It was a morning like any other. I woke at 6:30 and got some tunes playing by plugging my kindle into some speakers I had borrowed from Pure. I sang as I prepared to leave for my morning yoga class, then set off biking to the gym, enjoying another morning in Granada. I returned to la casa around 11 am, and was perplexed when my key wouldn’t turn in the lock of the front door. I tried and tried, as I find that the humidity here often makes locks stick. Finally, I gave up and asked the security guard next door if he would let me in so I could hop the fence dividing our houses. He told me that las muchachas who clean the house were also unable to open the door one hour prior. He let me and my bike into the home he was guarding and showed me where the fence was loose and it was possible to shimmy behind it instead of climbing over it, thus avoiding the electrified barbed wire. (Daunting even with the electric turned off!)
“I’ll meet you in front with your bike,” he told me in Spanish. I then struggled with the padlock on the other side of the gate to the patio I entered from, and was finally able to enter the rest of my home. The first thing I noticed was pillows on the table. How odd. When I went to the front door, I saw that I was unable to open it because there was a chair and a rock pushed in front of it. Even after I pushed these to the side, I could not open the front door, with or without my key. On my way back to the fence that divided my home from the one next door, I noticed that the metal door to the bedroom had been bent almost in half, and was hanging partially open on the bottom. Uh-oh.
After figuring out how to open the front door with help from Armando, the security guard next door, I re-locked the house, jumped on my bike, and rode over to my friends’ house to tell them I’d been robbed. At this point, I thought my things were safe in my room, because even though the bedroom door was severely bent, it did not look like a large enough opening for a person. Upon returning with my friends, I was told that the opening was indeed big enough for a person when you had not one but TWO banditos, and one was slightly small.
The long and short of this is that a majority of the items I left the States with are no longer with me. I count myself blessed that I still have all of my clothes, my shoes, and the laptop I know type on. I take this as another lesson in aparigraha – non-grasping and letting go, as well as santosha — finding contentment with what one has.
I also feel much compassion for the banditos who broke into my home. I’ve been observing children of various ages who appear either begging or selling small trinkets on the streets. I’ve questioned both my Nicaraguense friends and ex-patriot friends about what leads these children to the streets, and they’ve helped paint a more complete picture for me.
The particular banditos who broke into my home are chavalos – young boys who have had a hard and difficult life, born out of prostitution and not cared for in childhood. These chavalos are addicted to drugs – most likely glue and/or crack or cocaine. It’s a chronic problem not only here in Granada, but in much of Nicaragua. Unfortunately, the social net here is much thinner than that in the states, and there doesn’t appear to be a systemic way to care for children who are abandoned to the streets. The problem in Granada is compounded by the fact that children come to Granada from other cities in Nicaragua to beg because there are a lot of tourists here and Granada is the wealthiest city in Nicaragua. That means that there are likely more homeless and addicted chavalos aqui in Granada than elsewhere in the country.
After asking around, I have determined that there are a few charities that will offer a hot meal to these kids, but I’m not sure yet of the requirements to get help, and if more help is available than simply food. For example, I would love to find a charity that is providing a bed for these children and skills to help them leave the streets and find a sustainable trade. There is an Escuela de Comedia y Mima, a school of Comedy and Mimes, that works with street children training them in the circus arts as well as other educational pursuits and provides a hot meal every day. This school is located just outside of Granada, and performs weekly now right in town. The older kids working with the street kids were once living on the streets themselves, so are able to provide a special kind of rapport with these children that could never be equally created with an extranjera, or somebody from out of the country.
As I stay in this community longer, I feel a desire to give back to the community in a way that will be helpful.
If you’d like to learn more about chavalos, here is a lovely documentary made in Granada a few years ago that highlights the problem and describes how one extranjera tried to help.