Written by Mariella Castaldi, SIT Study Abroad Nicaragua alumni Fall 2009. Mari is currently a student at Oberlin College.
I am the one who cries. In my family, my group of friends and especially in the group of students on my SIT program in Nicaragua, one could count on me to well up at least once in any heated conversation. It’s not because I’m sad—it’s just that sometimes, when I think about the injustice of the world how it is and try to articulate how I feel about it, I very often become engulfed in emotion and just start leaking. Crying isn’t necessarily a bad thing—on the contrary, it is more dangerous to bottle up your emotions—but it can take a well-thought point and turn it into an incomprehensible, teary mess. My experience in Nicaragua certainly did not cure me of my weepy tendencies (I cried a lot) but it helped me take the feelings that were left over and turn them into concrete action. SIT Nicaragua taught me to imagine another world and begin creating it. All the conversations I had with my companer@s, teachers and homestay family seemed to end with the same question: if we don’t like how things are, what are we going to do about it?
Since my return to the States, I have been exploring the answer to that lingering question. After seeing the shanty town of banana workers in Managua who have spent years seeking compensation from Dole for the health problems they suffered from working on the plantations, I worked with a committee to encourage my college’s dining halls to stop buying Dole bananas. After spending a week working at the youth-run Radio Victoria in El Salvador, a hotbed of activist activity against a new gold mine and a target of violent repression, I wrote an article for my school’s environmental magazine and spoke on a student panel about the harmful effects of mining on the environment and human health. After speaking with my home stay family about their stories of strife around immigration, I joined 6 of my fellow alumni (and now close friends and inspirations!) to march alongside 200,000 others to demand reform to the immigration system in the U.S.