After months of backpacking Meso & Central America, I came across a plethora of amazingly talented, resilient, strong, and exciting women. I wanted to take a post to simply, pay tribute to their stories as gratitude for sharing them with me. * Most names have been changed*
First Nation Social Worker
I met Anita on a chicken bus in Leon, Nicaragua when we got to talking. Luckily for me, she was trilingual and we could speak in English, as opposed to her native French (cue feelings of American monolingual shame and ineptitude). This fiery Quebecois hinted to what she did for a living, whereby I thought to myself, “oh she must be like me, young and barely entry-level, not much work experience.” Side eye.
Having grown up in a rural Quebec town, she let me know that her townspeople were pretty racist towards their First Nation population. She had never felt that way and wanted to branch out and assist those that were constantly oppressed and treated as inferior. She is a licensed social worker in Canada and does exactly what she set out to. Did I mention she’s trilingual and hovering around age 26? I’m not bitter…
Car Wrecks Ain’t Stoppin Nobody
One of the most fierce and resilient women I met on this trip, also on a bus, was Deena. We bonded over the mutual understanding of parents that were brought up staunchly Irish Catholic, riddled with Irish guilt and secrecy. Throughout the five-hour ride, we talked and even shed some tears. Travel does this! Anyway, I couldn’t help but notice her right hand and wrist were absolutely mangled from what looked like a recent injury. She had trouble moving her fingers and her hand looked to be at a permanently inward, tense position. There was a long and slightly lumpy keloided scar from an incision and then stitches right in the middle of the wrist and swirled around towards the elbow. If nothing else, it was a conversation starter.
Deena had been motorcycling across Mexico five years prior and got into a horrific collision on a Mexican highway. She had had an out-of-body experience and when she came to, she was in a hospital, alone and sedated. She knew no Spanish and zero family members had traveled to see her in the three months that she had to stay in hospital care, where she endured multiple reconstructive surgeries. Her family had “to fly all the way from Buffalo, NY to Mexico City, so that was clearly out of the question”
It took three years to accomplish “the pinch” in physical therapy; where she can pinch her
pointer and thumb fingers to pick things up. She hasn’t given up on Mexico and is there currently with her TEFL certification, ready and willing to teach English. She sold her home in Seattle, ended a long-term partnership and hopped a bus to Mexico where she will figure out her next moves. She is 48 and absolutely inspiring.
Nannying Goes Wrong
Amy was volunteering at the same hostel I was when we were introduced. She traveled on a one way ticket from Germany to Mexico with the idea that she would be nannying for a well off Mexican family for a year or so. However, in and around week three, mother dearest kicked our lovely Amy out of her home. The scene:
(Amy is in her room, some clothes still piled in two of her massive bags)
Mexican Mother: Amy, I want you out
MM: This isn’t working out. I’ll give you twenty minutes to get your things together, I’ll drop you off at a hotel. I have to cook dinner… (Walks out)
When tears and clear confusion didn’t help the situation, teenaged, blonde, blue-eyed Amy was dropped at a random hostel in the middle of Mexico City. Alone. She had to leave one bag at the home as she simply couldn’t take both. Emails between MM and Amy’s mother ensued, but also did little. Amy, a true warrior, refused to go home empty-handed or just appease her parental unit. She looked up work exchanges throughout Central America and volunteered in different places in exchange for room and food. She backpacked for about a month in between, but she enjoys feeling productive. Totally understandable. She’s my definition of perseverance and resilience!
Travels on Rent Money…at 87
In my usual fashion, I attract children and geriatrics. No deviation from this pattern occurred when I ended up in Laguna de Apoyo, Nicaragua and the first person I met was Frida. At 87, she was dolled up in her one-piece Speedo staring contentedly at the lake. She had just gotten in from her daily swim and squat set. She is from Nyack, NY, (about 20mins from my hometown) as I heard immediately from her thick accent and I felt right at home. Without much ado, she let me in on her secret to how she’s essentially been all over the world multiple times.
She owns a cute little home in Nyack and lives there for 8 months, once Autumn ends, she goes through a realtor to rent out her home for the entire winter. On that rent money, she picks a place and lives there. She has done this in Guatemala thrice, Nicaragua currently, India, Indonesia, and so on. She is THE woman. Oh, and two weeks before her flight to Nicaragua she had a hysterectomy done because one of her adult daughters found out that she had a cancer gene on her maternal side. A year prior to that, her husband passed away. Frida is just out her kicking all the ass and I admire that in a woman.
Riding Across Countries or Whatever
Emily is simply, righteous as hell. She grew up to self-proclaimed hippie parents in the outskirts of Yosemite, CA. She had been called a cowboy since she was a kid…but she kind of is. She’s handy, a gardener, taught me how to make bread from scratch, also how to cook all types of grains, and she loves manual labor (we differ here slightly). She’s modest, reserved and quiet. She speaks Spanish, plays guitar, draws beautifully and I am still trying to figure out something she doesn’t already do. She’s like, 27 and could easily be Captain of the world. I’m stroking her a little, but she deserves it!
The point. Okay. She flew to Nicaragua to PURCHASE a horse from some locals and then RIDE across the entire country, primarily on dirt roads, as the tried and true roads are for amateurs clearly. Emily, I ask, have you done this already? Oh of course she has! In Jordan and MONGOLIA. I mean, can we choose any harsher conditions here my darling? She is not a traveler, she is beyond that. She tackles life in a way that the majority of people don’t fathom. She loves what she does and she’s good at it. She indeed purchased a horse, to the amazement of all the local men that wanted to teach her how to ride a horse. HA! The horse’s hoof got injured somehow though, so her trip was postponed a month or so. She nursed the horse to health and as far as I know, she is doin the damn thing.