Saturday, September 6, 2008

Lifestyles of the Not-So-Rich and Famous

All right, so my last post was really nothing but some good old-fashioned bitching about the weird and scary things that had happened to me, and while it felt good to get it off my chest, afterwards I worried that it was sort of karmically bad juju to focus on the not-so-good. Well, it can't have been too bad, because I'm on a total high right now, and today I've got nothing but good news to share.

First of all, I started working in a new archive, and it is WONDERFUL. The Nicaraguan Central Bank started a library about 40 or 50 years ago and now it's tremendous, with a complete collection of newspapers, magazines, and all the things I need to read for my research. Plus, the building itself is light, spacious, windowy (if such a word exists), and moderately air conditioned to about 75 degrees. The seats are exactly the right height from the ground so my feet touch completely and I don't have to sit on the edge. The tables are exactly the right height so I can cross my legs comfortably underneath, but not so high that I feel like a munchkin at the big kids' table. In other words, it is honestly the most comfortable archive I've ever worked in. Not to mention, the archivists are completely awesome, nice, curious, friendly, welcoming, and helpful. And not just after they get to know you, which as far as I can tell is the norm in historical archives, that you have to build a relationship with the librarians first, and then they're awesome. These guys are top shelf right off the bat. PLUS, you can take digital pictures for free. As many as you want. I'm going back this week, and I can't wait!

Second, PrincessPi asked me the other day in the comments section what exactly it was that I was working on down here in Managua, and the thought that somebody was interested thrilled me little pants off. So I thought I'd give a brief summary for those interested. Sadly, I am not, as PrincessPi suggested, hunting for a treasure map, or anything nearly that exciting. As some of you probably know, I'm doing my PhD in Latin American History (at UT-Austin), and now that I've finished 3 years of classes, comprehensive qualifying exams, and masters thesis writing, this year I'm doing some dissertation research. My diss will be about the Sandinista's attempt to institute a comprehensive, socialist health care system (a la Cuba or Costa Rica) during the early years after the 1979 revolution. So at this point, basically I'm just sitting around, reading annual reports and plans from the Ministry of Health, journals and reports from the Health Care Worker's Union, books of statistics, newspapers, magazines, and all that junk. It probably sounds really boring, but it's actually really fun for me. I've also been working connections to get in touch with some health care workers and government officials from the time period to do oral history interviews, and things are looking good. I'm hoping to have some interviews set up by October. So that's my project in a nutshell (help, help! I'm in a nutshell!). Hope I didn't put you all to sleep.

Third, can I just mention for a minute how lucky I got with this housing arrangement? I might be all adulty and grown-upish in the States (ha! don't laugh.), but no matter how old I get, moving to a new country always brings out the little girl in me. Teresa, the woman who owns the house and runs the operations here, is sweet, helpful, organized, patient... she is, more often than not, exactly what I need for whatever occasion arises. My own private in-house cheering section. On Friday when I came home in a foul mood after the scary taxi ride with bleeding blisters and a sore neck from the crazed yoga instructor, she took one look at my face and said, "Oh, dear. Shall we go out and have some tea and pie?" And then Alta (the Dutch medical student who's working in Managua, also living in my house) came in from her first week of work at a Managua hospital, and she also looked a little shell-shocked. So Tere took us out to have cakes and coffee at a little tree-house cafe just a few blocks away. We cheered up almost instantly. So lucky.

Speaking of housing, here, finally, are the pictures I promised to my family of the house I'm in. They're not stellar, but they give you a basic idea. The person in some of them is Chilo, the maid, with whom I've been watching a Nicaraguan soap opera in which the main character is a sex addict and in the course of her wild and wooly ways, contracts an STD and gives it to her husband and then she tries to kill herself and ends up in a coma for a month, after which she emerges miraculously healed of her sex addiction, but now her husband won't let her spend time with their daughter. It's all very dramatic, and we've seriously bonded over this woman's effed up life.

Here's a view of the house from the living room, looking at the kitchen. Sorry it's blurry.

Here's my bedroom with nun-like small bed and blue walls. I like it.

Here is the side garden, patio, and outdoor dining room, where we eat dinner each night while little animals chirp all around us.

This is the back garden, where we hang out the laundry to dry, and to the right side is the bedroom with private entrance (woo-woo!) that I'm going to move into when the Spanish girls leave next week.

And here is Chilo on the back patio where we go to sit around, read, gossip, and cut our toenails. Among other things.

So that's home, for now. I like it.

And the last thing I was going to tell you was about the ABSOLUTELY GOLDEN AWESOME AND TERRIFIC weekend I just had. But I'll tell you about it tomorrow. I'm tired now, and I'm going to bed. Ooh, I just killed a mosquito with the one-handed-grab technique! Damn, I'm getting good. Love from the land of Nicas, over and out for now.


Lindsey said...

Sounds like a very big adventure...and well told. :)

Anonymous said...

What an amazing project! I am so jealous! I studied so much Latin American history in college but it never even occurred to me that you could do something like what you're doing. I am SO enjoying reading about your adventures!!!