Thursday, August 10, 2006

Me Encanta Nicaragua

It’s difficult to describe things that matter, what carries heroic-sized significance. It is difficult to explain what most do not experience or even care to know. After all, it’s a description, an explanation. Nothing more.

To describe an experience like Nicaragua, not just as a country, but an experience is large scaled agreement to gently disgrace oneself and one’s excessive lifestyle. There is no way to return home and describe poverty, joy, simplicity in terms that most citizens in the States would understand. We have difficulty with the most basic interferences of difference, how much more to describe a culture that survives on faith and hand-me-downs? Analyzing the Nicaraguan culture, lifestyle, and demographics means painful gazes at the core of global distribution, hierarchal ranking of human worth, and most of all, self-behavior.

This was my third trip to Central America. People ask, “How was it?” In my mind I respond, “I don’t have the right vocabulary to express and you don’t have the vocabulary to understand. We don’t have the right vocabulary.”

And we don’t. Not just for expressing what is different, but also for defining what beauty and rightness can be found in other countries outside developed or “first world” countries.

It is more than just denouncing the ritualistic consumerism that squeezes North Americans at their throats. It is so much more than that, more than any person wants to realize. How does one explain the difference between needs and created needs? You need shoes. You do not need 15 pairs of shoes. Why do we insist on communicating in only one language? What is behind that arrogance? What is behind our narcissistic confidence that reveals more shallow ends than oceans?

One afternoon, I sat for an hour and watched the silver rain fall from the milk sky in silence. I had to fight the question if I was “doing something” productive and meaningful. If not, I should get up and do it. “It” is never clarified itself. The semi-urgent voice to constantly move, endlessly keep going is strong. Three hundred fifty million ants crawling over themselves, never stopping is an American trademark. We sell. Merchandise. Trade and teach and counsel and market and theorize and build and find and wish and crave and govern and decide that we need to get up in the morning and do it all over again. Somewhere in those 52 weeks of living, we take 2 to do something else and call it vacation.

Is that living? Are you living?

For ten days I helped build homes, dig latrines, filled dirt holes with sand, cement, and soil. I passed out used glasses and bifocals. I assisted a pharmacist in a traveling medical clinic give out medication to isolated villages living in such poverty that I rarely spoke aloud. I was in such deep thought. Mentally disabled children bound to poles with flies crawling into their mouths bled into my heart. I stroked the hair of a young girl who lay on the ground and stared at something I could not see, moaning softly when I sang to her.

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich greeted my mouth everyday at noon with warm water chasing it down my dry throat. A plastic bed that captured the heat of my body and reflected it back to my skin held my overheated body each night, the metal bars of the bed frame sticking in my back. I had a fan an inch from my face until my throat grew sore from breathing in its wind each night.

Rats and mice tore through clothes and hidden granola bars. Lizards ran over my bedroom walls. Earth’s soil and dirt stained my face and washcloths until their colors ran grey and black. Near naked children stroked my hair and asked my name and grabbed me in giddiness. I took their pictures for three days before my camera was stolen in the village I was working.

Under the relentless sun that crisped my body, I searched for my camera, my vice and artistic companion. The moment my hands searched frantically in my bag, I knew it was gone for good. This camera was my second replacement. I had a similar one stolen one year ago at a party. Wondering if I was cursed, I walked the village, eyeing the horses, pigs, cattle and people. A depressed sadness began to rise in me.

I talked to G*d in my head and asked for strength; to demonstrate strength in releasing my grip, not in keeping my hands clenched. To not hold plastic so dear to my heart and understand that, should there have been another toss of dice, I would likely be a quick thief, liar, or opening my body for price. I sent warmth to the person who stole what was so clearly mine and hoped that it went to feed a starving family, a sick person’s medication, or provide a need that otherwise would go unattended.

The world we live in is so ridiculously unfair and narrowly trained that we cannot find adequate solutions to distribute the Earth’s natural bounty. So many lives are destroyed through pure greed and we lie to ourselves to make ourselves feel better. We do. We lie and say that taking more than what we need is alright. We lie and convince ourselves that we really cannot help the systematic injustices of the world and its corruptness is too large, too significant and we, in turn, are insignificant. But not too insignificant to spend our lives pursuing money and power in our own communities and circles of life.

Anger is the color of blood and it has long been running in my veins. I’ve heard that anger is the realization that something is going against what you know to be Truth. For me, now, anger is a state of life. A realization that we all are guilty of narrow lives; of keeping ourselves sick with ignorance and then pretending we have the answers with religion, political plans, and charity. We fail our own glory by not experiencing the world, its people, and difference. How many people do you encounter that are truly different from you? Blast through proverbial “difference” like neighborhoods, states, schooling, and class and think harder. Think of someone who you may not even understand linguistically or culturally and ask what you may offer one another to live more vibrant, more alive lives. If you can do that and find someone who will have this conversation, you will find your glory.

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