I went to go visit a peace corps volunteer (pcv) friend yesterday and today in a town on the northern pacific coast of Nicaragua. I needed a change of pace and we had off these two days because Sept. 14th and 15th are Nicaraguan independence celebrations. Also, I wanted to go to the beach. I love water and sometimes it is a little bit sad that I live in a tiny country with a lot of water, two ocean coasts and two large inland lakes, and I don’t live near any of it. So this two days were wonderful and they were exactly what I asked for.
This, however, is a story about getting what you asked for, even when you didn’t know you were asking for it.
So we are near the end of a lovely beach day. I’m with my pcv friend and her Nicaraguan girlfriend sitting in a little “rancho” in front of the beach. (If you were to ever come to a standard, non-resort, Nica beach you would absolutely be spending the majority of your day at a rancho. “Ranchos” are areas, just above the high water mark, where an entrepreneurial Nicaraguan has covered the sand with a banana-leaf roof, set out plastic tables and chairs, and serves cold soda, beer, rum, and fish dishes, and blasts music. For buying a little, or a lot, you get the privilege of sitting in shade right in front of the ocean. Usually there a dozen or so that line the beach and they compete for your business because most Nicaraguan’s hate the sun and when they go to the beach they’ll spend hours at the rancho they select.) Back to my story, we’re finishing up our beach day at our rancho and I notice a little girl is snapping my picture on her cellphone. This type of semi-surreptitious picture taking on cellphones has been happening all day, and I comment on it– all in Spanish–to my friends. My pcv friend hasn’t noticed as much as I have and our Nica lady-friend says it is just a way for people to snap a “hey, check out who was at my beach” photo. Kate and I both comment, in Spanish, that this would be a little bit rude according to the standard of polite behavior we were raised with….you should ask polite permission before taking a photo of a complete stranger who is not engaging in some sort of public, participatory event (say street theater or walking a red carpet). We discuss the politeness, or lack there of, of taking photos of strangers for a few more minutes and then move on to other topics.
A few minutes later…a young man approaches the table (I think he’s coming over to offer to buy us beer, my pcv friend thinks he’s coming over to ask one of us to dance). He smiles and very, very politely asks: “May I have permission to take a photo with the two of you” (Meaning my pcv friend and I…’cause as gringas we’re apparently a novelty?). After a stunned two seconds…it dawns on me that he and his friend two tables over had overheard our entire conversation about the relative politeness of asking permission before taking photos….and now he is following our own recommendation for polite picture taking! So after a few more seconds of deliberation, in which we decide, that after loudly declaiming how rude it is NOT to ask permission and since Nica men hardly ever ask polite permission for anything…we have no choice but to agree to his polite request and allow his friend to take a picture him, me, and my pcv friend. We were too embarrassed to ask that he share the photo…also since it would mean providing personal information to complete strangers…so I have no evidence. But needless to say it was a HILARIOUS moment in why you need to be very careful for what you ask for…you just might get it after all.
(P.S. My pcv friend thinks that all of this was a coincidence. That the young men were drunk and just happened to request a photo after we had our discussion. I think there is no possible way that this was a coincidence…it is just too perfect. Thoughts from my loyal readers? Aunts?)