I am a big fat liar. Really, I am. Yesterday, I re-read the “About the Ex-Pats” page of the blog and I laughed out loud and thought, “what a crock of shit.” The honest-to-God-truth is that I didn’t love anything about this country during our first visit here, which ironically was two years ago to the day. The landscape was brown and dry. Mosquitoes feasted on my ankles. Chirping geckos kept me awake thru the night. The heat was so unbearable that we stayed indoors between 10 am and 3 pm. When we were eventually lured outdoors, it took us a minimum of 2 hours (but usually closer to 4 hours) to get anywhere thanks to pot-hole laden roads and ox-cart traffic jams. And of course…everyone spoke Spanish. There was no way I would be able to learn a foreign language AND make new friends.
While I am no Phileas Fogg, I am no stranger to travel either. From a young age, my parents ingrained in me a spirit for travel and an appreciation of culture. When my sister dropped her backpack halfway down Copper Canyon in the middle of The Sierra Madres, my mother turned to us with a smile and cheerily called, “Now isn’t this an adventure!” She continued to use this phrase throughout our travels including the train ride when a ninety-five year-old goat farmer offered to purchase my sister in exchange for cheese and when said sister fell out of our river raft in class 4 rapids. Hmm – perhaps we should have considered additional travel insurance for my sister? In any case, my family now lovingly uses this “momism” to refer to some of our more challenging of travel experiences as exactly that – experiences.
So why did I detest this trip so much? A little sweat never bothered me before. Well, for one thing, I had a toothache of colossal proportions the day we touched down in Managua which resulted in a root canal on day three of our “get-away.” The pain was so unbearable that I found it hard to see beauty in anything other than a Vicodin prescription. In addition, halfway into our trip, I learned that a dear friend and mentor had passed away after a long battle with cancer. I wanted to be anywhere but in Nicaragua.
But less obvious at the time was that this wasn’t a vacation, this was an evaluation. And every negative encounter was another opportunity to add a check under the “stay in Boston” column. Because the truth was that as intrigued as I was by the prospect of living abroad for the first time in my life, I was also scared shitless.
Incredibly, Justin and I just celebrated our one-year Nicaraguan anniversary a little over a month ago. So how did this come to pass? Well, the visit here handed us a huge dose of reality, which was exactly what we needed in order to determine if we could realistically live here. We learned that we could get quality health care (cheaper and better!), we could get home for emergencies if necessary, and we could make friends that would prove to be not only great resources, but a second family.
I guess the most notable thing here is how quickly I forgot the negative. Or how I began to see it as beautiful. As the pain of the toothache melted away, the dry season transformed into a lush, verdant landscape, each day offering a sunset more stunning than the last. Though the drive to Managua still feels long, I now spend it gazing out the window upon the grazing cows and the billowing volcanoes. I have come to appreciate the dichotomy of Mac trucks and ox carts sharing the same highway and I can’t fall asleep without the chirp of the geckos, my beloved friends, who keep the mosquitoes at bay.
And now with the economy tanking, I could not be more grateful to my husband for encouraging this adventure. Though we have not fully escaped the economic fall-out, we are certainly enjoying a more relaxed and comfortable lifestyle here in San Juan. Am I wearing rose-colored glasses? No. But I certainly like that I get to wear sunglasses everyday.