An Expat Life: Nicaragua Blues and Ruse

Monday, June 9, 2008

Yin and Yang of Managua Parties

Tale of two parties....Saturday night's party was great. What a treat, spending the evening with some of my closest friends in Managua. Sunday afternoon was not so great, sitting around like a hungover lizard, listening to drivel from a bunch of Nica freeloaders. More about that later....

But first, let me say that Saturday night's party was a fitting end to my party circuit in this hazy Central American capital. In all, about 40-50 folks from the Embassy community showed up, including a couple friends from the Manzanita mafia (a Spanish-Nica couple that we've come to know through our son's preschool). Let's see, I drank keg beer, ate chocolate cake, did shots of tequila, even played wiffle ball with some Americans and a Swedish couple (ahem, I even hit one over the house, which, in my book, is a homerun!). I let my hair down, so to speak....which to my good fortune, is all possible when you live 3 houses away from the gala the way, kudos and special thanks to the hostess that made all this possible.

Perhaps as a sign of how good a time I was having, I have no idea when I got home. All I know, is that I drained every last second out of the fun. As they say in sports, 'I left it all on the field'....

On the other hand, yesterday's 'despidida' was a different story. As some of you may know, I take tennis lessons here in Manangua. My teacher, the patriarch of Managua's most renowned tennis family, had been inviting me for some time to partake in a weekend 'lechon', or a Nica pig roast. One of his cousins owns a restaurant just outside of town, and knowing that my time is short here, I finally relented. It's not that I didn't want to go, it just seems that there is always something else going on.

So, around 10am, I show up with my tennis prof, at which point I'm really hungover from the previous evening's festivities. So, what do you think I do.....ahem, have a beer! Good grief!! So it went.... I spent the next 3-4 hours shooting the breeze with Jorge and a menage of Nica troubadours, ranging from close cousins, to just plain thirsty acquaintances. Around 2 pm, I decided that I'd had enough. I don't know if it was one guy 'offering' one of his female teenage cousins to me that did it, or was it the proclamation that 'Americans are narrow-minded'. Maybe it was the banter about American politics, revealing an ignorance that borders on a time in America when folks sat around the general store and waxed poetic about things they had no knowledge about whatsoever. I mean, where do you begin? But after all, I'd been invited for this farewell as a send-off, and I'd 'done my time' out of respect.

But, I'm afraid the Sunday Nica brunch left a bitter taste in my mouth. You see, when it was time to go, we asked for the check, which amounted to my prof's cousin bringing me the bill of over $60 and everyone sitting there, staring at me. Unfortunately, I didn't have that kind of cash on me. In fact, I'm lucky I brought much at all. So, I paid what I had, leaving me penniless, fuming, and ..... I still had to give my tennis prof a ride back into town. Not only that, I was letting half the restaurant use my cell phone, as they were all either too thirsty or poor to have any minutes on their phones.

I don't mind paying my share. In fact, in my time in Nicaragua, I've grown accustomed to the idea that, I'm a rich American in their eyes and am made of money. I'm the freaking money tree, nothing more, nothing less. That's the sad reality that prevents most anyone from making any real, genuine friendships in this country. I should've known better. Not only did I spend my Sunday afternoon away from my family, I wasted money on a bunch of freeloading drunks under the guise of 'oh, we're going to miss're different from all the other Americans' nonsense. I can speak the local dialect, carry on conversations for hours on end.....Heck, I can even take my shirt off and play with my bellybutton like some deadbeat Nica drifter. But, at the end of the day, I just another foreigner to leech off of. Sadly, I see this as a metaphor for the greater struggle that goes on in this country.

I feel for the good, honest, hard-working people of this country. The ones like our nanny, a person I have the utmost respect for. Unfortunately, they are almost invisible, amidst the vast majority of those that I have come into contact with in Managua. Every day, I encounter those that cannot see me as an individual, only as someone to dupe and take advantage of. I'd rather be just ripped off in Huembes, than to know someone for a year or so, thinking that perhaps you are more to them than a pathetic handout, only to be disappointed yet again. It's like after getting punched in the gut so many times, you stupidly put your guard down once more, only to be wailed on one last time. Adios Managua!

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