It has been more than a week since I returned to the United States.
The last two days in Nicaragua was a bit hard for me. I couldn’t grasp that we only had 48 hours left in the country. Within the time frame of two weeks, 11 strangers became close friends who shared many personal stories and laughter. The group truly made the entire trip a memorable one.
As I reflect on the last two weeks, I see personal growth and more confidence in myself. Through the experiences I had in Nicaragua from carrying on a conversation in Spanish to navigating the streets in Leon, I have more faith in myself and in the abilities that I can travel by myself in the future.
I have returned with a completely different perspective of Nicaragua. This country has such beautiful people and culture but I cannot disregard the amount of struggles people face every day because of high level of poverty in the country. Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America and the number of actual jobs are very low. People make income on a day to day basis by doing jobs like selling mangoes on the streets and washing car’s windows.
Poverty has to be one of the major issue in the country along with several other issues. Visiting Juanita Urbina, a transgender woman, allowed me to hear a perceptive from a different side. The United States and Nicaragua have many similar issues and one them has to be discrimination against LGBTQ and the transgender community. Both societies have a stigma against these communities and are quick to mistreat them or push them aside. In cases as such, people need to inform themselves and realize humans are humans. Everyone deserves respect and dignity regardless of their sexual orientation or gender.
Studying abroad enhanced my educational experience to levels unimagined. Instead of sitting through a lecture, each day I was given the opportunity to visit a new environment and learn about a different topic. What best way is there to learn about a culture than by living in it?
In a few words, I have been exposed to so much of Nicaragua in such a short time and I am so thankful for the opportunity. I plan to use the knowledge I gained to further my studies in the International Relations field. I plan to continue learning about Nicaragua and find ways to help people facing the different social and human rights issues. I have expanded my horizon by visiting a different part of the world and I hope to continue my travels. Until next time Nicaragua! #BuckeyesAbroad
More than a week has passed since our return to the States. It feels as though so much more time and like no time at all since we were in Nicaragua. I miss it, and being back in the U.S. is jarring. I miss it all- the country, the culture, the organizations we met with, and the revolutionaries who allowed 11 Americans whose government has reaked havoc on their own into their homes, stories, places of work, life, and hearts. They are brave people who allow a group of strangers from one of the most powerful countries in the world into their own- the second most impoverished country in Latin America. The people who have given so much to me made themselves vulnerable to so much in order to share their lives. There are those who shared their houses, rooms and made sacrifices so we could have dinner, those who spent their time and voices, and those who spent their time driving a group of students whose opportunities, lives, and reflections are different than there own. We were welcomed and loved. I’m not so sure that many here in the U.S. would greet them the same way.
As I write, I am sitting on my couch in my air-conditioned apartment drinking hot chocolate from a mug I bought in Nicaragua. I can taste and feel the privilege I have and it does not taste sweet or feel so comfortable as one might think. To be honest, it would probably be easier to wash over in my memory many of my experiences in the country. But being back here makes me uncomfortable, and it should. I grieve for those who suffer because of lack of access, opportunity, and adequacy. I am made better, wisened, and strengthened by these experiences. My learning does not make their struggle worth it. They do not exist for me to gain. So many times those of us from the U.S. travel to less developed countries with this savior complex and think we have the solutions to all their “problems.” Other times, our experiences unsettle us once we return to our soft lives and we decide to wrap the memory up neatly and put it aside. But these are the lives of people, and they cannot be made into an easy phrase about how out of everything bad comes something good. Sometimes, we must simply sit with the weight that some have been given much and some have been given very little. And always, we must make a choice to determine whether or not we will do something about this inequality and its innate injustices.
Reconciling my experiences in the U.S. and in Nicaragua has been difficult. Once we arrived back in the U.S., I had a day to adjust and then I began work again, an additional job I did not have prior to leaving for our trip, and an internship. One day to separate my beautiful, heart wrenching, enlightening, challenging time in Nicaragua and then it was back to the “real world.” I find myself thinking of the trip and our experiences often. I find myself thinking of the different world that Nicaragua feels like in comparison to the U.S., the poverty that both have in different and similar ways, the people we have spoke with and listened to, and the ways I have learned and been impacted deeply. I think of all the people I have intimate experiences with through the sharing of stories and experiences and I am at a loss for the gravity and weight of what has been shared. I have been shaken by this trip and forever changed.