I think my common sense now outweighs my intelligence.
In college, I was enamored with the philosophical world of exploring the just, the political, the ethical, temporal, spacial, perceptual. I devoured concepts arguing the best and worst political systems and their corresponding case studies from throughout the world. Perhaps experiencing the luxurious problem of overeducation that many liberal arts students do, I desperately needed to put the theories to practice. I needed to Get Out There.
After working as a journalist and traveling throughout the world during the past two-and-a-half years, the aforementioned lofty realm has subsided back into the textbooks on the shelves in my lovely bedroom in New York. I am now an instinctual being.
Pragmatism has consumed me as I have learned to cut through PR bull to the core or truth of a story, to craft ways to get people to talk about sensitive topics depending on their personality or profession, and find alternative ways to get the facts when they do not. I have learned how to deal with corrupt police systems, to keep a low profile, hide all kinds of valuables in the best of places (most recently: passport in a ceiling), how to dodge thieves and gunfights during a night on the town, how to dress and act to deter problems (look as unattractive as possible- and to be OK with the lack of femininity). I’ve learned how to meet friends from every corner of the globe while out of a comfort zone, how to handle culture shock, to detect parasites, navigate capitalistic taxi drivers and bus systems in different languages, how to gracefully handle power outages, to discern when to be aggressive or pleasant, how to hide fear and and how to keep a secret.
So much so has my short sighted sensibility matured that I am wary of adjustment from the lifestyle I have grown accustomed to into that I used to know as I look ahead to graduate school in the political cosmopolitan I left 4 years ago knowing I would someday return in some capacity or another.
One instance jumps to mind; while visiting with friends in Spain, we confronted the question of where to leave our only set of keys so our group could split up. “Bury the keys in the dirt,” I suggested, pointing to a flowerpot nearby. My friends reacted with disgust, saying they felt it unsafe and did not want to dirty their hands doing so. “Duh,” I thought…no one else is going to want to either nor suspect anyone would bury keys deep into the large pot.
But I was outnumbered, and in this moment I realized the many useful tactics I had learned in many situations would not necessarily fit in this element so different from the untamed countries I had been in where surgery methods sometimes mean superglue- and actually painted me as somewhat uncivilized rather than cunning.
For now, I am still in my element. I am in Nicaragua writing for the country’s English newspaper, and I feed off the experience. Everyday I look forward to getting up and finding new ideas to write about, conducting interviews or writing and editing. Nicaragua, a country torn by war through the 1990s, affords plenty of material to dig up. Most recently, its government struck a deal with China to build a canal that will challenge its neighbor in Panama. Everyday, corruption occurs on a national level, with political opponents illegally deported without explanation or protesters beaten down in the streets. At the same time, it is also stable enough to afford many stories of emerging businesses, microfinance projects, initiatives worthy of World Bank funding, start-up NGO work and developments in tourism, which is gaining momentum but still so blissfully unexploited.
In my writings, I won’t presume to be an expert on the country or my work. But I will document what I observe as I attempt to understand some aspects of this deeply enigmatic place. Thanks for reading along to learn through my lens.