Airports weren’t exactly made for profound thoughts and deep reflection, but here I am at Gate D45 thinking about what the heck I’ve been doing for the past three months.
In sum, I’ve explored four distinct regions of Nicaragua, improved my Spanish, learned more about how to do field research, gained a family, made a network of friends in the states and abroad, visited Cuba, and learned more about the United States from the perspective of Latin Americans. That’s only a fraction of it. But the world didn’t stop turning while I was gone. I’ve started my job search, talked to my family about graduation plans, planned my last semester at Wofford, and missed a Thanksgiving. Beginning this semester I was worried that being abroad another semester would put me behind, but I don’t think that’s what’s happened. So what does my experience in Nicaragua have anything to do with the transition coming up for me in the next six months?
I’ve learned more about my strengths and my weaknesses and I have new skills that I never could have imagined. I thrive on independence and busy-ness rather than very structured time. I am more prone to question power structures and their histories, like US-Nicaragua and US-Cuba relations. I can look at the world from more than one perspective. I know how to get the most out of situations that work well for me and problem-solve in situations that don’t. I’m nicer to myself when I’m feeling homesick or stressed.
On the opposite side of the same coin, Nicaragua isn’t going to stop being Nicaragua now that I’m gone. I have to remind myself regularly of the experiences that I’ve had and the people I’ve met in the Central American country. Construction on the canal in the south of Nicaragua is supposed to start this month and it’s affecting the people, animals, and plants that live there. Once it’s built, it will affect the world economy. Theoretically, it will help Nicaragua’s economy, but is that worth the displacement of so many people and the loss of a lot of natural beauty? Controversy brews over a new law created to protect victims of domestic violence. Women’s lives are also being affected by the heated discussion about the penalization of therapeutic abortion. The people have begun making predictions on who will run for president in Nicaragua’s 2016 election, as the leader for the past six years can’t run again. For many, the revolution still lives on. My host family is waiting for their residencies for the US as they contemplate the move.
The intricacies of my re-entry into the United States after such rich experiences are many, but my personal connection the both the US and Nicaragua is only one representation of the complex relationship that the two countries have. So, as I wait for my flight to Mexico, I’ll be thinking about what part I get to play in the world that grows smaller as I begin to know it better.