From Nicaragua: Thoughts on Travel and Changes of Plans

Travel in Nicaragua is hectic and often unpredictable. So unpredictable, in fact, that you may find yourself sitting at the bus terminal, watching the colorfully painted ex-school buses come and go, listening to blasting reggaeton for two hours, only to be told that ¨Nobody knows if your bus is going.¨ Or, at least, that´s what happened to me upon arrival two days ago. Nonetheless, there is something humbling about not having my plans go as planned; I am reminded, after all, that Nicaragua doesn´t exist to conform to my needs. And, despite the slight detour I had to take, I am incredibly content to be here.

After spending my first night in the city of Matagalpa, visiting with friends from my time studying abroad and interning at a feminist NGO last year, I travelled on to Matiguás, the rural city that I will be in for the next two weeks. It is here that I worked with a group of women to establish a feminist women´s association (La Asociación de Mujeres Para la Reivindicación de Nuestros Derechos–quite the mouthful) last summer and here that, with the support of Macalester,  I will continue collaborating with them.

The original plan for my project was to open a small convenience store,  known as a pulpería, in order to generate funds for the women´s group to hold workshops about issues like gender violence. When I arrived, however, the woman I´m staying with (and with whom I worked last summer to start the group) told me that the women´s association had a proposal for me. Rather than opening a convenience store, where only one person can work, the new idea is to start a used clothing collective. By buying used clothing in bulk and selling it individually, the women will all be able to work toward a common end: raising money for the group, with the ultimate goal of generating sufficient funds to construct a Casa de la Mujer, a safe space for women who seek to leave a situation of violence, or are simply looking for the support of the women´s group.

Like  my travel plans changed, so have the details of my project. However, just as my detour to Matagalpa yielded the unexpected opportunity to catch up with old friends, I am confident that this shift away from the idea of the pulpería towards the more collaborative and sustainable used clothing collective will ultimately be a fruitful one. Now, off to meet with the Asociación de Mujeres and make a concrete plan!

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