I have very little time here and, especially after visiting home this time, I miss my family, friends, and Amanda more than ever. These next five months will be an exercise in patience and focus. Luckily, I really do have a good site and I think once I begin to slowly develop routines and deeper relationships with my counterparts and other people in my city the pangs of homesickness will subside again.

Amanda and I at Tyler’s graduation.

In the meantime I can throw myself into planning with my counterparts, preparing for a series of workshops that I’ll be doing with a small-business volunteer for workers in the tourism sector, and helping support the university in developing another two-week speaking course curriculum. Then, of course, there’s the excitement of Amanda’s visit this week. Not that it will help me want to be more present in my work, but since it will be mid-year vacations for school anyways, it will be a great way to ease myself into my work here again after spending time in the US and with my bros.

More to come soon! Thanks for reading.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kathy Haskin on July 3, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Andrew, It was great to see you and your family in Mpls. I love reading your blog with all of your thoughts on life, in general. I hope you keep it up as you go through your young life. Your thinking style is great and your processing is wonderful to see. Love, Aunt Kathy

    Reply

  2. Andrew,

    Thanks for catching me up on the BoddySpargos.

    Yes, it must be very hard to start over again at a new site. Getting used to a site is hard enough when the country and work are new and exciting, you’re full of energy and looking forward to learning the language and culture. It must be easier to notice how much work all of that is the second time around, when you’re less blinded by the “newness endorphins.” It sounds as though you have a good plan for how to gear up and be a stellar PCV in the new place, too. Good for you!

    Cindy

    Reply

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