When I got off the bus in Chinandega, laborers were burning the stumps and husks that were left from the sugarcane harvest. On the day I arrived, winds dropped ashes onto Chinandega like black snow. In the four months I spent in Nicaragua teaching English at the American English Academy and running the front desk at Hotel Cosiguina, rain never fell from the sky, but every once in a while at midday, with the sun baking the bone-dry streets, the black snow wafted toward the ground. No one had air conditioners, and the tin roofs common to the area trapped heat long after the sun had fallen below the earth. Once the air cooled in the evening, people sat outside with their neighbors and waited for the heat to leave their bedrooms. Televisions were dragged to open doorways, but mostly people talked to one another. Even by local standards, my neighborhood was run-down, but I had been drawn to it for the sense of community you noticed right away. The streets were filled with gossip, and though it was far from the city center and the protection of a police patrol, I loved walking home after work and seeing everyone out on their stoops, enjoying the fresh night air.