“Everything you are used to, once done long enough, starts to seem natural, even though it might not be.”
― Julien Smith, The Flinch
Marina’s daughter gave her a chicken killing dog. She tied it to the Mango tree in the front yard because it is a good guard dog. The other day, it chewed through the frayed rope, flew over the barbed wire fence separating our properties, and attacked one of our chickens. She apologized in the only way she could; she made us a pot of chicken soup. Yesterday, her daughter bought a muzzle for the dog. They showed us how the muzzle worked by untying the dog from the Mango tree. It flew over the barbed wire fence, and pounced on one of our chickens, flattening it like a tortilla. This time Marina asked to borrow our machete. I was afraid she was going to kill the dog, so I told her to make us another pot of chicken soup. Ahh…life in Nicaragua. It is beginning to seem natural.
I am an immigrant from the United States, now living in Nicaragua. My nationality was accidental. I happened to be born on one side of an imaginary line, instead of another. If I would have been born in another country, I would feel just as connected with my heritage, social norms, and culture as I do now.
Yet, living abroad casts a new light on my accidental nationality. People I once thought of as foreigners are now my friends and neighbors. I used to be an expert on unwritten rules about how to behave, but now I’m a novice in a world of social norms that are unpredictable and alien. Once an insider, I am now an outsider or, as we used to say, “A person from off.”
I’ve developed a fondness for my host country, the culture, and especially the people. I don’t think I will ever fully merge into its social lanes, but I am beginning to understand Nicaragua’s slow-paced subtleties, its colorful spirit, along with all of its quirks and contradictions. The “land of the not quite right” is beginning to feel like home. Most things seem perfectly natural to me, even though they might not be.
While the process of assimilation takes place, my observations of my home country become more acute. I look at the United States with a new perspective of its flaws and virtues. I realize that there are very few things that are actually unique to my culture. I find more similarities than differences among the races of people. I’m more lenient in criticizing those who differ politically, spiritually, intellectually, and culturally. I’m harsher in my criticism of environmental issues.
Long ago, I discarded the statements, “I’m living in paradise.” and “The United States is the best country in the world.” There is no such place as paradise, and no country that is the best in the world. I am grateful for the opportunities the United States has given me and I have come to love my host country as well.
Am I torn between two worlds? Definitely not! My accidental nationality does not define who I am. I love my heritage and culture, yet I have come to embrace Nicaragua. Or maybe it’s the other way around…Nicaragua has embraced me.
I’ve gained a better appreciation for my home country. I will always be a United Statesian. But, I’ve begun to break through the barriers that separate our humanism. Life seems natural in the land of the not quite right, even though it may not be. Ahh…life in Nicaragua. Time to make another pot of chicken soup.
Are you torn between two worlds?