My Neighborhood

Today as I was walking home from school, I was thinking about how incredibly different the neighborhood environment is here in San Francisco de Dos Rios... I mean, different than what I have experienced before. I mean, if you're currently living in the States, you might have giant oak trees lining the street or freshly paved roads and sidewalks or nice fences around your yard. You might have a dog that barks at everyone who walks by and you might have your car parked in the street. Maybe you even feel secure enough in your neighborhood to leave the keys in the car (I'm not sure many of us anywhere feel that secure anymore... but I hear it used to be like that). 

Hmm... The only thing on the previous list that is the same is probably the dogs barking relentlessly as you walk by. There's plenty of dogs -- both house dogs and street dogs -- that love barking here in CR. 

So what's so different? Well, all houses are behind a combination of steel bars and barbed wire. As I walk home, I have to consistently watch my step as there are holes and cracks everywhere in the sidewalk. A Nicaraguan guard welcomes me to the Sauces neighborhood (that's pronounced "Saw-oo-seis", not like your spaghetti sauce) with his toothless smile while the other guard sits in the guard shack reading his paper and chain smoking. The street I live on is relatively quiet... except for the hourly bus that roars down the road. Any of you who have talked on Skype with me know how loud that bus is! The bus shakes the whole house whenever it drives by... usually it just feels like another minor earthquake. 

As I walk home, I notice a tiny dog sticking his head under the garage door, waiting to nab the passer-by ankles. All cars in the neighborhood are parked inside the steel and barbed wire garage. It is rare to see the cars outside. Garages have mega-volt sound system alarms that can be heard for miles... these alarms are rigged to set off is anything in the garage is fishy, and I mean anything. Like I stand in the garage for too long, for example, and RRRRR-rRRRRR-rRRRRR. Oh geez. I enter my house through 3 locked doors. THREE. And the family house dogs welcome me home with their shrill barking. Welp, glad they're excited to see me. 

On the bright side of things, instead of oak trees like in the States, palm trees and hibiscus flowers line the sidewalks. Parrots and doves are seen daily ... although parrots are quite beautiful, they sure do squawk. Doves on the other hand have much prettier songs. There's also a park right down the block that I've spent time at in the afternoon studying my Spanish verbs. There's also a neighborhood council that has various fundraisers for members and organizations in need. I answered the door this past weekend to be greeted by some women handing out the Sauces newsletter... I'm not sure I've ever received a neighborhood newsletter before! It informed us of, well... gossip perhaps? Ha, I was reading it and thinking, woah! didn't know that about all these people! Ha, whoops. I think the gossip section was just a small one. The rest of the newsletter was about how the council is using the donations and raised funds (paying the guards and donating to funerals...). 

Someone once asked me, "Why are gringos so... well, mean-looking?" and I asked, "Well, when do you usually see gringos look mean?" She told me she sees them walking in the street looking mean. I responded, "Well no wonder! I mean, all this barbed wire makes us wonder how safe we really are!" 

Welcome to my neighborhood. It's, well, different than neighborhoods I've been part of before. 

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