I’ve been back in Canada for a little over a week, at this point. And as happy as I am to be back with family and friends here, it’s still hard not being with the friends I made while I was in Estelí this summer. I’ve got the majority of them on Facebook or WhatsApp, so we can talk once in a while, but it’s still not the same.
Coming home is always disorienting for me for a number of reasons. It’s hard having to leave people you’ve come to know over a period of time – especially when you’re unsure when you’re going to see them next. It’s also disorienting to move from a place that is so resource-poor to a place that is resource-rich in such a short amount of time. Although I know there are a number of very complex reasons why there’s such a disparity in infrastructure, income, etc. between Canada and Nicaragua, I still catch myself looking around and asking how this is possible. I try and channel this feeling of shock and disorientation into further motivation to do my best to stand in solidarity with Nicaragua, and one of the reasons I’ve appreciated the opportunity to work with and learn from Casa Canadiense so much.
My last month in Nicaragua was jam-packed. I went to visit Sinead in La Grenadilla and got to meet her host family. It’s always interesting to me how different communities are, and it was great getting to spend time with Sinead in Nicaragua. She showed me the mamone trees there (my favourite fruit), which was exciting because they don’t grow in Estelí. I went to the exposition of dance and art at Cooperativa Christine King and got to see the kids in all of the classes perform the dances and music that they had been practicing all summer – I finally heard in full La Chancha Flaca, the traditional song on accordion and guitar that had been floating through the cooperative in the afternoons for the past two months. I went with friends to visit a farm in Miraflor, where the owner, Don Luis, is working to farm naturally without harming the environment. I got to see how he grow coffee, corn, beans, plantain, and banana, as well as other small crops that he grows for his own family.
I learned a lot this summer. My Spanish improved five-fold. I learned how to make gallo pinto and chicken soup. I learned a Nicaraguan traditional dance. I figured out how to take city transit in Estelí. I learned a lot about the intricacies and challenges of doing community development work, and I learned about it’s immense rewards. I got to know some of the other communities around Estelí and got to work as part of a team that worked with those communities. I learned more about the revolution, more about some of the contradictions of modern Nicaraguan politics.
I learned what it feels like to be accepted into a community with love and patience, and even though that particular lesson made it incredibly hard to leave, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Whether it was watching a soap opera, Rastros de Mentiras, with my host abuela, or laughing about one of my misunderstandings at work, I learned what it felt like to live well in difference with people.
I attended no fewer than five despedidas with various friends and coworkers the last week I was in Nicaragua. Some were bigger, like at Christine King, where I danced in traditional dress and makeup with some of the girls who had been staying in the shelter at the ICES project. Some were smaller, and just involved going out to eat with friends. We went to Sebaco to eat “the best guirila in Nicaragua “ – and it was. (Guirila is sort of like tortilla, but thicker and made out of green corn. It’s sweet, and you eat it with cuajada, Nicaraguan fresh cheese). The most important part, though, was that I got to spend time with friends and had the opportunity to say goodbye to them (although a lot of the time it was more of a “see you next time”, not adios).
As I packed my bag to leave, I told Esperanza, my host abuela, that I was going to leave a towel behind because I didn’t have room for it in my bag. That morning we had made chicken soup together, because she knew it was my favourite. “That’s fine,” she said. “I’ll keep it here for when you come back to visit.”