While I was a senior in high school, concerning myself with college plans, 16 and 17 year olds in Leon were dying in the streets fighting with guns to bring change to their country.
The stress I felt over applications seems misspent.
People here are proud of their part in forcing change in their country. Young people, passionate about removing the dictator who had repressed the people for four decades, willingly gave their lives so future generations could have a better life.
Bullet holes are still visible in some of the buildings, graffiti from that era, calling for the death of the imperialist invaders has not been whitewashed. Murals celebrating the martyrs of the revolution cover walls near the central square and in back alleys further afield.
Nicaraguans have been oppressed and fought back throughout their history. Most, today, hate violence and war. Only the police and security guards carry guns. They preserve the memories of war through the bullet holes and graffiti, but also through art and comical theatrics and giant dancing puppets.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are everywhere for sale on the streets. Clothes, purses, jewelry, toys, decorations and art are there as well. Vendors laugh and talk and call out. Everyone is willing to dispense a story with their products. Smiles are always free.
Mornings are hectic. Crowds squeeze through the narrow streets, exploding into the squares. Shops spring up along the way. Doors are flung open, water is splashed on the stoop and swept toward the street. You learn to jump aside at the swish, swish, swish of a broom.
Some seek refuge in the many churches, starting their day in prayer, while others simply push forward.
As the rushing wave that begins the day slows to the steady trickle of the day, it’s more tranquil. Birds can be heard again, singing from the trees and roofs, the dogs trot between trash cans looking for goodies left behind in the march to work.
Buenas dias. Tranquilo.
Our meanderings have taken us to another locale. From Granada, the colonial city, blossoming with the infusion of international visitors bring new cash to Leon, another colonial city! destroyed in the 1970s by revolution and only recently beginning to dig itself out from the rubble and tentatively spread its tattered wings.
Poverty envelops both cities. Tourists push through, seemingly oblivious.
The people who live in these cities have nothing. They are happy, though, because they know nothing else.
They are happy because they have what they need. They are happy because they have their families.
They talk loudly. They cram three deep into buses. They eat under umbrellas at plastic tables in a media of the Pan American Highway. They sleep with their children on blankets folded over cinder blocks under corrugated tin roofs. The children are content with a single toy.
Art is not confined to galleries. Poetry is cause for festivals.
People walk and ride their bikes because they don’t own cars. Few but the fortunate have need of a gym. Even getting to work is work. Where work is not available it is created…a makeshift restaurant on the street or in a cart, a basket of fruit or household items carried aloft and always for sale, a bicycle with a cart used as a taxi…
And – always – a smile.
The churches are alive with music. Worshippers arrive on foot or by bicycle. There seems to be no restriction on bringing the bikes inside. They line the walls, are propped against the confessionals or parked near the back pews. Some, who perhaps want to make a quick getaway after the final blessing, stand at the back with their bikes.
Some who have little or nothing position themselves at the doors, hoping to benefit from the generosity of those who are bathed in God’s love as they head out.
A few sellers with carts of sodas, flavored water or comidas rapidas like tacos or hot dogs position themselves near the churches, hoping for a boost from the worshippers heading home.
This morning, an almost-uneard-of summer rain doused the city. The locals were shocked by the quick downpour. Chuch attendance rose as passers by ducked in to the cathedrals and chapels to escape the downpour.
Traffic is less energetic than the other six days of the week. Most of the vehicles on the road are transporting tourists. Taxis, privately hired Turismo buses and the horse drawn carriages that circumnavigate the city are the majority of those on the road.
The honking of horms seems a little more considered on Sunday. During the week, a honk might mean danger or indicate the fact that the driver intends to ignore the stop sign (or giving warning to those with a sign that it shouldn’t be ignored). It might be a greeting to a friend passing on the street. It might be a call of appreciation to a lovely young woman passing by. A horn has many meanings six days a week. On Sunday, it is only to alert for a dangerous situation.
Vendors are out in fewer numbers. Most await the purchaser’s approach. The hawkers in the mercado are fewer. The music there is subdued. The banter between customers and sellers is less animated.
The restaurants either open early and close before noon or open later in the afternoon. Most of the diners were foreign visitors. Residents more likely eat a dinner at home with their families on their only day off.
