Experiencing a different culture can engage all the senses.

By Samantha Austin - Peace Corps Volunteer, Nicaragua (2010-2012)

Oh Nicaragua, Nicaraguita
That girl at the bar said you have no culture
But I know
Culture is not something can see in colorful cloth or folk dances
But something you taste, like the dust that lines your mouth in April before the
rains start
Like the ash baked into tortillas
And those small strawberries that come down from the mountain once a year
And culture is something you smell
Like the elote blackening in the street
The red and black paint drying on telephone poles
And the trash burning outside
It’s something you hear
Like the cars with the speakers tied on top, announcing a funeral
The sound of a plump mango falling from the tree
And every adios as you walk by
It’s something you feel
Like the warm hand of a stranger, inviting you in
The bumps on the road, as you pass by the mountains
And the ache of your heart, once you’ve left

This poem was selected as the runner-up in the returned Volunteer category for the 2015 Peace Corps Poetry Contest. It was selected from more than 1,000 submissions, representing over 50 years of Peace Corps service in more than 100 countries.

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