Three hugs, Two Bicycle Tires, One Heart Changed Forever

by Keriann Miranda (Australia)

Making a local connection Nicaragua


I’m walking. Sweat drips out of my every pore as the Nicaraguan summer sun beats down with a beautiful fury. My fingers tangled in flip flops, I carefully trek barefoot through the salty mud, avoiding broken beer bottles and whatever the local dogs left behind, swatting annoying mosquitoes incessantly attacking every inch of my skin. I couldn’t be happier. With lungs full of sea air I wander through the local village of Puerto Sandino, pondering my reason for existence, thinking about my afternoon siesta in my favorite purple hammock, and taking visual snapshots of every inch of this hidden gem of a place. Then... “Hola gringa! Hehehe.” Cute faces and chuckles fill my heart with instant joy. A moment of reflection momentarily rushes over me as my Mexican heritage is obviously disguised by my Billabong shorts, Volcom tank top, and blonde hair long enough to rival Rapunzel. I don’t belong here. But these insanely adorable little creatures insist on playing and teasing. I’m so game. They duck down behind a tiny wall, barely peeking around the side, ready for hide and seek. “Hola chiquitas! Donde Están?”(Where are you?) Thirty seconds go by. Uh-oh. I assume I scared them once I spoke, so I slowly start to walk ahead then all of the sudden, “Aquí! Aquí!” (Here! Here!) Arms are waving as they rush out to the road, local dogs start barking, and the tiny one is pushing an oversized bicycle through what seems to be the gate to their humble abode. She passes the bike to her older sister and gives me a hug like I’m her favorite teddy bear. I melt. She then takes my wrist with her muddy fingers and drags it to what I notice to be a loose chain. The “help me because I’m so cute” trick is working, and I am the sucker. “Ariela, no no no,” the older ones scolds and without hesitation, I express to her in my foreign dialect Spanish that I used to have this problem all the time and will gladly fix it up. Smiles. But confusion. “Un momento, bellas.” I got this, little ones. I ask them their names as I kneel in the absolutely disgusting muck to (hopefully) fix what is evidently their only bicycle. Ariela, the young sassy one, Vanelita, the shy middle one who doesn’t trust this crazy stranger...which I can appreciate, and Naomi, the oldest and naturally protective one...all so beautiful, so pure of heart, so...damn...innocent. “Lo arreglé!” I fixed it. Bombarded with three gigantic hugs, a tear creeps into my eye. I changed their day, and they changed my life.