Four airplanes arrived in Nicaragua on the same day and at the same time. We were standing in an unusually long, disorganized line in customs. There was a small space in front of me…enough space for the man’s backpack to rest on the floor. Suddenly, a family of Nicaraguans rushed into the space in front of me. I glared at them and pointed to where the line ended. Yet, they didn’t move. I think they were trying to tell me, “My happy place is in your personal space.”
Cultural space: The final frontier. Invisible bubbles of space surround all of us and they vary according to the norms of the places where we live. Why do we have personal spaceissues and how do they differ from Nicaragua?
Me holding a stranger’s baby on a crowded chicken bus.
Breaking news! In a dramatic policy change, the legislative branch of Nicaragua, the National Assembly, confirmed today that Mandarin will become the official language of Nicaragua. An amendment to the Nicaraguan Constitution requires all foreign residents and nationals to pass a Mandarin proficiency test.
In expectation of thousands of Chinese immigrants entering Nicaragua to work on the proposed Nicaraguan canal, the spokesperson for the President of the National Assembly states that the rule change is a result of concerns that national and foreign residents will not easily assimilate into local communities where the Chinese immigrants will settle. Without a solid foundation of the Mandarin language, it will adversely affect the local populations.
In a prepared statement being distributed to foreign embassies, consulates, and the Nicaraguan embassy, as well as immigration offices in Managua, the National Assembly states, “We recognize that Mandarin proficiency will be a major predictor to adapt to Nicaragua and a new Chinese culture. We have become increasingly concerned about recent clashes between the Chinese and local residents. Language problems may be causing the clashes due to cultural differences and misunderstandings.” Continue reading →
Yesterday was a milestone day. I wrote my 500th post on my blog. Believe it or not, becoming a blogger was never something I planned. I was looking for a way to network and market my book, Pretiring with the Monkey Lady. But, a strange thing happened along the way in my little corner of the blogging world.
“Americans consider the sidewalk an anonymous backstage space, whereas for the French it is the stage itself.” ― Edmund White, The Flaneur: A Stroll through the Paradoxes of Paris
If the French consider sidewalks to be the stage, then Nicaraguans consider sidewalks to be the entire theater. El Castillo, Nicaragua is proof that sidewalks set the stage for connection and interaction with others, especially in this tranquil community lacking cars, motorcycles, and other forms of motorized transportation.
“Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools, that don’t have brains enough to be honest.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
I think I have been duped! Last week, a Department of Health medical brigade (MINSA) came to Ometepe Island offering medical services. They walked door to door accompanied by a police officer on a motorcycle.
It’s common to see a MINSA medical brigade here. When severe flooding eroded the shoreline, MINSA came door to door passing out free antibiotics for Leptospirosis. During the rainy season, they pass out a poison powder to sprinkle in standing water where mosquitoes may breed. But, they never come accompanied by the police, and they are always local MINSA employees.
Marina was cleaning my house, and I was raking the yard when I saw the medical brigade come to my door. I didn’t catch the beginning of the conversation and my Spanish vocabulary with medical words is severely lacking. Although much of the conversation was lost in translation, this is my interpretation of the conversation that took place:
Male nurse: We are offering free medical exams at the hospital on Friday and Saturday.
Me: Great! Sign up my husband and me.
Male Nurse: No. I can’t do that. It is an exam of your ‘bahena’.
Me: What is a bahena and why can’t my husband get the exam, too?
Me: Is it an exam for your heart? For your stomach?
Laughter all around.
Marina: No. It is an exam of your ‘bahena’ and a papagramo exam. ( she said while holding back a chuckle)
Male Nurse: Laughing, while he pointed to my vagina.
Me: Oh, I get it. You are offering free vaginal exams and Pap tests. Sign me up.
I signed a sheet of paper and included my telephone number so they could call me for the time of the appointment. Friday and Saturday passed, and I never received a call. Then, I read this in La Prensa:
courtesy of La Prensa
For threeconsecutive daysan allegedbrigadeof the Ministryof Health,heavily guardedby police, has tried uselessly to getinto the communitiesofSacramento,Moyogalpa, OmetepeIsland, where residentsmaintain anarmedencampmentwith sticks, stones and evenmachetes. AlbertoLopez,the countyEsquipulas,Moyogalpa, said villagersreject theaction ofMoHfor orderinginformationand asktheir opinion on theCanal.
