Saturday, March 29, 2008

Satisfaction is a Piece of Cake

DO you ever have one of those weeks where you get to Friday and you feel like you truly earned it. I did no great particular feat this week. But I pushed through several annual reports and an assortment of theoretically-important documents referred to only by their cryptic acronyms. I also had a heart-wrenching experience concerning a mouse. I don't want to talk about it right now- its too fresh.
So that's how I felt on Friday. 'TGIF' right?
...That phrase is ridiculous. I think you sound ridiculous when you say it. I don't like it, although I agree with the premise. But I digress.

I have that happy tired feeling right now. I am satisfied. That's what it is- satisfaction: from being with 'buena gente'- good people. People to sweat with and people to play with. I spent a wonderful Friday night around a table eating well and having good conversation. The next night I spent an hour or so with people I have barely met- doing essentially the same thing.
Here's the story: Last night I had the desire (the 'ganas' we say here) to do something, but not anything- if you say you'll do 'anything' you will invariably end up at the one place you didn't bother to stipulate against but should have. Every time.
Fortunately for me, my friends had the ganas to do what I always want to do. Sit around eating and talking. Talking and eating. Preferably followed by cake- which it was. I came home feeling very fortunate indeed for the good company and full belly.
Tonight, my friend Nicole and I came home to have a swim- considering that even after sundown it was still hot, this was a buena idea. So we jump in the pool, whilst Marshall-whom we didn't even realise was home, and apparently vice versa- leaves for the night, locking the front door, like any conscientious young house-mate would.

Now, if I had any security issues at all about my house, any preoccupations at all, they are gone. I stood outside dripping wet (and now cold- the pool is after all, unheated- sigh) and looked helplessly at the bars on my windows, with the knowledge there is a big fat padlock on the only other entrance to the house in the back of my head.
Long story short- we're dancing around the front of my house wondering what to do, meanwhile the new neighbours from the casa across from us who were sitting outside confirmed that yes, they had just watched him leave a little while ago. I am not entirely sure what happened next, but the next thing I know, Nicole and I have been sitting at their kitchen table for an hour, eating their son's birthday cake and coffee (they saw me coming a mile away...). We sat and talked with my new neighbours about where they're from (Bolivia) and swapped life-in -Nicaragua stories. Now that I think of it, its funny that we swapped "extranjero" stories with Latin Americans.
They were so kind, hospitable and fun. I am also thankful that after 7 months, I finally feel like I have a relationship with my neighbours.
The whole night just gave me a warm fuzzy.
The pictures have nothing to do with any of this. Except that in some way or another, those people were equally gracious and fun to talk to.

....I'm always weak on the conclusion part. Here's another picture.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

For more information on the raddest trip to Ometepe ever, visit my facebook album

Film is not dead!

In the spring semester of my final year at Trin, I found out about, oh say a month before grad, that I was a credit short of graduating. I am not proud of this miscalculation, nor the tears I shed in front of a particular Dean of the department I had offended with it, but I share it because it is a funny anecdote that somewhat vaguely explains my entrance into my final course in undergrad- Art 230: Film Photography.

I will admit- I use a Canon DSLR now. And its been good to me, but there is still a nostalgic awe, love and respect for film. There is just something about the quality of colour and richness of tone and the fact that a little 35mm neg will always make a great print- even if its the size of your house. Its magic! I know how a SLR camera works, I've even watched taken the lens off at times just to watch the shutter open and close like a monkey with a piece of tinfoil. I "get it," but on the other hand, I don't. There is still a part of it- the light, the film chemicals, the tiny entrance of light, the backwards upside-down imprint of the world in front if me- that absolutely baffles me; delights me.

Its how I started, but moreover, it is how it all started. And up until I left Canada, I was still shooting both (luggage weight requirements and the desire to travel sans as many valuables as possible led me down the silly path of only bringing one camera body).

