Even when you think you know a place and its context, there is always more to learn. This is what I love about this experience and also what I find difficult. I love it because it means that culture is rich in layers, meaning and experiences. It also means however, that right when you think you know it all and find a comfortable living pattern, you become uprooted and all of a sudden find yourself in unfamiliar territory. That unfamiliar territory currently consists of working with a new organization, living in urban Nicaragua (as opposed to rural), and being immersed in a foreign language five days a week, eight hours a day.
I have learned a myriad of things since beginning my first week with ANIDES, I don’t know if I could recount all of them. What I have learned so far is mostly about ANIDES and how it functions. Underfunded but well-represented, it is a team of only 20 people that works hard to facilitate each of its 32 community’s needs. It is like many organizations that do such good development work, but simply go unrecognized financially in the grand scheme of development. Although, it has developed a handful of useful partners that support it in its mission to provide rural communities with access to loans in kind, volunteer projects (building a school in a community where one barely existed) and capacity building trainings.
I must mention one of the most momentous occasions to occur, a reunion in the making: arriving to see my boyfriend who I have been away from for nine months. The last time we saw each other was July of 2011 in a town called San Juan de la Concepcion. There were of course lots of tears of joy, shock, many kisses and many hugs.
As we drove away from the airport, window down and air flowing, I felt at home immediately. I am more than familiar with the language and am greatly familiar with the culture. Many of the initial smells were familiar as well, the burning wood from street food roasting on a small grill or the diesel gasoline pouring out of trucks and cars driving through the market behind my apartment.
Watersheds, watersheds and more watersheds! I have heard the word microcuenca (watershed) and had the concept explained to me many times this week, I feel as though I should be an expert on the subject. One of the organizations main foci is to work in communities that are located in a watershed. Watersheds, if you did not already know, are ‘’basin-like landforms defined by highpoints and ridgelines that descend into lower elevations and stream valleys.’’ They drain into what is called a sub basin, basically a smaller watershed that makes up a piece of the larger watershed. This website has been very helpful in teaching me about watersheds in a fun and visual way. ANIDES has chosen to work in watershed communities because it is here where the water sources are and where these water sources can be harnessed and protected. The most important thing to know about watersheds is that what is practiced on this land will undeniably affect communities downstream.
Apart from learning about environmental issues, I have been slowly getting to know my co-workers and the lives they live. I am so curious about every day routine here in the city and of my co-workers. What pressures do they face? Is this job a job they enjoy or is it simply to pay the bills? Most of my co-workers are in their early to mid-30s, have children and some face challenges taking care of family and dealing with the stress that that brings. One of our accountants travels almost an hour to get to work and wakes up at 4 in the morning to make sure the kids are fed and she can get herself ready and to work on time.
In terms of living in Matagalpa so far, I like the city. It has more of a nightlife than I was used to in San Juan or did not get used to I should say, and I am excited to be living in a city and to have my own space. As I settle in, however, I have begun to miss San Juan! I miss seeing familiar faces and getting to know a community so quickly. I miss being welcomed with arms wide opened and saying hello to all who pass me on the street. Living in a city, even though I know this country, will be a challenge. I am looking forward to making some new friends in the next few months!