Greetings beloved blog followers – mil disculpas, a thousand apologies, for my lack of updates. It has been a whirlwind several of months during which I’ve had little time to write, but you can be assured that my Nicaraguan adventure continues to be as challenging, enriching, and full of wonder and beauty as ever.
I’m closing in on 11 months of living here in Nicaragua, the longest I’ve ever been abroad or away from home. It’s surreal; sometimes it feels like just yesterday that I was preparing to embark, other times it feels like it’s been years since I’ve seen Colorado. As I measure my stay in months, I think of all the other ways by which it could be counted: lessons learned, new Spanish words written, cities visited, friendships made, bus routes ridden, amount of rice and beans consumed. At some point I prefer to consider my experience this way, because what does a number really mean?
A few weeks back I ran into a friend at the gym, who introduced me to a girl that asked me how long I had been here. Thinking in specific terms, I answered “four months,” referring to my time in Matagalpa alone. And you? “Almost ten months,” she replied with an air of superiority, as if she were better than me because she’d been here longer. I refrained from pointing out that I had been in-country for just as long and silently congratulated her self-proclaimed feat.
Another time, a foreign woman struck up a conversation with me in English. She was obviously North American, and I asked her where she was from. “I live here,” she answered. That’s great, me too, but you didn’t answer my question! I just nodded along, wondering to myself why people are so caught up in how they are perceived by others. I’ll admit, it frustrated me when a woman strode into a souvenir shop and said to me “Do you work here? Oh no, you’re a tourist” since I am most certainly not a tourist. But she can think what she wants, I’m not going to correct her because in the grand scheme of things it just doesn’t matter. It’s true that I regard myself and other expats as different than tourists or backpackers – we all face different challenges and have different experiences. But at the end of the day, each of us is doing what works best for us, so why are we insistent on comparing our time or lifestyles abroad to others?
I’m not sure what the average time for cultural adjustment is, and there are many things that I’ve gotten used to living here in Nicaragua. But although I’ve been abroad for over ten months, there are still things that I clash with. Mistakenly being taken to the other side of town in a taxi, or being asked to still pay the price of a cappuccino when I receive a café Nica because the electricity went out, are situations that upset me more than they would if I were in my home culture and make me feel like a misunderstanding – or misunderstood – foreigner. After almost a year, it makes me wonder if there are some things to which I’d never grow accustomed, no matter how long I stayed.
Despite my growing amount of time staying in one place and having a steady job and daily routine, I continue to learn new things and have new experiences. Over the past few months, I’ve taken trail rides at the Masaya Volcano and Selva Negra, gone on a nighttime kayaking adventure through the little islands of Granada, taken day hikes just outside my city, attended my first Nicaraguan wedding, gone to a meditation and yoga retreat in the high mountains of Jinotega, taken a solo trip to Estelí, found a place nearby to ride the best-trained dressage horses I’ve ever ridden, received professional pedicures in my kitchen, and practiced on my ever-lasting quest to dance salsa like a native Nicaraguan.
Not only that – but I’ve had visits from home! Most recently, I shared a few days with Karlee, which were spent cooking and eating, drinking, hiking and dancing. It was wonderful to have a friend from home to introduce to Nicaragua and share my city with her. However, the best adventure yet has been with my dad, who came at the beginning of June for a few days. We visited Granada and took a boat and bike tours, searched the city for an IPA and JJ was introduced to Flor de Cana. After returning to my Matagalpa, we toured the city via restaurants and coffee shops, and took a trip to Selva Negra where we had a muddy and hilarious hiking adventure. Having my dad here made me realize how many connections I’ve made in Matagalpa, as everywhere we went we ran into someone I knew. It was so nice to share my new life with him, and although it made me miss my family a bit less, his visit didn’t subside any feelings of homesickness but rather made me acutely aware of the differences between my life here and there.
Despite missing summer in Colorado, I continue to appreciate and enjoy every day here in Matagalpa and all of the details that make life here unique. And these are just the adventures outside of those with my job, which will have to be detailed at a later time.
besos ~ chels