Friday, August 10, 2007

The country under my skin

Last summer before I came here, I read a book by the Nicaraguan poet/revolutionary Gioconda Belli called The Country Under My Skin. That’s how it is. Ever since the first time I came to Nicaragua more than 3-1/2 years ago. its been under my skin and that’s why I’ve kept coming back.

I’ve never been good at endings or leaving people and places, and this is no exception. There is too much going on in my mind now to write about all of it. I’ve been taking a lot of pictures of these things that are under my skin the last several days, so I’ll post some of them here.

Out by the dock here are Reyna, Leda, (me), and Doña Dina. Reyna and Dina work in the kitchen; Leda does cleaning and washing. Doña Dina was the lucky lady who I’ve passed my machete on to. Reyna had a baby (her 2nd daughter) just this past May.
I have never before been in a photo with 3 other adult women (who are not related to me) who are all the same size as me. As we giggled and looked at the photo of ourselves, I explained that in the US, everybody is taller that me, but in Nicaragua, I fit right in. Reyna said this meant that I am Nicaraguan and that I should stay. "No te vayas, Meli," she has been saying for several weeks now.

Here, by the kitchen is Doña Argentina, Daraysi, and Francisca (whom everybody calls “Chica”). Daraysi does bookkeeping, Argentina and Chica work in the kitchen.

This white dog is “Bravo”—a horrible, horrible dog who every night about 7pm goes crazy and starts violently chasing his tail. Bravo is actually going to be one of the things I do not miss about Ometepe.

This is a dog Rob and I named Scott Fargus, on a count of his yellow eyes (its from the movie A Christmas Story). At first I didn’t care for Scott Fargus too much (he would sometimes randomly just come into our room when the door was open), but eventually I warmed up to him and would give him treats and he became my pal.

Here is Albin (What a little heartbreaker! He is Argentina’s nephew), Joel (the English instructor), and Eduardo.

My special little guy

Eduardo was helping me pack and came across these sunglasses. He thought they were great, so I let him have them. He spent the rest of the day strutting around like hot stuff.

Towards the middle of the day, the staff here began decorating the common dining area with braided palm fronds and balloons. I also saw that a cake was being prepared in the kitchen. By dinnertime, the entire town of Mérida had showed up. I was glad to see Simeon, because I realized that I had never gotten a picture of him. Here is a photo of several of the volcano guides; Simeon is on the far right, wearing the yellow collared shirt.

Dinner was pretty much the usual, except for all the people milling around, but afterwards, Leda came to me and said they had prepared a surprise for us, but we needed to go back to our room and wait while they got it set up. So we went and we waited, talking with some kids, and finally Leda came back and got us.

Joel (the French-Canadian English instructor) acted as emcee and announced that the children of the town had practiced special dances for us and would be performing tonight. The first dancers were none other than my dear little Eduardo, Albin, Darling, and Augustina. It was a “reggeton” style dance to Nicaraguan hip-hop music. Eduardo looks cute jamming in his new shades.

The next dancers were little Helen and Darwing, performing a more traditional Nicarguan folk dance called “el sapo,” which was completely adorable.

The next were some girls I didn’t know, doing some kind of traditional dance that had been modernized to contemporary hip-hop style music. And yes, those are bandanas that they are wearing for tops. La Reyna’s little girl Laura (6 years old) also did a dance.

The next reggeton dancers took everybody by surprise. Tiny though they were, they could sure bust some powerful moves. What both amazed and disturbed me was how (and why!) clothes like that exist for such little girls. Rob figured out a way to post the video clips he took, so you can take a look at the dance; hopefully the material is not too objectionable for the blog.

But what was the most impressive and for me, meaningful, dance was the last one. Daraysi, who does bookkeeping and reception, performed a traditional folk dance with Yuri, another employee here. The two of them are cousins. I’ve seen Daraysi dance a lot of times at festivals and parties—she’s always decked out in flashy clothes and doing scandalous moves. I swear, every male tourist that has ever passed through here has wanted to take her home. And here she was, doing a traditional folk dance (so not her style!) for us before we left. I’d been weepy before, but this is the one that really started me crying.

