These are the 2 phrases that are always spoken when we visit a house in the community.
“¡Buenas! ¿Permiso?” Hello! Permission to come in?
And then the family responds.
“¡Buenas! ¡Adelante!” Hello! Come on in!
No matter which house you visit – the nicer block house that is painted, tiled, and has a little store out front, or the plastic tarp house with a recently swept dirt floor – every single family answers the same.
"Hello! Come on in!"
Some families know who it is that is visiting them. Maybe it is their Amigos Community Advocate or a representative from the water team that is to coming by. But sometimes they have no idea who is there or why.
As I walked house to house taking pictures for our Communications Team, I was, again, humbled by this simple offering of hospitality. Not one family refused me. And many offered me a chair, food, a refreshing drink, or something from their home. I walked away after each encounter with a sense that I was being gifted something far beyond the limes and the tamales.
This is not how I was raised, and certainly not the cultural norm in the USA. We are often not open people to the new or unexpected. Imagine for a moment someone coming to your door, asking to take a photo of your cute pet or your fabulous flowers for the community paper – uninvited and unexpected. I know what my initial response would have been – one of fear, and defensiveness.
Who are you? Where are your credentials? Why wasn’t I called or notified? Even more so, I doubt I would be offering a drink, my children for the photo, or my bathroom.
And yet, here I was, in a culture that opens up to the stranger and offers up what they have to share. I walked away from this day again baffled and humbled by this.
What inherently makes us happy? Is it safety? Having all our needs met plus some? Is it family, or is it an appreciative and fulfilling job? What is it about Nicaraguans that they trust so easily and accept so willingly the stranger in their midst and instead only see a friend?
I don’t know the answer to these questions, but fundamentally I WANT this. I want to say yes, “¡Buenas! ¡Adelante!”
When I meet someone new.
When an opportunity arises.
Even when the joys and sorrows of life arrive.