One of the most distinct memories I have (and will have) of our trip to Nicaragua was no longer than 30 seconds. We were walking back from dinner (in the dark) to our hotel. Erin mentioned this previously, but our hotel, while fairly nice, was just far enough off of the main square that it got a little strange at night outside. The first block was the “nice” hotels, the second block was the hostels, the third block was a few residences and the fourth block (where our hotel was located) was where it started to get a little weird. More and more trash on the street as you walked toward the hotel, more people just “hanging out”, etc.
We were walking home from dinner the first night when a man in the middle of the street spotted us and started walking in our direction. He was actually limping/shuffling. I immediately knew this would be interesting… he was one of the saddest people I’d seen since we arrived in the country. Weathered doesn’t even begin to describe him. Destroyed is a better word. He was clearly homeless, and had seen the worst that life has offered. One eye appeared to be partially blind (totally clouded over) and the rest of him was not in much better shape.
The kids noticed him almost instantly and as we continued to walk a tad faster, he started to follow us. At no point did I feel in any danger, he simply wanted to beg for money (though I couldn’t understand a word of his mumbling), but it was enough to raise the hairs on my neck for sure.
Jacob and Abby and Erin kept walking at a brisk pace, but Ben (our worrier) kept looking back. I was between him and the man keeping a protective barrier. The man was a full 20 yards behind us as he didn’t have a chance of keeping up with us at all. Ben knew something was not right though, he wasn’t just staring at the man. He only followed us for about 40 feet before his energy wore out and he stopped, but the every time Ben looked back, I had to remind him that I was there and protecting him every step of the way.
“It’s all good Ben. I promise. Just keep walking buddy.”
We arrived to the hotel 1 minute later and we all scurried into the confines of the walls that surrounded the hotel and all was good. Just like I promised. I’m pretty sure Ben will never forget that moment, I know I certainly won’t. It was one of the first times I’ve seen Ben worry on a larger, more mature scale. I was proud of him and sad for him at the same time. Another incredible learning experience, this time on a purely emotional level.