You know you’ve been here a while when you begin to experience events for the second time: Semana Santa, otherwise called Holy Week, otherwise called Go-to-the-Nearest-River -and-Get-Drunk Week, or, conversely, Avoid-the-Rivers-because-only-Drunks-Go-There Week, depending on who you ask; the uncompromising heat of April, which somehow is able to hoist itself up, inch-by-inch, until it reaches the top of the otherwise temperate mountains of Matagalpa; and of course, Nicaragua’s favorite pastime, Passover.
Last year, I had been in site a mere two weeks when Alyssa and I ventured to the local Jewish hangout to attend the seder. There we met an eclectic bunch and experienced a “Very Nicaraguan Passover,” complete with a brief blackout, mangoes falling from the sky, and kosher food flown in from New York. One of my favorite memories from last year was trying to find the house where the seder took place. Alyssa and I spent a good half hour wandering around a small neighborhood, asking if anyone knew where we could find “the house with the six-point star on the gate.” We found it, eventually.
This year, Alicia, a USAID worker whom I had met at last year’s seder, invited Jewish Peace Corps Volunteers to celebrate Passover at her home. Though we had a traditional Passover seder much like last year’s, this year felt different.
What made this year’s seder different from all other [read: last year’s] seder?
Last year I was new to site, new to country, and I knew almost nobody at the seder. Going to the seder was an adventure in itself: fresh, green, newbies, Alyssa and I had to navigate the bus system on our own, going from our sites through the crowds of vendors yelling, “Agua! Agua! Agua!” and cobradors yelling “Matagalpa! Matagalpa! Matagalpa!” and taxi drivers saying a little too closely, “Para donde vas, mi amor?,” “Oi linda!” or “Cuerpo de Pazzzzzzzzzzzz!” We arrived, after having been lost, sweating sufficiently, and covered in a layer of dust, feeling both excited about having had made it and in real want of a shower.
This year, however, Passover felt like a homecoming in a sense. A motley combination of people that I had met over the last year, as well as other PCVs, Embassy workers, and NGO workers that I hadn’t met yet, gathered to celebrate Passover together. There was Alicia, our host; 5 or 6 dedicated PCVs (both of the Jewish and non-Jewish variety); Daniel, who had opened his home to both Maní and I on several occasions; and even Carol, our very own PC Nicaragua Country Director. There was an immediate sense of familiarity as we mingled, got to know one another, swopped stories, and sat down at the long table to begin the seder.
Here is a photo of Alicia passing around the water so we can wash our hands before the meal.
And then there was the festive meal. Per usual, I took way more food than I could eat.
After looking around, we soon realized we were at the “kids’ table”. Here is irrefutable evidence: footage of Noah and Neil completing the elusive Jewish High Five.
After the required four glasses of wine, we merrily broke out into a rousing rendition of “Let My People Go.”
Then the kids’ table went out.
When we got back, we all sat around the patio, hanging out, chatting, and passing around a cigar until the wee hours of the morning. The following morning, Laurie and I made everyone breakfast: coffee, scrambled eggs, potatoes, and blueberry muffins. It was hard to leave Daniel’s lovely embassy home and return to site, but we all did so knowing that if next year’s Passover can’t be in Jerusalem, it will, at the very least, be together, with the little family that we’ve created for ourselves here in Nicaragua. Happy Passover.