Catching Up

Mike Peters

Yamileh telling us about her neighborhood as we approch it on the bus.

Now that we've had a few days to get over the initial shock of coming to Nicaragua and seeing things that none of us had ever seen, there´s definitely a different aura among the group.

We went out dancing last night and had an amazing time. There wasn´t one person in the group who didn´t have a blast. We danced to salsa, merengue, bachata, cumbia, and reggaeton - until someone must have gotten the memo that there were 15 gringos in the house and they put on all the token 80s white boy music. That´s when Jhon and Anne - the more ¨seasoned¨ members of the group - took over. Jhon did a nice rendition of Travolta when the Grease music came on, and Anne broke off a little Ballerina spin move that left the whole club in awe. It was good to kick back and have some fun after all the work we did and all the incredible images and stories we experienced until that point.

The first two days were shocking. From the moment we got off the plane and two young boys begged us for Money and tried to sell us Juicy Fruit we were witnessing people living in abject poverty in conditions we couldn´t even imagine back home.

Yami cried when she told us she lived in a garbage dump and picked through it for food for her and her children for most of her life. Many of us cried with her. Some others cried when she welcomed us into her home and said ¨Mi casa es su casa¨. I couldn´t believe what someone as intelligent, charming, and friendly as Yami had been through and continues living through.

It was impossible to be prepared emtoionally for stories like Yami´s, and it didn´t help that we were all knocked out tired from flying. After we had a few days to digest what we were witnessing, many of us - on the third and fourth days - became more open and inquisitive with presenters, asking more difficult questions but also being warmer with Nicaraguans. Rachel, one of the witness for peace coordinators, noticed this and complimented us for it.

She told us we were the first group she´s ever had that played with children at the hospital, which we visited on Friday afternoon (day 3). Jhon had started a conversation with a little boy being treated for a neurological disorder, who was staring up at the ceiling and looked abstracted,

¨What are you thinking?¨

¨About my gun¨ (He lifted his shirt and showed us the little plastic gun in his trousers)

¨A gun!? What are you gonna do with that?¨

¨I´m gonna kill¨

¨Who do you want to kill¨

¨A doctor¨

Those of us nearby could only imagine what that boy had been through, seeing that his own disorder was being exacerbated by the poor conditions in the hospital . It was overcrowded, there were not enough beds, it smelled, it was filthy. But Dr. Melendez assured us that things have gotten a lot better in the last few years under the new government, and Nicaraguans were doing the most they could with very limited resources. But who can blame this poor child for having animosity towards the people treating him? How could he not associate them with his own pain and anguish?

Others started conversations with children or started playing with them. We took pictures with them and carried them around. I was happy to see that we could make them smile a little for the short time that we were there. Not that we weren´t talkative and inquisitive the first two days, but it seemed to me that we have been getting more out of our experiences the past few days by being more open, and not sitting back in shock as much.

When I interviewed with Jhon for a spot on this trip, I highlighted that part of what I wanted to get out of this trip was not just to see the pain that Nicaraguans and the difficult struggles that they lived through, but to learn how they lived, and where they found their joy. We took a step towards that last night at the club and at dinner at the restaurant, and tonight a popular Nicaraguan revolutionary rock band is coming to our Hostel to play for us. I´m looking forward to meeting some artists here, and finding out a little bit about what brings happiness to Nicaraguans.

Look forward to more from us soon!