So the point of this little heartbroken note is that Polaroid has announced it will be discontinuing its line of instant film. I have yet to get into Polaroid photography (other than trying unsuccessfully at securing myself this hot number on ebay... oh such a sexy camera...I digress). I say yet, because i keep stumbling across sites like Film is not dead and Polaroid-only collective groups that tweak my interest and make eyes pop out like I'm looking through a Richard Avedon collection. Polaroid technology, when you really think about it, is one of our more magical inventions. An instant replica of the world around you. I am sure I could dig some sort of Christian object lesson- 9 years in the world of Christian education wasn't for nothing, that's for sure-but I won't for now.

I will just add, with a sigh, that there is a website called that I think is worth checking out. Polaroid came into digital late in the game and was never the pioneer with it that it was with film. So now its going to try to refocus. I don't feel like I have a legitimate right to be as upset as the photographers who've been working with it for years, but as a film-user at heart, there is a part of me that feels like we are loosing something beautiful and important.

I don't want to end this note with doom and gloom so: on the bright side, I did win a bid for a lomo action sampler and have it sitting awaiting my imminent return to my home and native land. I'll be able to make prints like Kevo's above and won't need any chump mac built-in digital webcam program to do it. But I'm not bitter ;)

Just a little more than two months to go it seems. I think I will give the old Olympus a nice session of lovin' as soon as I am back- along with my family and friends of course.

Sign the petition, do it. do it now, just so we can take pictures together. There is urgency! We're running out of time for both film and Nicaragua! Sign it! Join MEDA Trust! Unabashed self-promotion and tacky plug!
Just do something.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Afghanistan- Click This Title

If you read all the way to the bottom, and are anything like me, you will be heartbroken by the final comments. But on the other hand, the girl who comments second to last is teetering in the balance- she wants to become a doctor, and never misses class and even saves up her money to buy as many books as she can (hm, its just not the same as when I dump a bunch of money on used books but still have lots left over for shoes...)

The one that gets me is that though the aid has gone up to $10.5 Billion- the women still go uneducated, scraping together what little they can, the politics still remain in shambles and corruption reigns.

So... tell me again, who's responsibility is it to take care/charge of dispersing that money...?

I know MEDA is working in Kabul with (mostly) women entrepreneurs. As I post photos from our rural clients on MEDA Trust and see the stories from my unknown counterpart there in Afghanistan, I can't help but pray for the day to come faster that the program- and others like it- is expanded to the rural areas, as MiCredito is doing here. We have a new branch opening in Esteli in April. I have learned so much about how microcredit works on the ground through this time here in Nicaragua. And while -obviously since I am still working here- I see the value in it, I know that microfinanace certainly cannot save the world from poverty and hardship (oh whaaat!). But there is a lot more hope in opportunity than without.

When you are done reading that, read this:

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Sonia and Kevin, my two little buddies

Fifo, standing tall on volcan Masaya

Desfile de Carnival

In San Juan del Oriente, outside the Wedding, just before the funeral procession passed.

Monday, March 10, 2008

From "Prayer"

From Richard Foster's Prayer, in his chapter on formation prayer after describing a big maple tree in his backyard go from summer to winter and drop its leaves to expose its real condition and irregularities:

"Winter preserves and strengthens a tree. Rather than expending its strength on the exterior surface, its sap is forced deeper and deeper into its interior depth. In winter a tougher, more resilient life is firmly established.

Instantly you see the application. So often we hide our true condition with surface virtues of pious activity, but, once the leaves of our frantic pace drop away, the transforming power of a wintry spirituality can have effect."

