Today is church day. We didn't actually attend any services but we did look at the buildings. Leon was colonized by Spaniards and there are lots of lovely old colonial buildings but the churches are the most ornate and beautiful. People flock to services on Sunday while outside, street vendors set up tables with colorful drapes, selling fruits, snacks and toys. We ate street food: repochetas, a sort of Nicaraguan quesadilla served with cabbage and cream. It's my new favorite dish, I ate until my stomach hurt.
|Sandino rests a boot on Uncle Sam|
We skipped dinner and went straight to Estudio 19, the local disco. It was hot and crowded and I wasn't really in a dancing mood. As I was standing there watching Audrey talk to an attractive middle aged man, I heard a voice next to me. “Can I buy you a drink?" I turned around and a young man wearing glasses smiled at me.
"I already have a drink,” I smiled at him weakly.
"But it's almost gone," he returned my smile.
|A single fist against Yanqui aggression|
Roberto is a medical intern, studying to become a doctor. He plans to move to the U.S., so he’s been studying English and asked me if I would practice speaking English with him. His hair was neatly combed and he wore dark glasses that made him look bookish. I felt safe in his company, so I let him buy me another Cuba Libre and we chatted so he could practice his English. It was a stiff conversation because he had to think and construct sentences in his head before speaking and then he had to decipher every word I said before responding. After the second drink, we started speaking Spanish which was much more comfortable for both of us.
Roberto offered to give me a driving tour of Leon at night and I decided to take him up on it. I let Audrey know I would return shortly, but the city was pretty dark so it was an even shorter drive than I had anticipated. We drove back and parked in front of the club. "Thank you,” I said. “You're the only person I've met in Nicaragua who owns a car. It was very nice of you to show me around."
"Do you own a car?" he asked.
"It's not so uncommon there, right?"
He wasn't expecting an answer, he was making a point. I wasn't sure if I was detecting irony or bitterness in his words.
"I'm more like you than you think,” he continued. “We used to have cars, land and a nice house. We lost everything to the revolution."
Our eyes met. Now I knew it was bitterness.
"I bet this is a story you and your internationalist friends don't hear very often."
"You're right. Me and my internationalist friends are shown all the FSLN's successful projects. You don't like the Sandinistas very much, do you?"
He searched my face.
"I'm not accusing, I’m just asking."
"Somoza was corrupt, there's no doubt about it. Many people were happy to see him overthrown, but not everyone who fought against him is a communist. Now that the land and the factories belong to the people, the country is poorer than ever. The peasants can’t produce like the old farm and factories could, so our rich lands are not profitable. Some peasants can't even fix a tractor if it breaks down, they don't have the money to buy the parts because they're still just working to stay alive. The factories that are still in business have very limited options to sell because of the embargo against the Sandinistas.”
He looked at me, waiting for a comment but I didn't have one. I knew that what he was saying was true. I thought of the sewing machines at the Salvadoran cooperative sitting idle because no one understood how to read the English language repair manuals. I had tried to help but my language skills did not include any knowledge of specific machine parts so my translations proved futile. Craft items for the store were being sewn by hand instead of machine.
"My brothers and sisters were all educated in the United States and I have family in Houston. My father was planning to send me to college there but our plans were changed for us since we made enemies with your government. Now I'm stuck here in Leon, but someday I hope to move there."
"This country needs doctors, too.”
The words came out of my mouth before I could stop them. I knew it wasn't what he wanted to hear.
"I will never get ahead here."
He touched my arm, which I took as a signal that I had to get out of there.
"Let's go back in,” I suggested. Once inside the noisy club, I felt like we were running out of things to say and I didn't want to go any further with him. He was trying to touch my arms and shoulders while giving me long, meaningful glances. I looked for an escape.
I smiled at a pretty looking boy who had a poofy bunch of curls falling over one eye. I think I used to have that haircut! He must have had ESP because he came over and introduced himself to me and Roberto, then he proceeded to talk only to me. Flavio was a war vet at 21, but he did not look like a soldier, I couldn't imagine it. About two minutes into our conversation, Flavio turned to me and asked if Madonna was pretty, which I found terribly funny for some reason. We both laughed, leaving Roberto perplexed. I continued talking to both guys.
About a half hour later, Flavio's friends showed up: a fair skinned guy named Rafa and a boyish looking young girl wearing black trousers, a white shirt and suspenders. She looked adorable. Flavio introduced her as Riquie (Enriqueta). The four of us hit it off. I think Robert felt a little excluded because he eventually excused himself and walked away. The four of us hit the dance floor together and it was obvious, if only to the four of us, that Rafael was really dancing with Flavio and I with Riquie. I found Audrey and her friend on the dance floor and we all danced until they closed the place!