Opinion

Happy to be home again in Nicaragua

Balgue, Aug. 2, 10:45 a.m.

She pulled out two plastic teal chairs and we sat there together for a few moments, just smiling and giggling, without words. Darling was older now, a little over 30. This fact seemed obvious; more than four years had passed since we sat in this very spot in her living room, reconnecting. But something subtle inside her surprised me; those four years had given her a new confidence, one that strengthened her expressions, her presence. She carried herself much differently now than when I had first met her, on a cold January night on Bainbridge, welcoming her to my island, my home, my family.

We spoke of changes in our families, our studies, our personal lives – the conversation punctuated by laughter and tears. Our conversation did not end there. I would be welcomed to stay that night, passing through Balgue after a visit with my old host family in La Palma. Perhaps that confidence emanating from Darling was not simply new to her alone, but new between us, as peers, as friends, as family.

La Palma, Aug. 2, 2:34 p.m.

They invited me to play soccer with them. After excusing myself from saying my hellos to Doña Juana, I accepted the girls’ invitation and pulled my hair back in preparation. Boys began to gather along the edge of the cement patio, creating the proper raucous, as us girls divided ourselves into teams of three.

Solanyi and Nulbia didn’t look like twins anymore. Fortunately, I didn’t have to glimpse awkwardly at their ears now, searching for their “S” or “N” golden earrings. Nulbia’s body language screamed “teenager,” while Solanyi stayed timidly in her older sister’s shadow. With the other neighborhood girls, I waited cautiously, observing and eavesdropping to remember their names. Faces invoked sparks in my memory; the receiving (and returning) of a ceramic artifact gift from the girl in the pink shirt, playing pick-up sticks with Tania, winning an award for my photograph of Ermedelia with Yeinor Rodrigo on her hip.

We played soccer in the rain. The deflated ball skidded through sandy puddles on the patio. We played hard – kicking and shoving, running till we couldn’t breathe anymore. The boys laughed and mocked us all along, but we didn’t care. This was our moment.

Urbaite, Aug. 3, 4:25 p.m.

I must have looked like an alien, but fortunately they welcomed my invasion. I parked my bike at the side of the house. I caught a glimpse of Thomas Adolfo, and watched him, trying not to disturb his work. He was creating a miniature city in his back yard, complete with roads, houses, pastures, and windmills, all from sticks and stones. He paused, hearing my footsteps, and looked up from his inventions. There I was, this other life form, adorned with a shiny bike helmet, pink raincoat, and splattered with mud from my journey from the other side. But he still managed to break a knowing smile.

They offered me a bucket of water to bathe myself before my meeting in town. The girls huddled on the other side of the yellow bed sheet that served as a shower curtain. Eagerly giggling, they waited for this dirty alien woman to magically transform and emerge as a clean white person they used to know.

After my transformation, I sat with Doña Amada, chatting to the andante rhythm of our rocking chairs. Her husband had gone to Costa Rica to work, her son to Managua to study law. She invited me to dinner and to stay the night the following Sunday.

I had gone to Balgue, La Palma and Urbaite on “business,” visiting various projects. But for the Sister Islands Association, we are in the business of friendship; the projects we do are secondary to the friendships we cultivate. These reunions of mine bring memories back to life and sweeten them with new realities. The families that welcomed me into their homes half a decade ago are now my Ometepe family – they worry about me, laugh with me, and count on me. What a beautiful world we live in; to say goodbye to one’s family and to reunite with another, in another country, another culture. I am home again.

Maggie Pettit will be writing a monthly column during her year-long stay on Ometepe Island. Please visit www.bosia.org to learn more about the sister island relationship and how to get involved.

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