EL LAGARTILLO is a small cooperative community in the mountains of the Nicaraguan department/region of León. Erin Bergen and Wade Troyer are both spending their service terms there.
A JOURNAL EXCERPT BY WADE TROYER: “My typical day starts by the dawn’s arrival of light upon the rooster who then decides to cock-a-doodle for no particular reason. Nonetheless, I am awakened to this natural sound around 5:00am whether I want to be or not. After that, I drink my coffee, eat a few slices of bread, and wait-wait until my daily work begins. On Fridays, you would find me tending to Mario’s crops at around 6:30am, digging out weeds and refilling the watering system. On any other day, during the week, you can find me in the library, dusting and arranging the many shelves of books that can be found…
From 7:45-11am I am in the library. After that time, I make a short walk to eat lunch, read, write and rest until English classes at 2:00 pm. Sometimes during our morning work, Erin and I plan what sort of subjects we want to teach. For example, our 2:00-3:00 class has covered the ABC’s, fruits, vegetables, “I like…,” “to have,” and many other things. Our… 4:00-5:00pm…we teach past tense, action verbs, sports words, and help translate sentences…
After class, I go home to eat supper and generally hang out with my host family. When they migrate to their bedroom to watch T.V., I usually take cover in my bed to read or listen to music before finally sleeping at 9:00p.m.”
A JOURNAL EXCERPT BY ERIN BERGEN:
“ ‘Wake up in the morning feeling like P-Diddy. Grab my glasses, I’m out the door, I’m gonna hit the city.’ Actually unlike Ke$ha, I get up at two or three with the first rooster, and then go back to bed until the third rooster somewhere between five and seven. From there my days more or less depend on the family. If my older host brother has a test, I help him study. If there are dishes to be done, I do that. If I am in an especially captivating part of my book, I may read.
When I hear people passing to go to school, I get ready to go. I am usually one of the first in the preschool classroom. Preschool encompasses kindergarten, so there are people ages three through six, a wide range of cognitive development. I spend an hour or two there before they are in recess.
This past week, Wade and I have been working in the library. So, after preschool I go to accompany Wade, the morning librarian, Juan, and whatever other community members are browsing the books. We have been cleaning and sorting the books which has been taking more time than we originally expected. In the afternoon, Wade and I teach two classes-one for elementary school and one for secondary. Every moment not spent in the community, I am at the busy homestead. Living with a now one-year-old definitely gives my day variety and life.”
A JOURNAL EXCERPT BY WADE: “Nicaragua holds 7% of the world’s biodiversity. The Sacjuanhoche, the national flower, is everywhere here. But what else is there? Trees, lots of trees. Dogs, cats, and chickens, though they are domesticated. I have seen a few birds, frogs, furry caterpillars, and some bugs crawling about. But what else is there?
Let’s see…There are the termites who break down our poop, moths that constantly trance in the lights to only spiral down, small green berries that taste of bread and cheese, lots of flies EVERYwhere, beautiful blue mosquitos that annoy me to heck, all the animal sounds that I fall asleep and wake up to, a waterfall to slide down and swim under, mountains to walk up, valleys to run down, dried river beds to walk in, fresh cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, and squash to eat, and shade of trees to lounge under. All this is here and something I encounter every day.
But this drought is threatening all of it. The rainy season necessitates that it rains yet it hardly has. It is a daily topic for people, understandably so, since so many of the foods and livelihoods here depend on rainfall. People are mostly only concerned about this, pointing their fingers at pollution as the cause and eco-friendly alternatives as the cure.”
“TORTILLAS” A JOURNAL EXCERPT BY ERIN:
“Today I broke apart my tortilla and it came off in my hand in the shape of Australia…
I was a play-dough connoisseur as a child. I made more than a tropical rainforest’s worth of snakes and more pancakes than an Olympic swimmer could eat in a lifetime. Given the amount of daycare and preschools I have taught and helped with since I was small, my hours of play-dough squishing is, in total, extensive.
Yet, when I try to quickly form perfect circles out of sticky masa, I always seem to make mistakes. Every time I watch Magdalena’s hands do it, I think that the next time mine will be able to do that with ease-somehow the combination of the left hand shaping and spinning while the right hand smacks and flattens, is too much for my coordination.
My too thick, too thin, partially ripped, or oddly shaped tortillas always seem to get a giggle out of Magdalena. Then she reminds me what to work on and patiently watches me try again. Luckily even the worst of my fails have drawn happiness from Magdalena as she tries to fathom how I did what I did and the dog who gets to eat them.”