Pamela Llano Zesty Mom
Sitting amongst stacks and piles and packing up boxes with the stuff of my life, I'm trying to focus on the fact that I am making progress, and pretending that I don't feel like both crying and throwing up a little.
Breaking huge things down into smaller chunks may help them seem slightly less overwhelming but, as much as I try, it’s hard to ignore the slight undercurrent of nausea that accompanies me these days.
I've just returned from the largest adventure my offspring and I have been on in a while.
We are a family that does adventure often and well, but this was a biggie for us.
My kids and I, along with 15 other teenagers and several other adults who seem far more responsible than me, worked, played, taught and learned, while helping to build classrooms for a school in a rural village in Nicaragua. We went on to visit family and explore Latin America afterwards, but this tale is about the Nicaraguan village.
It was poor in an economic sense...very poor….. Some houses had dirt floors, plastic tarp walls and rusty metal roofs, and most dogs had their ribs showing. But, there was no sense of lack in terms of community.
The people worked hard, alongside us, children included, using pick axes and machetes with far more grace than I could manage wielding a butter knife. (Many of them did it wearing flip flops, and no one so much as stubbed a toe, much less lost one)
We worked and struggled with heat, humidity, extremely physically demanding labor, and language differences.
I sweated...a LOT... in places I didn’t even know you could sweat in.
We also laughed and made friends.
On a walk through the community one day, a woman who was clearly a town leader showed me her vegetable garden, and then with even more pride, the spigots at each corner that now brought running water to the end of each road. After wars, political oppression, lack of the most basic things and harder lives than any of us could imagine, they were building this community, and they had a lot to be proud of.
While my own family has lived off the grid, and without electricity, and even had to haul our own water at times, these were all situations I went into by choice, and was able to get out of when I chose as well.
This had nothing to do with being smarter, stronger or harder working.
I did nothing aside from being born in the right place at the right time so that clean running water, paved roads, education and enough food not only for ourselves but our pets as well were things I could expect to make happen.
When I got my over my various “Little House on the Prairie” phases, it wasn’t a matter of “if” I could find my way back to “normal” American life, but “how” and “when.”
But not everyone is born into that assurity.
It’s one thing to logically understand that millions of people all over the world work way harder than I ever have, and live in conditions I can’t even imagine. It’s a lot bigger of a thing to sit and chat with these people over cake and Fanta, to dance and play with their children and sneak scraps to the dogs.
One thing I noticed all over Latin America is how peacefully slow life seemed. I don’t want to romanticize the extreme poverty that I saw, but despite the lack of conveniences and stuff, I didn’t see any angst, or feel the kind of palpable stress I notice in a lot of workplaces and parking lots in the US.
There was a distinct lack of “Woe is me” as whining does not appear to be an option.
Each day, gaggles of kids came to the worksite to help us and play. Of course, we aren’t supposed to pick favorites, but I naturally connected better with a few of them. One that I spent a lot of time with was a little mischief maker named Hector.
When Hector was bored, he would throw rocks or put dead bugs down the girls shirts. When I asked for help, he lugged buckets of water and pounded nails beside me, seeming content to have a job. We sometimes drew with sticks in the dirt, or if I had a notebook and pen, he would write words and draw pictures for me in it.
One day, he drew a picture of un perro and el gato. I wanted to show him a picture of my dogs and cat at home, and so I scrolled through my phone to find one. The photo showed them lounging in the backyard near a faded and very old fiberglass greenhouse that I use to start seedlings for my garden.
I’ve loved having this greenhouse, but it’s nothing out of Better Homes and Gardens. It’s maybe 8 x 12’ and purely functional, not in the least bit pretty.
Anyhoo, Hector pointed at the greenhouse, and asked me simply “Es Su casa?”
“Is that my house?” At that moment, I felt a little like I’d been punched in the stomach.
When asking if my family lived in that old fiberglass outbuilding, he meant it as a perfectly legitimate chatty question. And by comparison in his world, it didn't look like a bad home.
I felt a little sick inside, and barely mumbled, “No... No es mi casa.”
The unexpected combination of embarrassment and guilt took me back and I was sort of ashamed to show him my actual house.
By US Standards, I am far from wealthy. But like most Americans, I have way more than I need, and maybe even more than this kid had ever seen in his life.
One of the first questions the group leaders that coordinated this trip had asked us was what our expectations were. My answer was perspective. I expected to gain perspective.
Hector gave me just that.
When my family and I had been preparing to go on this journey, I found out that I was going to have to move shortly after I returned.
My trip was only a few weeks away at the time and my brain and body were already maxed with all they could handle. I was busting my bootie to make sure my job, home, animals and gardens will be in a good place for an extended 3 week absence on my part, and for the most part, there was nothing I could actually do about the impending reality that I would need to move as soon as I returned.
I made some inquiries, and started a little research, and I left, slightly hoping that the owner would change her mind and I could stay. I’m back now, and while I don’t blame her at all, it’s unfortunate for me that I need to be out in a few weeks.
Hence the nausea I mentioned earlier.
Aside from the logistics that I am currently getting an amazing deal on rent, and that most other places I’ve seen in this price range border on the scary side, there is also the fact that we love this home~ the yard, the fruit trees, the amazingly soft and fertile soil and the proximity to the river, park and civilization. It’s the nicest place I have lived since I left my mother’s house at 18, the nicest place my children have ever lived in their entire lives. We really don’t want to leave.
The thought is exhausting, and I would honestly love to hide out in denial. But, that’s really not an option, so I pack and I keep looking and I try not to be discouraged at how many people exclude pets, or how much much smaller, uglier, or just not as good the houses I've seen in this current price range are.
I know it's ridiculous to get so distressed at the prospect of possibly not having a dishwasher. And the fear of ugly poop colored carpet, or also awful, but in an entirely different way...white carpet? What kind of cleaning freak does that to a renter? Then there were the beige subdivisions where I would literally have to look at the address to see which house I lived in because they all looked exactly the same.
So, while the date I need to be out of here looms over my head, I’m still unable to picture myself and my family in any of those places. But, when I think about Hector and his casa, it's a lot easier to cork my boca and give thanks.
I am blessed beyond measure, and I know it.
Who is Zesty Mom?
I'm an Artist, Writer, Funschooling Facilitator, Empowered Living Advocate, Wanna-be Organic Gardening Foodie, Travel Loving Life Explorer, Former Goat Herding Chicken Lady, and Full Time Mamacita Extraordinaire to a Couple of Cage Free Kids.
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