After 4 months in Latin America, I’m home. Coming home after being abroad is always so strange- everything is exactly how it was but a million times different. You are cognisant of the fact that you are a changed being with a world of completely different experience behind you that is now part of you, but that that world is at the moment irrelevant and distant and you slide back into the environment in front of you. I readjust to driving a car, eating nonparasitic vegetables, taking warm showers, cleanliness- but the world of experience behind me punctuates my reality and I flash back to hearing the pitter patter of horse hooves on stone streets, latino songs I’d hear everywhere, Spanish phrases, conversations still in my head, images of palm trees and lakes and scents of fruits and dirt still so real to me. It happened after Cambodia- very strange when your reality and routine completely changes…you wake up and it’s all gone and you sink or swim to adjust to your new place. I guess I’m describing culture shock.
A week before I came home, I was robbed at knifepoint in Granada, the colonial town where I was living in between my time living beachside. It was a bit after 9pm on a weekend near a block away from the center of town- not the most dangerous of circumstances. I was walking toward the Calzada, the main strip with all the restaurants, hotels, etc, and happened to be alone on the street in this one moment. Two guys approached me and as I saw them coming toward me I said “que quieres”- what do you want? One of the guys pulled a knife (which looked more like a paint chisel) out of his pants and I knew better than to resist…usually they just want the money, I thought (and thank God that did the trick). “Tomalo” I said- take it- and handed them my wallet and put my hands up to show I had nothing more. He took it and ran off.
I was lucky. Only lost $15. If I had had a bag with my laptop, credit cards, etc, they’d be gone. Or if he was a real sicko, he would’ve put the knife up to my skin and knick me as I have heard has happened to other girls.
I was sad afterward that there are people who do this to people like me who are in the country to do good work and learn and contribute. But it happens, and I got over it. For every bad there is a good. A minute later, a couple on a motorbike came up the street and offered to give me a ride home. I stopped at a friend’s house and had dinner of guacamole, gallo pinto (rice and beans), enchiladas with chicken and plantain chips with her group of Nicaraguan friends she knows through her NGO. It was nice to see other Nicaraguans upset with what others in their country are doing to foreigners. Crime has increased a good amount recently in Granada…I met with the chief of tourism police and he said their resources are stretched- only 7 officers who stick to the main touristy spots for a town that is growing significantly and attracting more gringos.
I finished reporting on a whole range of topics in the weeks before I left. I am writing about a dump where people used to collect garbage to sell or recycle that now has a trash plant which does this job for them, leaving them out of “work” (interesting how a good thing can have a negative effect, at least short term). I went into the neighborhood right next to the dump to interview people who had worked there- women in their 40s who looked double their age, leathered from the unhealthful effects of breathing in dangerous fumes in the hot sun. I couldn’t get into the dump despite being nice to the guards, who said they’d get in trouble with the plant if they let me in. Would’ve made great photos but maybe it’s best- I had a runny nose and sneezed just from being on the outskirts for 5 minutes.
I wanted to report on the Iranian community in Nicaragua- Managua has has large, beautiful, mysterious mosque smacked in the middle that seemed to come out of nowhere. But I stopped by 3 times, each time the guards telling me something different- “come in the morning tomorrow”; “we’re only open afternoons”; “we don’t allow press in”…. Dropped that story.
I’m reporting on baseball- what the chances are of people here actually making it pro. MBL chances seem realistic for many, and parents push their kids to play baseball as little as age 6 because a draft is as a way out of poverty. Some who do make it to the MLB have trouble adjusting to the drastic jump in money, fame- I talked to one guy who was sent back to Nica because he was partying too much, drove drunk, etc. Baseball is huge in Nicaragua though….I went to a few games and talked with lots of scouts, coaches, players.
I’m writing about how funny second hand clothing can be here- seeing guys in T-shirst that say “I love Texas” or Miley Cirus shirts on old ladies is hilarious and sad…interviewed one girl that said people don’t necessarily know what the shirts say but buy 2nd hand clothing for necessity (it’s cheaper than new clothes there). This was cool for me- I bought a lot of cool second hand clothes for very cheap (favorite is a nice calvin klein wrap dress for $10)!
I’m writing about how fast food in Nicaragua isn’t “fast”…it’s expensive, and seen as a cool thing to eat for people who can afford it. In the US, fast food is typically seen as shit food for people of lower income. But in Nica it’s trendy- Pizza Hut in Managua looked like a fancy Italian restaurant!
I’m writing about gay culture- how machismo and Catholicism contribute to the struggle of gays in Nica. I’m writing about crime and prostitution, and Granada’s art and historical scene. Tunnels were discovered underground Granada connecting the city’s churches and nice old houses that were used for protection from pirates and from which William Walker escaped after he burned Granada. I visited ruins in the north of the country- a UNESCO site where 80% of the remaining remnants from the Spanish fort have yet to be discovered (there’s only one archeologist, a Nicaraguan, working at it!). A Chinese magazine asked me to write a piece about the Canal (which is looking increasingly like a reality), so I’m working on that too!
I did all the reporting in Nica, but will write here at home. I just reached a point where I wanted to be home. The two worlds are mixing and it feels weird but I am safe and comfortable and still engaged and happy.