Posted by: HelenRortvedt | 4 May 2006

Homeward Bound

I am sitting down to write this last entry from my friend, Kim’s Lincoln Square apartment in Chicago. It is great to be back in the Windy City, but it is not Nica. That much is sure. It feels weird to be back in the States. So much has happened in the last four months, but by being here in Chicago it sort of feels like no time at all has passed. I will drive back to Arlington this weekend and start another chapter of my life our east as I begin a new job as an outdoor educator/adventure instructor in the Shenandoah Valley.

I spent my last weekend in Jinotepe with my host family, and it was like coming home to see them all after three weeks of travelling. I was instantly welcomed back into the house, and my room, and their lives. On Sunday night, the whole family gathered at Tia Rosa’s house for a BBQ and for a trip to the cemetery to tend to Leopoldina’s grave. It was a happy occasion for the most part. It was especially nice to see the family together again, laughing, chatting and just being together. I woke up on Monday morning finally feeling ready to leave. All my bags were packed, and it just felt like the right time to leave. I hugged everyone goodbye and parted with the words “Nos vemos” instead of “adios”. “We will see each other again soon”, rather than “goodbye”.

I remember reflecting on the concept of home and family earlier on in my time in Nica. I was often asked how I could spend so much time so far away from family. The truth is, I was made to feel like I had a family there in Jinotepe, so it didn’t feel like I was all that far away from “home”. I know that when I return, I will be welcomed with open arms, and that is one of the best things I can imagine taking away from Nicaragua. It is so much more valuable than any hammock, ceramic pot, handmade article of clothing or aged Flor de Cana rum that most people stuff their suitcases and backpacks full of after visiting Nicaragua. Not that I didn’t bring home my fair share of those things, but I feel truly lucky to bring home my memories of my Nicaraguan family. No careless baggage handler can destroy those.

Nicaragua is a land of paradox. It is stunningly beautiful and devastatingly poor and deteriorated. It is both rustic and comfortable. Turbulent and tranquilo. It is the land of lakes and volcanoes…one of which was rumbling as I left the country. It has a tragic recent history and is fighting an uphill battle to get back on its feet. It is misunderstood. I feel very fortunate to have been in Nicaragua these last few months. It has helped me to rediscover a part of me that I had lost. It has helped me to heal some recent wounds with its charismatic, compassionate and beautiful people. Its awe-inspiring landscape has challenged and encouraged me to be a more mindful steward of the land, and has made an indellible mark on my dreams…literally and figuratively.

I love this country, and I look forward to the day that I return.

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