Friday, November 23, 2012

The End. "Is this Real?"

God Bless America! Matt and I have been back on US soil for almost two full days--one being Thanksgiving--and I find myself constantly asking out loud "Is this real?" I am filled with wonder every time I use the bathroom or sit on a comfortable chair or couch. Beds and pillows are nothing short of amazing. The highway is glorious and TV is strange. Food is amazing--absolutely amazing--at every bite--and I find myself overwhelmed by the options and choices each new day brings along. Showers-with their running hot water are just about my favorite part of each day--and I have found that tears come to eyes easily over the simple things. Seeing family is by far and away the very best part of any homecoming and this is no exception--saying "good-bye" and knowing that it is just until tomorrow or maybe next month is a refreshing change from the teary eyed exchanges over the past 2 years and 3 months. There is an opposite side to all of this, I know, and of course, it weighs heavy in my heart---and that is the thought of Nicaraguan friends and family. Thanks to technology--it will be easier than ever before to stay in touch with everyone--but it is simply not the same. My host mom has been appearing in my dreams-and I awake with her on my mind often...perhaps it is time to buy a calling card. Every now and then, as I am lying on an amazing soft bed, or brushing my teeth with clean, running water at a bathroom sink--I get flashes of my everyday life in Nicaragua--standing outside to brush my teeth--awaking to the tickle of our mosquito net and squealing pigs and crowing roosters-- The last few weeks in the country were intense--and exhausting. I feel somewhat emotionally drained. We had 4-5 "despedidas" or going away parties. My eighth graders and seventh graders each threw me a party and gave me gifts--some of them grabbing things from their homes at the last minute--teachers were taking earrings out of their own ears to give me as they said good-bye---we were fed and fed and fed in true hospitable Nica-style--and the night before we left our little pueblo--we had a dinner and all night long dance party at our host family's house. I cried during a few especially difficult good-byes--never knowing if I could fully express how much the sincere friendship of a few especially close Nica friends, family members, and co-workers meant to me. Hugging my host nieces and nephews--my little kid friends---well, after 2 years, it's just hard.... We left our little town and our host sister, husband, and one of their kids drove us to Managua--and then stayed with our training host family nearby. It was so neat to see our one family meet our other family--we got a snapshot of us all together and I will treasure it forever. I know in my heart that we will return to visit---I just don't know when. Peace Corps is truly a one of a kind experience. And although there are parts I wish I could erase or change--I don't think I would ever take it back.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


At the end of your typical non typical medical visit--you are invited to stay one more day in order to judge the National English Singing Competition. Gotta love Peace Corps (-: Now, to make sure our clothes are in good enough shape to appear on tv.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

PILLOWS. and your "typical" medical check up

Pillows...mmmmm So we are in Managua for our close of service medical check up. This means we do get to stay in a pretty luxurious hotel for a night or two--you know, running hot water and AC (Whhhhaaatttt?!) and PILLOWS! I woke up this morning thinking "why is this so amazing? i mean besides the obvious factors of sleeping with a blanket and the welcome anticipation of a hot shower---the answer--PILLOWS! I slept with TWO of them last night and feel like a queen! Maybe I should explain a bit about pillows here in Nica-land: they are tough to come by....and usually consist of lumpy balls tossed inside a bag of sorts--think sleeping on rolled up socks or something--in fact, i have many a Nica friend that don't even use pillows. It's weird to think that back home people have pillows everywhere they don't even use--they are "decorative"---that's gonnna be strange....people throw their pillows onto the ground at night (why are you treating your pillows like that!?) and then pile them on the next day....anyways, sleeping with two, firm, pillows last night was a thrilling experience! -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Typical PC medical check there such a thing? Is anything typical during PC service? maybe just that nothing is typical---that's typical... Ok, so your end of service med stuff is a whirlwind of --general physical exam, getting stuck with 2 needles--one a blood test the other a test for Tubercuculosis (sp?), you go to the dentist, the girl doctor, provide a urine sample and everyone's favorite--good 'ol poo in a cup three days in a do all of this in TWO DAYS and a morning. In addition, you are expected to squeeze in every administrative task you may need to get done while in the big city= a little hectic. This time in particular, the taxis in the big city decided to go on strike--resulting in mild protests in the street/street closures etc. So for safety reasons, I had to be carted around by private PC vehicles which is pretty luxurious in and of itself--but crummy in that because there are so few drivers you just have to arrive maybe 2.5 hours early to some appointments and stay an hour or two late at others waiting for the drivers...meaning you miss administrative appointments back at the office and constantly juggling to reschedule them all whilst thinking about those fecal samples you have to turn in at some point in the next two days....note: supposedly these samples are only good for an hour-hour and a half--so even if i wanted to carry them around while being carted from doctor to doctor--I couldn't be sure they would still be acceptable....hmmm many of you may be saying "ew" right now. I do apologize if this is too much information! Being desensitized to this kind of conversation is a result of my time here and possibly should be a requirement for joining! -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nearing the End.

