Life in my Training Town

The buses left from the Hotel Granada at about 9:30 in the morning on Saturday, and we were dropped off one by one at our host family’s houses to excited applause from our fellow trainees. It was a hot and sticky day, and I was thrilled when the bus pulled through my town of about 1000 people, Niquinohomo(pronounced Nikki-nomo), and dropped me off right in front of the central plaza and church. My host mother, Consuelo, greeted me, and my 15 year-old host brother was hanging back to see what was up before coming forward. I was shown to my room and started unpacking, only to discover a bright-eyed 7-year-old peeking around the corner. This was Alicia, one of my host sisters. After a few shy exchanges, she launched into an explanation of her puppy, their two kittens, her family, her cousin who owns a book of more than 1,000 pages, her sister who is probably the most famous person in the world, and made many allusions to the myriad secrets that she would never ever tell me until the day I leave. She will definitely be keeping me learning, on my toes, and entertained during my time here, and I am lucky to have such a welcoming and kind host family. I have two host brothers and two host sisters. Omar is 24 and works at an Under Armor factory in a nearby town. Consuelo is 23 and works for a local television channel (hence her notoriety). Payo is 15 and is in school, and Alicia ‘loca’ (Payo’s description) is the youngest. My host mother and father (Rafael, who is kind also) are extremely welcoming and take very good care of me. They feed me well on beans, rice, beef, tortilla, ham sandwiches, juice, and purified water.

I am feeling very safe, healthy, and happy even after only one day, and had a wonderful time my first evening here by going out with Omar, Consuelo and friends to celebrate a birthday in nearby Masaya. I may be the luckiest of the trainees for this opportunity, and the whole evening I was welcomed by all as we went to a bar, had drinks, danced a bit, sang karaoke as a group, and played games. We stayed out until 2:30 AM and I never thought that I would feel so comfortable so quickly. My Spanish is progressing already, though the accent of the Nicaraguans is challenging and in the face of near constant background noise from televisions and music I have to ask for quite a bit of repetition.

My house consists of a large single room (20′ high, 30′ across and wide) divided by one permanent wall and one temporary wall. The majority of the room is split between a living room area and a small business area. The family runs a video game parlor for kids in the neighborhood to come and play Nintendo, PS2, and Xbox for about 50 cents American per hour. The remaining space hosts the kitchen with fridge, small table, electric stove, and sewing corner. Mama Consuelo runs a small clothes designer shop and makes dresses and blouses with a partner throughout the day. Behind the main room are the bedrooms that are thick-walled and well-shingled and a ‘patio’ with basins for washing hands, dishes, and clothes. My room is the furthest back and right next to the bathroom, which consists of a toilet, ‘shower’ area, and basin for water. There only intermittent running water, so flushing and showering are accomplished via buckets of water poured into the tank/on one’s head. We have good electricity in the house and I have two outlets in my room, which is a pleasant surprise. I’ve been spending my first days either in Spanish class, wandering around town, reading PC materials, or socializing with my family. There are various cybercafes in my town, and I anticipate being able to update people regularly and perhaps make some phone calls soon.

If I had to describe my internal perspective at the moment, I think it would be closest to having a birthday come and go. Birthdays are important social and psychological events to us, but every time one passes, we remember that really, it’s just a day like any other and that we feel like the same person after as we did before. The only changes were material (perhaps in presents or access to a driver’s license at 16 or alcohol at 21) and the larger personal changes that we think of when we age come much more slowly and subtly. I imagined that I would be a different person here because I had such a hard time imagining my life here, but now that I am living it I understand that it’s just a change of scenery and that the bigger changes happen more slowly. The material differences, like showers, carpets, A/C, washing and drying machines, cars, and grocery stores fade into the background relatively quickly. We adapt to our surroundings surprisingly quickly, and I suppose this is how it should be. I’m happy to report that I’m the same old Andrew, but I can tell that the more fundamental cultural, logistical, professional, social and language-related differences will challenge me and shape me into a more capable and better person. I’m excited to be here, and excited to start getting to know the school district, youth in the community, and my co-teachers in the coming weeks.

This is our back patio and my room is just to the right of the tree

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Debra Lawsing on September 5, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    This reminds me so much of when I went to Guatemala. I can remember waiting for my host family to pick me up and thinking “Why did I think this was such a good idea?” The background noise, the water situation, etc. It doesn’t take long to feel guilty for what we have back here in America? Did I ever give you that lecture in Spanish class? I’ll be in Panama in November but not in the same kind of situation. Reading your posts makes me anxious to get there. I’m sure I’ll struggle with the accent also. That’s always a challenge. I’m glad you’re off to a great start!

    Reply

  2. Posted by Cindy Salo on September 5, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    Andrew,

    Thanks for your lovely description of your new (and exciting!) situation. Your open heart, good eye for detail, and wonderful writing style make your blog a joy to read. I’m looking forward to two years of living vicariously in Nicaragua through you.

    Cindy

    Reply

  3. Posted by Janet Boddy on September 5, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Dearest Andrew,
    I’m so very happy you are with such a welcoming family. Your situation sounds comfortable enough to focus on the happy, interesting “new.” Alicia sounds enchanting and Payo, too, in a younger-brother way which is very familiar for you. Will you have much opportunity to spend time with Omar and Consuelo? What are their work hours like? What a busy family! Please send my greetings and my gratefulness for their welcome of you. You are always in my heart.
    Love, Mom

    Reply

  4. Posted by Courtney on September 11, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Hey Andrew!
    I love reading all of your posts. I am spending a chilly, but beautiful fall day in the coffee shop, with a cup of tea, while simultaneously meeting your family, and experiencing the weather and surroundings of Niquinohomo! It is good to hear that you are doing well, and that you have a wonderful host family. I love Alicia already!!! How cute! 🙂

    Reply

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