Opinion

Very special visitors from the north | Guest Column | Jan. 30

By MAGGIE PETTIT

Guest Columnist

Urbaite, Noon, Dec. 22

Luckily, the first-ever cell tower in Urbaite was finally turned on a couple weeks previous, so I was able to call my host brother Antonio to alert him of our visit.

By the time we were huffing and puffing up the endless hill to Urbaite, sun beating down on us, we realized it may have been a good idea to start the day a little earlier, in the cool of the morning, but, oh well, we said. The shade of my Urbaite host family’s front porch was enough motivation to pull us along.

We arrived how I usually arrive in Urbaite: smiling and sweaty. Nonetheless, Doña Amada greeted Mom, Dad, Emily, and myself with warm hugs. I walked into their house to grab some chairs and a bucket of water to cool us, my family’s presence causing me to think briefly about this action – the degree of comfort I now shared with the Flores Paizano Family. Katherine Marcela and Antonio emerged from the shadows of the house, while Thomas Adolfo remained silently hidden as usual.

They looked at us, smiling. Doña Amada said I looked like my father. We admired their hand-made nativity scene, complete with a stick fence that most certainly was the work of Thomas Adolfo. Mom and Dad asked questions in English,

I translated, and Emily attempted to teach. The conversation bumbled along from one topic to the next, punctuated by Doña Amada’s hearty laughter and the given silences of a conversation between two languages.

After restoring our energy, we said our goodbyes and set off to tackle the rest of the hill. Our sweet reward – “what goes up must go down” as Dad would say – was coasting down the hill, mesmerized by the gorgeous full-body shot of the Maderas Volcano to the east.

Balgüe:10:05 a.m., Dec. 26

Darling was surprised to see us on her front porch, but she sat right down in the chair I had pulled out for her, in a semi-circle with my family. I was content to sit back and let Darling’s fair command of English guide our chat. Perhaps there were fewer silences than our visit with the Flores Paizano Family, but the giddy exchange of perspectives and sentiments was equally present.

Mom and Dad reconnected with Darling, recalling those cold winter nights we had bundled her in three blankets and blasted a heater in Kate’s bedroom where she slept. Dad remembers dancing with Darling at Island Center Hall – contra dancing a first for the both of them. Although this was her first time meeting Darling, my sister Emily quickly found common ground – commiserating about the universal struggles of being a teacher.

It was a special visit. There is something incredible about sitting back and watching people from different places of your life talk to each other. It almost feels like you are dreaming it all up.

Altagracia, 6 p.m., Dec. 27

I futzed around Dora’s house, frantically anticipating my guests as I usually do on my birthday. Finally, Dora’s niece, Maricela, a pizza chef extraordinaire, helped make my decision for me – everyone would sit in the side room, with rocking chairs strategically placed around the edge of the room.

* * *

They trickled in bit by bit, some on nica time, some punctually norteamericano. We stuffed ourselves with pizza after pizza and cool milk cacao drinks. Nicaraguan birthday music blasted at near-full volume, as is custom here. At one point I stopped futzing around, slicing the pizza for long enough to look around the room without anyone noticing me. I was literally encircled by my “worlds” converging: Mom and Emily talking with Joanna and Elieth about teaching; Dad shooting the breeze with Andres about life on Ometepe and our English conversation group; and even Doña Dora was chatting it up with my Urbaite host father, realizing in the process that they were actually related by marriage.

I suppose the 23rd birthday is not considered as momentous an occasion compared to other “big” birthday years, but somehow that fact was lost on me that night. I couldn’t help but feel that this was as momentous as it gets.

Maggie Pettit is writing a monthly column during her 11-month stay on Ometepe. If you are interested in supporting the Bainbridge-Ometepe Sister Islands Association, here are four options: 1) buy a “Kids Can Make A Difference” calendar from Boo Schneider’s Ordway Third Graders; 2) give a gift to Ometepe through the Cedars Unitarian Universalist Church Alternative Gift Project, cedarsuuchurch.org; 3) donate to BOSIA through One Call for All; 4) enjoy BOSIA’s Cafe Oro coffee, sold at Town & Country Market or bosia.org.

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