Friday, April 16, 2010


As Michael has pointed out to me on various occasions, I get angry quite easily. In a world where so much doesn't go according to plan and I'm constantly faced with cultural difference and other stresses, it's neither terribly difficult nor particularly advantageous to lose my calm. I'm always getting stuck in thought patterns of "I'm not organized enough. I don't speak well enough. I don't discipline well enough. I don't care enough. I care too much." And the language I use on myself I invariably turn against other people. I don't think it's possible to be kind to others if I'm not always practicing by being kind to myself. And then, to top it off, I start needing other people to reassure me that I'm good enough, even though I don't have the strength of mind to reassure them that they are good people.

I was stuck pretty fiercely in these destructive patterns last week, until one of my Maureen Courtney 6th grade students' reflections surfaced abruptly in my head. I was teaching them about the road to Emmaus, and the assignment was to write or draw about a time when they felt like Jesus was with them. One of them wrote:

"I find Jesus through myself. When I'm feeling sad, I begin to think with lots of hate about the person that made me feel that way. Then I start to think about all the good things that [God?] does for us and then I calm down. I begin to think about what happened and I realize that it was Jesus that helped me calm down."

Destructive lines of thinking are insanely powerful. God's power is stronger. It's electric, even in its gentlest trace.

Monday, April 12, 2010

In response to David Weasley's call for job statements

I am powerful beyond my understanding or imagining
I am gentle as a mother's caress
And strong as the beacon of a lighthouse
On the stormiest of nights.
Illuminating darkness,
Sunlight shining on a laughing dancing river,
And that is enough.
I know a stronger light shines through me,
And I am ever expanding to encompass it.
I know that all people are worthy of love
And my ability to forgive goes deep as the ocean
And all sorts of creations make their home there.
My smile washes warm like the Caribbean
My truth stings like salt in the nose of the one caught unaware.
I am capable of tremendous patience
For searching through the selection of scripts
for malice, mistrust, and bitterness
To find a sheet of the musical score for God's breath.
I am capable of tremendous impatience,
Refusing to accept the written pages I am handed as engraved stones
I know that something radical is always breaking through,
Even in this moment.
My name is Kathryn Ray, and I defy physics.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Cultural Constructions of Sex and Gender

I think I owe my Spanish teacher from Granada an apology. I now understand much better his belief that "lesbians are lesbians because they don't like penetration." I came to this epiphany after a lengthy conversation with two members of my dance team about how sexual orientation and gender identity work in Nicaragua.

The whole conversation really just confirmed the conclusions of Roger Lancaster in his book "Life is Hard: Machismo, Danger, and the Intimacy of Power in Nicaragua," which I read before going to Nicaragua the first time back in January 2006. Even so, I still had to re-learn the whole cultural construction of sexuality in Nicaragua for myself, and it remains one of the harder cultural differences for me to get my mind around.

Gender identity and sexual orientation are inextricably linked, and both are defined by the act of penetration, which is the ultimate definition of masculinity. There are three major gender categories: Men, women, and "cochones" or homosexuals. One who penetrates is a man, one who is penetrated is a woman. Homosexuals, or "cochones" (possibly from "colchon," which means mattress), think they are women and want to be penetrated. In a sexual act between two men, only the one being penetrated is considered homosexual. A man can penetrate a cochon or a woman and still be a "man," as opposed to a "cochon," although they also can get the label "cochonero" for regularly penetrating cochones.

Women can also be "cochonas" and "cochoneras." It is believed that one is the "man" of the relationship, that is the one who penetrates. This was reiterated when I asked what happens if they both penetrate each other. I also asked what it meant when a woman penetrated a man using something other than a penis, and got the response "That's not done."

To say that lesbians don't like penetration, therefore, is tantamount to saying they don't like men. The second assertion makes much more sense to me than the first.

As this conversation was carried out with two men, I'm interested to get a woman or an out homosexual's take on the whole subject. The subject, I thus conclude, bears further scrutiny.

The Nitty Gritty

For those of you (like my parents, for example), who just don't get enough of Puerto Cabezas and the life here from my blog, I recommend you check out Lee's blog at He's got lots of good stuff on there.

Also, here's a breakdown of my weekly schedule, in case you wonder how exactly I spend my time here:


8-12: wash my sheets and/or towels (Note: all washing is done by hand in a concrete sink and washing board combination called a pila). They get pretty dirty pretty quickly, especially during dry season when there's so much dust in the air. Prep time (includes creating materials, like translating children's books, making lesson plans, grading assignments, reviewing lesson plans, organizing stuff, taking notes on tutees, doing any extraneous household errands)
12-1: lunch
1-3: co-teach Grade 5A, 5B, and 6 religion classes at Escuela Maureen Courtney (EMC)
3:30-5:00 faculty meeting and prayer at Colegio del Niño Jesús (CNJ)
6:30ish: community dinner, business meeting, and meditation
Evening: boil drinking water, tidy up the kitchen


8:15-10:15 tutoring at EMC
10:15-11:30 prep time, nap time
11:30-12:20 lunch
12:30 arrive at Niño Jesús to go over religion lesson plan with religion teacher there.
1:00-1:40 co-teach Grade 4 religion at EMC. They can be pills, so I often fall back on teaching them songs in English, Spanish, and Miskitu.
1:40-3:00 Fifth year religion class at CNJ
3:15-5:00 dance practice
7:00 Miskito lesson with Simon
Evening: boil water, tidy up kitchen


8:15-8:55 tutoring at EMC
8:55-9:35 religion class for kids with developmental delays. We play lots of games when I'm in charge.
9:35-10:15 tutoring
10:30- 1:00: nap, prep, lunch
1:00-2:20 coteach afternoon special needs class, 5B religion
2:20-3:00 tutoring at EMC
3:15-5:00 dance practice

(On Tuesday and Wednesday, I'm also on call from 4:00-4:30 for the counseling teacher, in case she wants to divide up the class for talking about sexuality and whatnot. It doesn't happen that often.)

5:30-6:30 cook dinner
6:30 community dinner, Bible study
Evening: boil water, tidy kitchen


Morning: same as Monday. Wash laundry instead of towels and sheets.

1:00-1:40 Grade 4 Religion, EMC.
1:40-2:20 Chill with the workshop teachers at EMC
2:20-3:00 Grade 6 Religion, EMC
3:20-4:40 Third year Religion, CNJ. This is the only class I always teach solo.

Miskito lesson with Simon
boil water, tidy kitchen

6:30 community yoga
8:15-10:15 tutoring, EMC
10:15-12:00 prep, nap, lunch
12:20-3:00 First year A and B religion class
3:15-5:00 dance practice
6:00ish community dinner
Evening boil water, tidy kitchen


grocery shopping in the market
2:00 Go to the convent to take advantage of the faster Internet connection Skype with parents and watch a TV show illegally via the Web (I'd do it legally, but none of the legal sites work outside the US)
5:00 I either attend the young adults meeting at the Creole Moravian Church or go to reflection with the Agnesian sisters
boil water


12:30 lunch at the house of Susannah, a friend of ours and the sister of the director at EMC. Her whole family comes.

clean the bathroom
cook beans for the week
boil water

Along with cooking beans, boiling water, and cleaning the bathroom, I am also responsible for making sure there's cooked rice in the fridge, so if anyone's in a rush they can quickly heat up some beans and rice for a meal.

Compared to my life pre-Puerto, I spend less time at work and more time doing household chores.

Aside from these activities, there are always people stopping by to hang out. I occasionally go out to the discotech, and we have dance shows every other week or so.

And...that's my life. If I could make "exhaustion" or "ennui" possible reactions just for this blog post, I most surely would.