Sunday, February 20, 2011

Love, Life and Happiness.

The constant whir, buzz, honks, and chirps are starting to grow on me. The din is starting to sound like music to my ears. Even the TV which is always on in the background adds a lovely rhythm to the never-ending sonnet.

To quote one of my angels, Cristina Taborda, who said this with so much passion, “I love my life!”

I feel the same way, Shteen. I love my life and I feel so blessed to be on an adventure such as this one. All the seemingly awful things that may come my way will all be looked back on with a good laugh and a nostalgic sigh. One can only move forward. This is the mentality I started out with the minute I stepped into the car to drive to Buffalo and I’ve maintained it up until now. Every time I’ve had a rough day or felt homesick, I come home, have a little pity party and then I go to sleep, telling myself that tomorrow will be a better day. And it always has been!

One of our former guests, Shannon, a farmer working in the United States, told a few of us a beautiful story the other day about positive and negative energy. She decided she would test out a theory on her plants. She bought two of the exact same plants and placed them in the exact same amount of light, gave them each the exact same amount of water at the exact same time of day and gave them each the exact same kind of air conditions. She gave one plant more love, attention and encouragement in the way she spoke with it. The other, she yelled at and took all of her frustrations out on. The ‘love plant’ grew beautifully and quickly. The ‘hate’ plant suffered, did not grow anywhere near as much as the ‘love plant’ and even grew mold! This story really re-instilled my beliefs in the power of energy and positive thinking, and how it can change one’s life!

The other day Paulette and I had an interesting talk about culture and how it has become defined in Western civilization. After this chat, I’ve taken some time to seriously re-analyse what culture means to me. Basically, I’ve come to the conclusion that culture has often been defined in terms of a country’s behavioural patterns. No one country can be considered to be full of like-minded people who all act and behave the same way. Behind our typical definition of culture are power dynamics and inherent racist beliefs and attitudes. We’ve lost our understanding of what culture used to mean; one’ country’s music, art, dance, literature, language, history etc. That to me, is the heart of nation, it’s what they truly hold in common. Another thing I’ve overheard is that culture can be considered ubiquitous. I think this idea has been constructed in the West as a way for Westerners to hold power over information and over people in the South. As my time rolls on here, I have become more and more uncomfortable with generalisations. It wasn’t until that chat with Paulette, however, when I realized my worldview is shifting.

Yesterday I was a tour guide in training on our trip to Granada, Nicaragua’s wealthiest city. Granada is a beautiful old colonial city that was bustling at every turn. The Granada Poetry festival was going on, so that added to the excitement in the main square of the city. We even had two celebrity sightings; Gioconda Belli, one of Nicaragua’s most prolific female writers who participated in the revolution (she was signing books only a few feet away from us!) We also saw one of Nicaragua’s most famous singers, Carlos Mejia Godoy, on stage, minutes away from performing.

My favourite part of the day was visiting el Museo San Francisco which holds some of the most beautiful pre-Colombian statues. I don’t know what it was about these statues, but something about them rang close to home. Perhaps it was the way they represented the union between animal and human. Or perhaps it was the absence of any representation of war in the statues, thus the 2000 years of peace the Mayans experienced, that inspired me. I think it was also the way they were arranged; two long rows of 15-20 statues facing each other, so stoically, as if protecting their Queen or Goddess. The front of the statue was a man or woman, and behind, arching the person’s back was an animal, each different animal representing a different characteristic, i.e. strength, wisdom etc. I loved the idea of the relationship represented between human and animal; that of peace, acceptance and understanding. This experience will definitely stick with me.

I’ve been really struggling with how people, in general, treat their ‘pet’ dogs here. Many families treat them as guards, their sole purpose is to protect and attack. This is so warped to me. Animals are living creatures that have spirits like humans and to watch them be tied up day in and out on a small rope to a tree, is damaging whatever spirit they may have left. The dogs at my home are treated with a little more respect, but not much. My family keeps them outside at all times. One of them is definitely starving, as you can see his ribcage and every other bone poking out of his skin. They never touch them, and the only time they speak to them is to shoo them out of the house. Today as I was leaving the house, the Dalmatian, Escrapy, came limping over to me, clearly having injured his paw or leg, obviously looking for me to help him. I’ve never felt so helpless. The family has done nothing to help the dog, even though he is whimpering in pain. Thank heavens; the head of our Spanish school also happens to be vet. I’m headed to his house later on this afternoon to see what he can do for this poor suffering dog. As it so happened, as I walked out of my house, feeling so guilty for not being able to help this dog, I almost fell on my face as I looked down and saw what I’m almost 100% sure was a dead dog on the corner of the sidewalk!! I was almost sick to my stomach. I’m so thankful to be working for someone who rescues animals for a living!!

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