Katherine / Nica 62 / TEFL
Sorry if I got Adele’s song stuck in your head now from the title (after all, I do love a good karaoke session…). It seems fitting that Adele’s song became so popular just as I touched down again in the United States after being ‘on the other side’ or ‘returned’ side of service. So, here I am to share some thoughts.
A few weeks ago, I started to peruse through my old journals, journals that I had kept throughout my time in Peace Corps. In particular, I looked at some of my final writings and essays right before I left Nicaragua. I was in a nostalgic mood on a rainy and dreary Philadelphia afternoon. I wanted to know- what was I thinking and feeling during those final moments that were only a few mere months ago but currently feel like decades in the past?
My entries first and foremost exude excitement, excitement in just about everything. Seeing my family and friends made the top of the list. I was excited to reconnect with the people who had supported me throughout my service. Next, there was excitement about food and my monthly ‘foods that I miss’ lists that I had always so meticulously written about in my journal were about to become a reality again. Further, I was excited to wear sweaters, scarves, and boots and not be in a constant state of sweaty delirium. After two years of living in Telica and sweating from the first day to the last, I really didn’t even remember what it felt like to be cold. There was also excitement about being in the big city, about what would come next, and about continuing on in my journey.
And I must say, even after a few months back, this excitement still buzzes within me. Everything still feels shiny and new. As I sit here today and write this, in my cold room, wrapped in sweatshirts, and hearing the rain pitter patter outside, it still hits me every now and then about how I used to dream about these calm and quiet days when I was in Nicaragua. I’m truly appreciative of these small moments that I used to take for granted in the past.
But there was also a bit of apprehension, nervous energy about the ‘unknown’ that was expressed in my journal entries as well. I was nervous that nothing that I would do in the future would compare to my incredible adventure in Nicaragua. I was nervous about getting a job, a job that would not only pay the bills, but would also be rewarding and fulfilling (which in this day and age, is sometimes a tall order). Even more imminent than that, I was nervous about leaving Nicaragua, about leaving a place that had in reality chosen me and accepted me when I was invited to serve there in the Peace Corps. I was nervous that the projects I had worked on would fall by the wayside. And finally, I couldn’t even begin to wrap my head around how I would say goodbye- goodbye to both Nicas and volunteers, people that I wouldn’t know when I would see again. It was hard to imagine that my daily norm in Telica would no longer be that anymore. Despedidas seemed like an out of body experience; I couldn’t believe that they were really happening and that two years had flown by, just like that.
Looking back at these fears and worries now, I realized that some were warranted, and some were not. I realized that even in the US, I could create my own adventures, carve my own path, and take all that I learned and appreciated from Nicaragua and adopt it into my new surroundings. I learned that, yes, it is difficult to find a job, especially a job that checks all the requirements on the ‘list,’ but it is also not impossible, as long as you are flexible, patient, and persistent. And, I learned that goodbyes are not so final in the technology-filled world that we live in, especially now that many Nicaraguan towns have free wi-fi in their parks.
When I meet with friends here and catch up, they always ask me if I miss Nicaragua. And the answer is always yes. I may not miss the 100 degree weather everyday, but I certainly miss the people who I met and the small moments.
I find myself becoming more and more nostalgic about Nicaragua as time passes. It hits me when I’m shoveling multiple feet of snow and realize that I’m daydreaming about warmer weather and beach days. It hits me when a random Lumineers song pops on my iPod and reminds me and about a time when it’s all I listened to on long bus rides around circuitous routes in the cloudy mountains of Jinotega to go to an eco-lodge. It hits me when I’m in the supermarket and hear someone speaking Spanish. It hits me when I drink a sip of coffee, remembering a time when I would share a sugary cup and share every sweeter gossip with a local friend. It hits me when I see a dragon fruit in the grocery store (which is grossly overpriced here) and reminds of a time on my host family’s farm, traversing with a bunch of kids and eating freshly picked pitahaya right off the cactus (note- wonderfully sweet, but a total mess).These triggers flood my mind with almost small photographs that I will carry with me not only now, but forever, no matter how much time passes.
But even with all this reflection in the past, I am still very excited about the present, and what the United States has to offer. Even further, these past memories have also shaped the present, because when we leave the Peace Corps, we come back as people who have more experiences; we become more reflective and appreciative, holding onto the past memories and allowing them to shape our present actions and thoughts. This combination of reflecting on the past and combining it with the present, to create a new and exciting future is a thrill in itself.