January 5, 2006
I am sitting in a bedroom with Scooby Doo curtains and a spider larger than any I’ve ever seen outside of a zoo. He’s kind of furry and when I took a photo of him, he had red-eye. I think he’s interested in me and wondering who this long-legged, funny-looking creature is. Right now, I’m tired and a bit out of it and too tired to either call for help or attempt to shoo him out. And I don’t want to kill him, somehow that just seems wrong.
I was sitting in a rocking chair this evening watching the news and it occurred to me that watching U.S. news coverage outside of the U.S. is a bit like having an out-of-body experience. Sort of like the feeling you have when you are having a great conversation with a person you just met and are really, really high. The significance of the conversation and this new person you really dig is not lost on you and yet you can’t quite take it seriously. Your head is floating into the ceiling and it’s like you’re watching this experience happen to somebody else who looks just like you.
Ariel Sharon, a man who has made life miserable for so many and in the last year has done a political about face that has confounded even the most cynical political scientists is in an Israeli hospital fighting for his life. It’s difficult to know whether to celebrate or mourn. Funny, I didn’t feel this strangely when Reagan died. That was clearly a time to celebrate.
More than 130 people dead in Iraq in the course of a single day. Suicide bombers strike again. Bush meets with old advisors, a tired Colin Powell attends, and the leader of the free world affirms yet again that the decision to invade, sorry, liberate Iraq, right or wrong, must be defended. We must succeed or the terrorists will. Somehow, I think they already have.
New York City experiences an unseasonably warm day. I wonder if people I love living in Harlem, Queens, and the People’s Republic of Brooklyn went outside to enjoy the weather.
I sit in Nicaragua watching the news and feel unbelievably disconnected. As if distance were an anesthesia that numbs the horror I feel at the direction our planet is going in. There are no words. These body counts, these lives are real and somehow, I can’t seem to force myself to believe that right now in this moment, in this wet, isolated corner of Central America that these events touch me, the lives of people I care about, the names and faces I know so well. My mind has floated off somewhere and I am numbly watching these things happen to people who are just like me.
Continuing in the vein of out-body-experiences…I took the bus from Managua to Bluefields and sometime between 6:30 Wednesday evening and 8:00 Thursday morning I was in Bluefields.
The trip went something like this:
Arrive at bus station at 6:30 pm – the Managua/Rama express is a tricked out school bus that probably took kids in Delaware to school in the 1980s. Still, you can’t knock the hustle, so I chill out, pull out a book, and wait to start loading the luggage. I meet a few Black bluefileñas who pull me into their conversation. Before I can correct them they assume I am a Bluefields daughter come home from the States. You look good, they say, and I can tell they’re trying to guess what family I belong to. Hudson? James? One of the women, who now lives in San Andres, Colombia tells me elaborate tales of bus choques, plane crashes and all manner of traveling devilry. But, she urges me to ask God for safety. Earnestly, she asks, Are you a Christian? Moravian or Baptist? I reply Baptist, my grandfather would be pleased, and shuffle off to see if we can begin loading our luggage. I’m just not mentally prepared for a theology lesson tonight.
6:50 or so -- Load suitcases onto top of tricked out school bus, which is named Beholden, after one of the oldest predominantly Black barrios in Bluefields. Solid.
7:15 – get into bus. Wait for two and a half hours. Tricked out bus is supposed to head out at 9 pm sharp for the El Rama, but…
Depart for the Atlantic Coast at 9:50 pm. Ni modo…
Drive for three hours. Stop to eat and pee in Juigalpa.
Nicaraguan drivers are amazing – we leave Managua nearly an hour late and arrive to our destination nearly an hour early. Increíble…
Wait at the wharf for two hours to board the next panga, that’s a dory with a motor, which won’t leave for another two hours. Fade in and out of consciousness with one leg wrapped around my luggage and the other in the legs of a plastic chair.
Panga arrives and I’m so tired I can’t even fully appreciate the beauty of the Coast. Palm trees, miles and miles of green hills, wooden West Indian style houses that perch over the moist soil on spindly, wooden legs. My God, even in my sleep-deprived delirium I am amazed by the wonder of this place.
Arrive to Bluefields around 8am and am greeted by an ever-reliable and patient homegirl who promptly takes me home and throws me into bed. It’s nice to be loved.
That’s the bare bones of the trip. Next time, I will stick to flying. Still, I’m not entirely sure how I got here (since I floated in and out of consciousness throughout the trip) but here I am in Barrio Pancasan playing with my friend’s son, Ricky and watching Tom y Jerry. It’s funny how I remember some things so well and forgot other things about Bluefields so quickly. The wetness, for example. Bluefields is located on the southern Caribbean coast of Nicaragua and is one of the wettest places on the planet with an annual rainfall that exceeds 2000 to 4000 mm. It rains all of the time, and I do not exaggerate. Technically there aren’t really even seasons per se, the climate is judged by the shift in levels of rainfall. So rainy season v. rainier season.
So it’s no wonder that no matter how much I shower, lounge around in front of fans, or do any manner of little things to keep both cool and dry, I always feel wet. My skin carries a slick shine and my clothing sticks to my skin in damp patches. I have a theory that the damp is good for my skin and hair since they are so moisturized from the climate, I have to do relatively little to either. Still, the damp has its drawbacks. Books, for example, simply can’t survive. You see them in offices or personal libraries, the pages and covers curling around the edges, the spines deteriorating. And technical equipment, like laptops, digital cameras, mini-DV cameras, and that phat iPod your Mama gave you for Christmas are constantly under attack. So I’ve taken to wrapping all of my techno-gear in plastic. I find that the plastic bags you get from the market work just fine.
But I’m back in Bluefields and apart from the wetness, feeling okay. I’m staying with my friend, Angie Martinez, an altogether inspiring and amazing individual (as you can see I make it a point only to surround myself with people who motivate me with their talent and spirit). The first Black woman I ever met in Nicaragua who proudly called herself a feminist, and I’ve been in love ever since. Being the rowdy feminist that she is, she is involved in a number of activities from running the only Black women’s radio show on the Coast to conducting research on the impact of HIV/AIDS on amas de casa to helping run a multiethnic women’s research and studies center at the URACCAN, one of two universities in the Región Autónoma Atlántico Sur (RAAS). That’s right kids, chop off 7 years and the adorable son, and you have found my freaky third world twin in Bluefields, Nicaragua. I suspect that this is why we are such good friends.
In any case, being so busy Angie hardly has the time to do the things that other women here spend much of their day doing – namely, being domestic. Cooking, cleaning, all of that gets done – eventually. So after waking up from my nap, doing a little reading and playing with Ricky while Angie stepped out for dinner with a friend, I decided to give her the gift that I’ve always wanted from others – particularly this semester when I was so consumed with doing well my first semester of graduate school that I cursed having to sacrifice 20 minutes of precious reading and writing time to showering and brushing my teeth in the morning.
I washed a sinkful of dishes.
Good gift, no?
Sending you all love with damp pajamas and dishpan hands…
My spider man just left. Perhaps he had another pressing engagement.