Wow, I cannot believe September is coming to a close! -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Very important things that happened since last post: MY MOM CAME TO QUILALI!!! That's right, she took 5 days out of her life--3 of them pretty much purely dedicated travel days, to spend about 36 hours in Quilali. Ok, so I invited her to the Bottle Classroom Inauguration and she came! It was so amazing to have my Mom here--to see her see my life--and hug all my Nica friends and family. She met almost everyone in her short visit-the language barrier didn't matter--she was received like a rock star everywhere we went and was fed a lot (pretty common in Nica Land). She saw both of my high schools and met fellow professors, principals, the mayor of Quilali, my project construction foreman, most of my students, my best friends, my counterparts, fellow Peace Corps Volunteers and bosses, and my Nica family. She sat in my living room furniture (hammock) and slept under our mosquito net--she bathed using a bucket and cold water--made coffee using a cheese cloth and washed the dishes outside with the mountains as her backdrop. Mom, you are so awesome. It was sad to see her go, and more than a month later, people are still talking about her!!! -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Luckily, we went straight into a Close of Service Conference so I was distracted! It was great to see all the other volunteers that arrived 2 years ago--it is very rare indeed that we are all together. We evaluated and made suggestions for our sector specific programs and also talked about DUHN DUHN DUHN THE FUTURE!!! Including the job search and grad school---resumes, interviews, etc... One thing I really liked hearing was that as well intentioned as loved ones may be upon your arrival---you do not have to accept an immediate job offer that your heart isn't in---our boss did a great impression of a mom running to meet you at the plane, giving you maybe 2 days to relax and then waving a bunch of job applications in your face...This is NOT to say that if you really and truly think you know of a great job opportunity for me Not to tell me about it!!! Just know that I am on top of my future! -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Which is----applying for Graduate School. I admit it, I am sort of intimidated at the prospect of school after a long hiatus, but feel pretty strongly it's the right choice. I won't go on too much, but it has been challenging applying from Nicaragua, especially Quilali. The frequent power outages, hot weather (no AC), no post office for hours, and tricky transportation situations combined with trying to stay at least somewhat present in my life here add up to a somewhat stressful situation. I feel like every time I sit down at a computer to work on a resume or aspiration statement the power decides to go out...or the free time I have in the day is during the absolute hottest part---when it's tough to be motivated to do much of anything....I also have this fear that due to our crummy roads and the rainy season--I might not even physically be able to get to Managua to take the GRE when the date arrives.....*sigh* -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I had a great morning today. The owner of the little store by our house gave me a hand made bracelet and my neighbor gave me challa--a vegetable that grows in her yard. Friends are coming over for dinner at our house--if it doesnt rain and the power stays on---and time is flying. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I expect a more reflective entry is on its way, as the end is so so very near (flying to USA on Nov. 21/leaving Quilali November 12). The weight of insurance, jobs, school, rent, bills, and all the additional responsibilities of being a privileged citizen of the us of a is growing....... -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I already get teary eyed talking of our departure with so many Nica family and friends...I am proud, very proud, of my time here as a volunteer, teacher, friend, and community member--part of my heart will stay here... But i REALLY CANT wait to hug so many people and see so many faces back home! Less than 2 months. Pretty crazy.

Friday, August 10, 2012

A long, but EXCITING ramble!

