Monthly Archives: March 2012

Interlude

…in honor of World Water Day

The river at the swimming hole was blue-green, opaque in the deep pool but clear in the shallow gap above the second cascade.  A little crab blended in among the tawny rocks and tadpoles hovered in the eddy as I lingered on the edge.

Dry leaves from the oaks overhead twirled down like butterflies, casting shadows on the limestone.  Uncharacteristically, I jumped in without first feeling the water, craving the shock and exhilaration.

My feet never touched  bottom as the water rushed over me, pulsing and clean.  Each time I ducked under the surface I became the river: cold, force, motion.

I climbed up mossy rocks to feel the waterfall at my back, its rhythm shifting:  now hard on my middle spine, now splashing my head.

Baptism by falls.

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Filed under Nicaragua, travel

Inspirations

Sorbete de pithaya = serious inspiration

Almost 2 months ago another blogger, India, who writes Bringing you Beirut (http://bringingyoubeirut.com/author/indiaphare/) somehow found my blog in the ether and gave me an award.  It was a very thoughtful shout-out and I have yet to recognize her or keep up my end of the deal! Namely, that I also share blogs that inspire me.

These aren’t personal blogs, but they do include personal writing, and make me feel connected to all the bigger things happening around the world.  And inspire me to think and write about them.

There’s a new online mag (not technically a blog) founded in order to create space for women writers.  It features work by a talented writer I know from Albuquerque, Molly Beer, and some other amazing nonfiction writers.  Also gorgeous photos. Vela Mag, http://velamag.com/

Global Voices compiles blogging analysis and wisdom from all over the world.  And translates it into 21 languages.  Find out what people from other countries think! A radical idea…. http://globalvoicesonline.org/

I just discovered feministing.com.  “Young feminists blogging, organizing, kicking ass.”  Nuff said. http://feministing.com/

And for my multilingual friends:

Two young Argentine radio producers travelling Latin America, “backpack radio” in tow, this blog tells their tales of the continent, including visits to community radio stations all over.  Proyecto Radio Mochila, http://bitacoradeviajeproyectoradiomochila.blogspot.com/p/apuntes.html

Two young French folks went around the world–by bicycle!  My friend and former colleague David met them when they stopped over in good ol’ Albuquerque.  They actually *just* arrived back in France a week ago,  a little over a year after beginning their trip.  La Caravane a Pedales, http://www.lacaravaneapedales.com/

Ok, I was supposed to include 7 blogs but have already bent the rules… In the interest of actually publishing this, I will add more as I am so inspired!

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Sisterhood is Blockade-Defying!

Our caravan left Matagalpa for Managua at 6:30 a.m., four sunny orange school buses filled with women from northern Nicaragua.  The marcha nacional for International Women’s Day was set to begin at 9 a.m.

But after an hour traffic came to standstill and riot police in shiny black armor lined the roadside—veterans of the revolution had blockaded the entire Panamerican Highway in protest, and were letting vehicles through only every six hours.

But we had a plan: talk to the dissident leaders and convince them we were united in struggle—they were demanding medical attention and remuneration, and we were demanding justice for women.  Our buses continued past the police barricades, purple banners flying.

But the veterans were unpersuaded, basically saying “f—off,” then firing a loud firework into the sky in warning.  (While they do have legitimate demands, the war veterans are unpredictable, and armed.  When I started to approach the barricade to take photos, my bus driver told me it was dangerous, so I kept my distance).

So, Plan B: a police escort led us down dusty back roads, through a river, and finally past the roadblock.

We arrived in Managua at 10 a.m. and joined the march mid-route.  Hundreds of women were already marching. The feminist drum corps, a.k.a. Batucada Feminista, rolled out in carnaval-themed garb.

I interviewed some women (and a couple men) for the radio program I’m working on here.  I asked them what they thought was the most important challenge facing Nicaraguan women today.  Several women said access to abortion—Nicaragua is one of three Latin American countries with a total abortion ban.

