I’ve been hanging out with Audrey a lot. She’s one of the students at Escuela NICA. I like that she seems happy and eager to fill a room with her raspy laugh. We’re going through a similar journey, both of us are amazed at how far we’ve come since we first got here. She also saved me from myself. One of the women at the school started to give me a derisive smirk when she saw me applying colored lip balm but before I had a chance to snap at her, Audrey came over and asked to borrow it. Carrie, the smirk-giver quipped, “You two always have to look good, don’t you?”
|Audrey with other Escuela Nica students|
Audrey laughed at her good-naturedly and I responded “we don’t have to, we just can’t help it.” Audrey is cute, she has short, auburn hair and a thin frame and neither of us wears much more than tinted lip balm and mosquito repellent. Carrie doesn’t wear make- up or deodorant and she brags about it as though it somehow strengthens her political views. She’s not always annoying but she sometimes acts like a know-it-all. She goes around correcting people’s Spanish pronunciation but she’s not even a teacher, she’s just another student. She doesn’t ever correct my Spanish, she’d better not even try.
Audrey and I have learned to deal with the bugs, lizards, and rats. We’ve learned to eat food we’d never even heard of before. We’ve compromised our own standards of sanitation. We’ve learned to sleep through the clucking of the hens, the crowing of the roosters, and the pigeons walking and cooing on the tins roofs overhead.
This morning, I saw a woman walking a cute little black pig on a leash. Its legs were moving really fast and the woman was having a hard time keeping up. Before I could take out my camera, the woman and the pig were halfway down the street. Chickens and pigs are everywhere, they walk along the road with everyone else. I have noticed that there are no homeless people or beggars to be seen. I don’t know if they exist, everyone seems to have some kind of job.
|Kelly Thompson, 2015|
I brought some cheap, lightweight tennis shoes that I wear at work, thinking they would be perfect for walking, but they are no match for the sett paved streets of Esteli. I think I packed inadequately. Contact lenses, make up and sweaters are out of the question, I wish I had a good pair of walking shoes and toilet paper instead. This afternoon the water was cut off unexpectedly. I was really thirsty and decided to go to the market to buy some soda, maybe even rescue the family from another meal of beans and rice, which incidentally, we have eaten everyday since I got here.
When I got to the store, I noticed that many of the shelves were empty. There were some bottles of hot sauce, dry beans, dry rice, a small selection of ugly looking vegetables, a few household items and very little else. Everything was inexpensive. I asked the woman behind the counter about the scarce selection. She informed me that when something is in stock, it is cheap enough that anyone can buy it and so it sells out quickly.
“The US has declared an embargo against us, but they will not break us. We’ll eat beans forever if we have to.” There was disapproval in the woman’s voice. “You are a guest in this country. You do not buy the groceries.” It suddenly struck me that what I was doing was rude. Who did I think I was, coming to their country, thinking I could buy better food because I had more money? I felt stupid and decided against the groceries, then asked her for some toilet paper instead.
She looked amused. “No hay. Go back to your family and live like a Nicaraguan.”