Jaime went surfing a couple of days ago and someone stole his flip flops while he was in the water. So he’s walking around flip-flop-less. He was mounting his bike to ride home the other day and I said, pobrecito Jaime, you don’t have any shoes! And he just goes… aah it’s cool! No worries! And goes off on his merry way. I’m realizing that this is such a Nicaraguan attitude. No worries, dude. Due to their tumultuous history, this attitude is certainly a survival mechanism, but in any case, it’s a hearty folk here, undeterred by most obstacles. I am trying to cultivate this attitude myself.
Sigue lloviendo. It keeps raining. For my first several weeks, the rainstorms were certainly impressive, but they were occasional. Foolishly, I thought—the rainy season isn’t really all that rainy. Ha. September and October are apparently the real rainy season, when it rains for days and houses flood. The sheer magnitude of water falling from the sky is impressive. A storm wandered in from the pacific and decided to hang out for several days to surf and try some Nica beer, because it’s been quite drippy since Monday. So drippy that it has created rivers where there was emptiness, molded the landscape, changed the color of the ocean even. I awoke Thursday to see that the usually brilliant blue coastline was a pale brown-blue, an actually very nice pastel color. This pastel color met the clear blue of a normal ocean in a very distinct line, the line where the muddy shallow water met the clean, dark ocean. The rain acts as a giant enima for the land, flushing out mud and garbage and the ocean receives much of this waste. I’ve read people describe Nicaraguan rains as acting as a cleansing agent, purifying the world and offering a fresh, clean start. This they certainly do. But, alternatively, the rains also unearth the proverbial garbage swept under the rug. And they unearth quite literal garbage, garbage that was hidden politely now lies scattered over roads and on the beach. I ventured off Brio property this afternoon for the first time since the grand week o’ rain began for a run along Amarillo, the next beach over from Gigante. Within ten steps along the road to Gigante, I could sense the changes. It is a changed road, its divots and crevasses molded and knarled to a different tune than they were before (something you notice astutely when you’re running). The beach was stunningly changed. It was a different beach—its colors, shape, the waves and the sand. Compared to the pristine, calm sand and the rolling waves, this beach looked post-apocalyptic. Whereas the water looked calm and pastel from above, down on the windy beach, it was pale and chaotic, reflecting, it seemed, the cloudy grey skies above. I run through and around logs and branches scattered, mud washed ashore, shampoo bottles and potato chip bags. I passed a very odd and ugly group of black birds, picking through waste, their wings outstretched as the waddled around—vultures, I later learned from Adam.
I’m quite pleased with myself because, and this could be too sweeping of a statement too soon, that I’m quite over my fear of crabs. As I ran along the beach, an unusual amount of those critters were out darting all over the sand, around my feet, disturbed presumably by the stormy sea and wind. And I was actually interested in them (rather than fearful, as you may recall the tale about the crab that took up residence in my backpack). Bemused, I watched, bouncing along on my run, the way they move and burrow. They tip toe across the sand so fast and with agility and yet they do it sideways. I suppose this is not sideways from a crab’s point of view, but from mine they look like they are running around drunk or disoriented. And then they stop and their legs fit perfectly into their bodies like the wheels on airplanes do, and they burrow into the sand, leaving only a little hole above them. The beach crabs are the color of pale sand, for obvious reasons, but those that live above in the forests are psychedelic crabs. Neon purple, pink, and orange, these critters wander among green foliage and I wonder about the evolution of those jarring colors. Continuing my interest in rather than fear of critters, I went down to my room a bit ago and came out to see a very large skinny bug posing as a multi-directional branch, and my first reaction was ‘sweeeet’. Yesterday, Jaime pointed out a particularly large toad in my outdoor classroom, and I didn’t give it a second look. I’m evolving! Sadly (and I am really quite sad about this), I don’t believe I will soon evolve out my fear of scorpions or my hatred of mosquitoes. As to the later, I’m sick of being itchy. As to the former, Adam walked down to the room last night and returned to proudly inform us he killed a scorpion that was lying in wait under his pillow. And I’m reading a book by an American journalist that lived in Managua for several years, and he mentioned in passing today that a scorpion once incapacitated him for several days. Several DAYS?!
It’s very quiet here, except for when it’s incredibly loud due to rain pounding on zinc roofs. But, metaphorically it’s quiet. Since my arrival, Brio was occupied constantly, a sort of hub of activity, and quite suddenly, the circuit is turned to off and there are no guests. It’s a different pace of life, and alternatively quite nice or a little boring. Juan, Jackie, Adam, and I have watched movies a couple of nights this week, straining to hear as the rain pounded above. When I’m not teaching, I watch the rain, read, write, sleep, chat with the folks here, and eat lots and lots of fresh fish. Since rain is so rare in my normal life, it makes me want to revert into pj mode, although this is probably not a good thing here since rain is quite the norm. Jaime and I planned to try surfing again (I’ve given myself almost 2 weeks off and am thankful for that) but the ocean conditions prevent anyone from going in.
