I experienced the last month here in fast forward. Two of my closest friends, Sarah and Anique, visited for a week and we had a fabulous and crazy adventure...we traversed volcanoes (well, almost), laughed at all the silly and ridiculous things that happen while traveling in Nicaragua, slept in cots made from plastic sacks, spent time with our friends in San Ramon, acted as tourists for my English class to test their speaking and practiced our hip-hop moves. They were with me when I received news of my acceptance into the Women's and Gender Studies Ph.D. program at Rutgers. Since we were together in the Master's program at Rutgers, they were exactly who I needed to be with to think through some major decisions. Sarah and Anique also helped to initiate a project that Damaris and I have been talking about for the last few months.
Isn't it always the case the you really feel at home somewhere just when you are about to leave? Within the last two weeks, Damaris and I began developing the much discussed project focusing on gender inequality, reproductive health and the youth in San Ramon. We have been working non-stop on designing the program and writing a proposal. I also signed on to help find funding for a larger program that would increase people's access to conventional health care and natural medicine in San Ramon and the surrounding rural communities. Writing grant proposals is challenging. Writing proposal in Spanish and translating them into English, even harder! But, I have been happy working and being involved in a creative process. The days have been full (I also started running again, which meant setting the alarm for 5:00am every day).
There have been moments over the last 8 months (many, in fact, mostly when I was sick) when I felt like I would never be leaving Nicaragua; that we would be here forever. But, this last week I felt my departure looming in the distance...like someone throwing a snowball at you and watching it beam at your face in slow motion. Today, it hit me. I started my last day with an early morning run, watching the sun rise over the mountains. On the dirt road, the chickens, pigs, and dogs were just beginning their daily routine of finding food. Moms were sweeping their porches. Just another day. I finished up last minute packing and last minute meetings about the proposals and projects. Over the weekend, I had two surprise "despedidas" or farewell parties, so saying goodbye has been a long process. But this morning was hard. So many people have welcomed us into their homes and lives, shared their dreams and suffering. We have gotten to know a diverse group of people, from the crazy young guys in my English class, the staff at the Casa de Ninos, our neighbors, to the entire Izaguirre family. The richness of my experience has come from knowing all these people. When I left this morning, I felt like I was walking out of a warm embrace.