Fluffy Pillows, Dogs Who Play Catch, and Homemade Marmalade

Sometimes the life of a Project Director is, well, gritty. I spend my mornings answering the phone, often perched on a stool on our open air porch at a breakfast table that is more frequently covered with stacks of paper and manuals and phone logs and post its and to do lists than with the breakfast that was meant to be eaten at it. I bleach the floors multiple times a day, and the laundry lady often leaves hundreds of socks and wet clothes on the line, so when it starts raining I dash out to collect them. Then I lay them on the rocking chairs that adorn the deck, and hope they don’t get moldy. Sometimes I look in the fridge, but usually I only have stuff I don’t feel like eating- sometimes I think by opening it one more time, there will appear sliced veggies, dark chocolate, and brie. No such luck- I open it and find leftover spaghetti sauce, coffee grounds, a pineapple I’m too lazy to cut, and a lot of pancake mix. Peanut butter, before the sups eat it, and bags of echineacea tea. Sometimes I buy carrots and slice them, and eat those for my veggie fill. Mostly, when I get hungry enough I go over to Maribel’s and eat whatever she has on the stove- gallo pinto, rice and beans, sometimes breaded squash and soup. Sometimes she makes passion fruit juice and saves me the bottom of the pitcher with all the seeds in it- how I love passion fruit seeds! Other times we share chicken at Dona Irma’s, and I eat the meat and she sucks the bones. I don’t get it, but the girl loves the bones. Having a best friend in Teustepe makes it ok that there’s no brie or bell peppers or almonds or espresso in my kitchen.

But, even having a best friend in Teustepe doesn’t totally alleviate the grittiness. It just makes it wonderfully gritty, but gritty nonetheless. So last night, when I spent the night at Horacio’s home, our country director. He lives in a gated neighborhood. He has tiled floors that you can walk barefoot on, and carpet in the bedroom. The shower has hot water, and when I arrived he gave me a passion fruit juice slushy. His dogs are well fed and playful- so wonderful to see dogs who are pets. No matter how many years I do AMIGOS, my heart will always hurt for the dogs and cats whose ribs I can count, who are not pets but animals around the house, who sleep outside and who just want (I think) a little love.

We sat on cushy couches and I regaled them with stories of Boaco, of the youth, of the passion, of the incredible communities. I was trying to convince them how great the project is, so I can leave knowing it will continue for years to come! There were appetizers and pictures of Horacio’s family on the coffee table- it was, definitely, a home. Kate and I each got our own room! There were TWO pillows on the beds and shampoo in the shower and extra toothbrushes in case we forgot. We were in a home. Ahh. And breakfast- homemade marmalade!

Anyways, here I go, back to this gritty place I love, nestled between the mountains of Boaco, where I have a best friend and a house with rocking chairs and murals, but no brie. I’m heading back to more research interviews and meetings, to collaborating with the facilitators of Plan and answering the door for community members and volunteers at 6 am. The buses get in so early! I’m headed back to a world of calenders on poster paper and a cell phone ringing with volunteer concerns. Last minute meetings, community visits, phone calls, getting my nails painted and eating off of Maribel’s stove. Heading up into the mountains in Alfredo’s red truck, to do what I’m here to do. I’m here to run this project, to do research, to dream big, to make sure every young person involved learns something, does something, meets someone, thinks about something anew. Ready, set go. Every day, I carry my ever-ringing cell phone with hundreds of contacts in it, lotsa sunscreen, my $2 date book since my iPhone got accidentally locked, my magic Livescribe research pen and notebook, my recorder and Flip camera, my Latin American Programs Guidelines/Pink Book, permanent markers, poster markers, and a roll of poster paper. You never know when you’ll need to whip out the poster paper, the guidelines, or the sunscreen. You’ll probably always need the research pen at some random moment you have a burning desire to record, and the permanent markers are oh so necessary for color coding on ANY surface! And if you really scrounged through my bag, you could probably find a few more tools of the trade- cough drops, band-aids, sunglasses, a role of duck tape, a pouch of USBs….

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