ok so it feels exciting to me... AUGUST!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Unbelievable! Let me say Happy Birthday to so many family and friends in August—both American and Nicaraguan!!! I just watched a movie and within it “it’s a Wonderful Life” was mentioned and a few scenes shown—it made me teary eyed for home. No one in my entire town has ever heard of it, that’s for sure. No matter how much I have adapted to being here, there remain some things that just hit so close to home. Home. We will be home in about 3 months and a week or so! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx The other volunteer who lives in our town, Nishant, had his family come visit from the USA this past wknd.—his parents, aunt and uncle and their two kids along with another lovely PC Volunteer, Lauren. It was an incredible thing to view my town and life through their new, fresh eyes. Things I see every day and don’t even notice anymore are worthy of a picture and exclamation…We all went out to our host family’s farm which required a ride on one of the infamous chicken busses (and not to disappoint there was indeed a live chicken on the bus), walking on foot, crossing the river via long boat, and a 45 minute horseback ride. Our host family’ extended family that lives out in this community managed to find 9 horses from neighbors and other family so that each of us had our own horse. Once at the farm, we ate and ate and ate---almost all the food freshly picked or killed right there on the property. We shucked and grilled the corn growing there---ate the fresh beans and cheese produced—and watched as 2 chickens were picked out, killed, and cooked for our afternoon soup. I was so impressed with Nishant’s family—they remained in good spirits all day and thoroughly enjoyed themselves---the kids jumped right in and played with all the Nicaraguan kids—despite the language barrier. At the end of their visit, his family gave some gifts to our host family and we translated a bit—about how our host mom cares for all of us like her own children…Of course, this also made me teary-eyed. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx It is events like these that I hold dear to my heart. To me, it is the essence of Peace Corps-especially the second and third goals of the program. (Have I mentioned these? Well, basically Peace Corps in general in every country in the world where we have a presence has 3 main goals: 1- Provide technical, professional training in an area where it is needed and requested 2- share USA Culture with our foreign counterparts/communities 3- share the culture of our host country with everyone back home) Of course, watching Nishant with his family made me a bit envious and I wished my family had been there too! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Not much new news to report. I am still waiting to see if the Principal and other folks will confirm the official date for the Bottle Classroom Inauguration. But, it is out of my hands. The science fair is this week—and the group of kids that built a model house using the bottle method will be presenting. They were also invited to a competition in a larger city via “INTUR”, Nicaragua’s tourism office—in order to share their project. The professor who is helping these students also wants to build fence of sorts using the eco-ladrillos (bottles!) around one of the oldest trees at my other school. They used our project proposal and budget to help with their project. All of this also fills my heart with happiness! Matt and I ate dinner in the park last night and as we sat down to the table, a man I didn’t recognize asked me if the Bottle Classroom was finished---I finally got to smile and say “YES, YES IT IS!” xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx SIDE STORY: Everything was going SO WELL this week (ok it was only Tuesday night)—and by this I mean: The water came on Sunday morning—we got a full tank so I could do my laundry and clean my house, the power finally seemed to be on and be somewhat stable, we managed to get 2 new jugs of filtered drinking water---basic living needs CHECK!! Then yesterday we went to start cooking dinner on our gas stove---and surprise-GAS ALL OUT finally….all the stores that sell propane tanks were closed for the night-so we climbed the hill from our house up to the park (one of two places you can eat at night in town) and while we were there a HUGE storm rolled in….I mean HUGE! We got stuck at the park for about an hour and a half…waiting for the rain to pass….it never did…there are 3 taxis in our town and it seems that by 8pm they are all finished working for the day….so at about 8:10, we decided to just walk home in the rain and lightning…would have been fine, except the power was out (of course—happens almost every time it rains…) So we ran/walked home in a huge thunder/lightning storm using the light from the rays of lightning to guide our way….we had to stop between lightning bursts because we could no longer see anything….I definitely fell climbing down the small dirt path that leads to our neighborhood….but once we got to our “road” a neighbor came to their window and shined a light for us until we were safe inside our house….Really though, we laughed all the way home and enjoyed getting drenched! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Peace Corps gives us this sheet that breaks our time here down into chunks and lists things we may be experiencing and the feeling that may accompany them---currently these things include: TRAUMA OF DEPARTURE, BRIDGING THE IDENTITY OF YOUR POST PEACE CORPS SELF WITH NEW SELF ONCE HOME, REDEFINING CAREER GOALS, Hmmm what does this mean? The feelings that may accompany this: anxiety, fright, panic, obsessive planning and scheduling. CHECK CHECKCHECKCHECKCHECK How can it be traumatizing to go home? Oh the endless cultural differences—the expectations other people have for you—the lack of understanding or interest in what you just did with 2 years and 3 months of your life—the impossible task of fully explaining what just happened to you over the past 2 years and 3 months—putting toilet paper in the toilet—flush toilets everywhere—CARS, highways…driving…etc. But more than anything, the common and never-ending question—“So, what’s your plan now?” Almost as if the past 2 years and three months didn’t happen—or happened without consequence. Maybe I would like to take a moment to process, to readjust. I understand it is just a logical, appropriate question---but I still have 3 months to go here and I am already sort of weary of answering it….Matt and I sometimes joke about seeing who can give the most outrageous answer every time we get this question---lion tamer, underwater aerobics instructor, etc. The truth is, we will have a transition phase, and then use all the skills and knowledge acquired during this experience to seek out fulfilling job and or educational opportunities. *sigh* I have more specifics, but I feel like I have prattled on long enough. Underwater aerobics instructor does sound pretty cool though, right?

