Some Feelings I Had In 2015

I started the year with a pledge in the form of a hashtag: #NoFeelings2015, I insisted. I planned to avoid love, keep my depression at a respectful distance and generally maintain a level head.

I cried within the first hour of the New Year, hunched over on a brick ledge with three of my best friends. I thought I was crying about a girl, and maybe I was, but it seems more likely that this was my body’s way of warning me that in 2015 I would feel, so I’d better forget about the hashtag.

I have realized in recent years that I feel things – every thing – more intensely than most people. I live joy and love and anger and sadness so deeply that even positive emotions can crush me, exhaust me, as they work their way through my guts and out of my skin and into the world. And despite my stupid intentions, 2015 was no different. Here are a few of the feelings I felt in 2015:

  1. The ecstasy of making new friends who somehow saw everything I am before I did and loved me for it. I replay the pre-Klub Deer Beehive dance party in my mind whenever I need to remember what it feels like to be totally held, totally seen, and totally loved.
  2. The adrenaline-fueled power trip of reaching the top of very tall mountains, volcanoes and cliffs with my best friends.
  3. The majesty of solitude. I used to hate being alone, but in 2015 I deliberately sought solitude and used it to heal.
  4. The ugly shame of realizing I had hurt someone I love with my bullshit.
  5. The peace, the utter perfect piece, of sitting on a patio with friends and drinking a beer and talking about nothing as we gave each other the world.
  6. The sweet absurd head rush of falling in love.
  7. The slow (eternal) bitter agony of heartbreak upon slowly admitting that the person I loved and I couldn’t love each other very well.
  8. The sudden and subtle discovery that I wasn’t in love anymore. Maggie Nelson describes falling out of love as killing a bird that has, by sheer grace, made a home in your heart. In this case, it was more like I watched the bird fly away and didn’t try to stop it.
  9. The comfort/discomfort of listening to music that whispers all my secrets back at me.
  10. The crushing grief of departure. Sometimes I still think about the nice British girl next to me on the plane out of Managua, the concern in her eyes as I wept uncontrollably. She asked what was wrong and I wanted to say “It feels like I’m giving up a whole universe.” “It’s as if sad angry ghosts are cracking my ribs open to suck all the air out of my body.” “I think part of me is dying and I have to let it.” Instead I said, “I just really loved it there” and buried my face in my A-Camp bandana.
  11. The wondering, always wondering, if I fit. It has been said many ways by many people that once you call more than one place home, it’s hard to be fully at home in any place. My truest language will always be espanglish. My roots will always be dangling behind me. I hope I learn to carry them with grace.
  12. The complicated embarrassment and delight of being misgendered, of wondering if I can be misgendered when I don’t know what my gender is.
  13. The excitement of a new beginning in the city I grew up in, rediscovering it and myself to the sound of Stars games and country music and always, always so much laughter.

I bought a crop top from Julia Nunes’ web store that I’m wearing it to the New Year’s Eve party I’ll go to in Denver with some of the beautiful Bees. The front just says FEELINGS in all caps.

Let’s do this, 2016.

Dando la vuelta al Caramanchel

No me acuerdo la primera vez que fui al Caramanchel. No es un lugar para recordar detalles, pues. Es mejor para compartir la cubeta, para bailar cumbia a cualquier ritmo de música con lxs mejores amigxs, para hacer decisiones cuestionables sin arrepentirlas.

Durante dos años y algo en Managua, he visto muchos lugares abrir y cerrar. En los últimos meses, nos despedimos del Quilombo y Uruk Kalli. La Lomita desapareció en silencio, y de vez en cuando me pongo a pensar de sus papas fritas. La Cumbiadera cambió de lugar y se puso menos y menos constante. Osea, podemos decir que la vida de noche aquí es un serie momentos fugaces y bellos. Pero El Caramanchel es constante, si.

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Constante como tu mejor amiga, como los zancudos despues de la lluvia.

