January 27, 2005: Headlines: COS - Nicaragua: Stories - Nicaragua: Brown Alumni Magazine: Nicaragua RPCV Joshua Berman writes "On this Bus"

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nicaragua: Peace Corps Nicaragua: The Peace Corps in Nicaragua: January 27, 2005: Headlines: COS - Nicaragua: Stories - Nicaragua: Brown Alumni Magazine: Nicaragua RPCV Joshua Berman writes "On this Bus"

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Nicaragua RPCV Joshua Berman writes "On this Bus"

Nicaragua RPCV Joshua Berman writes On this Bus

Nicaragua RPCV Joshua Berman writes "On this Bus"

On This Bus

By Joshua Berman '95

(Josh Goshfield)

IIt was a good bus day. As the old, dirty, yellow school bus sped north toward the Nicaraguan hills, it was not too crowded, not too hot, and no live chickens were being dangled in front of my face. The seats were all filled, and although a few people stood casually in the aisles, no one was crammed in as they are on busier days. A family feeling prevailed on this tranquilo Sunday ride. I sat up against the window, and a beautiful girl, about eight years old, slept against my other shoulder. She leaned against me as if we were siblings. Across the aisle, her large, laughing mother sat with a group of other children and talked easily with a friend in the seat behind her. The bus today was like a long, windy living room.

I was heading toward my current home, nearing the end of a twenty-four- hour fast. Yom Kippur was a few days away. I've never been crazy about the whole atonement side of this holy day, but I like the focus on reflecting over the past year - especially when it has been one of the most intense, most unpredictable, and richest years of my life.

Outside, the flat valley with its rice fields was bright emerald green, and the late afternoon air was refreshing as it blew in through the bus windows - a cool, rainy-season afternoon in Central America. I sat forward to get more of the breeze on my face, and as I did, I again felt the knotting in my stomach. Hunger pains, I noted - very different from parasite-induced intestinal cramps. As I knew from experience, hunger comes from farther away and doesn't feel as urgent.

I've been living in the Estel region of northern Nicaragua for nearly two years. I have tried to adapt to Nicaraguan culture. I've learned a new language. I've witnessed the violence and destruction of a major natural disaster, and I've lived among widespread and constant poverty. I've been sick and healthy, and I've made it through a wild, romantic adventure. I know that I am a changed person, and fasting and reflecting while riding on the bus, I was trying to understand in what ways.

How, I thought, do you sum up a year? I made a list in my head of all the measurable things: The number of hours spent on buses, the time standing on the side of the road, waiting for some unknown ride to take me somewhere new. The number of cold Victoria beers consumed, the number of songs played on my guitar, the number of classes taught. The number of letters written, books read, trips taken to the latrine, tortillas eaten, and steps danced. All impressive data, to be sure, but I doubted if any of it would really explain the year as it was.

The little girl leaning against my shoulder shifted in her sleep, trying to get comfortable. Her mother looked over and smiled. I smiled back. In the States, I thought, this woman would have woken her kid and either awkwardly apol-ogized to me or angrily accused me of something. Here though, on this bus, we were all friends, all family. Mam turned away and continued gossiping with her girlfriend, hands waving and voice rising and falling in the typical Nicaraguan country camp-esina cadence. I brushed the girl's soft hair away from her eyes and admired its brown-blackness in the same way I had been enjoying the color of the rice fields. What had her year been like? I thought. How would she measure it? Had she felt this pit of hunger in her stomach? How strange that I had willingly chosen to experience hunger in such a hungry land.

At that moment the girl moved again and awoke. She looked up at me, eyes black and shiny, neither scared nor surprised by my bearded face. "Como se llama?" she asked me.

"Josué," I said.

Satisfied with my answer, she closed her eyes again and fell asleep.

I looked back out the window and breathed the fresh wind. The bus roared north into the head of the valley, nearing my pueblo and the end of my ride. This fast would soon be broken, and a new year of changes and experiences would begin. Glancing at the life around me, it was hard to imagine that this bus would ever stop rolling.
Joshua Berman is finishing a twenty-seven-month Peace Corps tour in La Trinidad, Nicaragua.

