Here in Nicaragua, we’ve stepped back into the 1800s Colonial life. I want to begin wearing Panama hats, such is the lifestyle of the cool temperature, the breezy fresh air, and the plantation trees eveywhere. Land is plentiful, the richest of soils to sow anything you wish. Brick tiled roofs are crooked and imperfect in its full charm, roosters with full red plummage. Torn palms and leafy orchards shade the fertile undergrowth. Vines and bromeliads dripping from tall branches. From a glance, Nicaragua looks like the Tommy Bahama catalogue.

Random Moments of Recognition and Wisdom:

Enlightenment 1: Christina and I were playing a game, to guess the nationality of passerbys based on their clothes…without hearing them speak. Because German men often wear shorts with sandals with socks in them, huddling the whole family together. Israelis often looked hippie and traveled in packs of low-budget style. And Italians often went to lengths to look really casual cool, especially with flashy sunglasses and they lounge around outside a lot, especially if sunny. But we noticed that whenever a person was dressed eccentrically, with mismatched local and foreign clothes, and especially men who didn’t mind effeminate colors and cuts (would be dressed “gay” in most societies, with their pants in flowing fabrics just mid-calf and in tones of pink or orange, clutching a slinging bag) they were always unequivocally French. We even asked to check. Now why is that. This is a supposed culture known to be persnickety about the tailoring of their clothes, and yet abroad….

Enlightenment 2: My parents were right about language. They used to say that regardless of circumstances, everyone was going to treat me Chinese because of the way I looked, so I had better know Mandarin well before I become an insulting embarassment to the culture… especially because it was going to be a major language. I remember arguing about the fact that just because someone had certain features doesn’t mean they ought to be judged by their stereotype, but I kept speaking Chinese anyway. Almost two decades older, they’re right. I would feel humilliated if a non-Asian person knew this language more fluently than I do, and now that I’m speaking Spanish, it does embarass when I’ve got to step in as the obvious Asian foreigner and speak on behalf of fumbling Chicanos. And even worse when I have to explain their history to them. Very bad impression.

Enlightenment 3: Germans aren’t really that hard-working compared to their infamous reputation, it’s just that most of Western culture says that because most Western countries confined to that little corner of Europe are comparatively lazier and less punctual. But it’s relative. I’ve never heard Canadians, Pakistanis, Japanese or Polish people think Germans work harder than the average. I don’t know. I think they work about normal…

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