Cualquier viernes y sabado, podés saber que vas a ver caras conocidas al llegar, que la bicha será bien fria, que van a tocar “Que Bonita Es Esta Vida” y que cada persona va a cantar/gritarla hasta estresar los pulmones. Si Calle 13 ya no está de moda, la noticía no llegó al Cara. Si la cumbia es para lxs viejxs, no me fije bien. No hay reglas, no hay pena, solo hay un playlist (pero de verdad, solo uno) y tu gente y toda la gente, pues. Pero no debés pensar que las cosas no cambian – viste este nuevo baño? Es un poquito hermoso.

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En este lugarcito, he visto mis bandas favoritas y casi no me molestaba la calidad de sonido (que es como escuchar musica en una caverna). He tomado shots de despedida y bienvenida y cumpleaños (incluso el mio). He desbaratado mucho maquillaje por sudar, bailar y besar (y quien no?).  El bar cierra entre las 4 y 5, cuando la pista de baile ya esta mas lodo y cerveza que piso, cuando por fin podés dar giras porque es ya se fueron la gente. Y al salir, podés saber que al regresar el proximo finde, ahí estará.

Me faltan pocas giras por este lugar, y en un mes ya me va a hacer falta “Cumbia Pa’Bailar.” Pero el Cara es entre las cosas que me dan menos pena por estar dejandolas. Porque cuando vuelvo a visitar Managua el proximo año, estoy segurx que en la noche del viernes o sabado, estarémos en algún bar o alguna casa, y alguien dirá “Que hacemos?” Y alguien dirá “Al Caramanchel?” Y irámos, y ahí estará.

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Day whatever ~

Quería escribir todos los días. I was going to write every day. Really! But consistency is hard to achieve amidst upheaval. Lo cagué. Upsi. In the last couple weeks, I ran a conference, slept for a million hours, stayed out til 5 am, planned a couple trips, reconciled with a dear friend, developed a job hunt strategy, and decided on what kinds of pie I want at Thanksgiving.

I will tell you more about all of these things soon.
xo

Day 7: I opened my eyes underwater and they stopped hurting.

I’ll be blogging every day until I leave Nicaragua, because telling these stories is the only way I can make sense of saying goodbye//Voy a bloguear cada día hasta que me vaya de Nicaragua, porque el hecho de compartir estos cuentos es la única forma de comprender mi salida.

I haven’t written for a couple days because I couldn’t. I was in the kind of anxious depressive spiral that made me feel like if I reflected too hard on anything I would fall into a hole and never come out. September has been something of a lowgrade nightmare — it started off with bronquitis, someone very important to me stopped being part of my life, I’ve been robbed twice on buses (after two years with no incidents!) and work has been more stressful than usual. Add to that the low undercurrent of stress of trying to figure out how to close this chapter of my life and things have not been great for my brain. Friday, when my phone got stolen, the cup overflowed and I’ve spent the weekend doing lots of self care things — dancing with friends, eating milkshakes, listening to punk and the new Mal Blum record, etc — trying to level myself out.

Of course, it was the Laguna that did it. It always is! I’ve written about her before, and it all holds true. Today I went with Kelsey, Andy, MaChe and Eva. We brought a couple bags of picnic food, and I swam and kayaked and read my book and drank two cokes because I could!

Photo by Andy Choi

Photo by Andy Choi

The Laguna has always been a place I could think better than anywhere else in Nicaragua, but today I didn’t think too much. I talked about leaving a little bit, but mostly we just talked about how warm the water was and gawked at the huge crowd of monkeys that gathered right by our table. In not thinking or journaling or feeling too much, I drew in some peace.

And, here’s another thing – my eyes have been intensely dry and itchy for weeks, but after I swam around with them open under water for a while, they felt better. Maybe it won’t last, and I should probably buy some eye drops. But for now I’m just thankful for a break in the storm.

Day 6: Pero si, es una vida.

I’ll be blogging every day until I leave Nicaragua, because telling these stories is the only way I can make sense of saying goodbye//Voy a bloguear cada día hasta que me vaya de Nicaragua, porque el hecho de compartir estos cuentos es la única forma de comprender mi salida.

Two-and-a-half years no es tanto tiempo. No es poco. Pero si, es una vida. Y una vida es una cosa grande, no?

