Where the Heart Is

Though the Aeropuerto Internacional Augusto César Sandino has boasted jet bridges for several years now, I still expect to descend directly from the airplane onto the tarmac. In the 80s, excited family and friends would crowd together mosh pit-style on a terrace that overlooked the landing strip, everyone calling out and waving signs like crazed fans awaiting a celebrity’s arrival on the red carpet. But they were just waiting for their exiled own, coming home for the holidays.

My trips to Nicaragua are bittersweet, especially during Christmas. My passport still marks me a citizen, and I do call it “home” whenever I refer to it, but Nicaragua hasn’t really been home for a very long time. I’ve moved on, but that first sighting of dusty olive green land from the scratched acrylic windows makes my heart cramp. Memories of trips when my family lived in the U.S. and Mexico during the 80s jumble with those from college breaks and the more recent perfunctory visits. The childhood jaunts were all fun and adventure; I was mesmerized by ox-pulled carts on the main roads and street vendors pouring sodas into plastic bags—mini-udders that dispensed Coca-Cola. But even in the haze of little-kid wonderment, I knew everything was broken, and it made me deeply sad. It’s sadder today. But, there are uniquely beautiful and wow-worthy people and scenes to be found, and I appreciate them all the more.