When the dances were over, all the women staff members gathered around and had Joel tell us in English how much they would miss us and how Nicaragua would always be our home. Then they presented us each with a gift. For Rob, a wooden plaque with painted Nicaraguan memorabilia that has knobs on it so you can hang your keys from it. For me, a brown crocheted handbag with the word “Nicaragua” stitched in it. What beautiful gifts! What gets me the most about this is that people who have so little wanted to give something to us—who have so much. I have seen gifts like these at the artisan markets in Masaya—who knows how they came up with the money and sent somebody to the market to pick out lovely things for us. It makes me wish I could do something more for all of them, for this whole country, or that I had been doing something more for them the whole time I was here.

Then everybody gathered round and hugged us. I was a mess of crying and so was everybody else. Even Conny, usually so stoic and serious, had tears in her eyes. Over the last few weeks as our departure date has grown closer, so many times I’ve wondered what it would be like to leave everybody here. Most of the good-byes in my life have been so unceremonious. I figured Rob and I would just get our stuff together and go, without any pomp and circumstance. But here they threw a party for us, and gave us gifts, and cried, and told us to please come back as soon as we could.

Through tears, the girls went back to the kitchen and served up the cake they’d made. Dear little Eduardo was one of the first to get a piece, and he broke about half of it off to share with Rob and me. I didn’t want to take his cake, but how can you turn something that someone wants to give you out of the pure goodness of their heart? The cake was kind of like cornbread with raisins in it, and a lot of love.

We took a few more pictures after the cake had been eaten. Here is me with Leda:

This is Belkis, Augustina, and Darling

Daraysi and Conny:

Me with my special little guy:

And again, he looks sad this time though!

Eduardo’s mother Milena was among the townspeople who had come to the fiesta. I spoke with her for a bit, but mainly, I just forgot all my Spanish words while I was talking to her. I tried to tell her what a good little boy Eduardo is and that I hope someday to figure out a way to bring him to visit me in the US if he would like. She smiled so sweetly and said many things that I couldn’t understand because all I was thinking was how can I leave this place and these people when this country is so much under my skin?

Here is a photo of Eduardo and his mother;

I’ve stayed up half the night writing this so that I could post it before we leave Ometepe. Our plan is to make it to Granada today and then on Saturday head on to Managua. Our plane leaves at 6:00 Sunday morning, and we’ll be in Chicago by 4pm. It is finally starting to sink in that this is over. I never thought it was possible to feel sad and heartbroken yet happy at the same time. I’m trading one world for another. At home, there’s hot showers, cold drinking water, brownies, and a lifetime of friends and family. But where I’m returning to, there will be no monkeys, no volcanoes, no sunsets over the lake, and just about most importantly, no Eduardo. I think its going to take quite some time for me to readjust. I’ll try to post something when we get to Managua—thanks for reading.


At 7:47 PM, August 10, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

safe journey home Meli

At 5:53 PM, August 11, 2007, Blogger foxymomma said...

MELI, what a lifetime of AWESOME memories you have !!!!!!!! The friendships, will remain a part of you, along with the COUNTRY that is under your skin!!! It took about an hour to be able to even comment, I was sooo emotional..... BUT coming back to re-read, and getting to see AND HEAR the music was beyond WONDERFUL..... The two little ones are gonna be some real swingers when they grow up!!!! they've already got the moves going.. THANKS FOR SHARING YOUR ADVENTURE.. and again THANKS for the MEMORIES!!! CAN'T WAIT TO HUG YOU BOTH. luv you. may the rest of your trip go smooth!!!! PS I'll have the BROWNIES waiting!!!

At 8:46 PM, August 12, 2007, Blogger Aimee said...

seems that no matter where you two go in the world people will realize what special people you are!


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