Sunday, December 20, 2009

Looking ahead

Hello everyone. Nora here. I am not a blogger by nature; I am intimidated by the prospect of publishing anything to the World Wide Web, but I'll post something in anticipation of the fast-approaching Nicaragua trip. First, a little about me and what I've been up to lately. I'm an Oberlin first-year student. I'm studying a bit of everything this year: fiction writing, relativity and quantum mechanics (for non-physics majors), Gandhi, language pedagogy (and teaching a first grade class Spanish). Next semester I'm planning to delve into some Latin American history and literature, environmental studies and West African dance. I'm undecided about a major, but Latin American Studies certainly looks appealing.

More about my Oberlin life: I was fortunate enough to get into my first choice dining co-op, so I'm eating in Old B this year. I have been working as Old B's Nicaragua Committee Representative all semester, as one of my co-op "hours." Our committee meetings are always thought provoking and industrious. We've gotten a remarkable amount done, for a small group of over-committed students. I have to give a lot of credit to Alice, our fearless, well-organized leader. We put up a photo and fact gallery in the science center about our partnership. We gave presentations about our partnership (in English and Spanish) to several Oberlin classes. We showed a documentary made on the past delegation in the All-OSCA Film Festival. We wrote a statement on the political and environmental issues with banana production to be read at co-op food policy discussions. We brought a speaker to campus to discuss the School of the Americas and the annual protest against it. And, of course, we did lots of fund raising. After all the planning, the trip is finally within sight.

Monday was a big snowstorm in Massachusetts, and by the time I woke up, we had about 8 inches on the ground. The shoveling was made much more fun by my brainstorm: I should take pictures to bring to Nicaragua!

I documented all of my family members clearing our driveway, as well as sitting in front of our newly-decorated Christmas tree, wanting to have some distinctly New Englandy pictures to bring with me. I've been imagining taking with my Nicaraguan host about my life here, negotiating the challenges of the Spanish language as well as the cultural differences. How easy will it be for me to ask them about their lives, and the struggles they face as rural farmers? I've been thinking a lot this holiday season about all the privileges I have, and what that means in light of my upcoming trip to Nicaragua.

I can already tell how different my life will be while I'm traveling in Nicaragua than it is at the moment. The temperature in Estelí is in the 80s, compared to the 20s here. I will have to rise with the sun to help my hosts with farm chores, instead of sleeping in as I have been since I got home.

As the trip nears, it's becoming more real to me. I have already gotten annoyed at myself for leaving an excellent pair of traveling shorts in my Oberlin dorm room. Fortunately, I have the most essential things: my indispensable red backpacking pack, and my passport. I'm sure everything else will fall into place. I'm getting my vaccinations, and thinking of gifts to bring for the people who will generously host us.

On the plane ride home from Oberlin, I read the Nicaragua guidebook, and was glad that so much sounded familiar. The trip I took to Nicaragua last summer with a group from my high school was one of the main reasons I immediately sought out the Nicaragua Sister Partnership Committee when I joined OSCA. I was thrilled to get the chance to return this January, to get to know the country better and make all the issues we talk about at our weekly committee meetings real.

Judging from my experience on my last visit to Nicaragua, as well as everything Alice tells me, this trip will certainly have its ups and downs. As someone who likes everything to go as planned, I will have to adapt to the unpredictability of travel. My stomach will inevitably have some adjusting to do to the Nicaraguan diet. I may become disillusioned and feel like I am unable to do anything helpful. However, I know that this trip will let me make connections with people and learn things that I simply could not do from a classroom in the United States. I can't wait to see how it unfolds.

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