Nicaraguans say "Gracias a Dios" all the time. They say it to pay thanks for being healthy. They say it right after they tell you they're having a good day. Sometimes they say it and then start dancing. And it got me to thinking, about God and about gratitude.
I was in Nicaragua this past week with 50 12-year-olds for a service trip, a truly exhausting experience. But, because of those 50 exhausting 12-year-olds, we trip leaders traveled for eight days with the staff of an amazing Nicaraguan organization called Viviendas León, a few doctors, jungle guides, and a handful of bus drivers. Never in my life have I been on a trip where I got to know so many locals so quickly, and it was amazing. In those close quarters—in which we were hot and exhausted and hungry and thirsty and, in some cases, extremely nauseous—I totally fell in love with everyone: Carolina, Lesbia, Don Camilo, Doña Rosario, Wally, Nelson, Hendri, Ali, Houston. The list could go on and on, but suffice it to say that Nicaraguans, or the ones I met at least, are warm and affectionate and completely wonderful.
Also, I think in being in Nicaragua I was reconnected with my somewhat forgotten Spain self, the girl I am when I'm speaking only Spanish and I'm far away from family and anybody who knows the childhood or high school or college—or even current—versions of me. And I was reminded how much I like her. She's easy-going, open-minded, chatty, and oh so happy to just be—to sit and talk, to ask a million questions, and to learn as much as possible about a person or a place in the time available. She's the reason I got to know every backstreet in Madrid in just a few short years. She's the reason a shy girl from the woods of NorCal can speak fluent Spanish. And, more recently, she's the reason I have a bunch of new friends in Nicaragua that I cannot wait to go visit.
Gracias a Dios por ella. Y por una semana en Nicaragua con gente increíble.