On the morning of June 8th, we were all faced with the gloomy reality that it was the official time to go our separate ways. For some of us, that meant the exciting opportunity to begin a summer-long internship in Nicaragua, working towards goals like rehabilitating ex-street children or working to reduce maternal mortality. But for others, like myself, it meant the gloomy end of an incredible 10 day delegation and the flight back to our respective homes in the US. Nonetheless, sad farewells were no match for the power of sweet music. I was lucky enough this morning to wake up to Kelsey’s moving rendition of the popular hit “Call Me Maybe” on guitar joined by a spirited choir of delegation back-up singers. Such cheerful playing along with relaxing leisure time inside Quaker House continued throughout the morning while we awaited our van to take us to the airport. At around 10 am, we sadly had to say goodbye to Zoe, a Haverford grad about to embark on an exciting summer internship in Matagalpa, as well as Jose-Antonio and Beverly, two knowledgable and insightful Nicaraguan students who had accompanied us throughout the delegation. Finally, the van arrived and we had to give our parting hugs also to Kelsey and Gabby who stayed behind in Quaker House and would soon begin their respective summer work, Kelsey in Managua with Acahual and Gabby in nearby San Marcos with Los Quinchos.
On the van to the airport, Chloe challenged us with two difficult tasks. The first was to come up with superlatives, which we did with only marginal success. Marissa, we concluded, was most likely to sneak off the airplane and stay in Nicaragua. Abby was the most likely to contribute provocative comments. Gabby, without a doubt, was the most likely to be found applying her makeup in a war-zone. Sienna was most likely to get in a fight with a tropical beast.
The second task, though, was more daunting. Chloe asked us how we would respond to the frightening and inevitable question posed by family and friends upon our return: “How was your trip?” As the delegation was far more complex and challenging than your average summer vacation, we quickly realized that no one response, no matter how thorough, would be satisfactory. I looked back at our travels and saw a fantastic blur. A host of magical people and places came to mind, all equipped with the power to shake the normal American senses. Viciente Padilla with his inspiring story of peaceful resistance and his edenic organic coffee farm; Mama Licha’s remarkable road to establishing an internationally renowned midwifery clinic; the rich forests of Miraflor with fig trees so large that they resembled the “Hometree” from the film Avatar; the many murals which each rivetingly illustrated a piece of social struggle and success; Aldo, aka “The Origami Wizard” and his limitless knowledge of botany. And that was just to name a few. I felt like I had just crammed years of memorable experience into an immensely dense 10 day period. We agreed that the best way to address our family’s unanswerable question was to respond with another request: (in the words of Chloe) “Give me a detailed question and I will give you a detailed answer.”
Apart from our farewell with Carmen (whose unyielding exuberance shined brightly even during sad farewells), all went smoothly and pleasantly in the Managua airport and during our flight to Miami for the seven of us returning home. And yet, for my own part, after getting a taste for the troubling US involvement in Nicaragua, specifically during the Contra War, I felt quite odd about beginning my journey in Sandino’s airport in Managua and ending it in Reagan’s in Washington, DC. I was flying from the national hero responsible for founding Nicaraguan dreams to the national hero responsible for brutally crushing them. In more ways than one, I could not help but feel like I was moving in the wrong direction.