My time in Nicaragua has simultaneously been the worst and best times so far on this journey. The near death motor accident has taken a serious toll on my body, but the thing that has made the difficult moments bearable, what has made all the misfortunes really only seem like a small sacrifice for all the beautiful memories I've received, has once again, been the people.
I "lived" in two different parts of the country, meaning I was able to consider two places "home" for the first time. Also for the first time I actually wanted to do some touristy things. My last weekend here I had a variety of choices. I could have climbed the Massaya Volcano, enjoyed the tranquility of the Ometepe Islands, or appreciated the revered colonial structure in Granada, but instead I went back to León, to visit some old friends.
Stepping back onto a bus and asking, "¿Va por San Felipe?" (Do you go to San Felipe?), the neighborhood of the boxing gym, was like smelling the nostalgic scent of of your childhood clubhouse, like the feeling the familiar fabric of your favorite lost shirt, like you had to let it go, but never wanted to in the first place. It was nice to walk around and for once be aware of the routes, be acquainted with the streets, for once not to feel lost. It was even nicer to recognize old faces and catch up on the last two weeks that had felt like more. I got to see the fighters from the gym and be informed on all their past and upcoming bouts. I shared a few laughs with my friend Sam, whom I honestly believe is my British counterpart. And Gloria. Wonderful Gloria.
My injuries made my body susceptible to catching a fever from a one-year old infant that was sleeping in the bed I shared with four others, which actually made me feel cold in the hot Nicaraguan weather. Fortunately, she had some chicken soup for my arrival, probably the best remedy for my sickness. Then she made me the most bitterly salty lemon elixir I had ever tasted, but it cured me immediately. We spent the rest of the day catching up, watching bootleg DVDs of newly released movies, and classic episodes of Chavo de Ocho. We had a great time. It was like old times again, but that also meant another goodbye, this time for good.
I almost cried when she asked me when I was coming back, even more so when she said it with a tone of futility, like the question had been pointless to begin with. Whatever response I gave, she knew the truth was, "probably never". I wanted to say that I would be back someday, hopefully soon, but she deserved more than a comforting lie. Instead I just smiled weakly and told her that I really didn't know. It would have been almost mockingly insulting to ask when she would come visit me since the privilege of travel does not work equally between us. The world just doesn't work that way.
I said I'd miss her but she smiled and shook her head. She told me I'd be traveling. I'd have adventures and stories to occupy my mind, but she'd still be in León, alone once again. It pained me for her to be so right and aware of the future, furthermore to have the strength to cover it with a polite smile. I wish that she could also have a ridiculous amount of money thrown at her to travel. Hell, I just wish she didn't have to wait in line for a whole day in an embassy, provide evidence of job stability, sufficient funds, convince the government she wasn't going to illegally immigrate and still get rejected from going to a place that most US citizens can just waltz into with a passport.
When I left I embraced her so hard, like I wanted to squeeze out her essence and selfishly take it with me, like I've wanted to do with every person that has touched me abroad and at home, like the memories I've wanted so desperately to hold onto, but then again, the world doesn't work that way either.