Where to Begin?

>> Saturday, May 12, 2007

¡Hola! This is now my 11th day in Nicaragua—3 days at a hotel in Managua and 7 days at my training site with my host family. So far everything is great! Most importantly, my host family is wonderful. I have a host mom, Doña Petrona, and I also live with a host sister and brother-in-law (Marisol and Ramón) and a host nephew, Walter. Walter’s dad lives nearby and comes to visit often, as do my other host brother and sister-in-law William and Solsiria and their son, William (It helps a lot that there are two Williams and two Walters!). Walter is 13 and William is 5; I really like having them around because they’re really patient with me and are pretty amused with how much Spanish help I need. Also in the family are a couple of dogs, a cat, and a bird that loves to sing and call out the names of everyone in the family.

When the Peace Corps trainer told me who my family would be, she said that my mom is a really great cook and that I am very lucky—she was right! The food is really great. I get lots of vegetables, fresh juice with every meal, lots of good BBQ-type chicken, and even had spaghetti for dinner. I’m the eighth “aspirante,” or trainee, that has lived here, so Doña Petrona has this all down to a science and is always telling me that this or that aspirante taught her that in the US we like less oil in our food or showed her how to make garlic bread. Everyone’s also really concerned about taking good care of me. On Sunday my stomach hurt a little bit, and my family set up a hammock for me on the patio and made everyone be quite so I could rest. They’re all also really concerned about the bug bites I’ve managed to collect, and I’m not really sure how to say in Spanish “Don’t worry, there’s always something a little bit wrong with me like Poison Ivy or hives from something or other—I’ll be fine.” I guess I should look up that phrase in my dictionary.

I think my Spanish is slowly improving. I feel really bad for my family as they listen to me stumble through really easy sentences at a snail’s pace, but they’re very patient and tell me that I’m doing a really good job. We have Spanish classes for 6 hours every day, and they’re entirely in Spanish (the language facilitators don’t speak English). I have a long, LONG way to go with my Spanish, but every day I’m able to understand a little bit more of what people around me are saying, and I learn how to say more and more. In the afternoons we have Applied Spanish where we perform different tasks like introducing ourselves to the police, or asking the bus driver how much it costs to go to the next town over. It’s a little scary to meet new people and practice my Spanish, but it’s gotten a little easier to have those simple conversations even after just a few days.

I really like my town a lot. It’s very small—about 5 blocks east to west and 4 blocks from the north to the south. It’s very calm, very safe, and I like the people a lot. I like the change of scenery in that there are always dogs, pigs, cows, and goats roaming freely around town (though they always seem to remember exactly where they live) and kids that play soccer in the park every night. I can walk anywhere I need to go (obviously), and am still learning which little stores in people’s houses (called “pulperias”) sell what.

The heat isn’t as bad as I feared it might be. It is pretty hot, but it’s not as humid as it gets in the summers at home and there’s usually a really nice breeze. I spend a lot of time on the porch doing my homework or talking with my family and it’s coolest there. It’s only really hot between about noon and 3:00, and even that’s manageable in the shade or with a cold glass of pineapple juice in hand.

That’s really all I can think of for now, but I’m definitely happy, healthy, and settling in to my new home very well!


The weekend

The weekend is finally here and Holly is staying with me for a couple of days. She gets along really well with my family and I think that with both of us there it´s a lot easier to communicate. I´ve been kind of sick for a few days but I´m pretty sure I´m on the upswing. Yesterday my temperature was 38.5 degrees celcius but I have no idea what that is in Farenheit. I felt pretty bad but today my fever is gone and the PC medical office is taking really good care of me. It´s nice to finally have health care.

A couple of other trainees are visiting from surrounding pueblitos and I think we might get to eat some pizza :). Some nasty American food is just what I need right now to speed a full recovery. Seriously. I´m not sure exactly what made me sick, but I have my suspicions. I´ve been drinking purified water but sometimes my host mom gives me refrescos with ice that might not be purified. I went with my host brother to buy some cheese from someone´s house, but just through the grate at the front door. He slipped her 50 cords and she went into another room and came back with a bag of queso. I´m not usually one to point fingers but eating that cheese could have made me sick. I think eventually my stomach will get used to new foods and beverages but this first week has been kind of tough. On the other hand, Holly hasn´t had any problems adjusting to the food. She really seems to like Nicaraguan cuisine and it makes me a little jealous.

Once again I´m running out of time at the cyber so I should go.


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