I was hesitant. As far as I could understand, Nolvin´s idea was to go to the river and jump around in the mud. But after thinking about it for a little while, I decided I would go. There wasn´t much else to do besides that in El Guabo, a town of 300 in the heart of Nicaragua, a town so small and hidden that the supervisor of the program, Amigos de las Americas, got lost trying to find it.
“Esta bien” I replied in inelegant Spanish. After snatching a rainjacket and my camera, I headed out the door with Nolvin and his older brother, Juan. In a couple minutes, we had left the outskirts of El Guabo and headed out into the steep and rugged hills of the countryside.
We walked for more than an hour, visited by occasional, grazing cows and stopping to rest in the shade of solitary palms that towered above. At one point, Nolvin ran off and scrambled up a tree a hundred feet away, then tossed down three mangos, green and harder than bricks. We bit of the skin with out teeth, spitting them out and taking bits of very cruchy and slightly sweet mango.
I had met Nolvin and Juan early on in my trip. The day I met them, the town had been weighing pigs by having three or four men heave them off the ground using a pulley. The measurement was used for selling them later at the market. Most of the pigs were close to 400 or 500 pounds. That day, Nolvin had given me a bracelet made out of soda can tops woven together with purple ribbon. I taught Nolvin and Juan an American card game that we played in the back of their father´s leatherworking shop, amongst a rundown truck with faded lilac paint and strips of leather the size of blankets.
After walking several miles, we left the open hills and headed down towards the river, which was enveloped in deep and verduous trees that blocked out the majority of the sunlight. We were at the salto, a waterfall about 10 feet tall that was almost completely hidden by the ceiling of trees that crouded above. It wasn´t that the salto was particularly beautiful. It wasn´t a picture you would put in a calendar, but something about how secluded and tranquil it was gave it a sense of beauty. It was hidden, this wonderful, little, muddy, jungly pool.
We spent the afternoon jumping and splashing in the pool, eating a fruit called guaba, a pod with a fleshy sweet inside, and tossing around a dried out hicaro shell as if it were a waterpolo ball.
Living in El Guabo, entertainment was anything we could find, which made it simple and pure. Nolvin and Juan didn´t have videogames or action figures or TV. At most, they had a homemade slingshot or a couple of marbles. Even the cards we played with every few days were from a deck I had brought with me. At one moment, swimming in the murky pond, it became clear how futile materialism is. Juan and Nolvin were having as much fun as any upperclass kid from the US.
Living in El Guabo taught me to take life simply. We get so caught up in trying to accumulate things, accumulate TVs and new cars and bigger houses, and forget to savor our day to day lives, to savor each experience we have, whether scary, wonderful, or even terrible. In the end, we will fondly remember the experiences, not the new TV.
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