I am in Nicaragua with my mom. It is her first time leaving the country. It is wonderful, stressful, overwhelming. My mom is very extroverted and would love to talk to everyone although she doesn´t speak Spanish. I am introverted and don´t like to draw attention to my U.S. American self so this makes for an interesting mix. I am translating for her the best I can and trying not to cringe at how much attention it draws to us to say so much to so many people. Neither way is better, just different. It wouldn´t be a problem if I didn´t have to do the translation. But, then again, when she talks there is no pressure on me to be talkative. Not that I am silent – I am just not one to make random conversation. Especially in Spanish which is difficult in the first place.
Interestingly, no one here – that is, my Nicaraguan friends – seems even remotely interested in my life, so if I want to say something, I have to volunteer it. And to just volunteer random information about my life isn´t so much my style. No questions like “How is school going?” Not about school, work, religion, politics, cats, etc. I wonder if it is a language barrier although I really don´t think so. But, my host family does love to see pictures of my life and asked about my grandma who was sick when I was here last time. I guess I don´t mind, but for all the talk of being close friends and family (as in host family) I feel like no one here knows me well. Or cares to that much. I have told this to my friend Francisco who speaks English and he seems to have no explanation for lack of interest in my life. He blames it in part on his lack of English, except that he is perfectly fluent, so that doesn´t really explain it. But whatever. Not a big deal. Just a tad sad, given how interested I am in the lives of my friends here. It is nice when it is reciprocal.
I love the sun and the weather. I have a slight sunburn, but I would take that any day over snow. The weather makes me feel much better – the warmth and the sun life my spirits. Even mixed with the large amount of dust.
We visited the school where I worked two summers ago. I enjoyed it and the children were kind and welcoming, as were the teachers.
There was a funny, yet at least for me a somewhat painful experience with some of the gifts I brought for my (host) family and friends here. Bringing gifts in the first place is a funny thing because of course they cost me money that I wouldn´t normally spend. It is a difficult balance between wanting to show my appreciation for the kind and wonderful welcoming spirit that I am shown by people here, and realizing that my resources are not only greater than what most folks have here, but are in a sense built in some part on the backs of Nicaraguans and other “developing” countries who make the cheap things that I buy, and who have suffered greatly under the dreadful hegemony of the United States over the years. Yet, I also don´t want to come across as Elizabeth Santa Claus trotting in from the U.S. bearing gifts. It is a funny and hard balance for me. So anyway, I thought it would be nice to buy the two families and the one friend I am closest with here things from Boston or Harvard. So I got shirts from Hidden Sweets, a store in Harvard Square. But when I gave the shirt to my friend Francisco we discovered that the company that made the shirts (Gildan) is the company he works out here in Nicaragua. The shirt was made by a different factory but same company in Honduras. It is an exploitive company that pushes workers hard, underpays them, requires too much overtime, and is generally an unpleasant place to work. So here I am giving someone who I care about very much a shirt as a gift from this dreadful company that exploits the workers of which he is one. I feel like I am not doing a good job of communicating why this felt so weird, but it did. Francisco, bless his heart, thought it was mostly funny. He has a good spirit and seems relatively at peace with things and his family thought it was funny too. But I hated it – it represented exactly what I don´t like about being from the U.S. – that difference that I would like so much to minimize. It isn´t like I run around feeling guilty all the time in Nicaragua. But I think I would be remiss not to be aware of the differences in life in Nicaragua and life in the United States and the reasons for those differences and the way that I am privileged by those inequalities between our countries.
More later. I have a lot to say but I think marathon posts are no fun to read. I´ll share more when I have time.
Sonrisas – Elizabeth