Samantha / Peace Corps Stories

Oh Nicaragua, Nicaraguita
That girl at the bar said you have no culture

But I know
Culture is not something can see in colorful cloth or folk dances

But something you taste, like the dust that lines your mouth in April before the rains start
Like the ash baked into tortillas
And those small strawberries that come down from the mountain once a year

And culture is something you smell
Like the elote blackening in the street
The red and black paint drying on telephone poles
And the trash burning outside

It’s something you hear
Like the cars with the speakers tied on top, announcing a funeral
The sound of a plump mango falling from the tree
And every adios as you walk by

It’s something you feel
Like the warm hand of a stranger, inviting you in
The bumps on the road, as you pass by the mountains
And the ache of your heart, once you’ve left

Peace Corps held a poetry contest in 2015 that received more than 800 submissions from Volunteers in the field and returned Volunteers. Samantha Austin’s poem received the runner-up prize in the returned Peace Corps Volunteer Category. Austin was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nicaragua from 2010-12.

*Originally published on http://www.peacecorps.gov

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