I am startled out of meditation by the sound of a mango falling on the tin roof below my bedroom window or the church bells near the park by my house. Luckily, these are more peaceful than what my friend is woken to at the farm she lives on – the slapping sound of her host mother making tortillas.
As I sit on the patio and welcome the day with a hot cup of Matagalpan coffee – made with my favorite Italian coffee maker – I wait for the man who passes daily on his horse selling milk. If I’m not there to see him, I can hear the hoof steps on the uneven cobblestone incline that leads past my house. Sometimes in the morning I can hear him coming – the crazy old man in a cowboy hat muttering rubbish in a distinct tone, carrying a bag of trash, whom I see, without fail, every day of my life in one place of the city or another. The soundtrack to daily life continues with the unmistakable song of the “raspado” man, which you can hear a mile away, and to which my local friends can’t even distinguish the words.
There are other daily occurrences that continue to surprise and impress me, such as the ability of my taxi driver to complete a transaction (water in a bag) without even stopping the car (or saying a word). They have changed throughout my stages of living in Nicaragua, but these quirky anecdotes that sprinkle my days are those that make me appreciate this country and turn every normal day into something special.
And there are realities inherent to life in Nicaragua that are not so glamorous or humorous, such as the frequent water cuts. Matagalpa’s water comes from two sources – the mountains to the north, and the city of Sebaco. Recently the city has been cutting our water supply neighborhood by neighborhood, something that would be more inconvenient if we were not prepared with reserves in bathtubs, buckets and bottles. My drinking water is not affected as I don’t drink the tap water in Matagalpa and I have purified water at home (which means morning coffee isn’t affected either, gracias a Dios). I’ve grown accustomed to taking bucket showers, which is actually more refreshing but a bit too shocking if I haven’t done any jumping jacks before braving the cold water. The fact that there’s no hot water isn’t even lamented anymore – what matters is if there’s water, period.
Having to conserve our reserves has made me ever more conscious of how much water I actually rely upon each day – taking a shower, washing my face, brushing my teeth, washing my dishes, washing my clothes, flushing the toilet: each of these activities requires an amplified consciousness when I am not taking their source for granted. I’ve had to rethink how often I feed my plant babies – and it’s not the only thing I’m rethinking.
What about those living in rural communities a bus ride away from me, who don’t even have running water in their homes, who must carry buckets from a well in the heat of the sun just to carry out these necessary activities? And if I have taken for granted having an infinite supply of water at the touch of my hands for my entire life, what else have I taken for granted? The answer is everything.
The meaning and practice of the word “gratitude” have taken on an entirely new meaning throughout my eight months in Nicaragua. Not only am I grateful for a book that I’ve received as a Christmas gift, I am grateful for the ability to read and write. Not only am I grateful for the computer on which I’m writing this, I am grateful that I have access to electricity to power it. Not only am I grateful for the stones in my jewelry, I am grateful for the tiles on my floor and the material that provides me with walls not made of plastic tarps.
There’s nothing like hand-washing every single clothing item I own, and getting injured while doing it, to make me appreciate having grown up with a washing machine in my home. I’ve always known I was privileged, and in the past I have expressed gratitude for the luxuries I’ve been able to afford. But these days I am much more aware of the fundamental necessities that I am blessed with, and the importance of appreciating every bite of nourishment, even if it’s the same rice and beans I had for lunch, and every drop of water that bathes me, no matter how cold. Everything else is superfluous.
Most of all, I am grateful for these realizations. It’s a shame that I couldn’t have made them earlier, but the next twenty-four years of life will be different, and that’s what matters. I don’t feel I need to make drastic lifestyle changes or restrict myself from enjoying luxuries. What does change is how I think about them. I still buy Free People clothing, it’s just that I pay $6 instead of $100 for it. I still splurge on foreign imports at the supermarket, and I enjoy more than suitable living conditions for the Nicaraguan standard. But I take pleasure in living much more simply as a whole, and my outlook has changed as I realize that they are luxuries rather than necessities.
besos ~ chels
p.s. to my dear frequent readers, I apologize for the lack of regular posts lately. I have grown ever busy with my amazing job, as well as having dedicated a lot of my writing energy towards writing articles for Pink Pangea. I appreciate your understanding as my posts become more sporadic 🙂