Mother’s Day in León

Hola from León! Day five in this beautiful country is shaping up to be much like the others thus far- sweaty. The hot sun is one of the many staples of Nicaraguan life- others include rice and beans, bicycles built for one but shared by up to six people, churches on practically every corner that are older than our Constitution, and just about the friendliest people you will ever meet. An excellent example of Nica hospitality can be found in my own backyard (quite literally)- my host mother Griselda and her 28-year-old son Eddy have welcomed me into their home with open arms and open minds. Just last night, Griselda doused my floor with gasoline in attempt to rid my bedroom of pesky people-biting and clothes-eating red ants. Safe? Debatable. Effective? Most definitely.

May 30th marked Mother’s Day in Nicaragua, which is surrounded by nearly as much hype as Christmas back in the States. Children and adults alike are free of school and work to celebrate their mothers. Everywhere from the corner store to the big city market has been selling cakes, jewelry, balloons, towels, bags (I could go on) all week in recognition of las madres Nicaragüenses. Probably the most striking Mother’s Day tradition awoke me abruptly from my sleep at 3:30am on the 30th– someone driving around in a truck with massive speakers blaring music about the importance of mothers. I shot straight up in bed, equally puzzled and annoyed because it was the middle of the night, only to find my host mother sitting in our living room relishing in the music blaring through our walls. When I asked her what in the world was going on, she explained that middle of the night music interruptions are one of her most favorite traditions. Only in Nicaragua…

I feel lucky to share all of these experiences with fellow Heston intern, Nicole, and Project Gettysburg-León (PGL) coordinator, Aaron. Aaron has served as our very patient and incredibly knowledgeable guide this week, holding our hands as we attempt to navigate this spirited yet confusing city (I say confusing because street names virtually do not exist; rather everything is in reference to landmarks which are sometimes not obvious or no longer present!). On Friday, Aaron, Nicole and I traveled to Talolinga, a small village of about 100 people situated on top of a precarious mountain where PGL has been working with the community to diversify crops and reduce pesticides. We drove for almost 2 hours in Aaron’s trusty green pick-up truck, and then began the hour and a half hike up to the village. Steep, slick, and slippery at points, Talolingans know this hike like the back of their hand because as Aaron explained, most of them make it at least once a week to get supplies and food from larger villages below. We arrived sweaty and out of breath to the village, yet were greeted with smiles all the same. After a visit to the fields where it looks like significant crop diversification has begun, we enjoyed a lunch of rice, beans and tortilla. Aside from the notable hospitality we received, most striking to me was the spirit of the people in Talolinga. Although these people may not have some of the comforts we are used to- like dishwashers and laptops and cars- their enthusiasm for life and community confidence/friendship are evident. As a kid from the suburbs of Washington, DC, it is amazing- and refreshing- to see how little stuff contributes to our happiness. Rather, it is waiting out a rainstorm with your host mother in the dark, or racing a 4-year-old around the edge of a volcano, or having a pig interrupt your lunch by wandering into the kitchen.

Before things get too sappy and too cliché, I am going to sign out from Nicaragua-a land of geckos and geysers and truly wonderful people. I am very much looking forward to starting work this week, and the adventures that are bound to come. Until next time, ¡adios y que le vaya bien!

Mary Maloney