Monday, January 24, 2011

Crossing Border(')s

At our final Cap Corps retreat, we spent some time reflecting on the things we were looking forward to in the US and the things we wanted to take back with us. My response to the "looking forward to" question was always books, a culture of reading, and intellectual conversation. Nicaraguan culture is very oral-based. People hang out on their porches and talk to each other; they don't read. If I cracked open a book in a public place, people thought I must be reading the Bible. I missed talking to people about books and the ideas inside them.

During my layover in Miami, I was immediately drawn to the bookstore, like a moth to the laptop screen when the power is out. The top-selling book covers featured the handsome faces of Sarah Palin, George W. Bush, and Glenn Beck (was he this popular when I left?), as well as Barack Obama. There were titles telling me all about what was wrong with the current government. Why the economy failed. How to make money really fast. I suddenly remembered the feeling of despair I often had before going to Nicaragua, that feeling that I would never be able to read everything I needed to read in order to be the well-informed, effective, and sensitive person I liked to imagine myself to be. My ready defenses against the barrage of visual media telling me what to do and think had atrophied living in a city that no sales agency cared to market. My chest suddenly felt like a balloon slowly inflating with the stale air of inadequacy, and I felt the overwhelming urge to cover up my ears and run out of the bookstore screaming"LEAVE ME ALONE!!"

I realized that analysis is nice. But sometimes it's nicer to just take life as it goes without picking it apart to try to make it better all the time.

And then I ate some Haagen-Dazs ice cream. Deep chocolate with peanut butter chunks. Marketing can be so delicious.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I have now been repatriated for one week. My sleeping habits have been thrown off by the drastic reduction of natural light. My eating habits are all higgledy-piggledy because suddenly there's all this food around all the time that I can just eat without hardly any preparation. Now that I'm not walking or dancing so much, I need to find new ways to exercise. The main theme of my life right now, therefore, is reestablishing biorhythms.

I have not unintentionally restricted my interpersonal contact almost entirely to my immediate family, because that's about all I've been able to deal with. My mom has told me I seem to be adjusting well on an emotional level, and on the whole I think she is correct. Nonetheless, I feel like part of my heart got ripped out and left behind. In part, of course, this is because I said good-bye to the first person I ever fell in love with in the airport, and I don't know when I'll see him again. But it is also because I fell in love with a whole bunch of people, a natural environment, and a way of living that I can't carry back with me, no matter how many pictures I upload to Facebook, songs I cram onto flash drives, and entries I post on my blog. I stay fairly even-keel, but there are moments, before I fall asleep at night or while I'm washing the dishes, that I feel completely overwhelmed by a sense of loss and I start to cry. And then, mere minutes later, the feeling passes. It's like the isolated rainclouds that would come in off the ocean, showering Puerto in a fierce downpour. The only thing to do was stop under an overhang and wait patiently, taking the time to admire the rain and the moment, because both would soon pass.