So, I'm back from Nicaragua...talk about a learning experience. There's the usual talk of foreign food giving me the runs and foreign driving being a contact sport, and then there's the differences.
Glue Boys- We hung out in Masaya with a cadre of boys who roam the streets. They stay high most of the time on the most god-awful smelling glue my nose has ever met. We decided to take them out of their element for a day and piled 12 of them into the van with us. We drove to a rain forest preserve and had a park ranger take us around a loop to see monkeys, parrots and waterfalls. Think of your own kids and how much they get to enjoy...these street hardened boys may have had their only chance to be fascinated by nature that day. They all lit up like kids on Christmas. Their manners showed up and they were calm. Only 3 of the 12 felt the need to continue sniffing glue that day. It engages my tender mother heart when I see these 9 to 15 yr-old men-children running in a pack on Nicaraguan streets.
The other comfort-jarring event came in the barrio's by the dump. There is a city built from scrap wood, metal and kiddie pool linings on the edge of Managua's dump. These families send their men up on the mountain of garbage to forage for survival...EVERY DAY. There is no other existence for them. We took packs of beans & rice to many mothers in the barrio during the day. The locals told us it's much safer to hand out food when the men are away. I figured it just got a little more chaotic. Our leader decided to drive up to where the men were scavenging for their livelihood. It felt like a scene from "Dawn of the Dead"...as soon as the men spotted the van their heads turned in unison and an animal hunger for whatever we had in our van caused them all to sprint for the car. Bodies mashed against the side of the van as we tossed what rice bags we had left out of the window and spun away.
What does one say after seeing this? How do I reconcile all the joyfully poor Nicaraguan believers I met with the pouty, selfish, depressed believers that live in the states? I tell you, for the first time I have a blatant, country-sized example of how material things don't mean shit. How do I keep that at the forefront of my brain?