Herelots of timeshave beenbrigadesof the Ministry ofHealth, to vaccinate and dispense medicinesand they have nevercome up withpolice andmilitary riot police, so peoplejoinedand theywill notbe allowed to cometo our communities, Lopez said.
He noted thatthe communities wherethe brigadeis interested inthe surveyisinEsquipulas, Los Angeles andSacramento.Peopledecided tokeep them outbecause we want totell you thatnobody here wants tosell their property, are inour territory andwe are defendingwhat is ours, arguedLópez.
JuanBarrios, who lives in the Sacramento community, againreported thatisland communitieshave returnedto ringtheir churchbellstoalert the publicwhenpollstersbrigadeand policeandriot policetrying to enterthe community.
For threedays straightdoingthisencampmentto asktheseinterviewersleave hereand the policewillsay we arenot willing toget us outof our territory.Today(lastFriday)morning, the police tried topersuadeformaintence, but the response ofSacramentowastoleave heresaidBarrios.JuanBarrios, a resident of the community ofSacramento, said whenthe brigadewithdrewassumptionsthreatened tonotsendmedicinesto the health centerof the townand toldnot to returnforthat place.Villagerssaid theywill not moveuntil thebrigade andthe policedesist fromentering thecommunity toaskpersonal data on the draftof the GrandCanal.
So what exactly did I sign? Who knows? I had been warned by local friends…after the fact…never to sign my name to anything. Have I been duped? Probably. I may have signed a petition in support of the grand canal. They never asked me any questions about the canal…I suppose that once they figured that I didn’t know what a ‘bahena’ was that I would stupidly sign anything. And, I did!
We assume so many things in living in Nicaragua. I want to believe that the police are here to protect us. I want to believe that the Ministry of Health is only offering medical services that we are unable to get on Ometepe Island. I want to believe that the Nicaraguan government wouldn’t use tricks and treachery to gain support for the Nicaraguan canal.
I’ve learned never to assume anything and never to sign anything without questioning. Always expect the unexpected while living in the land of the not quite right. Life goes on…but I’ll always wonder what I signed…and probably never find out the truth.
Three weeks ago, a Chinese delegation representing the proposed Nicaraguan Canal came to Ometepe Island. They measured land south of our new airport in La Paloma, including Punta Jesus Maria, a sacred and lovely point of land, which served as an indigenous trading port thousands of years ago, and now, is a must-see tourism locality.
Wang Jinghas complete sovereignty and power to exercise dominion over all areas along the proposed canal route. He does not have to ask permission of any mayor, the expropriation of land is at his whim, and he will not have to pay taxes. Please read on and SPREAD the WORD!
“There are ultimately two choices in life: to fight it or to embrace it. If you fight it you will lose – if you embrace it you become one with it and you’ll be lived.” ― Rasheed Ogunlaru
“Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat. ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
I awoke this morning with the intention of writing about meeting places for a blogger’s travel theme. Then, I saw this quote and my thoughts were quickly diverted to group behavior, a sense of belonging, attempting to understand nationalistic pride, and where the seed of violence originates.
I have several issues with the quote by J. Krishnamurti. Mainly, what is wrong with a sense of belonging? People form groups for numerous reasons: companionship, security and survival, affiliation and status, power and control, and achievement. I believe power, control, greed, and intolerance…especially intolerance… are what breed violence.
I listened to John Lennon’s Imagine, while I was writing this post. In a perfect world, a life without violence is ideal. But, we live in an imperfect world, with unique and varied ideas, beliefs, thoughts, and traditions. We are not all the same, nor can we pretend to share the same beliefs. It is unrealistic to think that we can ever hope for sameness. The best that we can do is to hope for tolerance and understanding in our tumultuous world of differences.
“Just move to the Internet, its great here. We get to live inside where the weather is always awesome.” ― John Green
I’m giggling at that quote! It’s perfect for a geek girl like me. I’ll confess…I have to have fast internet. I’m addicted to the internet. My husband is an internet widow. (Or is it widower?)
Living on a small island in the middle of the sweet sea, in the middle of Nicaragua, in the middle of Central America is not conducive to fast internet.
If you’ve followed my posts about my slow internet struggles for four years, and you live in a rural area or abroad where technology isn’t readily available, this post is for you. I’ll take you step-by-step through my process of connecting to the world rapidly. How we got connected in Nicaragua. Steps ahead.