Thursday, January 25, 2007


I love the sign!!!!

It’s been 10 days since we came here and I still don’t know what and how I am going to do here...

Once I landed in San Jose in Costa Rica, I did realize that reading anthropology is something totally different than DOING anthropology. I think writing belongs to the easier part as well (though it’s a while before I’ll start writing something “for real”). Once I felt this bittersweet air of fieldwork, I knew that THIS-IS-GOING-TO-MAKE-YOU-FREAK! (thanks K. for this music hit! :).

I knew at once that this was going to be hard. But I was excited. Still, I had the will to conquer the world and carry out what I had planned the last few months. The world was new and beautiful and waiting for me. At the airport, indeed. The city turned out to be an ignorant monster that truly gives a hoot about the ants like me. I meant nothing. And the city is really horrible. Maybe because it was the first city in this region we visited and unfortunately it is not the best representative of Latin American capitals. To cap it all when we gett off the bus in the centre of the city, when the business day started to flourish, right before our eyes a police patrol at the bicycles rode up to the stroller, as we had thought, stopped him, and took a huge gun from his trousers! So unexpectedly for us, and so natural for them. The “bad guy” didn’t seem aggressive and those two policemen didn’t seem surprised. The event didn’t cause any sensation neither. Actually we were the only rubbernecks that seemed to be shocked by the accident. The life of other passer-bys didn’t change. Mine did. It was like I was in a middle of “Amorres Perros” with that difference that I wasn’t supposed to leave a theatre within half an hour. What is worse, I was going to participate in that movie for next half a year, struck me!!!

!Bienvenido a America Latina!

We took a hotel room, tried not to think in black and took some beers. Later we visited the city and the university. The mood was better, but we wanted nothing but to take off to Nicaragua. Don’t know why but I was sure that “the country of lakes and volcanoes” will make me much more happier that this place. We took a morning bus and the next day we were in Managua.

At the bus station taxi drivers were already waiting for us. It’s true that taxis here find you before you find them! I said that we want to the bus terminal to León and asked about the price. He answered three times but I still didn’t understand. The problem here is that taxis don’t have taximeters and I’ve heard you pay extra for every passenger. Well, it’s not a problem after a few rides when you start learning the rules. In León taxis work like an urban bus. You can get in until the car is completely filled. And it doesn’t mean that four-person car is packed when there are sitting four person. “People, my car is bigger than that!”. Yes, here people don’t mind to be crammed like sardines. It’s hot anyway!

We came to León after two hours. Have seen volcano Momotombo which I recognized at once! After all, I was starring at him (I don’t know why but Momotombo is a male and I don’t use “it” when thinking about him) the last 6 months. So pretty! I felt like all those Romantics that come back from an exile to their motherland.

El lago! … El lago de la Patria mía!
El amigo querido de mi infancia...
El Momotombo con su faz sombría,
Su talento de rey y su arrogancia!

Oh Momotombo! Cómo te veía
Con hurano semblante cuando nino,
Y qué pavor tu aspecto me infundía,
Sin faltarte por eso mi carino!

“Saludo en su regreso a la patria”
1884. Carmen Díaz

It’s pretty strange but I felt like I knew this place. The lake, the volcanoes, Ometepe island…

Took another night at the hotel that freezes the character of Latin America. The colonial one – it’s easier to make it luxury and comfortable for thirsty of “the cultural experience” tourists. “This hotel is another dodge” – I said to Bartek. And those hotels are indeed. With their air-conditioning, sweet patios, primitive paintings on the walls and fresh fruits on their tables, they do give a false image of this place. There are bars between “museum Nicaragua” and “real Nicaragua”, like between a frozen and liquid culture. The flow of life is on the street. And take it literally. I’ll write about the street life later. There are a few patterns I have discovered that amaze me and inspire to make a comparison between a Norwegian and Nicaraguan house, especially with the notion of private sphere in the northern lives Marianne Gullestad writes about.


And back to personal thoughts: next day, after moving to the household I had arranged in Norway, I started to cry and was crying and crying. I couldn’t stop. I was terrified by where we were supposed to live, by not understanding Nicaraguan Spanish (especially my hosts!), by not having a will to get to know them, by the scorching heat and by all my ideas dying in the shadow of volcanoes! I wasn’t on cloud nine at that time. Frankly speaking, excitement that was accompanying me for so long, disappeared as if by magic. I don’t know where this breakdown came from, but it was real and hard. Hopefully, it will never come back. And surely, not in this form. I supposed this kind of despair is typical for most of us who are coming to the field. I didn’t fear the place, people or I don’t know what. I just felt so impotent, weak and adrift in the universe of my own expectations toward my work and myself…

It’s much better now, as one could suppose J. I’ve started classes and tamed the city. Usually I don’t need much time to adapt myself to new environments. Albert Camus has a point in one of his essays (I don’t remember a title, but will try to find it). He expressed in some beautiful words (with an amazing sentence about a rose flower) notion of a short-lived newness and unfamiliarity with places. Like me, after a night in a hotel, the next morning he goes out on the street and click! you feel at home. I think that we both dwell in environments a little bit faster than Ingold and Tilley may have wished J. That is why I was so surprised at my reaction. Anyway, I am trying to convince myself that my stay here will be worth something and that I can manage as a fieldworker.

Some facts:

  • I realized that I can’t write where I stay as the person is very recognizable at the community so it’s better to leave this unsaid for now and until I’ll find what to do with this fact. But we enjoy J and I have a huge opportunity to get some crucial informants. I hope I won’t miss it.
  • Have been at Cerro Negro (the youngest and the most active volcano in Central America) with quetzal trekkers. Strange enough I wasn’t afraid at all! Why should other people be, actually – I asked myself? I talked to a guide and will meet the organizers some day and make some interviews. I am also considering making some quasi-quantitative questionnaires for the participants of those trips and leave them at the office to fill in. Just in case I don’t have any other data :)
  • Volcano Telica had some eruptions of gases and ashes on 8, 9 and 10th January. There wasn’t any information here. At least not so visible as I had thought. Some people who are living near Telica were evacuated, but here in León (about 15 km away) nobody seemed to care about it. I read about the eruption a few days later at the website of INETER. That made me think about sense of my project. But after being here for 10 days I can surely wait with making any conclusions. Anyway, I consider this finding also pretty important for my case.
  • Have had quite sensible discussions with three residents of León about the risk, INETER’s decision making, spread of information and power of convincing people. They told me about previous eruptions and why people actually don’t follow INETER’s recommendations. Have some hot quotations! J Have got also some informations about the building regulations in colonial cities like León, Granada and Masaya. According to my informants it seems that the Town Council cares more about the cultural heritage that people who are living at the historical houses (they don’t have any choice). They would really love to build a safe roofs (while covered with volcanic ashes they are collapsing and are main risk in León during eruptions of Cerro Negro). I have to talk with representatives of the legislative body here!
  • Monday - CMIA!!!
  • Today we´re going to see some nicaraguan movie at the "Esquina del movimiento". Can be fun. Generally speaking, concerts and such (though not so many right now since it´s a holiday time here) seem to gather more tourists than the local public. What thBe local people are doing in the evenings I´ll write about in the next post.

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