I recently finished looking through some pictures of San Ramon - the town I lived in for nine months in Nicaragua - that were taken by an American girl I met while there. She is a friend on Facebook and she recently posted some pictures she had taken for a Christmas toy drive. Seeing San Ramon through the lens of someone else, after such a long time without revisiting my own, affected me greatly.
When I see pictures of San Ramon, or revisit mental images and the live moments I have stored away, I feel a rush of emotions. It is hard for me to even pinpoint what these emotions mean or why I have them, but they are still as strong as they were when I left a year and a half ago. I recognize every individual mountain in the background of the pictures, the pattern in the road, the color of the fence lining the stadium and I can remember how I felt looking at all of them in real time. It's as if I have an emotional relationship with every single artficact in San Ramon and upon seeing them in pictures they once again take hold of me.
The only reason I can give for these strong emotions in association with San Ramon is the solid fact that those nine months make up the most intense period of time in my life. Nicaragua shaped me like no other experience thus far; it bent me, it nearly broke me, it held me up, it pushed me down. My time in Nicaragua was an emotional roller coaster that eventually molded me into a new kind of strong, but the emotional test that I endured still evokes a tinge of fear inside of me. That was a scary time in my life and I can still feel that when I think back to those early months in San Ramon.
San Ramon was also home to a radical transformation within me - one that was still taking place up to six months ago. I was hit with so many life lessons at once and in one tiny dot on the Nicaraguan map (even if some of the lessons had nothing to do with Nicaragua itself). A part of my "self" died there, was left behind; undoubtedly, a necessary and good transformation but one that creates a sense of nostalgia as I look back. A nostalgia that reminds me we can never go back, that some parts of us are forever altered and the change irrevocable, that some pain is never fully forgotten and that youth really was innocent.
I know I will visit San Ramon again one day; I hope soon. If I am moved by just photos, I can't imagine how strongly I will be affected when I stand in front of the same mountains, morning sunrise, and humble cabin where I lived for nine months. I know there is something more I am supposed to understand about that time and that place. Something I won't understand until I return.