Thursday, July 9, 2015

4/30/86, Wednesday

4/30/86, Wednesday

I've said all my goodbyes and I'm flying home today. I'm convinced that Nicaragua is a special place, different from any other place I've ever been. I can't quite put my finger on it, except that I can feel its heartbeat as though it was a living creature, a newborn baby eager to stand on its own two feet and take its place in the world.

The flight is already an hour late but it's on Nica time and so am I. I could live here... maybe. Better yet, maybe I can take a little bit of this spirit with me and infuse it into my own country. Looks like we're finally boarding.

Looking out the window, my eyes fill with tears when I think of what I'm leaving behind. I've fallen in love with Nicaragua, with its people, their ideas, their tenacity. How did they do it? How did they manage to become so strong and so determined as to overthrow the oligarchies and to continue to fight for autonomy despite pressure from a country as rich and powerful as the United States?

They're an inspiration. El Amanecer del Pueblo, the title of the literacy textbook means “the dawn or awakening of a people.” How appropriate. I wonder, once you've been awakened, can you ever go back to sleep? I wouldn't think so, but then, why isn't this feeling of self determination more common when there have been revolutions all over the world throughout history? Do people fall back asleep, lulled by complacency?

We're being told we have to get off the plane in San Salvador. I thought we'd stay on the plane and fly directly to Houston but that's not the case.

I'm in the air again, we just took off from a stop in San Salvador where we had to get off and go through customs before continuing on to Houston. Waiting in San Salvador airport, my stomach gave a little twist when a fully armed Salvadoran soldier walked by me. I'm wearing a tee shirt with the image of Augusto Sandino and my carry-on bag is full of FMLN plaques, buttons, and pendants made by me and others at the Salvadoran art collective in Esteli. Basically, I was a walking billboard for the overthrow of the Salvadoran government. Maybe I'm just being paranoid but I heard so many horror stories from the Salvadoran refugees who I worked with at the collective and on the farm about the ruthless police and military tactics used against anyone who questions the government that I felt pretty scared. Anyway, I'm glad we're in the air now. I'm feeling a little bit queasy. I don't understand why, I hardly ate anything this morning except for sugary lemonade, a piece of pastry, some orange juice, and a couple of cookies...maybe I did eat the wrong thing.

I hope Bruce remembers to pick me up in L.A.. I wonder how I'll feel about being back in the U.S.. It’s like traveling from one world to another. Even though I've been living there for most of my life, I have a feeling it will all seem different to me now. I'm sure my thinking has changed. I've changed. 

I keep thinking about how people would sometimes mistake me for Nicaraguan. I felt Nicaraguan. I dressed, ate, lived, breathed, dreamed and even began to talk Nicaraguan. Some people said I had a Mexican accent and kidded me about it but for the most part I was treated like a “compa." I still remember the first time Francie called me a compa - a compañera, a companion in struggle. Shortly after that, other people started to call me compa and I felt so happy to be included, to be able to share their revolution. The word was like a tiny pipe bomb in my soul, shattering my deluded and sheltered view of the world.

There is a Nica saying: "Entre Los Pueblos, No Hay Fronteras”: Between people, there are no borders. I've met so many people here from all over the world who are volunteers, writers, activists, people from all walks of life who want to help and see self-determination succeed. Some may see themselves as proletariat internationalists but others are just idealists who think that success here means success in other places is possible.

I don't think we could have this kind of revolutionary change in the United States, at least not now. I remember reading Brave New World many years ago in school and thinking that Soma comes in so many forms. Most of us in the U.S. have our basic needs met. Food, shelter, and TV are the Soma of the working class. We have just enough to keep us in a complacent stupor. We're missing enough discomfort to provoke change.

We're landing in Belize, so I've gotta take a break. I wish I had some film so I could take a picture of this tiny Belize airport!

Back in business. They handed out mani a little while ago, which looks a bit like a peanut but they're so hard, it's like no peanut I've ever eaten. Nothing's quite the same in Central America. I'm giving up on these before I break a tooth. I'm still queasy anyway. It’s ironic that when I was in Nica I never felt sick to my stomach despite all the homemade food I was eating and now that I'm on the plane eating "healthy," hygienically packaged food I feel a little ill. Maybe it's just that my system was used to running on beans, tortillas, coffee, and lots and lots of sugar! I did find out that sugar is rationed but you're allowed approximately two pounds of sugar per person per week. Jesus, what kind of diet would they have if it wasn't rationed? Here's a bit of trivia: toilet paper is rationed at 2 rolls per family per month. Beer is considered a luxury but ron is the people's drink. No wonder we drank it so often. I'm going to miss Flor de Caña, I hope I can find it in the U.S..

I'm a little worried by all these stops. The fact that the initial flight out of Managua was late will delay our arrival into Houston. I don't want to miss my connecting flight to Los Angeles or end up sleeping in the airport! I inadvertently passed through an x-ray machine carrying my purse back in Managua. All my exposed film was in the purse. I hope the film isn't damaged. It would be so sad if all my pictures were ruined. I want to be able to share this experience and it will all be easier to remember with the photos and the diary. Although, I can't imagine forgetting any of it. Esteli has left a mark on me.

I'm going to try to take a nap and I'll write again later.

I'm on my way to L.A. now. I barely made my flight! We got into Houston late and I had to go through customs before catching the connecting flight. The lines were enormous. When I walked up to the immigration officer, he asked me if I had been on a farm and I had to say yes. He sent me into a different section where a more thorough investigation of my farm visitation could be discussed. The section was coded red and in my mind that meant stop. I was cursing inwardly for not lying about where I'd been but they walked me over to the red section and I noticed that the non-restricted green section, where everyone else was being sent, was super congested while the red section was just me. I walked over to the inspection area and the customs officer smiled at me. He wasn't stressed because nobody was in his line. I smiled back, instantly at ease.

"So you were on a farm?" he asked.


"What did you do on the farm?"

"Plant tomatoes."

"Is that all?"

I thought for a minute.


He laughed, opened my suitcase, picked up a blouse, tossed it back in and told me to have a nice day.

"I'll do that if I manage to catch my flight!" I said, remembering that missing it was a distinct possibility.

"Which flight are you supposed to catch?" the customs officer asked, flagging someone from the airport to come over and help me. The woman quickly checked on my flight.

"You're about to miss it!" she said, genuinely concerned. She flagged a cart over and asked the driver to rush me to the boarding gate. "I'll let them know you're on your way."

The flight attendant was literally holding the door for me. She looked annoyed. "Hurry, hurry, you're holding up the flight!"

I ran in, shoved my stuff in the overhead and buckled up. 

Next stop, L.A.

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