Thursday, July 22, 2010
The new season of Survivor is being filmed in Nicaragua. I survived two years in Nicaragua in the Peace Corps, 1976-1978. I was there during the revolution until we were evacuated by the US embassy in September of 1978. I was 9 months pregnant and we left our little house in El Jicaro in northern Nicaragua with nothing more than our passports and backpacks. Our daughter was born a few weeks later in Honduras. We never returned to Nicaragua.
For two years we had lived in a concrete block house a few blocks from the center of town. There was an outhouse and a concrete sink and shower with cold running water in the backyard, and electricity most of the time. The house was square with one corner partitioned off for a bedroom. When it rained the tin roof was so loud that we couldn’t hear each other talk. There was a gap where the exterior walls met the roof and air circulated freely. It also created a runway for the small lizards that also called our house home.
I had decorated the outhouse with pictures cut from the international edition of Time, our major source of news. I couldn’t figure out why the pictures kept falling off the walls until I took a flashlight to visit the outhouse late one night. As the interior was illuminated, a score of huge cockroaches ran for the cover of darkness. Mystery solved. The cockroaches had been eating the paste off the back of the pictures!
We had a parrot that spent most of his time on the wall that separated our back patio from the street. I spent hours trying to get him to talk. The only words he ever uttered were from the buses that circled through the dirt roads in town looking for riders. Our parrot learned to shout out the bus destinations randomly when he heard a car chug down our street.
It was a small town. Everyone knew us because, aside from a Catholic priest, we were the only gringos for miles. Campesinos from the surrounding area came to El Jicaro for supplies and entertainment. There were very few cars. Most people rode the buses, which were vans or small pickups with benches in the back, to get to Ocotal or Esteli or El Jicaro. In rural Nicaragua in 1978 campesinos were still using horses for transportation. On Sundays everyone, dressed in their best, walked around and around the park in front of the church in the center of town. That was the social event in El Jicaro. Horses were tied up in front of the houses and stores.
As small as El Jicaro was, we did have a movie theater. They showed old American movies with subtitles in Spanish. Every afternoon a truck with a loudspeaker would circle the community and announce the movie.
“Tonight, at eight o’clock in the evening in your Theater Jomari a spectacular movie …”
The first evening we heard the announcement for a film featuring “Charlie Bronson” we rushed down the two blocks to the theater so as not to be late for the 8:00 start. We should have known that the movie would begin on Nicaraguan time…at least a half an hour late!
I have very fond memories of my time in Nicaragua…after all, my daughter was almost born there. (We used to say that she was made in Nicaragua, but born in Honduras.) I hope this season’s Survivor cast members will have similar memories of honest and giving people and unspoiled country.