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

January 22, 2005: This Week's Top Stories Date: January 22 2005 No: 391 January 22, 2005: This Week's Top Stories
Spread Freedom but not at gunpoint 22 Jan
Dodd has ring side seat at Inauguration 21 Jan
Peace Corps works in Georgia 21 Jan
Trey Aven monitored Ukraine elections 21 Jan
RPCV group makes quiet indie-pop 21 Jan
Anthony Shriver considers race for Florida Governor 20 Jan
Thomas Tighe says internet brought funds to DRI 20 Jan
Stacy Jupiter researches Australia ecosystems 20 Jan
Libby Garvey is education activist 20 Jan
David McIntyre captures medals on land and in water 19 Jan
Carol Bellamy new president of World Learning 18 Jan
Reed Hastings crossed "Latino Caucus'' 18 Jan
RPCVs sponsor Freeze for Food to aid Colombia farmers 18 Jan
RPCVs urge Bush to aid Democracy in Ukraine 17 Jan
Tom Petri proposes changes in student loan program 17 Jan
Golden Globe Win for Jamie Foxx in RPCV's "Ray" 17 Jan
Stephen Smith is new consul-general in Australia 17 Jan

Ask Not Date: January 18 2005 No: 388 Ask Not
As our country prepares for the inauguration of a President, we remember one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century and how his words inspired us. "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."
Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion Date: January 8 2005 No: 373 Coleman: Peace Corps mission and expansion
Senator Norm Coleman, Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee that oversees the Peace Corps, says in an op-ed, A chance to show the world America at its best: "Even as that worthy agency mobilizes a "Crisis Corps" of former Peace Corps volunteers to assist with tsunami relief, I believe an opportunity exists to rededicate ourselves to the mission of the Peace Corps and its expansion to touch more and more lives."
RPCVs active in new session of Congress Date: January 8 2005 No: 374 RPCVs active in new session of Congress
In the new session of Congress that begins this week, RPCV Congressman Tom Petri has a proposal to bolster Social Security, Sam Farr supported the objection to the Electoral College count, James Walsh has asked for a waiver to continue heading a powerful Appropriations subcommittee, Chris Shays will no longer be vice chairman of the Budget Committee, and Mike Honda spoke on the floor honoring late Congressman Robert Matsui.
RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid  Date: January 4 2005 No: 366 Latest: RPCVs and Peace Corps provide aid
Peace Corps made an appeal last week to all Thailand RPCV's to consider serving again through the Crisis Corps and more than 30 RPCVs have responded so far. RPCVs: Read what an RPCV-led NGO is doing about the crisis an how one RPCV is headed for Sri Lanka to help a nation he grew to love. Question: Is Crisis Corps going to send RPCVs to India, Indonesia and nine other countries that need help?
The World's Broken Promise to our Children Date: December 24 2004 No: 345 The World's Broken Promise to our Children
Former Director Carol Bellamy, now head of Unicef, says that the appalling conditions endured today by half the world's children speak to a broken promise. Too many governments are doing worse than neglecting children -- they are making deliberate, informed choices that hurt children. Read her op-ed and Unicef's report on the State of the World's Children 2005.
Changing of the Guard Date: December 15 2004 No: 330 Changing of the Guard
With Lloyd Pierson's departure, Marie Wheat has been named acting Chief of Staff and Chief of Operations responsible for the day-to-day management of the Peace Corps. Although Wheat is not an RPCV and has limited overseas experience, in her two years at the agency she has come to be respected as someone with good political skills who listens and delegates authority and we wish her the best in her new position.
Our debt to Bill Moyers Our debt to Bill Moyers
Former Peace Corps Deputy Director Bill Moyers leaves PBS next week to begin writing his memoir of Lyndon Baines Johnson. Read what Moyers says about journalism under fire, the value of a free press, and the yearning for democracy. "We have got to nurture the spirit of independent journalism in this country," he warns, "or we'll not save capitalism from its own excesses, and we'll not save democracy from its own inertia."
RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack RPCV safe after Terrorist Attack
RPCV Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, the U.S. consul general in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia survived Monday's attack on the consulate without injury. Five consular employees and four others were killed. Abercrombie-Winstanley, the first woman to hold the position, has been an outspoken advocate of rights for Arab women and has met with Saudi reformers despite efforts by Saudi leaders to block the discussions.
Is Gaddi Leaving? Is Gaddi Leaving?
Rumors are swirling that Peace Corps Director Vasquez may be leaving the administration. We think Director Vasquez has been doing a good job and if he decides to stay to the end of the administration, he could possibly have the same sort of impact as a Loret Ruppe Miller. If Vasquez has decided to leave, then Bob Taft, Peter McPherson, Chris Shays, or Jody Olsen would be good candidates to run the agency. Latest: For the record, Peace Corps has no comment on the rumors.
The Birth of the Peace Corps The Birth of the Peace Corps
UMBC's Shriver Center and the Maryland Returned Volunteers hosted Scott Stossel, biographer of Sargent Shriver, who spoke on the Birth of the Peace Corps. This is the second annual Peace Corps History series - last year's speaker was Peace Corps Director Jack Vaughn.

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Story Source: Brown Alumni Magazine

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