I’m in Nicaragua for 6 months. I have a contract setting up service learning programmes for young people from San Francisco. As we speak, these 16 year olds are frantically fundraising for the trip of a lifetime – where they will learn in depth about Nicaragua – how locals live and work, about education, politics, history, culture – and about themselves. They will grow as leaders, as open-minded global citizens, able to understand the challenges of the developing world, the complicated relationship between their country and Latin America, able to think critically and appreciate difference. They will go back to the States with skills to make a difference in their own communities.
So that all sounds great right? And it will be.
The only issue is that instead of the sunny Dominican Republic, where I applied for this job, with great surf, music and LIFE, I have been placed in Jinotega – known as the city of mists – in Nicaragua. Don’t get me wrong – I love Nicaragua – well I thought I did, when I spent a month on the coast in November, in surf spots with open, passionate people.
But, although I have lived for the last 2 years in rural Guatemala – as almost the only foreigner, with its bugs, its heat, its tiny population – and started a life there from scratch – I am finding it really difficult to feel at home here in this provincial city. Instead of feeling part of the community, I am invisible. Nobody says hello (although a few say ‘goodbye’), Instead of having my own home to relax in and invite my friends to, I spent a few miserable nights in crummy damp hotels and now my Nica colleague is sleeping with her niece in order for me to have a bed in their house. Instead of eating garnachas chatting to my village friends, it is a stodgy pizza slice eaten on my own from a cart in the main square. Instead of hanging out with a beer in a hammock with friends, it is quiet nights on Facebook, desperately seeing who is online to talk to.
My colleague and I have already been to some cool places as research for the job– an iguana farm, a ceramic cooperative, a bustling market, a baseball stadium – but I just feel a bit numb and questioning WHY AM I HERE?
Why are some of us programmed to constantly seek out new adventures, to test our limits, to challenge our comfort zone, to clash against the concept of ‘settling down’ whilst others are happy doing the same job living on the same street all their lives? But us seekers have a magnet to seek out fellow seeker souls and this weekend I’ve taken myself to La Biosfera reserve where the owner Suzana’s own colourful life at least makes me feel I am not the only one that, for whatever reason, has been predestined to live life differently. And clambering barefoot up a stream to a bat cave, dog at my side, this morning, I feel content to be in nature again and to be open to whatever will come next.
And although I am not yet happy here, I feel there is a reason why I’m here and I’ll let you know as soon as I find out why!