Being a Cynical Optimist Works Well in Nicaragua

By Darrell Bushnell

Skeptical or cynical means “having reservations”. Someone who is skeptical will not easily be convinced and may be more difficult to persuade. A cynic is not necessarily negative but simply expects less than what is promised. A cynical optimist like myself does not expect the worse but hopes for the best yet prepares for a lesser accomplishment. People like me are easy to please since we expect less and very happy when more happens. Talk to my wife!

This type of attitude works very well in Nicaragua with locals, tourists and expats. I will show some examples where this attitude has worked well or at least makes me feel better.

During a massage, discussing lower back issues, Miguel asked what exercises I do. I replied I do the daily Tai Chi Qigong exercises and Miguel stated that correct breathing is the key to back issues. Being a cynic I told him I had been breathing all my life and thought I had the skill set down rather pat. From Tai Chi I knew you should breathe in through the nose and breathe out the mouth. I even knew that breathing comes from the stomach and not from the chest. My breathing is so skilled that I am able to do it even while sleeping. Miguel was not impressed. Being cynical is just a fine line from being a smart ass.

While at a “stop smoking” seminar they tried to use hypnosis which worked for Amy but a cynic cannot be hypnotized because we are already mentally repeating our mantra which is “this is bullshit”. If it was that easy to hypnotize people, all my friends would be cackling like chickens while I messed with their minds. Though while growing up on the farm, I did hypnotize a chicken.   We had a ping pong table in the shed and I had read that you could immobilize a chicken by making it stare at a solid white line. I grabbed a chicken and forced his head down to see the solid line down the middle of the table. Sure enough, I released the chicken and it stayed there not moving for several days when we decided we wanted to play ping pong and had to remove the chicken. Just kidding, but it stayed there for over 15 minutes. Really!

I am one of the few expats that is actually in favor of the canal project or at least the large Chinese investment to improve the infrastructure here. Without starting an argument I simply believe there is more chance to save the rain forests and Lake Cocibolca with a major investment than without it. But being a cynic I really doubt the canal will ever be built and we are already nine months into the five year plan to build the canal.

Being a cynic is a win-win lifestyle which I have perfected even while being an expat and actually works best for Nica expats. For example, if a person is proposing to complete a project for me within x days and for x amount of money, my cynical side automatically reacts with “what a load of BS”. But I can’t lose because if he/she completes the project at budget I win but if he does not, my cynical reaction was correct and I can feel smug. And the expats have a similar “hasta manana” attitude after living here a few months so when a friend calls and they say they will be at my house in 15 minutes, I just think “yeah, right!.” But it is win-win since he will either arrive in 15 minutes or I will have the joy of being correct for several hours as I wait for him to arrive.

Cynicism works extremely well with wedding vows. As you stand before the pastor/priest/judge/ship captain and he/she is asking if you will agree to stay with her and care for her until the end of eternity or at least until all the stars burn out and she agrees to do the same for you, as a cynic you will say yes since it is the socially correct response but mentally deep down you are thinking “statistically we will be lucky to make it together for two years”. Again, it is a win-win scenario. Either you are wrong but have a long and healthy relationship or your cynical side was correct as you look for the next victim to take to the altar making the same promise for all of eternity.

So I think we can agree that being a cynical optimist works very well in Nicaragua and for many aspects of life. Just don’t take it too far since they would then just think you are a crotchety old man.