An ‘expat’ in my own homeland

At home with the expats
photo: Alejandra Calderon

At home with the expats

“I am Nicaraguan.” That’s what I have always told people when they ask me where I’m from. There has never been any hesitation or doubt. Every year at the Vienna International School, there was international night. And every year I dressed up in my huipil and handed out torta de elote to all of the parents and teachers.

Then at the American Community school of Abu Dhabi, I got up on stage, alone, again in my huipil and introduced myself as a proud Nicaraguan.

I’ve always been the expat. Even when I was living in the U.S. the kids in the elementary school cafeteria would crack a joke about my gallopinto, literally calling it “bear crap” whilst they munched on their wonderbread sandwiches.

When I heard the news that we were moving to Nicaragua, I couldn’t have been happier. I would get to hang out with the people who understand me and know where I come from. I would finally be a “normal” new girl.

Everything was great…until my first day at the American Nicaraguan School. For the first week, I tried to make people laugh and put myself out there. But all I got were blank stares. At the end of the week there were already rumors spreading. I heard one rumor that I was satanic; I don’t even know where that came from.

I understood that each culture had its particularities and that I would have to get used to it. In Abu Dhabi there were too many to count, but I seemed to handle them pretty well. Although, I will admit I was a little shocked to hear that people thought I was “satanic.”

I really wish that I was making this up purely for the purpose of this article, but unfortunately it’s true. Why did people think that? Was it because of the color of my backpack? Maybe they assumed I was weird for trying to talk to them. Was it my accent? Or maybe it had something to do with the color of my nail polish or the shoes I wore. I started to compare myself to the other people at school, and it turns out that I really did give off a different vibe. I didn’t fit their mold.

As in every situation, there’s always a silver lining. In my case there was a group of older girls who happened to be expats and made my time at school bearable. The funny thing is that the more time I spent with these girls, the more I felt at home. I felt like I had more in common with this group of expats than with the Nicas.

All of my life I always saw the similarities that I had with the Nicas. But when I got to Nicaragua, I realized that all they saw in me were the differences.

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