Saturday, March 08, 2008

There are worse things than visa requirements

While I am still having a hard time grasping the fact that it is already March (“I’m sorry February, what was that you said? I didn’t catch a thing”) I am on the other hand counting down the minutes until five and this day is over. Its not that I do not have a boat-load to be working on, oh yes I do, and it is not like I have worked my little tush off this week, because let’s be serious, I haven’t even been in the country, but somehow, in some mystical way- my biological weekend clock is ticking, getting impatient, screaming for the door on this office to be flung open so I can run out with my hands waving wildly in the air. It’s frenzy! It’s extravaganza! It’s insanity! It’s fritanga night. I am, in a word, antsy. But I will not give in. I will instead distract myself: I will play one round of traveller IQ- no, not that, it only makes me more frustrated- how am I tenth of all my friends!? TENTH?? I’m going for a walk- but where?? Fine, the bathroom, I may as well… well that was not nearly as satisfying as I had thought it would be. Drink more water, drink!

This little outburst has been brought to you by: the weeks of Feb. 24th to March 7th 2008. There is something impatient in me, and I think this is part of this season’s life lesson. You ever feel like you are in the middle of a fairly notable time of your life and you should be learning something important, but… uhhh nope, nothing?

I’ve been feeling this, contemplating this, praying over this, mulling it over with endless cups of coffee and the sounds of Maná, Adele, U2 and now Shakira - don’t even try to judge me. Then it all came unravelled this week:

It seems like my life is one big lesson in peace. What a funny concept for life eh? Of all the things- of all the fruit. I can think of so many periods in my life where it was one facet or another of Peace that I needed to start grasping, scratching, seeing, living. Apparently I wasn’t done.

Last week I was a stress-case. Why you ask? It’s really a conglomeration of issues. First: because I had to go to Costa Rica. Yes that’s right, had to. My visa was up. Of course, being the only one of my friends not to leave at Christmas, I couldn’t renew it in country this time.

Let’s just say that there are far worse places to be sent to renew one’s visa. I have included an abbreviated list here:

- The Republic of Molossia – it’s in Nevada

- Ohio- I don’t think I’d much care for it, but I could be gravely mistaken.

- Compton- I’d get capped.

- Iraq- “oh but I hear Mosul is lovely this time of year!”

- Churchill, Manitoba

- Chuck-E-Cheez

- Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, the World’s Coldest Capital City

I got a little stressed. Because I had to leave. And I had never been to Costa Rica before. And I didn’t really know where to go or how to get there- I think the latter may be intrinsically tied to the former.

But before I get ahead of myself, let me say, in my defence- last week was a bad week for more than just the curse of the Tica trip.

First, Silvio Rodriguez came to town. You don’t know Silvio Rodriguez unless you are a) socialist and/or b) Latin American (generally it is ‘and’ and not ‘or’). And while I pride myself on at least know who Che is, I didn’t know this “Silvio” character. But apparently he is kind of a big deal around here. He sings revolutionary music, is Cuban and is, ahem, “the man” in any Latin socialist country- viva la revolucion. That’s about all you need to know for now. Of course, everyone wanted to go- even us Cheles, because it is a cultural event, and we are supposed to go to every cultural event possible so that we can say that we have been open-minded and assimilated as much as possible in a culturally-sensitive, -respectful and -observant way.

Except that all the Cheles who wanted to go lived in Matagalpa- a good two and a half hours from anywhere that sold tickets. So being the contact “on the ground” in Managua, I went to Tip-Top (the Nica national fast food chain- yes that bastion of home-grown consumer-driven capitalism selling tickets for a ‘communist’ concert) at three different locations and four different times. By the time this show rolled around on Sunday, if Silvio HIMSELF had called me wanting me to pick up his ticket, I would have told him to go take his habaneras and place them where the sol does not care to shine.

Moreover: In that my job has been largely self-directed, I decided now would be a good time to push it into hyper-speed, in light of a few changes that will be taking place in my position in one month (no longer paid to take pictures- well it was fun while it lasted). So I was about to pull out my hair with self-imposed deadlines. It does add a bit of fun though if you really believe that you are going to fire yourself if you miss one.

