I doubt this post will be of much interest to people who haven't experienced culture shock.
Then again, I'm doubting a lot lately.
How does it feel to be back? They say. This is actually the best of the hardest questions I've had to answer. The worst has been, Do you know what's next? Presenting that question is like calling for directions from someone who's caught in a hurricane. "Say, do you know which way to What'sNext?"...I'm sorry; I don't. But perhaps you could tell me which way is up.
Here's my best answer to that well-meaning question. Firstly, am I really back? Perhaps physically.Though there's very little physical presence in sitting for an hour and a half by a full-blast heater, staring out a frosty window onto a suburban lane, my eyes and mouth stuck only slightly open. That happened this morning.
Some days I do plug in to this beautiful Oregon world. I must admit--its colors, cultures, fresh air--it is beautiful. I go to MLK Jr. marches with Sisters of the Road Cafe in Portland. That was sweet. I take long walks and order fair trade tea and read A People's History of the United States, a book that reminds me there ARE people in this breathless, pounding country who think the way I do. That was a good afternoon.
And then there are days like today when I wake up with Carlos Mejia-Godoy's voice in my head, singing about "el Dios de los pobres," and I feel so far away, misunderstood, and before I know it my forehead bunches up and eyes squint and I am crying, wondering how I'll ever be. here. again.
Music is the hardest part. It is the Nicaraguan jewel I miss most. In college at LMU, the musical side of me was largely suppressed, by the push to achieve, by "whiteness" (I could only take so many cold sacred hymns without looking for something meatier), by fear. In Nicaragua it awoke again. The music of that (I can no longer say "this") country embodies the spirit of revolution, the yearnings and faith and poetry of a people eternally victorious against their oppression, an oppression which "this country" (here I am again!) has played a--if not the--major role in causing. The music of Nicaragua--the feminist three-step of its folklore dance, the way guitars are played with the lyricism of harps and the power of drums, its rhythm that convinces my soul it could march on accompanied forever--has awoken a volcano in me, one that is rumbling and ready to burst.
But now there's a million-ton boulder called the United States over my crater. And I can tell you, it doesn't feel good to have lava stuck in my stomach. No quick-fix highly-processed antacid can clear that up.
Allow me to slow down and see more of the horizon. I'll be okay. This is all expected. Some day the clouds of purposelessness, longing, and isolation will melt away, and I will see the beauty of where I am, and more importantly, I will see all people, Nicaraguan or not, for what they are--worthy of love, on their own journeys, though worlds different from mine.
But in the meantime, while I figure that out, Two Thoughts (Estha in The God of Small Things, anyone?):
1. Some things, I hope, will NEVER make sense again: daily car usage, a closed mind, making choices without taking into account a preferential option for the poor (So long as I live comfortably and others live dismally, my well-being should not be the principle motivation behind my decisions), power and privilege. So long as I continue to question these and other realities, I am living true to the person I have become. To the person I have always been that Nicaragua has showed me.
2. Aunque se aclare el horizonte, el volcán nunca se apague.