Before I left for Nicaragua, everyone warned me of its infamously pushy street kids. I have to say, we did not see much of this at all. In fact, getting to know some of the local children was the most meaningful part of our trip!
In San Juan del Sur, an extremely precocious pottery vendor caught our eye in the lobby of the hotel. Later, on the beach, we spotted him again and motioned him over. Little Manuel had the social skills of a 35-year-old! He was as relaxed as could be, leaning on David’s chair like he owned the place. (This was after he nervously asked the owner permission to step inside.) Turns out, Manuel, 10, had been to Costa Rica more than once, so we chatted about that for some time. His border crossings were different than ours, of course: He and his uncle always traveled through the mountains, taking three full days to travel what had taken us about 90 minutes. He told us of the wild coyotes on the hike as if it were nothing. Selling pottery, he said, was what he did in exchange for his uncle taking him in after his parents gave him up. After buying him a soda (it was hot as blazes outside), we did end up purchasing some of his wares. I wish such a sharp little businessman like him was going to school, but the last thing we wanted was for him to end up begging on the streets if his uncle deemed him not worth the trouble.
The next night, in Granada, we met Jorge when he rolled up on his bicycle while we were having drinks at some outdoor tables. He told us how much he loved school, especially languages. It was already pretty late at night, but we invited him to meet us the next morning. He immediately biked home to ask his mom. Fifteen minutes early, Jorge arrived the next morning for breakfast (wearing the exact same outfit as the night before) on the outdoor patio of our hotel, The Alhambra. He came holding only one item: the key to his house that he wears around his finger. After about a minute, he excused himself to the restroom. When he came back, he’d slicked his hair down with some water. It was so endearing! His manners were impeccable. After we ate, Jorge picked out a horse and carriage for us, and Bill, Lynda and I joined him for a tour of Granada. It was awesome. He ran around with so much energy, making sure I climbed the right ladder to see an aerial view of town and understood every detail that our Spanish-speaking guide was saying.
When we walked through the busy plaza, only one little boy ran his hands all over Bill looking for money, and that same child tried to jump in our van as we were leaving. (To be fair, I’m sure the little gangs of kids we saw were mostly staying away because Jorge was with us.) But overall, the only negative thing I’d ever heard about Nicaragua, how difficult it was to bear all of the begging children, turned out to be a non-issue for us. Instead, I got to see Nicaragua through the eyes of two of its sharp-as-a-tack kids.
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