Hi everyone!!!! Thank you for visiting my blog! I have been so anxious to get out of the US for a while and I'm very happy to inform you all that I have finally made it to Nicaragua. In this blog, I plan to share my experience with you, whether it was how certain days went, the challenges I've faced, or the culture I've learned about.
My first experience was a short taxi ride from the Managua (capital of Nicaragua) airport to its bus station with people from the program I'm working with. We arrived to the bus station what is considered to be rush hour there, about 1pm. It was really crowded all over, so much that since all seats were taken, the driver gave us plastic stools to sit in the aisle because it's better than waiting around an hour for the next bus to Estelí. The countryside is really beautiful, I plan on taking plenty of pictures when I'm not stuck in the aisle in future rides. I talked a bunch with another volunteer, Joe, for the three hour busride and somehow managed to sleep a little bit on that stool to make up for staying up until 4am for my flight. I also worked up the nerve to see what quality of a conversation I could have with a Nicaraguan. Turned out I did pretty well, and she said that I speak Spanish “muy bien.” :-). Anyway, we finally arrived at Estelí and the GVI house. Two other volunteers and I were given the basic do's and don'ts presentation. Some of it funny (please do not hook up with locals – huh?) and some over many serious points, like the general mission, the dangers we could face in mountainous regions and challenges of working with the children. Also, a little bit of Nicaraguan history, like the revolution overthrowing the previous dictatorship (anniversary of which is tomorrow btw) and what effects this recent history has had on this country.
I also met Karla, one of the very few teachers from Nicaragua that works in GVI schools. She shows a feisty side, but for the volunteers who can speak Spanish she's a lot of fun. She openly admits to not caring to speak English. More on her as my crazy past two days progress.
We all walked around town Estelí, learning the memorable places like the GVI house, the main park square, the biggest grocery store (which is three aisles), and then were taken to our respective host families' houses by taxi. I live with a very welcoming family. The mother is really nice, always offering whatever we need. When she said “mi casa es su casa,” in the way she did, you could tell she really meant it. After settling in, I figured I would buy a map and start learning about the town I'm staying in for the next month.
Is it ironic that you get lost in a town because you went out to buy a map? So yeah.. my first day in a foreign country as a solo traveler, I manage to get lost. I mean, you walk a few blocks, ask around for a bookstore, it doesn't have the map you need, you ask for another one, it doesn't either, but they say that this one might, etc, etc. And then you finally realize.. wait... how do I get back? And I mean really lost like I have no idea where I'm staying, the blocks with all these stores look really similar, and I don't even know the address for a taxi to take me. Yeah, I still find a way to do some really stupid things.
I luckily remembered the name of a well-known cafe, Cafe Luz, who had a waiter that knew the GVI people. I took a taxi there and asked him how to get to the GVI house. At 8pm, it's already been dark for a while (no daylight savings time here) and nobody's home. So I go “f*ck!” and head back to Cafe Luz to chill out. I met some interesting locals who used to live in Los Angeles and have some good drinks and story-telling. They said you should come out with us to a club, you'd be surprised, Estelí has some great spots. But I needed to change into pants to get in and I didn't know where my frickin' suitcase was! Thankfully at 11pm, the GVI people were home, they called my host family and got the address. The club was actually really good, comparable to any in the US. I was really happy to get back when I did.
I slept late and Karla knocked on my door to wake me up. When she heard that I got lost, I wouldn't hear the end of it and said let's go learn the town (again) so you won't get lost (again). She showed me the one street, Calle Central, that I could always use to orient myself. It is clearly the most crowded, but when you first arrive, I guess it's difficult to tell the difference. I went to Cafe Luz to meet up with Joe. We used the Internet access to download a map of Estelí and learn how the streets are numbered. I'm happy to say I will never get lost again!
My second night, I was asked to attend a birthday party of the family's mother's daughter's cousin's boyfriend's friend (seriously). I ended up meeting a few Americans in the Peace Corps, some Estelíans who are trying to learn English, and a German! All of them in their twenties as well. It was a lot of fun, we went to a more low-key club with some live music and a lot of latin music, with a bit of American music mixed in. They were all partying like there was no tomorrow, but for them there wasn't. The next day was a national holiday in Nicaragua, the anniversary of the revolution that has ushered in the nation's current era. I, on the other hand, had to be up at 7. But hey, you only live once. Who needs sleep anyway?
Before I teach in the school, I have two days of one-on-one Spanish tutelage. Today, my tutor Carlos switched from personal conversation to some semi-advanced grammar rules. I also got an hour long history on the past century's history of Nicaragua. It gave today's holiday a whole different perspective and really says a lot about what the people here have been through. Also, Karla gave me a book about Nicaragua's history to read whenever I have time.
After taking some pictures around town (will be up soon!) I was exhausted!!! After all, I've had two really late nights, neither of which I intended to stay out. I have moments where I am very confident with my Spanish and others where it feels like a lost cause. I must say though that already, I am having quite the experience. I am staying with a family that does not speak any English and I speak Spanish everywhere around town to do what I need to do. But I also realize that to get to a really good level, you need to be here for a time that will permanently change you. I hope that after one month, I'll have a boatload of memories to share in Germany and go home with. It's only been three days and already I feel like I've been here forever. The day that I got lost literally feels like it was a lifetime ago. 25 days left! Well... until later.