This is a story of how Maní Dalia Raptor Spigel’s life changed forever when she left her small community in Nicaragua to embark on a new life in the United States of America.
The alarm sounded at 3:15 am. I grabbed our belongings and we left our home under the cover of darkness. Luckily, the bus was only one block away.
When we arrived in Managua, I had a short amount of time to arrange for her papers. The doctor did what he could. He signed a certificate of health, rabies certificate, and administered a vital vaccine. His contact at the exportation office helped us obtain the rest of her papers for a small fee of 50 cordobas.
Finally the day of our flight arrived. Moisés came at 4:30 am to ensure we made it safely to our first checkpoint.
Maní soon realized what was happening and attempted to flee:
I told her, “Be strong, my Manita. Leaving is the hardest part.”
When we arrived at the airport, I held my breath. This is it, I thought to myself. I tried not to think about the fact that they could send us away if one piece of paper was out of place, if the cage was not to their liking, if it happened to be hotter than 85 degrees Fahrenheit in Miami that day.
We were first in line, so when they opened for the day, we stepped up to the counter. “Bring her around back when the clock strikes 7:15,” he told me as he looked at Maní.
At 7:15 am, we went around back, where they were busy loading other passengers’ suitcases. I gave Maní one last chin scratch as she marched bravely into her cage. I watched her disappear on the conveyor belt, and I left, praying that I’d see her on the other side, unscathed, in Miami.
Unfortunately, when we arrived in Miami, it took about an hour to get through immigration. Claire was in front of me, so when I finally made it to baggage claim, Claire yelled, “Here she is! Maní is here!”
“MANIIIIIIIIIITAAAAAAAAA” I yelled, as I ran, arms open, to her cage sitting in the middle of all the other suitcases. “Maniiiiittaaaaaa, we made it!” I said, trying to reassure her, as I put her on a cart and wheeled her into customs, where they promised to check her for heroin. I think it was a little security guard humor, because all they needed were her papers. Upon exiting, I picked up our rental car and Claire, Maní, and I prepared for the 24-hour journey from Miami to Boston via car.
Here was our carefully planned itinerary: Day 1: Miami to Savannah; Day 2: Savannah to DC; Day 3: DC to College Park; Day 4: College Park to Framingham, MA. While the road was long (as I95 tends to be) and the drive arduous (no roadside coffee in the Carolinas–really?!) we enjoyed brief periods of respite along the way, through family and friends that took us in. Thank you to everyone who played a part in Maní’s journey home.
The greatest part of any immigration tale is the homecoming. At long last, the much-anticipated colliding of worlds happened: my adopted Nicaraguan puppy finally met the rest of my family. My favorite part of being home was watching my family bond with Maní, my partner in crime for the last year.
But alas, my vacation ended in January, and Maní stayed behind with my parents, who are taking care of her during the last two months of my Peace Corps service. On the day I had to leave, I packed up my bags looked at Maní one last time, and thought back to the advice I had bestowed upon her just a couple weeks earlier: “Be strong, Lorenita. Leaving is the hardest part.” So I wiped my eyes, piled into the car, and left Maní behind.
While I still need to be in Nicaragua, Maní’s American now; her immigration tale is complete. While she’s getting used to her new surroundings: my family, snow, pine trees, cold New England weather, and doggy parks, I’ll be finishing up the last part of my Nicaraguan tale, taking in my surroundings for the last time: dramatic green mountains, rain pounding on the tin roof, water shortages, fresh coffee, and paseando with friends. Eight short weeks is all I have until I begin my own journey home. While leaving is indeed the hardest part, coming home is easy. Eight short weeks and I’ll be home.