Its now coming close to 5 years since I first came to Nicaragua. I've since then learned a language, a new culture, and gotten married. Needless to say my view of things is not the same as what it was before. Its been more than two continuous years since I last set foot in Canada. Now the idea of going back there seems more challenging than staying here. Visa runs are now nothing more than a minor inconvenience and before long they will be a thing of the past as I will soon qualify for permanent residency. Thankfully I was also able to find work online. I have to get up quite early in the morning and it took quite a long time desperately searching before I found this one, but now our situation is significantly more stable. Honestly I don't think our financial situation would be any better off in Canada considering how much higher expenses are there.
In this post I'm going to outline some things I've learned, in contrast with some things I thought before. Some attitudes that I've personally had to change and some that I've observed as well. First of all, in terms of safety Nicaragua is not as dangerous as I thought. On my first trip down I was terrified. I was sure that death was waiting around every corner, partly because of things I had been told and partly because of the attitude I had towards "third world" countries. In North America we are taught to be "thankful for what we have" because in other countries people are poor and suffering. When you get older you learn labels like "First world" and "third world". These phrases actually have nothing to do with economics in reality. They originated during the cold war, "first world" countries being those aligned with the United States, i.e. Canada, European countries, etc. "Second world" countries referred to those aligned with the Soviet Union and having a communist ideology, such as China and Cuba. Third world countries were those that did not have ties to any of the aforementioned countries. Most of Africa is considered third world since they were not involved. This means that in reality, Nicaragua is a second world country.
This thinking leads one to imagine that everything is better in one's country compared to the lives of those in these "poor" countries. This also leads unfortunately to a feeling of superiority that I have to admit I had at the beginning. I used to think that because Nicaragua and other "poor countries" are so "bad" that they must be doing everything wrong, and that we do things better in Canada. I've come to realize that people are happier here, and although there are a lot of social and economic problems, we have other issues up north too. Political stability in Satan's world is of course an illusion, so the risk of "something happening" and having to flee the country is quite real in whatever country you live in. To think otherwise is simply being naive.
I was also unnecessarily afraid of disease. Things are not any less clean here, and infectious diseases are no less of a threat in Canada than they are here. Most of the "horrible tropical diseases" are easily treated with very cheap, common medicines that you can buy on any street corner. As for parasites, I thought if I got "a parasite" it would surely take me to my death bed. But guess what, according to some sources 85% of the world's population has parasites, plural. Parasites are everywhere and mostly inconsequential. You get sick when they get out of control. Canada, United States, Europe... these places also do in fact have parasites. If you eat food, you probably have them already.
Some things are different that may be a shock when you first get here, but after a while you realize that those things were not so important. For example houses here rarely have screens in the windows, or ceilings. But most of the country is nearly bug free compared to Alberta in the summer time. In places with more bugs, its too hot in the day for them to come out so you only see mosquitoes at night, and in those places people use mosquito nets. Even in those places Malaria is rare and something that people get once or twice in a lifetime if at all. And contrary to what one doctor in Canada told me, if you get malaria you won't be a vegetable for the rest of your life. Its a bad case of aches and fever.
When we look at the houses people live in here, people from North America may be inclined to think "oh no, poor people look what they have to live in". But a lot of times the houses here are basic small simply because of the Nicaraguan culture, their viewpoint that its generally bad to over complicate things. People here LIKE things basic. They LIKE living in the bush and seeing nature all around them. They don't WANT to look after a huge mansion when they spend most of their time in one or two rooms. When Nicaraguans have money, they would rather spend it on fancy food and well aged rum than putting in a swimming pool.
Food is different, obviously. A lot of things aren't so available here, like cheddar cheese for example. But thats again simply because different cultures eat different foods. There are some very nice, well stocked grocery stores here. When I first came down, we had been told that if we lived in Bluefields we would have to travel two hours in a boat to go to the city and buy food. I don't know why they thought that, Bluefields has everything. Street food is also quite often safe to eat, especially if its fried. And if you do eat something thats not ok (which also happens in Canada) it just sends you to the bathroom, not to the morgue.
In this time, I've really come to feel at home here in Nicaragua, and gradually I'm starting to feel like I have more in common with the locals than those back in Canada. We're also very happy to have some of my family here. After a lot of hard work convincing them my sister and her husband, and two children have permanently relocated to Nicaragua and I'm actually posting this from their house. You can see my sister's blog about their experiences http://nicalola.blogspot.com/