I am leaving Nicaragua in just over a month. That is a scary and hard reality for me to sit with and really ponder. This past weekend on our last retreat, I finally took some time to jot down what Nicaragua has been for me. I feel overwhelmed by trying to sum it all up but it has also led me to appreciate this time even more. I am not the same person that I was when I arrived here almost two years ago. Nicaragua – the people and the culture – have shaped me. They have left a lasting impression on the way I view the world and the importance of human interdependence.
My time here has not always been easy, as many of you know who have heard me share about my journey. I have struggled through homesickness, culture and language barriers, hard days and sadness. I have been broken by the injustices I have seen and experienced. Yet, I have also celebrated: birthdays with piñatas, teachers' day at the beach, independence days, Purisima (feast of the Immaculate Conception), Semana Santa (Holy Week), Christmas, and other special days. I have held the hands of students as they walk with me to class or to the bus stop, the hands of friends as they cry, the hands of little babies, of our elderly neighbor who reminds me of my Gram, of community mates as we pray around the dinner table each night. I have seen the sunrise from the top of the mountain and gazed up at the most stars I have ever seen out in the campo. I have been welcomed with a hospitality and generosity above and beyond what I deserved. I have tried mysterious looking foods which I didn't quite enjoy and I have come to discover that there is nothing better than rosquillas fresh from a clay oven and coffee on a rainy afternoon. I have danced at despedidas (going away parties), bars, with students in class, on the stage at school and through the streets of Ciudad Sandino and Managua. I have fallen in love with my students, with people whom I consider to be as close as family, with friends who have walked with me along the way and seen me grow in numerous ways, with intentional community and true listening. I have been challenged to go out of my comfort zone, to try new things, to live more simply – bucket showers, wash clothes by hand, and eat food that comes directly from the earth. I have struggled with my privilege of being a white foreigner from the United States and the fact that I have never had to worry about having enough money to survive. I have cried, grieved the loss of my Gram and Aunite Carol, been held, played the guitar, sat on the front step to my room, looked up at the sky. I have laughed... a lot. I have felt completely helpless and dependent on others, and I have felt intimately connected to others through conversation and real presence. I have felt like giving up and wondered what I am doing here. I have asked big questions about politics, religion, injustices. I have prayed and learned new forms of spiritual expression. I have felt with confidence that I am exactly where I am meant to be. I have seen how much happiness and unbridled love kids share with me daily at school between notes, drawings, conversations and hugs.
Nevertheless, as I write all this sentences that start with “I,” I have learned that it is not about me but about us, about relationships and sharing our joys and pains and lives with each other. I have been here almost two years and I have realized how much there is that I still do not know. I will never fully understand what it means to be Nicaraguan, yet Nicaragua and its people have become home to me.
So, on December 19th, I will be getting on a plane and leaving one home to return to another. I will be going back to people who I love and love me and have accompanied me along this journey, as well.
For everything I have just shared and for all of you, I am grateful.