Tuesday, December 28, 2010


This will be my last post from Puerto Cabezas. Just writing that makes my throat constrict a little, as it has done from time to time, like when I passed the bakery on the way to the airport or left the dance studio for the last time.

There is always a script for my conversations with people here these days. "When are you leaving?" "December 27th." "And you're not coming back?" The number of times I have rehearsed this with people has allowed me to tinker with the script a little. I used to say, "To visit, yes, but not to work." And then a heavy silence sets in with the awareness of impending, permanent change. I have recently discovered a much better response, which is, "Yes, perhaps next December." To which they respond, "Oh, okay." This is followed by a much lighter sense of relief, that relationships may indeed have the chance to continue. One woman ruined this dialogue by persisting: "But you won't be living here?" "No, just visiting. But who knows?" One thing I like about Nicaragua is its permissiveness for the contemplation of possible if improbable futures. But who knows? When I left Nicaragua the last time, about five years ago, I never imagined I would be spending a year and a half here, during which time I visited my former host family in Nandasmo about five times.

You might have noticed that the departure date above has already passed, and yet I remain in Puerto Cabezas. I was slated to fly to Bluefields yesterday, where I would spend a few days with the girls working in Managua. My flight was cancelled due to heavy wind, so I have to wait until the next flight out to Bluefields, which is tomorrow. Unfortunately, we already sold my bed, so I found myself shacking up at the house of the pastor of the Moravian church, who lives just down the street and has an extra room. Now I'm in a weird limbo, having already said good-bye to everyone and prepared to leave, only to be stuck here for two days. I feel like a little like a ghost, trapped between worlds and haunting my former place of residence. So I try to watch TV, which transports me to a virtual world that is happy to have me for a few days.

It is nice to be able to rest. The last few weeks have been crazy and unrelenting. I had just finished up a few volunteer jobs I had taken on and said good-bye to Sol, my dear friend from Norway, when the girls from Managua came to visit. This was followed by Christmas, and then I went around saying good-bye, packing up, and giving away or selling all of our household possessions and personal affects that would not be coming back with me. Having nothing to do is a nice change, but it provides wide space for rumination and depression. I'm about to leave my community in this warm, vibrant place, leaving behind a language spoken almost nowhere else except in Miami, and a culture of music and dance all its own. And returning will cost a little more than popping over to Milwaukee or even Oberlin for a visit. I'm excited about seeing my family, and eating macaroni and cheese, and the recent cold spell, with temperatures in the 60s and 70s, has started to prepare me for Wisconsin winter.

The problem with traveling extensively and experiencing lots of different cultures is that my whole self, in all its facets that have developed in these different places, can never be truly home again, not in any one of them. Where do I belong now? In a way, it doesn't matter, since wherever I belong never seems to be where I end up. Sol, who has spent her time here moving between Puerto Cabezas, where her work is, to Norway, where her family is, and Colombia, where her house is, experiences this reality more acutely than anyone I know. Upon her return to Norway, she suggested that my next blog post be about good-byes. The transitory life, like life in generaly, is a continuing process of good-byes to the people and places that have become home. World traveler and writer James Michener overcame the sense of homelessness this causes by proclaiming that the world was his home. Christian tradition overcomes it by proclaiming that this world is not our home. Our director Marcia said she was trying to find home within herself.

All of these approaches are contemplative devices for seeking a continuous sense of peace, comfort, and belonging in a changing world that promises none of these things. I espouse each one at different times and try to keep all of my homes, in their diversity, alive inside of me.

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