My anxiety levels usually increase drastically when I go home to Nicaragua. I don’t know if it’s the flight, the heat, the threat of earthquakes, the lack of law and order, or the absence of basic emergency services that makes my head start throbbing as soon as I get there. Everything is disorganized. It’s every man for himself on the roads, in crowded public spaces, in queues… pretty much everywhere.
There is no “911” to come to your rescue if you should choke or hear burglars inside the house in the middle of the night. Nicaragua is a very safe place, but there’s a basic safety net I’ve grown accustomed to, and it doesn’t take much to add fuel to the fires in my mind.
During this trip, my mom and I took my son to a cheapo toy store so he could have the run of the place buying plastic trinkets and other novelties. He picked out a handful of things, but when we got to the cash register after an interminable line, only two of them were actually in the system, so the cashier would not sell us the rest of them. It was infuriating, but typical of the kind of thing you can expect to experience in Nicaragua.
I can feel my blood pressure rise when we drive down the streets of Managua and I see entire families – babies and all – riding down the main roads helmet-less, not a care in the world. Little boys my son’s age wander the streets washing car windows for a little bit of money, getting shooed away at traffic lights by people like me, in my fancy, air-conditioned car.
It makes me think of how fortunate we are. How fortunate I was and how fortunate my son is, but also of how easily our fortunes could turn, and the thought of my son enduring any sort of hardship gives me more anxiety than ten transatlantic airplane rides.
But then once I’m settled, I start to remember the kinder side of Nicaragua. I also remember it’s my own expectations of what “civilized” looks like that make visiting difficult.
So I start to relax and enjoy the family drifting in and out of my parents’ and my in-laws’ houses, staying for a while to hang out, eat, drink and be merry.
I get a kick out of seeing life-long friends I never get to see, and feeling like I saw them just yesterday.
I start to notice the breathtaking natural backdrop of lakes and volcanoes. The laid back nature of my people. The food. The heat. The food…
It was a short trip to Nicaragua this year, but spending Christmas with my family was well worth it. Watching my son enjoy his time with cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles made it ever more worthwhile.
I hope your holidays were as enjoyable as mine!