English classes this week were sparse, to say the least. An unfortunate side effect of constant torrential downpours is that students don’t come to class in said downpours. This is perfectly acceptable. I wouldn’t come to class either. But no students to teach make for a sort of pointless English teacher.
Additionally, the quiz I gave last Wednesday turned out to be a spectacularly dazzling mistake, and it’s effects kept giving and giving all week long. First of all, it scared off many a student. Monday and Tuesday I was dismayed at the attendance of my classes. Monday, those hearty students who did show up came anxious about their quiz results, and didn’t believe me when I said they all did well. (Perceptive little buggers. They were right. No one did well. But, I blame that on my inability to gauge their English strengths and weaknesses and write an appropriate quiz, not their abilities.) Something about that damn quiz killed a bit of their English-learning spirit, although I can’t quite put my finger on it. On Tuesday, four students came to a class usually full of nine or ten bright eyed Nicaraguans. I inquired about a couple students and was told that they weren’t coming anymore because they didn’t get it. Oh, dismay. I plaintively asked (begged?) the students who were actually there (preaching to the choir) to tell their friends that’d we’d figure out something for them if they would just come to class. Not my most teacherly and authoritative moment, but I’m trying to reel them back in. Thursday was a particularly rainy day, so I played go fish with the two girls who made it to each class. Friday was better, but still sparse compared to the epoch we shall call pre-quiz.
The night class has been the most disappointing thus far. I wonder if taking a long weekend to go to Ometepe is the culprit, as the attendance was notably down from pre-volcano to post-volcano. Let’s see. Monday, no one came. Tuesday, one person came. Wednesday two people came. Thursday no one came. Friday two people came, and Jackie joined in. Granted, five to six p.m. is generally when the great godly bucket of rain above dumps its contents down and air turns into water. But, actually, last night was quite clear and sans rain, as was Thursday. It makes it hard to plan classes when I don’t know how many people will show, and who, and at what level they will be. On my run, I saw several former students, or current students on hiatus, and yelled to them to ask if they were coming to class soon. They all said yes. Although, I’d say yes too if a giant sweaty muddy gringa was yelling at me, so we’ll see.
Leana, an eleven-year-old in my morning class, was one of two who showed up on Thursday after the flood-worthy rainstorm. Normally perky and chatty and excited about English, she looked particularly glum. I asked the girls how they had fared in the rain the night before. Leana just shook her head and said, malo. I don’t know exactly what she meant by malo (well, I do know that the word means bad, for those of you who may be inclined to whip out a dictionary or doubt my Spanish abilities). But, what does bad mean in this context? Her face and the circles under her eyes made me remember an observation I had during my first rainstorm here: how do the little Gigante homes fare during such violent storms? If even I was awake in my bunk on Wednesday night, listening to the thunder and pounding, violent rain, and I’m quite well sheltered, dry, and generally removed from the storm—what’s it like not to be?
Ioxlina is the new cook in the kitchen, and I quite like her. She seems a bit shy, or maybe I am, but she showed me how to make gallo pinto the Nica way, so we had a nice womanly bond over that. Here’s for a commute to work: she bikes every day about an hour to and from her house in Brito, south from here. So, on Wednesday, after two days solid of rain, Ixolina arrives late to work because the once-dry ditch on the Gigante road turned into a river five-feet deep. (I’ve actually run through this ditch before, and thought to myself, as I pranced over the small stream of water—this doesn’t seem very well engineered for rain.) So, in true hearty Nicaraguan style, she waited until the water went down to only four feet (her words) and then forged the river and changed in the dry pair of clothes she had so intelligently brought with her on the other side. She showed up with a bike, too, now that I think of it. Well done. These stories are to illuminate the Jaime flip-flop incident hardiness of Nicaraguans. I’m inspired by their ability to just deal, and move along.
On that note, I’m feeling quite lethargic amid all this rain and all these clouds. This is silly. Why, I truly don’t know. Rain and evening lightening shows are quite lovely, exciting, and singular events, quite distinct from the weather patterns in L.A. and Denver. (Oh you cities with all your sunshine.) You can watch the rain, listen to its patterings and beatings, feel it’s cooling power, the breeze it brings. In fact, that’s how I spent my afternoon yesterday. I suppose for an individual used to being incredibly busy, spending an afternoon watching rain is at once a luxury and also a foreign concept. A nice side effect of the rain is that it’s notably cooler here. One night after my cold shower, normally a nice way to lower my body temperature, I got dressed and thought to myself: why, I seem to be a bit chilly. It couldn’t be, I thought, so I went about my business. Thirty minutes later, I was still a bit cold, so I went downstairs and put on the one sweater I brought with me and was just tickled pink to be wearing long sleeves.
Apparently once the rain stops, though, it stops. The dry season is dry and the landscape looks completely different. I can’t quite imagine that now, as the once faraway clouds have enveloped us and I see the green world distorted—mushy yet sharply colorful—through rain and the sky is grey.
It’s Saturday, so there are no classes. I’ll go for a run later, but for now I wander around and read and write. It’s an interesting existence, one I know I’ll miss when I have a demanding job and the pace of the United States catches up to me. For now, though, I’m on Nica time…