I remember thinking during a group meeting before we left for Nicaragua that Tara might have a tough time “roughing it” here.

“I can’t do that,” I heard her say several times. She doesn’t like certain things, is apprehensive about some unknowns and downright scared of others.

But she knows what those things are and she did what it took to minimize the influence of those things on her experience here. I’ve been throughly impressed at her adaptability.

I had the privilege of staying with the same family as Tara in El Limon. As roommates for four days I got to know her well. We ended up together at her request — a great example of her finding solutions to her anxieties.

I’m vegan (eating no animal products). She was uncomfortable with the idea of eating meat that she didn’t prepare herself. Her solution: Stay with the vegan lady so she didn’t have to make a big deal of things.

Once she felt comfortable, she dove in to experience new things. She tried every vegetable, and liked many of them. She ate beets on a salad the other day, even though she swore off beets as a child. She shaved her legs standing up, even though she’d badly cut herself years before. (She cut herself this time, too, and said it could be years before she tries it again. But she did it.)

“I didn’t feel comfortable there the first few nights,” she said of El Limon. But that changed. “Our family loved each other so much.”

Tara could have chosen to complain and take a negative view of the dozens of things here that were out of her comfort zone. Instead, her true colors shined and Tara has relished the opportunity to explore a new country, get to know some of its people and learn its history. Tara has been a positive force for many in the group and already is talking about returning to Nicaragua next year.

Tara is from Lancaster, Kan. She is majoring in elementary education and special education. She works as a tutor at a school in Topeka and was especially touched by her interactions with Nicaraguan children.

Tara, standing in a window, holds the bars with her left hand and scrubs a bar with sandpaper with her right.

Tara scrapes rust on a window.

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