I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere between finger painting naked in the sand-box and pretending to be an established doctor in Central America, I turned 30. It hit me pretty hard. I am nowhere close to settling down, I’m fairly certain my biological clock didn’t come with batteries, and I still can’t find a man I want to have coffee with – nevermind children.
Under the influence of a perfect spring day in Boston, with the trees blooming and the children riding their bikes under the undulating shadows of the colonial brownstones, I came close to buying a house. I was 28. That’s what you do at 28; you buy overpriced things you can’t afford because it gives the illusion you are established and responsible.
So, I went in that week and I asked for a $20,000 raise at work to buy aforementioned house.
They said no.
I did what any normal girl would do thereafter; I took the leap I had been waiting to take since I was a mini-fro and took a job offer in a country I knew nothing about. This job led me to an island and culture I knew nothing about. It was the scariest decision of my life; I left my friends, family, and a decent salary to come Nicaragua – it was worth every penny.
There is a certificate on my wall from an NGO here in Nicaragua, thanking me and my sturdy nursing skills for my assistance with ultra-sounds. This month I have been working in the pharmacy, I wear white so I look legit. While I was doling out life-saving drugs in the clinic, a chicken was standing in line behind a patient. Before I could ask if it needed anything, it just bobbed its head and meandered off behind a lost dog – this has become the norm. Last month I was working with a doctor from Yale with Natural Doctors International trying to investigate if a local fruit can cure parasites. I give lectures to over one hundred 6th graders each week covering STD’s, early pregnancy and somehow just gave a charla on the reproductive system. I can’t find my own ovaries on a map, so how I gave a 45 minute lecture in Spanish on this topic is beyond me. I think I just kept calling all the bits ‘huevos’ when I got confused.
I am an older sister here to three adorable, yet fiery, children, my hair is approaching the danger-80’s zone and I have officially survived my first tropical disease – dengue. Aside from the pounding hammers in my head, the body aches, and the feeling someone was pressing their index fingers on my eyeballs for eight days, it wasn’t so bad. However, I will be pouring a potent dose of bug spray into my morning coffee from now on.
Aside from a low-platelet count that nearly warranted a blood transfusion and my parents closing in on boarding the next flight to Managua – I have never felt so alive. Every day profound emotions are running through me like an electric current: there are days of extreme frustration, confusion, and the inability to communicate a simple idea, surprise when everyone in town seems to know your name like some Latin American version of ‘Cheers’, laughing at 2am with dancers you just met from Brazil, singing alongside acoustic drums on a deserted beach under the light of a bonfire and a full moon, feeling intense desire for a man that will look into your soul and swear you are the one and only woman in his life, cursing that same man’s soul when you see him with his wife the very next day, feeling a sense of family 2,000 miles away as a four year old runs into your arms and kisses you when you come home, the internal stress that comes from the inability to measure your accomplishments, and wonder if your work is even worth it when you see another 13 year old moments away from knowing the life-long journey of motherhood. Every day is a blank page in which a circle of hope exists, where something will be lost and gained.
My casita is a small, pink garden-shed with a single barred window. It is nestled in a beautiful garden with flowers that can only be found in science fiction movies. It sits peacefully below an incredibly wrathful volcano, Volcan Conception. The Island is a floating hour glass in between Lake Nicaragua, formed by two volcanoes competing with one another in what seems like a never-ending beauty contest. There are parts untouched by the hands of time – only the shirtless farmers with their roaming horses and trusted machetes stray there. The sunsets can take your breath away and like an old friend, a full moon lights the plantain fields and follows slowly behind me to make sure my bike and I arrive home safely if we stay out too late.
The island also holds a strong air of mystery and romanticism. When I arrived I had heard stories of locals wooing women and showing them parts of the island with belleza that is only read about in fairy tales. I soon found myself being offered ‘tours’ around the island by many locals, but politely declined. I wasn’t here to date and was worried about my reputation and the fact that the island is small and the men are married.
This thought process and all reason left me when I briefly caught the dark eyes of a man through a cracked bus window. Something sleeping inside of me suddenly awoke, but my 1970’s chariot rode off and with the dust he was gone.
Later that month while at a fiesta on the volcano, surrounded by reggae music and the opaque mist of the rainforest, he reappeared. We danced all night in the mountains and the next day in the sands of a private beach. As I walked ahead of him to descend towards the water, I stepped over the barbed wire fence into the freshly mounded fields and walked over the narrow dirt path to the water. The ground shifts north and to my left a giant, beautiful beast of a volcano suddenly appeared as if we were playing hide and seek. She is the largest, most perfect cone I have ever seen. Her billowing smoke points the way to the beach, but I stop to listen to the faint-barking in the back-round. My head floats past the fields and horses, back around to where I began; the perfect morning sun behind me with the volcano holding my hand — I glance up to see two galloping dogs floating towards me over the acres of freshly planted rice fields. As if in a dream, in that single perfect moment just before you wake — I look slightly further into the neon jungle and see a man wearing a halo gifted by then sun; a man with dirty ripped shorts, medusa-esque black curls with eyes darker than the devil, mocha kissed skin and a soft, cunning smile that could melt a diamond. It had been a long time since a man both terrified and enraptured me. All reason told me to leave before I fell for him… but listening to reason never made for a good story.
His life was beautiful, uncomplicated, and full of passion. He showed me things no one else ever had and took me to hidden places I have only dreamed about. It wasn’t meant to last long, but the memories are some of my most romantic. I think it was the only period of my life in which I was actually rendered speechless.
When my bosses were interviewing us for our sites, I had said I wanted somewhere I could build a life. I didn’t want this journey to feel like a two year lay-over. In four short months, I feel like I’ve made that happen. My job, though stressful at times, is incredible, I’ve made friends that I feel like I can be myself with, I have a support network of people here and also the staff at the Peace Corps, and when the weekend comes around (though still professional), I can truly say that I am enjoying life. All aspects of it – I think I’ve been trying for 30 years to create that kind of balance and will appreciate every moment as nothing can last forever.