Friday, July 10, 2015

5/1/86, Thursday and Epilogue

MAY DAY 5/1/86, Thursday

It’s hard to get out of the habit of writing this journal. The drive home last night was like a hallucination, it all felt surreal. There were bright neon lights everywhere announcing bail bonds, fast food, pawn shops, hotels, liquor stores. I couldn't believe how many lights there were. I couldn't even see the sky. It felt like a dark tent illuminated by artificial lights, no stars.

Inside, the car was cold. Bruce picked me up but I can tell that it's over for us. We hugged and kissed and it was friendly enough but when I tried to tell him about my trip he seemed to be somewhere else. We had seven good years but now we seem to have completely different interests. I hoped our time apart would allow us the space to sort things out and maybe make a go of it again but our time apart has just made me realize that we are pulling in different directions. It's sad and I know it will be hard because he was my best friend for so long but I don't feel like crying about it right now.

I don't know if I'm tired, jet lagged, or just suffering from culture shock, possibly it's a combination of all three but I'm feeling out of sorts. Can a person have culture shock returning to her own country? It's weird, I was born here and right now this place feels foreign to me. Things that were once familiar and hardly noticed now stand out in contrast with my recent experiences. There were no roosters and chickens to wake me up this morning, I set my alarm clock instead but I didn't need it because my inner alarm clock woke me up at the right time. I got in my car and drove to the market to buy a box of cereal and a carton of milk. I didn't talk to anyone or say hello to anyone along the way. There was no singing coming from the open windows of neighbor’s houses. I didn't feel the cobblestones beneath my feet as I walked to my destination; instead, I was in a vacuum, in my own little capsule with a radio piping in recorded music. At the market, bright overhead lamps illuminated the abundant, perfectly shiny produce. Shelf after shelf of packaged foods filled the aisles of a building four times the size of a market in Esteli. One aisle, devoted entirely to different varieties of paper included scented and unscented toilet paper in single, medium, or large packs, with flowers printed on them, textured, or plain. We have so much but we're also missing so much.

I left the market with much more than I came for. That's how it works here. I'll put stuff in the cupboards and fridge and hopefully I'll eat it, but half the time my fresh fruits and vegetables rot. It's strange, in Nicaragua my family and most of our neighbors did not have a refrigerator and it forced us to eat fresh food in season and to share and cooperate with our neighbors. Here, we don't have to do that. We are free to isolate ourselves, free to waste. It makes me wonder if we own our conveniences or if they own us. I've always sort of felt like a loner anyway so maybe this works best for me and yet it felt good to share and cooperate.

Truthfully, I'm confused. I eat a bowl of cereal while watching TV, something I've done nearly my whole life, and I'm unable to focus on the program. There is a part of me that wants to stay in the present. There is a part of me that does not want to escape into the fantasy on the television. There is a part of me that affirms that I don't need the simulation of life that TV and movies provide. In Nicaragua, people were living in the present, fully engaged in whatever they were doing at the time they were doing it. I already miss that. Some people might pity them: poor things - they have no TV but having no TV means they can ignore the simulation and focus on real life.

5/1/86, Thursday

I'm ready for bed. Work was uneventful. I got my classroom set up and my lesson plans are all done. There was a little cloud of melancholy that hung over my head all day. I guess part of it was knowing that today is May Day and that back in Nicaragua everybody would be celebrating their revolution, their freedom, their autonomy. Here, it's just another work day, except for me...because inside of me there's a revolution, there's a permanent change that won't let me fall back into the stupor.

I'm awake.



My revolution happened from the inside out over a prolonged period of time. It started with my visit to Nicaragua and continues every day of my life. There's always a news story, a personal interaction, or a provocative idea that requires me to face the world as a teacher/student, that requires me to step outside my comfort zone and engage in praxis.

As I was editing this journal, I started thinking about how much time has passed between now and when it was written. The places and people I describe have all changed but the lessons I learned taught me what it means to be strong, showed me the limitations of wealth, the value of dialogue, and the importance of fostering and developing critical consciousness. Those lessons feel timeless.

While I was in Nicaragua, I questioned my ability to make the huge changes I knew needed to be made. I wanted to stop President Reagan from funding the Contras. I wanted to bring Comandante Gladys Baez to the United States so she could inspire others. I wanted to change our educational system so that it focused on critical thinking rather than simply depositing facts. All those things seemed like they were beyond my control. I suppose that it might have made sense to go back to my old ways and accept defeat, but I couldn't. I had seen David take on Goliath and I started looking for my own slingshot.

As soon as I got back, I started making changes in my teaching style to include more dialogue and I structured my reading classes so that they went from concrete to abstract. That was a short lived party because training children for taking tests became a priority of my employers and made it difficult for me to provide the type of education that did more than create receptacles for filling. I didn't want to program students, I wanted to help them think for themselves.

I've come to understand that before policy changes can take place, the population's understanding of education has to change, values have to change. My opportunity to change the world begins with me and extends as far as the ideas I manage to share with others. I hope my spark of revolution can ignite the process of critical consciousness in you. I hope that as you read my diary, you questioned your own beliefs, mine, and any beliefs which have been deposited into you through the banking method.

I leave you with a final thought: the revolution starts within.

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