Welcome to Notes from Nica, a blog about my life as a Peace Corps trainee in Nicaragua! Two weeks into training here, and as so much has already happened and I’m always terrible at starting things like this anyway, I’ll get things going with something simple: lists! Everyone loves a list, right?
- My host family and my training town. Pretty lucky for me! I live in a small town about an hour away from Managua, the capital city, where nearly everyone I meet is related to me through my host family. It’s a new experience to live in a place where people leave their doors open all the time, where they smile and wave and stop you in the street to chat, where kids and aunts and brother-in-laws are in and out of each others’ houses all the time. There’s a pulperia (a sort of Nicaraguan convenience store) and a public telephone in my front hall here, so there are always people in and out to talk to; a great way to meet more people in the community.
- The food in Nicaragua. There are very few foods I refuse to touch, and usually they involve fungus. I have to say, though, that Nicaraguans really know my weak spots. Beans and rice? Check: the favorite food here is gallo pinto, rice and beans cooked together with spices. Fresh fruit and veggies? Check: so far I have indulged in watermelon, oranges, mandarins, pineapple, avocados, limes, bananas, plantains and more, all a hundred times fresher than I ever got in the States. Eggs? Check, especially scrambled and in combination with potatoes. There isn’t as much meat here, which is a change, but instead there are things like rosquillas, baked crunchy tart-like things made from maize which are particularly popular during Holy Week, when they’re made into empanadas with a little bit of cheese and sugar inside. Delicious!
- My fellow trainees. There are something like 24 of us in our training class, and it’s been glorious to live and work with such a group of fun, positive people. I know there are probably going to be days when we want nothing more than to leave and go back home, when we won’t be able to stand each other, Nicaragua, our work, or ourselves, but starting with such a wonderfully upbeat group has got to count in our favor. Everyone has so far been very laid back and easygoing, and has brought their own kind of passion to the work we’re doing here; it’s so interesting to talk to everyone about the kind of work they’ve done in the past, and what they’re hoping to do in Nicaragua. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what kinds of creative things they start here.
CHANGES, because I don’t actually have a dislike list:
- The bus system. Nothing runs on a schedule or anything like one. We mostly rely on a network of microbuses, hopping on and off from bus “stations” which are sometimes nothing more than street corners, or just hailing the driver or “cobrador”, who sits with the passengers and takes the fares. Add to that the fact that there are no street names here – just directions like “one block north and two blocks east from the bank” (or from the site of an important event – even more difficult!) and traveling is always an adventure.
- Bucket showers. My house has indoor plumbing, but the water here doesn’t run all day – some days it only runs for a couple hours at about 4am. We fill a tank in the back yard and haul buckets from that all day to shower, flush the toilet, do the dishes, and wash our hands. I use a lot less water here, now that it’s more difficult to get than just turning on a tap! Added to that I’m going to throw in the lack of resources we take for granted in the States, particularly internet. I was so dependent on my wireless internet before I came here, and now the nearest internet café is a 20 minute bus ride away. Definitely a tough adjustment to make.
- Language. Obviously I knew I’d be living and working and breathing in another language, but it’s beyond frustrating to have things to say and be unable to communicate them. Adding to that the fact that existing in another language is seriously mentally exhausting, it’s no wonder I sleep incredibly well here (and have already breezed my way through three of the English books I brought with me, just to have a little bit of English in my day!). Slowly but surely, poco a poco; that’s my motto – it’ll come in time. Already I am light years ahead of where I was when I flew into Managua, and it’s only been two weeks!
That’s all I have for now; I’ll try to update this at least semi-regularly with new and hopefully exciting things, but we’ll see how it goes.
Adios for now, amigos!