Friday, July 20, 2012

"Normal" Day

Another One of Those Days… xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxThat sort of leaves you breathless at the end…in slight awe of the day you just experienced even though it was “normal”. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Quick summary up to said day (which was yesterday): matt with dengue fever-recovered-friend from AK came to visit-vacation-julie fell ill with parasite/amoeba combo-return to our town-work on classroom—they finished putting in the floor-only missing the paint!-dinner party with Nica friends in our house-a couple days of class-practicing singing “The Rivers of Babylon” with some students for an English singing competition and then vacation again (sort of like a Spring Break this week in Nicaragua). xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Yesterday: we left town in order to visit matt’s old host family from training—about a ten hour trek normally involving 4 busses..our host brother in law offered us a ride in a truck for the first leg—which would normally last about 5 hours in an old school bus—we took the offer of course (-: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx We left at 5 am. The roads are dirt and winding through the mountains that are covered with the morning fog—everything is green now—we also dodge herds of cattle, ox-driven carts,pigs, packs of dogs and straying chickens. Matt gets car sick. We pause about an hour into our trip to have breakfast with more family members that live along the way---fresh cheese, beans, cream and tortillas and hot mountain coffee. After about an hour, we continue in the truck—matt is now riding the in the bed of the truck with a young boy on his way to the clinic—it rains-matt gets wet. Inside the truck, the passengers include myself, a young woman, our host brother in law, his mom, another older woman, and a little girl. We talk all the way into town—I listen to stories about how the rainy season has changed and how it used to be that in order to dry your clothes you had to hang them over open fires… xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxWe arrive to the next big town about 3.5 hours after we left our town—this including an hour stop for breakfast. Our host brother in law refuses to accept gas money. Matt feels better. At the bus station we see another volunteer—he is finished with his service and heading back to the United States—we are getting on the same bus. On the bus we meet a man who asks if we are peace corps volunteers (it’s pretty obvious as you listen the 3 us ramble on…) Turns out, he was a volunteer in Nicaragua back in 1998—when Hurricane Mitch hit. He is also the author of the guidebook I have for Nicaragua—the book that almost all volunteers use…I had read his bio several times over and seen his smiling face in the back of my book for almost 2 years…he is heading in the same direction as us, and we change busses together. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx On the next bus, there is a flat screen TV connected to a DVD player, though it is a very old school bus. “Little Rascals” is playing in Spanish. The author continues his conversation with us until the bus is too full to chat across the aisle (people have filled all the seats and all the aisle space—elbows and feet pressing into my skin). He is super down to earth and fascinating to talk to—he returns to Nicaragua every year and still visits his old host family—though he is passing his guide book responsibilities on to fresh blood. I begin to talk to the woman next to me—turns out, she is a friend of matt’s old host family-where we are headed. Nicaragua is a small place. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx We arrive at 1pm to the old host family’s host. This is about 2 hours earlier than usual—only an 8 hour trip! And one hour was for breakfast (-: I immediately feel right at home—we are fed a huge lunch of gallo pinto, chicken, tomatoes, rice, and banana slices along with fresh juice. We talk and talk and talk—it has been awhile since our last visit. The kids are so different. People have new jobs—there is new news. I sleep a little but it’s hot. Matt stays awake. We don’t leave the house all day—different family members pass through-we sit in rocking chairs and stay up until 10 or so talking. Thursday is a holiday here—celebrating the Revolution—when the Somoza dictatorship was overthrown finally. Our host mom and aunt talk some about the civil war here—it is intense. They tell of times when there were gunshots fired next door and they had to lie on mattresses on their floor in the house where we sit in talking…they tell a story about a woman and her two children decapitated with machetes…they tell us about bullet holes we can still see in a hotel in the town center about lost family members and 6pm curfews….we listen. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx The conversation eventually changes…onto the future—and the possibility, narrow as it may be, of some of them visiting us in the United States one day…my heart fills up with emotions as we hug and kiss each of them goodnight and fall into the bed in the room they always give to us when we visit…Sometimes I wonder if they could ever know how much they mean to me…. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx And it’s days like these I absolutely love being a peace corps volunteer. Exhausted but content. A day filled with meeting new people and listening. Less than 4 months. I think the end will be intense.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Baggies for Horse Poop?

Bet that one got your attention! XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX I wrote a blog entry for June already. It was boring. Now there is this one. Just about today and some conversations. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX Today I went paseando, or just to hang out, in the communities by my school out in the middle of nowhere. I also went to my school to check out the progress of the Bottle Classroom—slow going. One man working---not even the Foreman was present….but that could be a whole other boring entry in and of itself. The project will get finished, although it will probably take twice as long, at least, as we thought. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX So my Nica friend and I were traveling along the winding dirt road in the mountains so she could do her job—basically collect money people owe a bank of sorts that exists in our town (bill collector!) Needless to say, she wasn’t 100% successful. But we also stopped at 3 or 4 houses along the way to visit friends in the countryside. I drank 4 cups of coffee, ate 5 baked goods, drank a glass of Mango juice, and was fed a huge plate of beans, eggs, fresh cuajada (local cheese) and tortillas. I held a 15 day old baby for 20 minutes and met some of the parents of some of my students (spread out among various houses). I was gone for 7 hours. I had wanted to get some surveys for my project filled out at the school, but there wasn’t really class today---even though teachers would tell you that of course, of course there was school today---the students just left after 2 hours. But that is really not the point, and well, frankly, happens all the time. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX One of the best conversations I had was about the difference in how we treat animals in the US and how they are treated here. They think we are absolutely insane and indulgent—while any one of you reading this (unless you too are living here) would probably think all Nicas are animal abusers. I mean, in this country, I have seen perhaps 2 dogs ever walked---on a leash—and not in my town. There are 0 rules about animal droppings—and the streets often turn into rivers of the brown stuff after a good rain---coming from dogs, pigs, horses, donkeys, ox, etc. If a dog or cat gets sick, they die. Or maybe they are shot. People do not buy pet food. Dogs are hissed at and often hit with brooms, sticks or rocks when they enter a “people” room. And certainly, certainly, no one here has ever heard of a boarding house for animals! (*note some of these generalizations may not be true in the larger, more tourist cities). Now, considering all that, imagine Nicaraguans learning for the first time today about animals in the USA---that dogs and cats often sleep IN A BED or on a SOFA!!!?? (Items many of them do not own themselves…). Imagine their eyes as they hear for the first time that in the USA you can be fined MONEY and expected to pay if you do not pick up your animal’s poop??!!! This is followed by an account of a friend of friend who paid 1,000USD to take their sick pet to the vet—more money than they have probably spent on a doctor for themselves or their children in their entire lives…Top if off with the idea that Doggie hotels and Daycares exist---some people put sweaters on their dogs and they ride INSIDE the cars----well, they were slapping their knees and nearly rolling on the ground laughing. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX Hold back judgment. That is a big, big part of all of this. Are we better because we put our animals in people clothes and let them sleep inside? I just can’t believe that. But we are different. Our situations are different, our environments are different, so many things are different that to judge without putting in the time or effort to understand the differences just feels wrong. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX Another difference we discussed—being married with kids in the US usually means that particular man won’t have children with a different woman outside of his marriage, or if he does, it is met with some backlash. I learned today that while some people sort of frown upon that here, it is widely accepted and does indeed happen (ok I already knew that but this time I am closer to the situation). It could be that the man and his previous “wife” were actually never officially married, or they were, but paying for a divorce is too expensive (actually, come to think of it, I have never heard of ANYONE getting divorced here—they just leave and start a new family…) That is to say that, before we judge, it is important to at least try and understand why things are as widely accepted here as they are. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX This is advice I am trying to take from myself all the time. It is working a little. But I think it is pretty important. Tolerance. A willingness to consider a perspective that may make you uncomfortable at first. Yup, I am working on it. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX Ok that’s it. School feels sort of over, even though the first semester doesn’t end until next month. The Bottle Classroom is slowing down, but will probably be finished before I leave. We started an adult English class—it is cancelled almost every week due to rain or power outages. I still play basketball with kids on Saturday mornings. We have a bunch of formal reports due soon. I am hot and tired often, though today was a good day. I am overwhelmed just a bit, thinking about GRAD school, and due dates, and references and resumes and the GRE etc. while trying to be present in my life here. And I kind of like streets without animal droppings in them—does that make me a snob? (-: But really, have you ever seen horse poop? And can you imagine bagging it?