¡Hola famila y amigos!
Spanish lesson of the week for you: Foco = lightbulb. Foca = seal (as in, the aquatic animal). When you ask someone who owns a tiny little shop on the street corner if they sell focas, they can and will laugh at you. haha
I don't know why I haven't remember to write about this earlier, because it's definitely not a normal tradition: "Gigatonas" (higga-tone-uhs). Every night here for the month of November, people dress up in these giant, 12 foot creepy looking Barbie doll costumes and grace (or plague) the streets of Nicaragua. No one knows exactly why they do it, just that it's a tradition from Spain--I want someone to Google it and tell me. There are at least six or seven Gigatonas in our area in Leon alone; someone steps inside the doll (the person's heas is at about the section of the doll's midriff), and dances around, swaying the doll's long arms and tiered ruffled dress and long, colorful plastic-streamer hair in the process. You always know when one is coming because they're followed by a procession of little boys banging loudly on drums and another boy wearing a giant head of some sort of Hispanic looking man jumping around in circles (he kind of looks like an apish Mexican bobble head). Hermana Najarro and Rosita (the member here who goes out and teaches with us almost every day--more on her later, she's awesome) have decided the Gigatonas are my descendants, because they're the only things here that are taller than me. One Hermana in our district is terrified of them (she actually runs away when she sees one coming, haha). But apart from the fact that the drums are annoying because you can't hear anything when they pass by, I think it's a fun tradition.
We had a reunion with all the sister missionaries in Managua last week and ended up having to stay the night. It was so much fun sleeping over in what I have dubbed "The Girl's Camp House," all of us in our pajamas huddled up on one bunk bed talking about plans for the future and swapping mission stories. We found out that we're getting 12 new sister missionaries in two weeks, and the implications for that are huge, because there are no free sisters currently available to train. Which means that I will most likely be a trainer shortly after I am trained. I don't know exactly why but I just feel like I am going to be a trainer wayyy earlier than I am ready to be. We'll see.
I've decided my entire experience here is kind of like Girls Camp as well. You're happy and experience a secret sense of fulfillment from/by embracing your inner wild woman, nature-dwelling self, but you're mortified by any pictures taken of you because they are all automatic blackmail, you feel disgusting, and you smell weird..which is my life, everyday. I woke up with 8 big bites on my left foot and a smudge of dirt on both knees from kneeling on the ground last night, and I honestly don't even care. It's so refreshing to be somewhere where they don't judge you by the clothes you're wearing or how awful your hair looks that day. I love that when I walk out of my front door every morning and walk down the street, I'm going to get waved at and smiled at and wished "Que les vaya bien!" and "Adios!" by practically everyone I see.
I'm sure I could handle it if I was called somewhere less open and loving, but I think God knows exactly what I need. I love Latin American culture. As I have said earlier--it's just warm and vibrant and alive. The sound of salsa and guitar spicing up the streets at night, the smoke wafting from cooking fires, brown bodies glistening with sweat from a rigorous game of street soccer. They have nothing but they have everything.
Every morning I wake up to a cacaphony of various sounds--a chorus of roosters crowing at 5 am, dogs barking, angry sounding birds squawking and scratching the roof about our heads with their feet, motorcycle engines roaring by, bells jingling from various venders, and the loud and very persistent woman selling "semillas del sol" from a basket on her head. This morning, I was kept up for three hours (yes, three) by a cat somewhere right outside of our window that I'm convinced must have been dying, because there is no other reason why any animal should whine that loudly for so long. Normally, I love cats. This morning, I hated them. I'm not sure I would be able to sleep in here even if I was given the occasion to.
I tried "cosa de horno" last week as well. It's like...solidified pudding, which has an aftertaste of sweet cheese. Not my favorite, but I didn't hate it, either.
My Spanish has a long way to go but I am definitely improving every day and receive lots of compliments (I got asked if I was from Spain this week and had a Latina sister tell me she didn't realize when she heard me talking I was American until she looked up and saw me, woo hoo!). Hna N says I say "Adios" like a Nica, too. I didn't realize until she pointed it out, but Nicas say "Adios" followed by a little "Hnn" sound. it's barely perceptible but now I always notice it. I feel that Spanish is like a big, colorful puzzle. I've begun to fill out the edges and corners, but I haven't even begun working on the bigger picture in the middle. I'm excited for the day when I wake up and finally feel fluent, if it will ever come.
Apart from that, we're just working hard everyday to teach people about the Gospel even when they are adamant believers of their own religions or believe in nothing at all (which is more rare here than in the US, but still a problem). There are two types of Catholics here: The ones who say they are Catholic but don't actually believe or know their own doctrine, and the ones who are the stubborn, "I was born Catholic and I will die" Catholics who won't listen to us. One such man tried explaining to me that little children are born with sin the "moment they open their eyes" from their parent's transgression by having sex. So we asked him if his two year old son sitting on his lap was a sinner, and he adamantly said yes, and without baptism he would go to hell. I guess I will just never understand that one.
The Evangelicos here are good people and they make me laugh with how dedicated they are. Hermana Najarro offered a prayer with one of our Evangelico investigators last week, and during the prayer and after everything she said, the man said, "O Gracios, Dios!" and "Asi es," and "Amen!"; The more he liked a part of the prayer the louder he got. It was pretty great, even though I almost started laughing and Hermana N grinned the whole prayer. It was very Southern Baptist Preacher, "Can I get an Amen?? HALLELUJAH my brothas and sistas! Thank you Jesus!" and then a black choir in robes breaks out of nowhere into clapping and singing and waving their arms and praising the Lord.
I love my investigators. I'm teaching one awesome guy who grew up in the Caribbean and has the coolest Jamaican accent. He speaks English, too, which is such a relief if I don't know how to say something in Spanish.
And, I am out of time so that is that. Enjoy Thanksgiving this week for me! Engorge yourselves on food and then take a really long nap. Hermana Najarro has never tried nor heard of a pumpkin, if you can believe it. Maybe I'll make myself a turkey sandwich or something, with rice, because that is apparently all they eat here.
Les quiero muchisimo!
<3 Hermana Behan