Kind words from Nicaragua

One of our readers writes:

Dear Orion,

One of my kind friends, a former English teacher, sent me a care package of several old Orion issues two months ago. I received the magazines as a unique gift from afar. They took two months to reach me in Managua, and upon opening the package, covered with beautiful little Gees Bend quilt stamps, I sought refuge in some nearby restaurant and devoured the words on your pages. It has been wonderful to reconnect with the growing and shifting American environmental movement. A lot of the articles have resonated so much with me in my work here. After the initial flurry of reading, I’ve been savoring the articles with a more reasonable pace.

One day, over my morning coffee, I came across an article (Eye of the Storm, by Rebecca Solnit) from September/October 2004 that made me feel like I wanted to respond. I realized that someone did indeed continue the dialogue in the next issue, and quite beautifully, but I wanted to write about my experience with the weather.

This is my third time living in Central America, and on the eve of my departure, the rains have started. My first experience was as an environmental educator in a rural public school in Costa Rica. I arrived during the height of the rainy season, and it usually rained everyday right about the same time. At first, I joked with my friends at home about how much the conversations revolved around the rain. Each afternoon, right before I had to walk back down the hill back to work, the rain turned our dirt road into a river, providing a perfect opportunity for a cup of our own coffee and a chance to talk about the weather.

My second and third visits to Central America have been to Nicaragua. I find that I am the one who now brings up the weather as a topic of conversation. We do most of our work in a rural community in northern Nicaragua, and each time I go to visit my host family up near Totogalpa, the very first thing we talk about is the weather. I complain about the searing heat of Managua, and Martina and Miguel talk about how wonderful their own climate is… not too hot, and not too cold. Before we move onto topics like health and happiness, we discuss the possibilities the sky might bring us. Central America, like many parts of the world unknown to me as a child, has a dry season and a wet season (a summer and a winter, they call it). After enduring the summer, with each day getting hotter and drier and dustier, the rains started to come like a gift from the heavens. The first time it rained I walked out onto the porch at our office and got completely soaked, skin slurping up water after months of living in an urban desert. Now thunderstorms come with lightning bolts crashing right outside my home, leaving us in darkness. However, the north is still dry. Now when I go up to Totogalpa, I worry along with my family. When will the rains come? The sky looks forboding, and we see flashes out in the distance, but it seems to rain everywhere else but here.

One of the plights of tropical areas seems to be that there is either too much or too little rain. The first time I came to Central America, Hurricane Mitch swept through and destroyed bridges, homes, villages, hillsides. Since then, winter has been getting shorter and rains fewer and farther between. For people who make their living off the land, these are stressful times.

I work for a non-profit that uses renewable energies to promote sustainable development in northern Nicaragua. We notice climate change, and are trying to do something about it. But, when I wish Miguel good luck with this year’s crops, he tells me, “Only God knows when it will rain. All we can do
is hope and pray”.

Thanks for being a unique magazine that carries a distinct tune. Despite having a package of old copies, the issues feel as fresh as the smell of
dirt after a good downpour.

Un saludo,