It’s not even 9 o’clock on a Friday night and I’m struggling to stay awake. Granted, I barely got any sleep this week. I stayed with a Nicaraguan family for a few days…which means I slept on their bed, which means I slept on a log. Or so it felt. The cockroaches crawling in my hair didn’t help. Neither did holding my bladder due to the outhouse being so far away (which was also covered in cockroaches.) So yeah, I didn’t sleep much. But of course it was all worth it.
My family consisted of two parents and their four kids – ages 18, 13, 9 and 7. My girl Leigha and I became their fifth and sixth child, or so we joked. But really, it felt like we were one big family.
My first day there I had a horrible headache. I tried to push through it, but after walking Paula to school I needed to lie down. The room was as hot as a furnace – literally. My family has a massive furnace in the middle of their home that they use to produce large quantities of bread. I lay on my
bed log, feeling pretty miserable as I melted like butter. But I had nowhere else to go – the dirt outside was my only other option.
Not long after I lay down Leigha told me that Mom set up a cot for us outside. It was the best news I could have received in that moment. Leigha and I fell asleep under the shade of an avocado tree as Mom washed dishes and clothes nearby.
Later, the younger kids joined us on the cot. We tickled each other and played thumb wars and lay next to each other, staring at the clouds in the sky.
Every time we came back from walking Paula to school the cot would be waiting for us.
In the afternoons we’d play soccer using a deflated basketball. I’ve never played soccer (or any sport for that matter) but I am twice as tall as my little Nicaraguan brothers…so I tried to use that to my advantage. They were still much, much better than me. But we had fun – language isn’t an issue when you’re kicking a ball around. We laughed and slid in the mud and got dirty and sweaty.
Around 3 o’clock everyday Mom would call from the inside, “Esperanza, Doce Corazones!” (12 Hearts) – a trashy, bachelor-like game show that I secretly (or not so secretly) like. The whole family would watch it. I had never heard of it before this week and I’m sure I’ll never watch it again, but it will forever hold a special place in my heart (…or should I say my corazón.)
I watched a lot of TV this week. It’s interesting, my family lives in a shack – dirt floors, holey ceiling, random pieces of wood and tin for walls, a bucket for bathing, broken plastic chairs for furniture – yet they have a television. I’ve found this to be true in most of my travels in third world countries – if anything, people own TVs.
At night we would sit around it and watch it together. I watched shows I was never allowed to watch as a kid (…or teenager, or adult) – The Simpsons, for one. It was dubbed over in Spanish so I couldn’t really understand it. We watched WWE – all I could think was, “who are these people? How much to they get paid? Do they take themselves seriously? Do you really like wearing those leopard-print spandex underwear, sir?” WWE leaves me with a lot of unanswered questions.
I always asked Mom if she wanted help preparing meals – she almost always said no. Maybe she was being nice, but maybe she knew I would probably mess everything up. One time she let me cut up some veggies – it took me an embarrassingly long time. Another time she let me stuff rice into tortillas – I stuffed too much rice and broke the tortilla.
We ate so much food. So much good food – probably some of the best meals I’ve had in life. No lie. Rice and chicken and fish and avocado and plantains and eggs and yeah, I’m pretty sure I gained five pounds. Nearly everything was fried.
One night Mom, 13-year-old Paula, Leigha and I had girl time. We sat on the
beds logs and talked about boys…somehow they’re the easiest thing to talk about. We joked about setting Leigha up with their cousin David (though you have to be careful when joking about such things – I’m surprised David didn’t show up for dinner an hour later.) Leigha and I shared how many boys we’ve kissed. Paula said she kissed zero, but as soon as her mom left she admitted to kissing a number guys. I laughed so hard – it’s amazing how people are the same everywhere I go.
And that’s the thing I noticed about this family. Sure, they’re pretty different from me – they’re Nicaraguan, they’re poor. But they are people nevertheless, and no language barrier or cultural variation can change that. Like me, they laugh, fight, cry, love. I’m continually amazed at how similar people are – no matter how different the lifestyle. I think the sooner we all realize this, the better.
It was a good week. There are so many more stories, so many more details I’ve failed to mention. Maybe I’ll write about them another time, maybe I’ll tell you in person.
Tonight I will sleep well. No more logs, no more cockroaches. But alas, no more soccer games, no more 12 Corazones. No more lying on the cot under the avocado tree, feeling so peaceful and one with the world.