Nicaragua Diary, Day 1
Today I had good luck: I saw the ox cart.
I’m back in Nicaragua after our annual six weeks in the States. That means coming home and it means readjusting.
We don’t have water tonight. This doesn’t happen very often, but the city water stopped running and the water in our tank ran out. We have drinking water—that we buy—but no tap water. Today, fresh from the States, some things catch me off guard that in a few days will seem normal again.
They’re working on our road. Big machinery leveling and clearing dirt, compacting and, perhaps, paving. We will see. They came and leveled our road last year for photo ops with a political candidate, dug up the road in front of our house which was hard-packed dirt, then left. Our driveway, which had been a nice ramp to the road, became a three-foot drop. Kim, my wife, asked when they would come back and a neighbor answered, without sarcasm or resentment, “When they remember us.” Then a water pipe broke because they’d dug so deep and what had been a passable road became a swampy ravine.
So we’re a little nervous, watching them work. We have to plan ahead for when we can and can’t park in our driveway so that we don’t get stuck.
Today, I did an airport run to pick up some dear friends. We flew in last night, so I’d just seen the airport twelve hours before. But the airport is air conditioned. It’s a better place to rest than most. I’m readjusting to tropical humidity.
On the way to the airport, I saw two women lying unconscious on the road . One was bleeding from her forehead. A motorcycle had crashed but I didn’t see if anything had hit it. I couldn’t tell if the woman would be okay. Then I was past.
Now that you have a small taste of my day, you need to know a few things as I embark on this journal.
We love living here. I walked across the street this morning and bought six tortillas from the woman who starts making them at five. I paid twelve cordobas; right now, it’s 30 cords to the dollar, so forty cents.
“They don’t have tortillas in the United States?” she asked.
“Not Nicaraguan tortillas. Not authentic ones,” I told her, and she laughed. “We have rice and we have beans in the U.S., but we don’t have gallo pinto. It isn’t the same. Soy Nica.”
She laughed at me. Of course I’m not Nicaraguan. Yet I am, a little, even though clearly I’m not.
I don’t understand Nicaraguan culture nor pretend to. I’m going to describe our experience not as an expert but as an observer who resides here.
I’m aiming to keep this journal every day, but of course I won’t. Life happens. I hope it will give a little clearer sense of how I experience living here. You might experience it completely differently. Or you might never live here, in which case I invite you to live it vicariously through me, at least a little bit.
Sometimes when driving to school, we come up behind an oxcart. The oxen move slowly. They don’t run or trot. They lumber. Kim decided that seeing the oxen is lucky, and if we see one with a star or a blaze on its forehead, that’s double luck. Instead of dreading getting stuck behind their cart when she needs to get to work on time and the kids are still foggy and grumpy and therefore inclined to complain, she changed it into something we hope will happen. She has a gift for transforming things this way.
I haven’t always loved living here; some days, I still don’t. But it’s home. Today, after I dropped Kim off at school, after I turned left once again at the spot where a huge SUV slammed into me—it’s our route to school, so I drive it one to four times a day—I had good luck.
The ox had a star.