The Publishing Institute is officially over. Ceremonies were held, projects judged and goodbyes said. During the first half, I worked as web editor for the prototype magazine Going, a travel publication. I couldn’t have been happier with the subject matter or my group. The next half of the program, I used the left side of my brain as sales manager for a graphic novel imprint. Numbers, numbers and MORE numbers. Way to whip my brain into shape!
The day after it finished, I plane hopped to Savannah and spent a week in South Carolina. I rode my bike to the pastry shop for breakfast and spent my afternoons on the beach with my sweet, little nephews. There were morning walks on the beach, wave-wipe outs (where sand gets everywhere) and late afternoon swims in the pool. After my week on Hilton Head Island, I was relaxed, sun-kissed and totally stuffed from all of the wonderful calabash seafood and family cuisine! Did I mention my mom and sister are amazing cooks? Exactly what one needs when wearing a bathing suit every day.
From there, my plane took a nose dive further south to Joanna in Nicaragua. She’s been living there for the past two years while in the Peace Corps. We spent 10 days back-packing from one city to the next. We hiked a few volcanoes, went swimming in a natural spring and met some of the gracious people Joanna has built relationships with over the past two years in her town called La Fuente. While the pace of the South and Nicaragua are similar, the cultures could not have been more different.
In Nicaragua, the workday begins around 5 am and ends by 11 that morning. No one wants to risk darkening their skin in the sun. Marriage doesn’t necessarily mean monogamy. Catcalls are frequent. There are even horns with the infamous whistle for drivers to blow at women. And when beggars ask for money, people usually give it regardless of their own income. I met so many generous, kind-hearted people. Catching a ride with a passerby was easier than hailing a cab in this city.
All of this was a bit of a shock after working a full-time job, then diving into six weeks of intense lectures and project sessions. I left NYC to the land of fried chicken and “hey ya’ll,” then arrived in a country where my only communication skills included asking where the nearest bathroom was and counting to eleven. Random Italian words even flared up in my attempts at conversation. I am proud to say I was able to entertain with my numerical counting though – at least for about 20 minutes until Joanna returned.
My own job hunt was put into perspective when I learned that about 50% of Nicaraguans are either unemployed or underemployed. There was evident poverty and yet beauty everywhere – a place of true extremes.
When I got off my flight at JFK and trekked back to my Harlem abode, I was shocked at the cleanliness of the subway. Yes, shocked! Two years ago, I was appalled at the trash and stench when visiting NYC after London. Perspectives change, and for that I am humbled and grateful.