Don’t be surprised by all of the different smells. The pine and grass and carpet instead of dust and mango and the cleaning fluid everyone used.
When you hear the sound of a lawnmower don’t mistake it for the fumigation that happened regularly in León.
Try not to die of hypothermia in the 70 (or 80… or 90) degree weather. And don’t talk about how cold you are. Just be glad you’re not sweating out of your clothes.
When you walk down an empty street don’t remember how in León an empty street meant it was probably raining. Or like 2 in the morning or something. Don’t think about all the street vendors and school children and abuelos you would see on your walk to the bus station. Don’t long for that extra human factor added to the landscape that made it so much more interesting and vibrant.
Don’t speak in Spanish to strangers. Also try and remember that strangers who overhear your conversations in English can now understand you.
When you put your laundry in the washer don’t think about the lavendero where you washed your clothes for nine months. Don’t remember the clothes lines loaded with colorful shirts waving in the breeze, and how you could tell who was doing the washing by the way it sounded.
When your mom wants you to try on some new earrings try not to overreact, refusing because the earrings you have in now are from Nicaragua and you’ll never take them out because that would mean you had moved on. Try on the new earrings. Your gap year experience is more than just a pair of jewelry.
Don’t listen to all the Spanish songs you love and cry because they remind you of how your host family always had music on, of how they used to sing karaoke, of how they would sing and dance.
Don’t think about all the Nicaraguan food you won’t have anymore – the gallo pinto, the nacatamales, the repocheta and cuajada and pithaya and sopa Indio Viejo. Don’t think about Sunday mornings in the kitchen with your family, or squeezing oranges for juice at work. Do remember all those times you longed for American food and appreciate it now that you have it.
Don’t let the deafening silence keep you from falling asleep. And don’t strain your ears for the sounds of reggaeton, the neighbors baby, the dog down the street, or your family doing the washing, all of which were simply a part of your life not too long ago.
But mostly, ignore all the dont’s on this list (except for maybe the Spanish one. That’s kind of important). Do them anyways. Miss Nicaragua. Miss it with all your heart. Talk about it till your friends are tired of hearing about it. Then talk about it some more. Cry. Sob. As much and long as you need. Don’t be afraid of that horrible lonely aching feeling – that just means that what you experienced was real. And don’t, don’t, don’t ever let anyone tell you to get over it. It will get better – maybe not soon but someday. So until then look at all your pictures. Remember and try to write down the best stories. Laugh. Cry. Take some deep breaths. And take it one day at a time. Or one hour. Or ten seconds.