First Month In

4 Jan

As many of you may know, this day marks my 1st month in-country! My past 3 weeks have been filled with two different homestays and another homestay that was connected with a week of language school. I’m going to talk a little bit about my homestays. The first homestay was in my barrio, Ciudad Sandino and the second was in a more rural setting called Arenal.

Although homestays were something I had experienced before having been in Nicaragua, they were something I was nervous about before I left for Nica. I stressed about doing them solo, missing cultural cues, and of course, wished I had studied better in my Spanish classes. And maybe it’s because I has so many anxieties about the upcoming stays in the U.S., that when it actually became time for me to leave my house in Ciudad Sandino for one, I was excited. I suppose it was because I had stressed all I could and had finally come to terms with the fact that I might make mistakes, certainly in terms of my Spanish, but also in other ways…and it was okay. I thought about how I couldn’t get any better at Spanish unless I practiced and that my families would understand I did not know everything about the culture. But mostly, I thought about how I had never before regretted stepping outside my comfort zone.

So, I headed to my first homestay in Ciudad Sandino which was about a 20 minute walk from my house. Immediately, I was welcomed by two smiling faces—Alondra and Diego, my newest younger siblings. A little after just having entered the house and meeting my mom, Doña Nubia, I was already receiving hugs from Alondra and instantly made any leftover anxieties dissipate—this would be a great time with this family. And it was. I spent 3 nights and almost 4 days with this family and quickly found that relationships could be built, despite my broken Spanish, through authentic listening, compassion, and a desire to learn. I was able to communicate…I learned about their lives and shared with them about mine. We went to the market, Mayor’s office, and park. All this time was spent learning and engaging in a culture different, and yet also similar to mine. We even went to the Circus, quite a treat for Alondra and Diego, and something that I expressed great gratitude for including me…despite the fact that I would be okay not experiencing the circus again 🙂 Their kindness and generosity was definitely a lesson in trust and in understanding a piece of the Nicaraguan culture. I wished that I could spend more time with them, but am very excited that I can frequently visit and develop a stronger relationship with them over the next two years—they even invited me over for Christmas!

My homestay in the rural community of Arenal was a very similar experience. I had been to Arenal just the Sunday before my homestay for a fair put on annually by the community and was eager to spend more time there, especially after such a great homestay in my barrio. Arenal is about 2.5 hours away by multiple buses from Ciudad Sandino, but I did not mind it much at all, especially as it gave me and the other first years a chance to do some independent travelling.

Arenal and the surrounding sub-set towns are vibrant communities, brought together after the revolution, looking to further the revolution’s ideals and goals. They are agrarian societies and work to make themselves self-sustaining, organic, and in solidarity with one another. It has many projects that work to protect its culture and resources, like dance groups, literacy program, pharmacy, banking/microfinance program for women, and a cooperative for farming.

My time was spent with a wonderful family which included Maribel, Emillio, Emily, and Terresita. Maribel is a wonderful woman, who cares for her two great girls and community. She has her degree in the sciences and has worked as a nurse in hospitals in Managua, but currently works at the Pharmacy at the community center in Arenal. I absolutely loved my time with this family and really look forward to being able to trek to Arenal to learn more about my family and the community.

Homestays were a truly wonderful experience and a really great way to learn about the Nicaraguan culture from Nicaraguans. It is so wonderful to feel that, even through my broken Spanish and newness in country, that I can and have already developed so many relationships. They were great ways to step outside my comfort zone, to walk humbly, and to share myself as well as learn. This week officially marks my last week before I start work at Pajarito and will give me time to settle once again into my house, which really feels like home now.

So, it’s been a truly blessed first month in country…one that makes me very eager to continue to build community.

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