I love Nicaragua. The last sunrise I see in Nueva Segovia (for now...) is going to be bittersweet. As my service comes to a close though, I find thoughts like “almost done, almost done” running through my head. I'm excited to move back to the States and spend time with my family. There are things that are important to me that just aren't part of my life here. Still, there is a part of that thought— almost done— that I'm not quite happy with.
From very early on in my service, I realized that my life in Nicaragua was not going to be the experience of living in poverty. I have earned too much yesterday (even if I don't use it) and I will earn too much tomorrow (even if I can't use it) to feel truly poor today. Plus, my Peace Corps stipend is designed to be sufficient and is reliably deposited at the end of every month; I have phenomenal health care; and if it comes down to it, I can always quit. No, my experience was never going to be living in poverty. Instead, it was going to be living with people living in poverty. It was not going to be living with uncertainty, but living with people living with uncertainty. And that is exactly what it has been. I have done my best to be of use to my community, but most of the time I am more student than teacher.
I knew something about development before I came to Nicaragua. I could tell you all sorts of stuff about the most cost-effective intervention to avoid pregnancy in teens in Kenya (educating them about the dangers of relationships with older men). I could write ten pages on when subsidizing uptake costs makes sense and when it doesn't. I can still cite you those facts and more. What I can't do is put what I've learned over the last two years in such pithy form. They weren't the kind of lessons that are easy to use to justify policy decisions. They're the kind of lessons that make you love a place and a community and, at the same time, say “I can't wait to go home”. I've learned a lot of them, but even so I know I've only scratched the surface. The surface, however, is deep enough to remember that life in my community is not going to change a bit whenever I take my leave of Jícaro. The issues that are so important to life here, and to so many communities in developing countries around the world, have not improved a whole lot during my two years in Nicaragua. What's more, they exist and are often ignored in the home I'm going back to in a way that is just as pressing as in the home I'm leaving.
Yeah, I'm a bit burnt out. I'm looking forward to sitting around the fire with people I've missed and catching my breath. But “almost done”? No, hombre. No se termina la lucha; la lucha sigue.