Ah, the sweet sounds of rain falling on the tin roof. The only thing I can hear over it would be the obnoxiously loud soccer game we’re airing right now for the teenagers in the church. I’d probably only ever watch a soccer game if it were a part of the actual World Cup. In fact, that’s the only time I can recall watching soccer with even the slightest degree of interest. That was back in college at Florida State when they would show the games in the student life center on the big screen. Soccer to me is kind of like the Olympics. I’m all about it once every four years but have zero desire to follow the sport otherwise. But when in Rome, do as the Romans do. So I find myself sitting here listening to the teenagers go nuts over this game between Costa Rica and Mexico. I would have never guessed this being from the United States, but Mexico is one of the most hated teams in Central America. Apparently, they think they are better than everyone else. A group of elitists, if you will. Does that sound at all like the Mexicans we know in the US? Anyways, as I type this, all I can hear is screams and the famous GOOOOOOLLLLLLLL! Viva Costa Rica! Beat Mexico!
Anyways, I was upstairs talking to the woman who cleans the church and apartment the other day. Her name is Xiomara and she is Nicaraguan. We’ve talked several times about her life and journey to live in Costa Rica. Here’s a woman who has come to this country and is perfectly legal, she works her butt off to provide for her family, and has zero desire to take advantage of the system. Yet time and time again, she shares with me snippets of the prejudices that she has experienced in the time she’s lived here. Given the endless opportunities, people will never cease to disappoint you, this much I am sure of.
Xiomara and I started to talk about the differences between life in the US and life here. She told me she has a cousin that lives in the US and has been there for probably twenty years or more. Xiomara said she would love to go to the US like her cousin and work but she just can’t leave her kids until they are all older. As she started to describe to me the life that her cousin lived in the US, it became clear that she didn’t know what she was really hoping for in going to the US to work as well. She described a well educated woman who left her job as a professor in Nicaragua to go to the United States of America and live the American dream. She talked of how smart her cousin is but what a better life she has now. I guess that statement would be better worded if I said what a better life that Xiomara assumes that her cousin has now. She began to tell me about the job her cousin now has in the US. She serves food to students in a school cafeteria. I immediately thought of how many wretched kids make fun of the ‘cafeteria lady’ in their schools as if they aren’t real people too. I also thought of what a low-paying job that is. Xiomara said that her cousin sends money back to her family in Nicaragua because she makes so much more in the US than they can in Nicaragua. While this is true, I explained to her that it costs so much more to live in the US than in Nicaragua. We talked a bit about all the people that move to the US for a better life and to make more money to send back home. The only problem with this is then they are stuck. No one can ever leave that situation. People will work themselves to death to provide enough to live off of for themselves and whatever they can manage to send back to their family in their native country. Of course, when Xiomara told me that her cousin lived in a something like a truck that could move from place to place, in a neighborhood full of other trucks, I quickly put together that she was living in a trailer park with her family. In truth, living in a small trailer is probably not any greater than living in the house that Xiomara currently lives in. Do you think she’d ever believe that? That her house is just as good as the trailer her cousin has in the US? Probably not. Living in a trailer park is nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s hardly the glamorous life that the people in those native countries think of when they tell people they have family in the US. Adding United States to your address doesn’t make all your dreams come true.
Maybe for some of us, we are living the American dream. I know I was and will again. There’s no doubt that it’s easier for some than others. Maybe Xiomara’s cousin doesn’t have the easiest life out there, but by raising kids in the US and then having the next generation be brought up there, they will certainly have a better shot at the life we have come to expect as normal and what others outside the US have come to know as glamorous. I do wish it were easier though for people to understand what it means to live and work in the US as a poor immigrant instead of just constantly hoping for a life that they truly don’t understand. I’m not saying I understand it all based on one conversation with Xiomara. For the record, my grandparents and father are immigrants. I’ve heard all my life how hard my grandparents had to work and for so little. They too sent money and things back to their families in their native country of the Ukraine. It was worth it to them to work that hard as it is to so many others who do the same. I guess seeing the flip side of that being here in the foreign country with the people who look to a life in the US as if it’s something that it’s not has just opened my eyes a bit.