There is no legal abortion in Nicaragua, even in cases of rape, incest, or if a woman’s health is endangered.  This despite several high-profile stories in the last couple years: last November a 12 year-old indigenous girl who was raped was forced to carry the pregnancy to term, and in 2010 a 27 year-old woman was denied cancer treatment because she was pregnant.

Other women I interviewed said domestic violence was the most critical issue facing women—while Nicaragua has a low overall crime rate, domestic violence is extremely prevalent.  And that includes the murder of women by their partners and ex-partners: in 2011 76 women were killed, a crime that has recently been codified as “femicide” in Nicaragua to distinguish it from so-called “crimes of passion” and to impose longer prison sentences.  This year 18 women have been murdered, seven of them just last week.

Commemorating murdered women

The organization I’m working with, Grupo Venancia, is just one of many addressing violence against women.  They have an amazing array of projects and services, from therapeutic groups for abused girls to campaigns for self-empowerment for young women to accompaniment for women to press charges against abusers.

Yet despite the alarming statistics, the spirit of the march was positive.  There were many young women with creative slogans and style.

Her sign reads: This body--you can't touch it, you can't rape it, you can't murder it.

And at the end of the march, the feminist drummers and marchers and neighborhood kids all threw around giant painted beach balls that read “freedom” and “equality.” And everyone smiled.

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Filed under Nicaragua, volunteering

Agua dulce

When the Nahuatl fled México long ago their shaman received a vision of a sacred island.  He told of two connected volcanoes surrounded by agua dulce, fresh water.  So the Nahuatl trekked hundreds of miles across the isthmus of the Americas until they sighted the dark peaks of Isla Ometepe rising from Lago Cocibolca. Then they knew they were home.

Though not in search of the sacred, I was moved by my time on the island.  From the ferry, the approach is dramatic—the wind on the waves and expanse of water make it feel like the sea.  The deep green volcanoes slope steeply up from shore, and are often ringed by lenticular clouds, the peaks high enough to create their own weather.

While I’ve experienced more rain here in months than in years in New Mexico, I still soaked up Ometepe’s holy water: rain, river, lake.

My first day I dipped in the lake after sunset, water and sky silvery grey in the twilight.  My friends and I floated in the sweet water, dusk birds transitioning to bats overhead.

My friend Meera in the light of the lake

We slowed our pace to appreciate the changing light across the water, comfy hammocks, views of clouds rolling over Volcan Maderas, long walks over rough road to get anywhere.

Twice we explored in kayaks, one day landing on a little beach with kids playing and swimming in their underwear.  Nearly every beach had its own stand of stacked, flat whitewashed rocks where the women wash clothes and everyone bathes.

The second kayak trip we explored the Río Istiam, a snaking waterway covered in bright green water “lettuce” and populated with crocodiles, caimans, and many, many herons.  We spotted five heron species–Great Blues, white great egrets, night herons, green herons, and little blue herons.  No doubt there were more, as they were everywhere, fishing and roosting and flying.

Black-crowned night heron

We paddled through the clear, coffee-colored water in search of crocodiles, but only our guide Willie spotted one, sunning itself on top of the water lettuce, then submerging before we could catch a glimpse.  We floated under the arch of a tree with tiny brown bats clinging to its trunk, perfectly camouflaged against the mottled bark. Meanwhile, flocks of parrots chattered by and ospreys circled high above.

The people of Ometepe take their living from the lake, fishing, washing, and playing in it.  They use it to irrigate their fields in the dry season and they bring their cows and horses down for a drink or a wash.

Catch of the day: mojarra

Traditionally the men fish from dugout canoes, made from a single massive tree trunk.  The kids make their own dugouts.  On two days, at different spots, I watched little boys tow their boats through the water as their mothers washed clothes in the lake.

By the end of the week I wondered if sun and sweet water were all we needed.

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Filed under Nicaragua, travel