Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I Got Back from Nicaragua 17 Days Ago

I meant to have my pictures edited and blog updated 15 days ago, at least. But, of course, I decided to make a quick trip to Seattle; and finishing up my internship and helping plan my sister's wedding took priority. In all honesty, I put it off for an even longer time because I was not sure where to start. I still do not know where to start, but I have decided that chronologically is probably the best for the sake of my memory and the sake of the organization of pictures. And, my photographs often portray things much, much better than I do so I couldn't move forward without them. So, here we go...

I landed in Managua, Nicaragua late on the night of Saturday, August 1, 2009. My flight had been delayed and then customs and grabbing my bag took longer than expected. In the meantime I met a Guatemalan man who was married to a Nica. He was meeting his wife and daughters in Nicaragua to visit her family. They had already been there for two weeks and he was joining them for the last leg of their trip. He and his family live in Oakland, California now. He told me how safe Nicaragua was, how friendly people were and how pretty it was. He said that his country was nice, too, but it is not safe. He said it is so hard to say that about one's own country, but it's the truth. He said it was so hard to say that. I swear those same exact words and feelings have slowly gushed out of my dad's mouth more times than I can count. He told me that his girls were doing well in school and he makes them do extra work in the summer. I told him that they would appreciate it some day. He said he hoped so. I promised him that I had always wished my dad taught me Spanish and I was glad he was teaching his girls. He smirked.

My new Guatemalan friend helped me fill out the customs forms (during my trip, my arrival and my departure I was given all my paperwork in Spanish... I think it's my last name) and walked through customs with me. I was expecting to be nervous throughout all of this, but I felt very comfortable and calm. From the second I boarded that plane in Houston to the time I de-boarded nine days later in Houston that calm stayed.

As we were getting through customs he asked who was picking me up. To which I answered slowly with, "uh, well, I think someone from the organization will be out there with a sign or something."

To which he responded, "you don't know who is picking you up?"

I laughed nervously, "Not exactly." He assured me that his wife had a cell phone I could use if no one was out there with a sign. It's true what they say about the culture of Central Americans, friends quickly become family. It took me years to realize that Alfaro was not me uncle John's last name and he really is not related... at all. He is not even Hispanic. Who knew?

I did end up finding a sign with my name on it, waved good bye to my first friendly encounter and was swiftly taken away by a taxi driver, named Michael, and his wife. We weaved through a parking lot of cars as I answered Michael's questions. He laughed at me when I told him that I didn't know who was picking me up. He couldn't believe no one told me. I got into his blue car and we were off to wherever it was that I was staying. As we drove Michael and his wife conversed as Michael intermittently pointed out various stores and explained the driving, er, etiquette of Nicaragua. Gallo Mas Gallo is one of the best fast food-like places to get chicken, and On the Run (which took me a few minutes to realize that he was literally saying On. The. Run.) was a gas station that had a mini mart with tons of Nicaraguan things, like Flor de Cana, the rum of Nicaragua.

When I finally divulged that my father was Nicaraguan, Michael looked into his rear view mirror at me and said, "Ah, I had a feeling when I saw you that you were Nicaragüense." I laughed. I still don't know if he was trying to be nice or if he really thought that. For my pride's sake, I am going to pretend like he had a feeling I was a a Nica, despite my features and freckles. Michael told me that my group was a bunch of old men. He had met some of them earlier. He thought it was funny that I was going with that group but was sure I would have a good time. Michael also could not believe that I had signed up for the delegation via the Internet. He asked me how I knew it was safe. I didn't know what to tell him. Why do I trust the Internet so much? I mean, it had a .org address. He said he was taking me to CEPAD and asked if that sounded right. Again, I had no idea and said, "sure."

He turns around, looks me in the eye and says, "Natalie, how do you know that I am even the person you are supposed to be with? You don't know anything!"

"Well, you had my full name on the sign didn't you?"

He laughed.
I did end up at the hostel, CEPAD, and found a group of strangers who just happened to be with Witness for Peace. I had arrived. And we were all off to bed after a long day.

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