An open jar of truffle-flavored honey scents the room in sweet musky earth tones amongst a baker’s dozen young hip lawyers, doctors, and a dancer. They’d come to this party in Cambridge, Massachusetts to admire and celebrate the first home purchase of Kim’s brother Ziad – a recent Harvard Med School graduate. Over the course of the evening only one set down his plastic name-tattooed wine receptacle to tickle the ivories or “tinkle” them as my own ivy league-graduated attorney father would say, though you get the feeling at least 90% of them had the capability. Kim and I stood in the kitchen subdued by culture shock and the afternoon’s IPAs and bucket o’ fried clams indulgence, rehydrating with tap-water and fielding questions delivered with awe and confusion about our life in Nicaragua. “You sound like you have an American accent,” the small energetic Asian girl with artful eye-corner mascara says to me. And she was the second of the day. I guess they figured that since we were so hopelessly out of style in our dress that we must actually be from Nicaragua. Imagine if they’d seen what we look like (cleanliness and dress) at home!
Before sneaking off to bed around 10:30pm – impossibly late by our Nica lifestyle standards, unbelievably early by anyone else’s – we told a few stories of what life is like for us – our thatched roof 18’x18’ cabana with composting toilet, the dirt roads, the cows on the beach, the Surf with Amigas Adventures – and still the picture felt impossibly incomplete. How can this guy working 60 hours a week, who raised his crystal glass of champagne to toast while wearing salmon-colored shorts with a blue-striped long-sleeved button-up have any sort of clue what we’re talking about. We speak different languages. We live in different worlds.
I do understand him a bit better than he probably understands me. I also grew up in that culture, thinking for a time that I’d enter that world myself in the footsteps of my father. Fortunately surfing took me to remote places for extended periods at a young age, opening my eyes to other worldviews and lifestyle possibilities. After dutifully completing my higher education requirements, I set off on a 10-year itinerary of whirlwind travel, chasing waves and excitement in far off places. “Give me 2 days notice and I’ll go anywhere!” Until I finally found somewhere that I’m happy to call home. I found a place where the climate suits my clothes, where dirty holey-kneed jeans and a faded t-shirt are acceptable attire, where tree frogs hang upside down while stuffing themselves with cicadas as if they were subway sandwiches, bees roll leaf “cigarettes” and fill them with pollen, puppies run leash-less on the beach, and even the nagging itch of a scorpion sting, the constant thorns in my feet, and nearly nightly acquired mysterious spider bites are so much more appealing than the hustle-bustle-shuffle of the “real” life of the North.
Kim grew up as a nomad, the offspring of nomadic parents with a love of the Middle East he spent his early years in Yemen and Lebanon, finished high school in Connecticut then moved on to 7 years+ each in Alaska and then Thailand. For him living in Nicaragua is hardly even an adventure, its just living.
The waves within walking distance may not be world-class but they are fun, warm, and un-crowded. Lemongrass and lemon basil, habaneros and jalapenos, papaya, and squash are harvested from the garden for dinner. Dogs paddle back and forth across the estuary then sleep in the sand while we surf ‘til it’s time to “go home”. We sit on the porch sipping homebrews as chickens pick protein from the compost pile and the fireflies dance their messages of love. People ask if I miss living in the States. What do you think?