I was barely 21 years old.
A version of this piece was featured on Medium's Politics vertical. Check it out here.
This photo pops up in my Facebook memories each Fourth of July. The scene is central Florida’s Clearwater Beach on Independence Day 2008. I had moved to the Tampa area just a few days prior for my first job in politics: Barack Obama’s campaign for the presidency.
I was barely 21 years old.
I first set foot in Latin America when I was 19. An upper-middle class, western volunteer in Oaxaca, Mexico equipped with moderate Spanish skills and zero experience abroad.
As I entered my host family’s bathroom for the first time, I noticed something missing. Where I assumed there would be a shower was a hole in the cement floor. The bathroom window was slightly ajar— a green garden hose snaked through the window and settled in a white plastic bucket.
I proceeded to have a panic attack. Because I didn’t actually think I could make it through a summer without a hot shower.
This piece is cross-posted from Medium.com
The year 1987 is the first in the story of La Mariposa — a Spanish school and eco-hotel in Nicaragua’s San Juan de La Concepción, a small community that sits in the shadow of a smoldering volcano.
Paulette Goudge, an Essex native, made her first trip to the Central American nation that year.
The country was at war. Counter revolutionary forces financed by the United States government and Sandinista fighters — many of them poor young men drafted into military service — fought bloody guerrilla battles across the country’s northern border with Honduras.
As a volunteer in a Managua orphanage, Paulette wasn’t party to the battles raging to the north. The Contra War claimed at least 30,000 lives; children were not spared from the strife. Young people disabled by wartime injuries or orphaned by the violence took refuge in Managua, the country’s capital.
A mid-aged woman carries a rake and a dustpan through the streets of a Nicaraguan fishing village, cleaning up discarded trash as she goes.
Hers is a full-time, self-appointed position.
"Aunque usted no lo crea, aqui esta el paraiso"
-- ultra lovely title of a painting by Fernando Toledo
I'm writing from an outdoor patio at La Mariposa Eco Hotel & Spanish School in San Juan de La Concepción, a small city in central Nicaragua.
My mother, since retiring from her career as a psychiatric nurse, has decided that she will spend three months out of the year in Nicaragua, and invited my to join her on a leg of her annual sojourn.
I will go anywhere I am offered a plane ticket, obviously, and I was also particularly in need of a vacation. So here I am.