Tonight after salsa class, Mafe told me to come over. Her house is a two minute walk, y entonces fui a ver que onda. Llegaron gente, llegó cerveza. Sentamos en el patio tomando, fumando, y hablando del genero y de cantidades de mangos. Someone I had never met before tuned a ukelele with incredible attention. A Guatemalan artist, Gomez, spoke of a single town in Spain that has a communist system. Comí tejadas y me sentí cansadx. Reí de las bromas de la Sandra. Fui al baño.

I left an hour later than I meant to and walked home through the nearly quiet streets of La Centroamerica. Mis pies ya saben el camino, y pum.

This is what it means to have a home: Quiet Thursday nights with good friends and ambling conversations and a couple beers, bajxs de un arbol que da una fruta que nadie sabe explicar. The way Roberto shrieks when he has an idea. The way no one needs to differentiate between acquaintances and friends, porque estamos todxs paradxs en el mismo circulo. The way that Spanglish is the only way to talk about it.

This is what it means to have a life. There will be other porches, other friends, other universes of moments where everything feels safe and silly and real. This will not be the last time my spirit and my body settle into each other, sip a cheap and perfect beer, and breathe.

But mercy. Quien soy yo para dejar una vida como esta? Quien era yo para tenerla?

Day 5: I’m here, I’m queer, It’s pretty rad.

I’ll be blogging every day until I leave Nicaragua, because telling these stories is the only way I can make sense of saying goodbye//Voy a bloguear cada día hasta que me vaya de Nicaragua, porque el hecho de compartir estos cuentos es la única forma de comprender mi salida.

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Happy Bi Visibility Day! Feliz Día de la Visibilidad Bisexual!

I wrote recently for Autostraddle about navigating queerness, bisexuality, and gender non-conforming presentation in Nicaragua. The upshot is: It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be (I thought it would be impossible). Instead, my friend group is at least half not-straight folks, and I am surrounded by peers who see me and cherish me for all the things I am. This makes me abundantly lucky regardless of geography.

Since today is Bi Visibility Day, I’ve been thinking more than usual about how important and affirming it is to be surrounded by people who don’t just tolerate my bisexuality but see it an affirm it as an intrinsic part of what makes me who I am. I have so much admiration for my queer Nica friends who have found ways to be out and proud and celebrate themselves and who have taught me to do the same. Whether it’s a night out dancing at Tabu, a one on one coffee with a friend, or marching in the streets for visibilidad y derechos, I have learned the risks and rewards of queerness in a Latinx context. I’m thankful to be able to take what I’ve learned here and go back to Texas. Most of all, I’m thankful to have a queer family in Nicaragua and throughout Central America fighting and celebrating with me to make the world better for us all.

Day 3/4: The Fantastic Forests of Bosawas and Ometepe

I’ll be blogging every day until I leave Nicaragua, because telling these stories is the only way I can make sense of saying goodbye//Voy a bloguear cada día hasta que me vaya de Nicaragua, porque el hecho de compartir estos cuentos es la única forma de comprender mi salida.

Yesterday I fell asleep, so today is a twofer! I was recently blessed to visit La Reserva Bosawas with three dear friends from Texas and La Isla de Ometepe with two of my roommates. We saw a lot of cool stuff in nature, and I took many pictures. here are five (unedited) from each trip! One of the most amazing parts of living here has been access to cheap (and sometimes sort of logistically absurd) travel to diverse and magnificent wonders like these

Bosawas:

Christopher made a friend.

Christopher made a friend.

Dana and Rob trudging through the slick path.

Dana and Rob trudging through the slick path.

Nature is magic.

Nature is magic.

We made it to the top!

We made it to the top!

Mariposas amorosas.

Mariposas amorosas.

Ometepe:

It was like dew but way thicker.

It was like dew but way thicker.

I took a lichen to this tree.

I took a lichen to this tree.

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La Laguna de Volcán Maderas

Brodie's face says what we were all feeling.

Brodie’s face says what we were all feeling.

