“Poverty consists in feeling poor.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
The day began with a groggy start as us Good Neighbors struggled to shake off our sleep and morning voices at 5:30 AM. After getting dressed and eating a steaming bowl of oatmeal topped with banana slices and cinnamon, we listened to a seminar on poverty led by Robert, one of our Good Neighbor leaders. Afterwards, we boarded the bus and headed off to Las Hormiguitas (Spanish word for “ants”), a center for a mobile school that travels to different parts of the city. We listened to several speakers—including Isabel Guitierrez—talk about their vision: to educate children who are unable to receive a proper education. The talk helped us all to appreciate the free public education we are privileged with back in the United States. We boarded the bus soon after and went on our way to the main activity of the day: the Dump.
Driving into the dump, our eyes scanning the countless mounds of wrappers, broken bottles, and dirt, we suppressed our coughs, the smell of burning trash wafting through the bus windows. As soon as we stepped out of the bus, we were immediately greeted by the hundreds of flies that swarmed us. Because our Global Glimpse leaders Candida and Jorge previously told us to ignore the flies and smell of the trash as a sign of respect to the workers at the dump, we tried our best to fight our urges to swat the bugs away. In groups of four, we went around the dump to talk to the locals who sorted through the trash, looking for recyclables and metals to collect and sell to companies that reused the materials. However, many of the workers were difficult to talk to, keeping the conversations concise and on the surface. One of the Global Glimpse leaders, Sonia, was able to talk to a woman who had been working at the dump for 30 years. She mentioned that most of the workers there lacked the basic necessities: shoes, clothes, and food. Instead, they relied on the little amount of money they made sorting through the trash to survive.
Prior to visiting the dump, I didn’t know what to expect. The acrid smell of burning trash and the smoke filling the air around me made it difficult to breathe. To be honest, I was looking forward to leaving the area; the flies buzzing around my face and the filth of the area were too much. However, listening to the woman share the story and noticing the holes in her shoes and jacket, I came to the realization that these people didn’t have a cleaner place to return to—the dump was their work. They were exposed to it every day, some even traveling a couple hours by foot to sort through piles of trash to barely gather enough money for a simple meal.
After the dump, we drove back to the hostel, washed up, and met for our Self Reflection, soon followed by a delicious meal provided by the cooks. We had a couple of hours to relax, and most Good Neighbors used that time to prepare for our tri-weekly English tutoring. We met again for a simple dinner of pinto gallo (rice with beans), avocado, plantains, and eggs, and watched “Dreaming Nicaragua”, a documentary that followed the lives of several children who lived in poverty. We ended our day with our nightly meeting.
This entire experience opened my eyes to the reality of the impoverished in the developing countries. The things I take for granted back at home—food, a bed, an insulated house, free public education—are all things that families in Nicaragua need. And yet, I still complain about the amount of homework I have, not appreciating the things I can do with the knowledge I receive. Still, today was only a small glimpse of the life that many Nicaraguans live. Tomorrow, we will be waking up bright and early to work with local farmers. I cannot wait to see all of the Good Neighbors put on their working clothes and put their heart into the work.