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.