Sunday, June 10, 2007

David in Nicaragua #1: Leaving home/coming home

I arrived in Nicaragua on Tuesday, May 23rd. It was a somewhat-hectic travel day punctuated by airline antics at O’Hare and possibly the most exciting landing I’ve ever experienced, landing hard in the driving rain in the Managua Airport. I was pretty sure there was no way I was going to get to see Rachael, but then there she was, just standing there at the airport. She introduced me to her host family, and we drove through more pouring rain to Sabana Grande, Rachael’s neighberhood, and her house there.
I felt two things upon walking into the Tellez house, which is across from Pablo Tellez’s Purple Church (if you ever get lost in Managua, ask a taxi driver to take you to Sabana Grande, and then to “La iglesia de Pablo Tellez,” and someone will help you out.) First, I felt completely bizarre. It was weird to be in Central America, it was weird to be in a huge rainstorm, it was weird to have been traveling all day, it was weird to see Rachael after all this not seeing her, it was weird to be in a roller coaster of a landing. But all of those weirdnesses mostly cancelled each other out, so I was just rolling it.

The second, and more remarkable feeling, was being completely at home. As soon as I walked in, I started feeling an old familiar place, and it took me a while to place it, but it turns out that the Tellez house is a lot like the Porch, the storied communal ramshack where I lived when I worked at scout camp. They will share whatever they have with you. If you walk in, somebody will give probably give you food or something to drink. The occupancy fluctuates between three and eleven. About forty people stop by at least once a day. It’s like Ted’s porch; pretty much whoever wants to can stop by and hang out for a while. Moreover, it’s pretty open; the breeze comes in between the walls and the roof, and there’s no reason to ever shut the doors during the day. It has its own little ecosystem of various critters, none of whom seem to bother the people too much.

And I found this kind of atmosphere, this beloved space of my formative years, pretty much everywhere I went in Nicaragua. A little ramshackle, and a little rough by norteamericano standards, but really totally lovely. Hospitality, sufficiency, rugged holiness. How about that. My first night, Rachael got out her guitar and I got out my mandolin, and we sang from Rise Up Singing as folks wandered in to meet me and the rain pounded on the tin roof. (This was interesting too; like the environment, I was expecting interacting with Rachael to be initially jarring, unfamiliar; but it was similarly instantly familiar.) Lizards strolled up and down the walls. I was not looking forward to returning to my apartment.


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