by Megan Bridges
It’s incredible when you’ve lived in one place long enough that sounds and aromas once unfamiliar to you no longer draw your attention. Cars mounted with loud speakers drive past–paid advertisers announcing where to buy discounted produce, or the best steak in the city. Once they seemed so loud that conversations had to take a recess, unable to compete with the deep and indecipherable clamor of the broadcaster’s voice. Now, my lips continue to move, my voice unwavering mid sentence as they leisurely pass by.
Boom. Crackle. Fireworks are shot into the air. They make a long and arduous stretch for the stars, amounting to an unimpressive finish as a red flicker quickly dissipates into smoke. The city of Leon always finds reasons to celebrate, and churches are no exception. Morning mass, fireworks. Evening mass, fireworks. Religious holidays, more fireworks. The neighborhood dogs get startled, and begin to bark madly. I don’t even turn my head to awe at the spectacle.
Not to forget the sirens that sound daily at 7am and 12pm. They sound more like alarm calls warning of impending doom than reminders that, You should really be at work by now, and, Wow, look at the hour! I guess it’s about time you take your lunch break, you busy bee.
There’s also that scent that is so distinctly Leon. A fellow volunteer on his second stint in Nicaragua exclaimed with the recognizable tinge of nostalgia in his voice, “That’s the smell of Leon,” as we entered city limits after a day of work in the countryside. Another volunteer let out a hardy laugh, “No, that’s the smell of garbage.” The harsh smell of sewage and litter have given way to the mouth-watering aroma of asado, barbecue cooked by kind, plump street vendors near the Mercado Central. The smell is coupled by the women’s sweet, almost-maternal voices, “Amor, venga,” beckoning me to sit at one of their clothed tables and indulge my gustatory senses.
Even catcalls fail to make me cower. The adios that once made my insides wither is now simply another adios, another tiny man on a bicycle with little self control bursting at the seams with confidence. Sometimes they even make me chuckle. Nice try, buddy, as I stride past their hungry eyes, darting across my body.
Leon has character, and it no doubt takes some time getting used to. But I think I’ve found home.