Reflections on Tipitapa

Yolanda Mayo decided that a delegation to Tipitapa, Nicaragua, would be an exciting and moving start to retirement. It was a pleasure to have Yolanda on our trip, and we do hope she will join us again, even if breakfast is still an overflowing plate of rice and beans! Here are Yolanda’s thoughts upon returning to New York. Of the many experiences I had planned for retirement, Tipitapa turned out to be not only the first one, but the most challenging! Having travelled in Central America before and speaking Spanish, I did not feel the need for preparation. As a social worker for over 30 years, I have dealt with poverty, cross-culturalism, and most types of human needs. Yet, this short trip opened new windows of experience and brought me friends in two very different sister cities. First, the experiences of Tipitapa prompted a true understanding of the old Native American adage: Do not judge your neighbor until you have walked three moons in his or her moccasins. Learning from these experiences and directly sharing life limitations on a daily basis made a lasting change in my life. In seeing the strength, of the people, their daily challenges and struggles, their ability to laugh, love, and give of themselves (and what little they had), has left a profound impression on my life, leading to my questioning who actually has more, those The Tipitapa experience, as a human experience, is probably replicated daily in multiple countries around the globe, yet it has led me to re-frame the question of how best I can be of help to others. This, I thought, I knew well from my professional training. I have since questioned what are real priorities in the scale of human needs, how I can help others voice what they would want to say, what aspects of others’ culture is not to be touched by me, and how do I best understand other views. Critical to me has been questioning how I can develop true equity in a world of differences and commonalities.

“Pero todo no fue reflecciones serias y trabajo.” There was also fun! I met a fantastic and dedicated group of people who accepted my differences and led me to see myself somewhat differently. Everyone in the group, including Luke (the youngest), was a trooper.

From Luke’s reading to the children, to Arlene’s salsa dancing, and to everyone tolerating my food fetishes and difficulties in eating rice and frijoles for breakfast, my fear of worms when gardens are planted, and in making do with whatever was at hand. The group was superb, I learned to “let go,” laugh at myself, and accept that I am melindrosa. The next time I will be better armed with acceptance and openness in the true spirit of these concepts!