I´ve become something of a salsa dancing addict in the past year, so I was psyched when the Peace Corps placed me in Latin America. Little did I know then that Nicaragua is basically a dancer´s purgatory. Every day I hear my favorite songs blasting out of people´s stereos - reggeaton, bachata, salsa, cumbia, merengue - and yet it doesn´t seem like anyone really knows how to do any of the dances. I´ve been so hard up, as has my friend Hannah, that the other day the two of us started dancing outside of my house to the cumbia my host brothers were listening to. My host mom got really excited. ¨We can have a party here!¨she exclaimed. ¨We´ll have a DJ and you and all the other gringos can dance.¨
I wasn´t sure exactly what she meant, but I had been to a party the weekend before at another trainee´s house, so I kind of had an idea about what a Nica-style dance party would be like. Sure enough, last Saturday at 5 pm the DJ arrived in a pickup truck loaded with speakers. He set them up and commenced to play first the Ghostbusters theme song, then Funktytown, and Nirvana´s cover of The Man Who Sold the World. Those songs were just a warm-up apparently, because then the Latin music got started. He played my new favorite cumbias - the one about the guy who gets poked in the eye with a sharp object, and the one about the kleptomaniac named Maria, and all the others.
But nobody was dancing yet. Once the other PC trainees arrived, everyone started pressuring us to dance. This has become a familiar routine. It seems everyone´s favorite activity at these parties is to watch Gringo Dance Theater. It even happened at the club we went to in Esteli last week. A guy was actually using his camera to film us dancing, as if it were the most amusing thing he had ever seen.
At the party at my house I think the gringos must have danced for a full 15 minutes before anyone else joined in. It kind of makes you wonder what the people do for entertainment when we´re not here. It was also really strange to be in a simulated club environment when I was actually out on my host family´s dirt patio, though the music was certainly loud enough, and the lights were certainly flashy enough.
At one point I paused to watch the other gringos dance, and then I started to understand why everyone here enjoys GDT so much. First of all, we are pretty spastic. We aren´t at all like the restrained Nicaraguans, who kind of bob back and forth gingerly in time with the music (no spins or dips here, folks). What we lack in rythmic intuition, we make up for in raw enthusiasm. Also, I´ve noticed that making such an effort to comport myself according to Nicaraguan cultural norms means that when I cut loose, I really cut loose. I think all of us do. So if the people want to see some gringos dancing crazy, I´m happy to oblige.
Into it - cramming 18 people into a microbus, i.e. minivan; Nicaragua buses in general
Over it - nightly news that always features dead bodies