Nightfall

Nightfall

Day 2: The Shortest Of Bucket Lists

I’ll be blogging every day until I leave Nicaragua, because telling these stories is the only way I can make sense of saying goodbye//Voy a bloguear cada día hasta que me vaya de Nicaragua, porque el hecho de compartir estos cuentos es la única forma de comprender mi salida.

A little while ago I made a bucket list for my last few weeks. I thought it would be an extensive process, but it really only had a few things on it: Visit my two host families, gather with my amazing Magdalenas, get my tattoo done, visit Ometepe again (DONE), visit Rio San Juan (logisticos mediante) and buy some ceramics from my potter friend Jacobo.

But otherwise: I just want to live, and be here, and breathe this air (polluted though it may be in the land of no emissions standards). I want to go to salsa class and master my quebrada in bachata. I want to have perfect carne asada at Doña Tania’s a couple more times. I want to spend a day in Granada eating waffles and staring at the smelliest corner of el Lago de Nicaragua.

I want to live the life I’m giving up, soak up every second, and record all the things I have become here into my skin so I don’t forget.

Day 1: Asi se hace: Con cafe dulce y amor de verdad (or: I have to make sense of these goodbyes)

Suddenly, it is easier to count my time left in Nicaragua in weeks, not months. Suddenly, my diaphragm feels full of stories I haven’t told. Starting today, I will share one reflection every day until I say goodbye.//De repente, sale mas facil contar el tiempo que me falta en Nicaragua con semanas en vez de meses. De repente, me siento el diafragma lleno de historias no compartidas. Empezando hoy, compartiré una reflexión cada día hasta que me despida.

Entre las cosas que mas me voy a extrañar de Nicaragua es una taza de cafe calientita y dulcita servida con amor en una casa del campo.

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Last week, I went with my replacement Josh (my replacement!!) to Buena Vista, a community partnered with CEPAD’s Jinotepe office. We spent the morning talking with the Community Development Committee, a group of folks organized to seek funding and logistical support for community projects, like improvements to their well and emergency food supplies. They explained the dire impacts of a drought in its second year and showed us how they are reusing wasted corn fields to plant new, drought-resistant crops like watermelon.

Teodora, one of the community’s matriarchs, joined our conversation to share her perspective and her desire for everyone in the community to have access to healthy food and water, secure work and a better education. She is 68. She has 12 children, 43 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren. The wood planks of her kitchen wall are rotting away, some are missing, but that same wall is covered with impossibly pink flowers.

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Teodora spent the morning explaining why drought and a lack of government support means many families in Buena Vista are constantly hungry (“I eat once or twice a day, I’m thankful,” said one committee member). And then, before we left, she insisted on feeding us chicken soup made with meat from her own chickens and magnificently hot tortillas. We tried to politely decline, but she wasn’t having it. “No me van a desapreciar, verdad?” And so, with gratitude we sat with her to have lunch and shared stories about our families. In her home over a simple meal, nos hicimos un vinculo profundo. I could feel her love for us, for God, and for her land as easily as I could see her vibrant smile. Sometimes you just meet someone and you love each other, and that’s it. Asi se hacen los vinculos aqui: Con cafe dulce y amor de verdad.

Doña Teodora with one of her daughters and granddaughters.

Doña Teodora with one of her daughters and granddaughters.

I don’t know how many more cups of coffee I will drink at these tables. In Teodora’s house, I thought of one of my first trips with CEPAD, to Tierra Blanca in Teustepe more than 2 years ago, with my former coworker Molly who was preparing to return to the U.S. after 10 years in Nicaragua. The family we met there served us coffee and guirilla, and I saw the tiniest tears in Molly’s eyes. I get it now.

At Teodora’s table, we drained our cups and prepared to say goodbye, I found myself stumbling over the words, wanting to promise I would see her again but knowing the chances were minute. Instead I said: Que Dios le bendiga y que guarde a su familia, y a ver si el universo nos traiga juntas de nuevo. You never know.

Nicaragua has taught me balance. The crumbling wall and vibrant flowers, the stories of hunger followed by generosity, giving love to people I will never see again, these are not contradictions. They are the necessary parts of a whole that help us move from one day to the next, praying tomorrow will be better y poniendo nuestro granito de arena para que sea asi.