Why am I an Outsider?

I am not about to kid myself into thinking I am not an outsider. Or, that in 5 or 10 years I won't be an outsider. But, understanding why is important.

If I lived in a black neighborhood in LA I would be dead. If I lived in a black neighborhood in Seattle I would be an outsider because of my skin color. In most US cities there is de facto segregation based on ethnic reasons. Here, however, I don't see that at all.

Maybe it is because there is no "white plague" moving in or maybe it is because the Nicaraguan population is more "pre-mixed" that in US cities but I see no discrimination because someone is white, brown, black or even English-speaking. While 85% of the people here are Roman Catholic I don't see religious repression.

Part of this may be due to the recent history of Esteli but I feel it is pretty much true throughout Nicararagua. Twenty years ago, US tax dollars were paying Nicaraguans to kill their fellow Nicaraguans in this region. I would have expected this to be create a strong anti-US sentiment here but I don't see that. Partly this may be due to the fact that even though it was US dollars, it was fellow Nicaraguans that were doing the shooting. In addition, people seem to understand the difference between actions of a government and actions of a people. Over half a century of a US-created dictatorship here helps with that understanding of government and people not being one in the same.

So, why am I an outsider? Because I have money. That is, I have a $100 dog and probably more important when my gas cylinder is empty I take $C125 out of my wallet and get a full one. Many people cook over a wood fire because they could not afford to fill a gas cylinder even if someone gave them an empty one and a stove.

I think an interesting experiment (any volunteers?) would be to come to a town in Nicaragua projecting yourself as having nothing. Maybe you would need to be "from Belize" or something the explain your English. Rent a room, find a job shoveling dirt or something and live poor. I expect that you would get treated just like any other poor Nicaraguan.

This takes me to my least favorite subject, theft. People here steal. The same was true in Costa Rica. Some people have told me it is Latin culture. I think it is just "different"--in the US it is ok for big corporations and governments to steal but individuals should not do that.

In any case, it is a fact of life. Initially I let all the kids into my house. The result is that some pens, two used batteries and other semi-trivial things have disappeared. A related issue is that things "break themselves". Se quebró. is a common expression which means "It broke itself". It is as if the coffee pot was too dumb to protect itself and that if you didn't want those batteries stolen then you should have locked them up.

The only positive thing I can say here is that violent crime is much lower here than in "civilized countries". So, your coffee pot may break itself, your batteries my walk off but you probably won't get raped or murdered in Esteli.

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interesting things

Kind of interesting. I had a sonar transponder stolen....later found out it was used as a sinker.....

We're pretty much the only gr

We're pretty much the only gringos in Masatepe and have been overwhelmingly accepted into the community. We pay the same prices for everything in places like pulperias or ferreterias but at the market or in buying furniture we get the "chele price-hike." My wife went to buy a tipica dress and they wanted 300 cords for it. She didn't but it and later she asked a Nica to go and buy the same dress. Price? 80 cords. At first this kind of thing made us mad but finally we realized that if we were them we'd be doing the same thing.

We haven't had too much of a problem with theft in Masatepe - only laundry hanging out to dry and a garden hose. However, our brand new video camera was stolen out of our luggage somewhere between being checked in Managua and receiving it in Miami. That one hurt!

Reagan's recent death made for some interesting political convos. I agree that the Nicas are very gracious to us in spite of what our gov't has done (I'm sure you're familiar with the history farther back where Nicaragua has been oppupied numerous times by the USMC...and people wonder why baseball's so popular here, go figure!). The big topic nowadays is the CAFTA (Central Amer. Free Trade Agreement). Most people I've talked to here are very suspicious of the U.S.'s intentions with it and I completely understand why. I find myself usually apologizing for our government's actions rather than defending them.

Violent crime is indeed low but it still happens. While we were in the States in May an elderly man was robbed and murdered (his throat slashed) on the street right in front of our gate. The locals say it was an out of town gang that did it. That was pretty disconcerting to learn upon returning to say the least. But, on the whole, Nicaragua is SO much safer than where we were from in the States.

Spanish is a beautiful language...

I just wanted to clarify. The "It _ed itself" (Se rompió, Se me olvidó) expression is all over the place in spanish speaking countries. It's almost impossible to blame yourself for anything that happens that's negative and still sould reasonable to native speakers (at least where I learned Spanish). So, it's not just the people, it's the language too. :-D

Your description of being an outsider really hits home for me; I felt much the same when I was in Mexico. I'm sure in 11 days when I'm in Nicaragua I'll have an even stronger feeling of the seperation between the "haves" and the "have nots"...

I find it truly amazing. I was questioned pretty unrelentlessly in Mexico about why the US wouldn't let them in, or something closely related. A lot of them kept thinking of the US as simply a rich version of Mexico. While I can't blame them, as they have no other frame of reference, I would rather be in Mexico any day. Poor? Yes. Unhappy? Not if they have anything to say about it. I see the US culture as the have nots......pity so many people struggle for so long in their lives for money, when they could be enjoying themselves. :-D

There are many ways to be con

There are many ways to be considered an outsider besides those stated by Phil. I consider myself an outsider because many of my thoughts are different from the "norm". Plus, I've never lived in the same place for more than 3 years. I definately have very little in common with the people I work with.

As for poverty and theft. I think theft is to be expected especially in areas where there is such a discrepancy between the haves and the have nots. When I was in southern Africa the excuse I heard was that its a cultural thing to steal from your neighbour. After all, you are only "borrowing" the stolen item in question.

I stayed with friends in Johannesburg for a few nights last year. The people in Jo'burg live in security fortresses because of violent break ins and thefts. I am willing to put things away and lock things up, but I will not live behind concrete walls and electric fencing.