And then, there were the applications. I despise applications. Loathe them. Hate them with the fire of a thousand suns. You see in a few months here, I will stop practising development and resume postulating about it. Grad School. Two little words, one big bill. I thought I was done with applications and references and transcripts- all of which I coordinated from Nicaragua, the country that failed to deliver Romalie’s cookies, numerous letters and who’s internet connection speed is about where NASA was in 1962. Its no small task you see. Sweet relief that it was over! But oh, ho ho, was I mistaken- its one thing to GET INTO a school. It’s another thing to get someone ELSE to pay for it. You know you are really smooth though if you can get the school itself to pay your way. Apparently they do that! It’s called a fellowship. What!? And I thought this was a secular school! But apparently they weren’t talking about Christian Café time. Hence, more applications. I’m no fellow, but I sure like ships, so I suppose it’s worth a try.

So, yes I was stressed. And can I tell you about this concert? Sunday night rolls around and anywhere form 12-20 people descend on my house- I am fine with that, I like people coming to my house. But when our 12-20 melds into the crowd of approximately 894,672 of Silvio’s biggest fans, the evening gets a little hairy. I have NEVER EVER been in a crowd where I actually feared for my life.

I didn’t fear for my life in this one either. But I seriously considered doing it, seeing as I was not actually moving my feet along- but instead just being carried- yes, carried by the people who were pressed up against me, there was no way to turn around, there was no way out, if you fell you would be dead. It’s kinda like rock climbing without a harness. The only way is forward.

Well that was fun. Some more misadventures ensued (including tales such as: “Kiki gets caught trying to go into the VIP section after the rest manage to loose the fuzz;” and “Silvio the Ant and his magical panflute.”). I was sent to the back, with a friend. The music, let’s remember is ‘revolutionary acoustic guitar.’ This is what you would hear in a hazy, smoke-filled bar in Buenos Aires, or better yet, around a campfire hidden in the highlands waiting for the contras. So the field packed with hundreds of people who are clearly paying great attention was not working out so much.

I understand that this man is wildly popular, and I have no problems against the large crowd, but I do think it’s a little ironic that a socialist revolutionary would have a ‘VIP’ section to his concert. I’m just sayin.’ One man in line behind us commented: ‘todos son iguales, solo es que hay algunos que son MAS iguales que otros!’ –Everyone is equal, it’s just that there are some who are more equal than others! Right then. Keith says that Nicaragua has a major earthquake or revolution roughly every 30 years, and we are due for either soon. I’m packing an earthquake kit first, that’s for sure.

So I realize that my attitude throughout the week was one of any range of emotions as represented by the following facial and body expressions:

- The Tegelberg Glare: The Tegelberg is thinking of ripping your arms off and beating you with the bloody end.

- The Tegelberg Stone-face: Not to be confused with the glare, while very similar; he/she is merely thinking of something mildly pleasant, unrelated to the task at hand, inconsequential or golf. I cannot say I have ever thought of golf, but know that the original Stone-face was created on many golf-pondering occasions. It should be noted that this is widely confused for the former and far more ubiquitous- as evidenced by the low number of war-amps in the world today.

- Anxiety

- Increased intake of coffee, that sweet, soothing, dear old friend

- Frenzy/Shaking- no wait- that was from the copious amounts of coffee.

- Concentration

- Hair-pulling

- Nervous-ticks

- Frequent use of washrooms

- “Enhnnn….-ing” and other forms of throat-based whining.

- Violent typing- the K key is still a little bruised, but she’ll be a’right

So the point of all this? Yes I will wrap it up here: Peace. I think this is supposed to be the jewel in my life. Its like this giant uncut diamond. And this time someone turned it upside down and I am seeing a completely new facet of it- so much so that I am not sure I was looking at the same rock it was cut from. It wasn’t anxiety this time, it was stress- stress that caused some pain for others. Oh. Oh wait. It’s never done that before. I guess I am learning to be more tranquila. Things turned out alright, and in the mean time you stumbled upon some breathtaking new views.