by Sophie Impellitteri
Like many homes in Nicaragua, my host house is littered with rocking chairs. Made from dark wood and wicker backs, some have permanent spots while others appear to multiply as my host mother arranges and rearranges them. On my first night I decide to trust in some orientation advice and take my book out of my room where I fold my legs into an oversized rocking chair. When my host sister joins me and asks something in Spanish, I twist my eyebrows and give her an awkward I have no clue what you said smile. On top of the Spanish, my mind was still trying to digest the fact that this 13 year old girl – irrefutably the scariest demographic – seemed to be being . . . friendly?
She laughs and repeats the question more slowly. In this way we pick our way through simple conversation for nearly 2 hours; rephrasing and miming and rocking and laughing out no entiendo after no entiendo. When she pieces together my thought, she spits it back in the correct grammar. I try to fit the words back into my own mouth, though they feel like square pegs in round holes, and she laughs and slows down.
She tells me about how she hates English class and about her volleyball team and listens to me talk about New England winters. We laugh at how she can’t pronounce Connecticut and at how I can’t pronounce almost anything. We talk about our families and our friends and our schools and where we want to travel and what we want to do when we’re mas grande. The whole time I speak in broken present tense, waving my arms in front of my to show when I’m talking about the future and pointing behind me when telling about the past, but this doesn’t seem to bother her.
It’s not raining but I watch thunderless lightning fill the whole ceiling, because in Nicaragua you’re never really inside, least of all when you’re in the center of your house. At the end of the night I smile because we’re 4 years, 2,000 miles, and a language apart but we both still agree that school is usually boring and that we really hope to see Paris some day. I think every house needs a few rocking chairs.