I arrived in Estelí last Sunday, and each day since my arrival I have walked several kilometers watching people, discovering new things or places (sometimes just details that I hadn’t noticed before), and sometimes stopping for a while to enjoy a cup of coffee or avoid the rain or … well, you get the idea.
This is a great town: slightly rough around the edges and a little wild west – it even has cowboys – but still it is relatively safe and reservedly friendly. I don’t generally fear for my safety while here, though as always when in a developing country I take normal precautions and I am always aware of my surroundings.
I don’t really expect to be robbed or otherwise molested, mind you. It’s just that one can never be sure, and when you stand out the way a 6´2″ north american does in northern Nicaragua, you really need to take extra measures. And I know that sometimes I can be a little reckless.
So I wondered if it was a mistake today when I walked into the main square – the park, actually – with my camera out and ready to use, since I could see several rough-looking young fellows watching me and especially watching the camera. Then I overheard them talking about the camera (I heard the word, “cámera”), but I couldn’t make out anything else except the word “gringo”, which always annoys me because I’m Canadian, darnit!
However, in general the park is a cool place. There is a playground along with various activities for children such as little cars you can rent for five or ten minutes at a time. There is usually a guy wandering around selling cotton candy and popcorn in little bags, along with the customary assortment of shoe-shine guys, kiosks selling just about anything you can think of (though mostly street food – don’t do it – and soft drinks), ice cream carts, and… well, stuff.
It’s an environment I enjoy a lot, sort of like the market, but not so hectic. It is also not one I think is dangerous, especially at 2 o’clock in the afternoon on a Friday.
But, yes, there are always rough-looking fellows in the park and elsewhere in town, and sometimes they make me nervous. And I really don’t think it’s because I’m a big old wuss or because I have a prejudice.
Ok, so yeah, I do have a prejudice against rough-looking fellows.
But what is funny about the guys I met today is that when I first saw them I thought, “rough-looking fellows”. After I started talking to them I realized they were just a bunch of young guys being cool in the park. Snap judgements. Bah. After a few minutes they stopped even looking rough. A little tattered and with a couple of bad tats, but that’s nothing.
As an aside, given my tendency to be suspicious, sometimes, of people who are really just getting along in life or who turn out to be interesting and kind and enjoyable, I really have to conclude that I ever am robbed it will probably be by a woman in a ball gown and fairy wings, or a small boy in an immaculate boy scout uniform who has just helped an old lady across the street.
Anyway, when I saw that these guys had noticed me, I waved, then opened up some space between us. nevertheless, I wanted to take pictures, so I hung around.
And it turned out that far from being troublemakers, at least two of these guys were in the park because they had jobs (well, I suppose they could also have been troublemakers).
Luis Miguel works with the toy car rental, helping the smallest children to drive their little electric vehicles around the square and generally doing what needs to be done. I found this out because I wanted to take some shots of the children in the cars and when he saw me he started mugging for the camera. That’s him in the photo up above.
Then there was Eduin, who was selling ice cream from one of those Eskimo carts with the jingle bells, and as for Erick, well, he just seemed to be hanging out, y’know?
Luis Miguel and I started talking first – I figured since he was doing his best to be in all my pictures I might as well just engage with him.
He asked where I was from, of course, and we exchanged cordial notes about what a nice place Estelí is and how the weather compares with that of Montréal and Toronto. We talked for a couple of minutes about the toy cars and how popular they are.
As I suspected, they were all really interested in the camera. So I asked them if they would like their photos taken. … (!!) What, I had to ask? Of course they did! So I moved us to a slightly different location in the park, explaining that the light would be better there, at which point either Luis Miguel or Eduin explained to the other two that it was because there were too many shadows in the other location. At one point, in fact, I was about to take a shot and he pointed out that the light would be better if we shifted about five meters to my left. And he was right. A natural photographer.
And that was that! We had some fun with the camera, and off I went, feeling as though I had, if not made friends, at least built a bridge. It was a good afternoon.
I just noticed that I have posted two entries to this blog in two days. Please don’t take that as a sign of things to come.
Meanwhile, here is one last shot of “the boys”: