Enough clutter. Enough confusion. Enough complications.

28 May 2010

Está mojado

I arrived in Nicaragua just in time for the season change. Last week everything was defined by the fact that it was really, really hot. This week, we got our first rain storm of the winter. Even though we're still in the northern hemisphere, May-Sept. Is winter here— that means it rains everyday.

I'm quickly becoming enamored with the sky. The air has so much water in it that the cloud formations are beautiful. The weather changes rapidly, probably because its a small country dropped between two massive bodies of water. Taking pictures is tough because the moisture makes the air hazy, but sleeping under a tin roof that barely leaks, in a house cooled by the winds that brought the rain in and are already taking it out again is glorious... even if my running clothes and my towel refuse to dry.

21 May 2010

Hace calor

The sun has been down for over three hours. I'm in my room, writing by my headlamp because my mosquito net is tucked between my inch thick pad and the wood-slatted bed. I like my bed, its really comfortable. My mosquito net is like a cool yellow tent of personal space, so I like it too.

My thermometer, however, tells me that it's still 85 degrees. It's cooled off a good 10 degrees in the past hour.

One of my goals here is to learn more about decision making. How do people subjected to different constraints make decisions? How do I make decisions when I'm subjected to a new set of constraints?

The first constraint I'm contemplating is that the fact that I only get a few cordobas a week ($1=20 cord). Nope, it is that it is hot, really, really, hot.

06 May 2010

Me Despido

(Despedirse: To say goodbye, to leave)

Sometimes I find that I am very fond of imaginary lines in time— like midnight. When I was in college I would always make sure that I was asleep by 12:00 AM if I'd had a bad day so that I could get up and start fresh the next morning without my bad day polluting the one that followed.

Starting a new month always makes happy as well.

I am markedly less fond of New Year's Eve.

While I find going to bed early after a long day to be a helpful way to end one endeavor and wake up refreshed and focused on the day that follows (rather than the day that passed), I feel that unnecessary pressure is placed on starting a new year. We put things off until the new year. We say we're going to make changes. We set aside habits to pick up, or put down. We expect to feel different, to be different.

I believe we build up the same expectations around saying goodbye, or around starting something new.

The temptation is not unfounded. It is good to be excited about something new, to look forward to adventures and experiences and lessons learned. It is not bad to be slightly saddened at parting ways for awhile with people you care about. At some point, however, it begins to resemble New Year's.

I know this struggle first hand. Last spring, as I prepared for graduation, I had an idea about what I wanted to do when I graduated and how I wanted to do it. I was excited. I looked forward to work I thought would be exciting and fulfilling. And maybe it would have been, but it didn't work out and I was forced to go back to the drawing board. As I did, I came to realize that the position didn't matter so much, rather it was the work itself that I wanted to do. What I needed was an opportunity. That is how I ended up applying to the Peace Corps. My interview went wonderfully. My recruiter told me that, if I was patient, I could expect to be doing development work somewhere by the following summer.

And all of a sudden, Peace Corps became something else. Something to look forward to. Something to hope for. Something that would be more fulfilling, more enjoyable, more “me” than what I was doing at the moment— Peace Corps became New Year's.

The last year has been difficult at times. I love my family dearly, but I've done a less than perfect job of showing it. I've missed opportunities to build community and to live out love at work, at church, and in my friendships. Now, even when we're fully living here and now we never do these things perfectly, but I know my mentality of constantly looking forward to what was coming next exacerbated these failings. Not only that, it set me up to fail when, eventually, I would get the chance to do the work I was so looking forward to. Luckily for me, I had a long time to wait.

One morning in March I woke up excited for the day ahead. I mean, really excited. I was in a beautiful place. I had a pot of coffee brewing, and I was getting ready to spend a day skiing with some awesome people. I pulled open my laptop and found an email I had been waiting for for almost a year: “Congratulations on becoming an Invitee”. As I waited for everyone to get up the following thought crossed my mind.

“Really?” I asked, “I wait for an entire year and you tell me that I have an invitation on the one day that I'm more excited for what is going on today than about going to Peace Corps?”

In the next week my expectations began to collapse. Since I was away from home, my parents had to call me and give me the details of my invitation. I heard the words, but it was dispassionately. I felt bad because I knew I probably sounded depressed on the phone. I wasn't, I just didn't know what to think anymore. I still, however, had plenty of time to wait.

I spent time at home in Pennsylvania and in Virginia. I talked to friends, many of whom had just come back from doing good work in cool places. I listened to their experiences and their thoughts. They listened to mine. They listened to my concerns that I was building my next experience up in my head to be something that it was never intended to be and never could be, and they were still excited for me. Gradually, I began to get excited again as well. I knew that it was going to be difficult at times. I knew that I couldn't know exactly what to expect from the work itself, or hope to be able to immediately see the results of what I was doing or even know what it was I was learning. I knew that, ultimately, it can not be the goal to find ultimate fulfillment in where I am and what I am doing.

I know I had always been able to say these things, but now I understood how easy it was to over-look them. My job is simply to do the best I can, make the best choices I can, and take advantage of the opportunities presented to me— every day. Each day is a new day, just a new day, even if it happens to be January 1st , or my last day at home, or my first day in Nicaragua.

So now it is time to move on. I'm excited again. I may miss the people I'm taking my leave from, but it is their love and support that has allowed me to come to a place where I can step out to wherever I'm called to go in faith and confidence. Nothing changes between us just because we are not together. Leaving is not complicated. It is quite simple. One day you are in one place, with one group of people. The next day you are somewhere else, with different people. The job is still the same.

Entonces, me despido. Nos vemos pronto.