We have lived in our home in Tierra Prometida for just over two years. While we were quite uncertain when we moved in about what life in a barrio would look like for us, we are so glad that we made the decision to live here. In Nicaragua, just like many places around the world, you find homes where you don't have to interact with your neighbor, where you have walls and gates between that separate you from one another. But this was not our goal for living here, we wanted to know our neighbors, build friendships with them and "do life" with each other. At times this can be difficult and wearing, but we would not trade it for anything.
Here are a few signs that you live in a barrio:
- When your neighbors are having a disagreement, you can pretty much participate.
- All of the houses on each side of the street share various services from electricity to cable.
- When the water is shut off (which is generally from 8am-8pm), neighbors know that you are more than willing to share what comes from your tank.
- While resting in a hammock, toddlers can peek through the gate and chat with you.
- Mangoes are always shared. When one can harvest over a hundred a day, everyone benefits.
- Other people's animals are in and out of your house. Since there are gates that can be crawled through as well as shared roofs, there is no way to keep others pets out.
- It is not uncommon to have a conversation with your neighbor about large rat that just passed through both of your homes, what color and size it is and whether or not you were able to put an end to it.
- If you need to fix something, your neighbor does it! There are various talents in the neighborhood. In the last week various neighbors repaired a door frame in our house, trimmed our trees Nica style and repaired a back-pack.
- If you don't have a necessary ingredient, your neighbors are always able to help. Almost everyone sells at least something from their home, whether that be ice, tortillas or beans.
- You pretty much attend several evangelical church services on a nightly basis. Off-tune singing and pastor's yelling become a "background" noise of everyday life.
- Fans are absolutely key if you don't want to wake up at 4am to your neighbor's rooster or loud music.
- By mere association you are invited to birthday parties, baby showers, graduations, births and funerals. There is always an event to attend.
- Watering the shared dirt road is a neighborly duty. It helps to pack it down and minimize dust flow (if that is even possible?) into each family's home.
- It can be difficult to motivate oneself to cook when there are at least ten options for supper on the walk from the bus-stop to home. It makes it even more difficult when eating out can be more economical than cooking at home. One can easily find dinner for $1.00 or less.
- There is always, always, always a kid to play with.