It’s quiet. Even the dog and the rooster next door, which spend their days – and nights – in a perpetual call and response, are quiet.
The grocery store itself was dull. La Union, ironically owned by WalMart is bright and clean and filled with all the same sorts of things you’d find in the States. We needed some easily transportable snack foods as we will be hitting the road soon – by bus – and watermelons and papayas don’t do well in back packs.
I did have a “People of WalMart” sighting, but chose not to take a photo…a drag queen. A young man with poorly bleached hair and garish 1970s-style make up was bent over the make up counter. She was wearing a conservative skirt and a bright tank top. She giggled loudly while chatting with the clerk and drew much attention. I think, though, that the other shoppers were less bothered by her gender line blending than by her lack of polite decorum in the store.
On the streets, stores of every kind were popping up on the sidewalk and tumbling out of homes. On a much smaller scale than in the Centro Mercado, but randomly.
More people from the rural areas seemed to be coming in in horse drawn carts to sell or buy or both. Carts were unloading or parked along the curb.
I sat for a few minutes on a concrete and tile stool outside an abandoned restaurant to watch the comings and goings along the highway on a Saturday morning. I felt a little self conscious, though no one seemed to notice the gringa with her shopping bag.
So I gathered my groceries and went back to the room for breakfast.
I’ve been up for an hour, sippimg tea with honey to ease the persistent cough brought on by a slight cold and allergies.
I’ve dressed. I’ve put on and taken off my shoes three times.
The bags are packed and sitting by the door. The computer is charged. The camera is as well.
Snacks have been prepared. The water bottle is full.
All our accounts have been settled.
I’m ready to go.
My husband, ever the wise one, is still asleep, building up his energy for the trek ahead. I, like a child on Christmas morning, am pacing, peering out the door, checking the sky, my watch, the bus schedule.
It’s time to take off on our adventure. Walking, taking the bus, hitching rides on boats. It’s time. At least in my mind it is.
Another cup of tea, a little extra honey this time. A truck downshifts. The rooster is getting impatient for the sky to lighten, turn orange, then blue.
The breeze sneaks through the open kitchen window, rustles some papers on the orange tile, then rushes past the screen onto the porch. It, too, is impatient.
I’ll lace up my shoes again. When the sun comes up, I’ll go to the Supermercado in case we forgot some essential item.
A little Gallo Pinto for breakfast will take some time.
In a few hours we’ll be off and I’ll doze on the bus. Not the first bus into the city center. Or the second into the main hub in the capitol city. But, I’ll sleep on the third bus, the one taking us north and west.
We’ll stay there, at a $10 a night hostel, with kids half our age who are trying to find their path in life by doing what we’re doing. Walking, riding buses, hitching rides.
I’m ready to go.
I’ll unlace my shoes and have another cup of tea.
“The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.” – Frank Herbert, Dune
The shoreline along the Atlantic coast of Florida is lined with dunes…ever-shifting sand that moves with the wind.
Grasses and flowers take root. Marsh rabbits and the tiny Anastasia Island mouse take up residence beneath the leaves in the dunes around here. Crabs dig below the surface. But when a heavy wind blows from the north east, the sands shift…sometimes grains at a time, sometimes whole dunes disappear and reappear in a new spot. Continue reading
I have known Genevieve 9 months longer than anyone else has known her. Genevieve, you see, is my biological daughter.
Twenty-four years ago today was a balmy 71 degrees in Orlando when she made her appearance at 6:27 am. Today, it is 61 and foggy in Butler Beach and I am not going for a walk until it warms to at least 71. I was 27 then and had a roaring little internal heater when I waddled into the hospital. I’m 51 now and the only pair of socks I own is fluttering around in the dryer.
I gained 101 pounds during that pregnancy – a combination of having been freakishly underweight to start with and having borderline gestational diabetes. I have never returned to my pre-pregnacy weight of 89 pounds, but it was Genevieve who helped me drop 30 pounds after Steve and I got married a couple of years ago. I used to say that the extra weight I was carrying around was “baby weight”, but 18 years later, Genevieve informed me that you can’t call it baby weight when the baby has her own apartment. Continue reading