After a minute of observing, I started drawing the steps. I could feel peoples’ curious eyes on me. Older men sat next to me and conversed with one another. Another old man approached me, asking for money…even though I was the one doing an activity where I could be asking for money myself. One young man came up to me with a smile, saying “Are you going to finish it?”. “I hope so”, I said. “Thank God it’s only made up of two colors. Yellow and White.” “Are you studying architecture? You’re very good at drawing the design.” I explained that I appreciated the art only enough to draw it, not to study it…for now at least. “That’s very nice that you are able to draw that. Bye!” he said.
After sitting for nearly two hours and several human interactions later, a group of young men in their late-teens and early twenties came and sat right next to me. They began complimenting me on my drawing, which at this point was still lightly traced, and I had only finished a rough outline of both domes. I was taking so long because when it came to drawing, 1. I was being a perfectionist and 2. I paused to chat so many times. One thing that still surprises me here is how much physical contact strangers make. Because people are used to fitting onto tight buses as well as waiting in line at the supermarket, it’s more acceptable for people here to touch each other. As I was chatting with the young men, I could feel them rubbing elbows with me and getting closer to see my drawing. They weren’t making me feel uncomfortable at all, but it was still new to me.
While I had them with me, I decided to ask them what they thought about a range of topics, from the 40% unemployment rate in Nicaragua, to the relatively small amount of child migrants to the U.S., to the Sandinistas. I had been excited to come here to talk with anyone with a pulse about the 1980’s here, but I’ve realized that it is still a sensitive subject for some people. Others are excited to see me ask about it, while others prefer not to revisit what happened. I asked one of them, named Erasmo, what people thought about Ortega as well as the Sandinistas. He admitted that he didn’t know what it was like before, since the 1980’s happened before our time, but he advised me to keep talking to the “ancianos”, or “older people”. He did say, however, that despite the unemployment rate, many people have taken it upon themselves to start their own small businesses. Thanks to Ortega’s wife, he said, there has been a push to invest in recreation and tourism. He was a proud Sandinista who seemed optimistic about his country’s future.
I invited Erasmo to my English language youth group on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but he said he had class every day in Managua. Well, after realizing how often class was canceled in Nicaragua, I said, he could come by if his Engineering class were canceled. “It’s different at the University!” he defended, with a smile. After learning about class being canceled due to rain, at least at the secondary level, I remained skeptical. We shook hands and he ran off somewhere. I got up and walked home after a surprisingly social morning. The funny thing is that 100% of the people who spoke to me that day were men. Women just smiled and quickly walked past, but the men came up and to see what I was up to, without hesitation. I had had several interesting insights and met new people that morning, and all I did was sit in the park with my sketch pad.