Although it’s only the second day of classes, I already feel completely engulfed by school life. It’s hard to believe that it’s only been about 3 weeks since I left Nicaragua – it all seems like a dream…
The five weeks that I was lucky to have in Nicaragua have definitely been one of the most unforgettable and amazing times that I will ever get to experience. Because I lived with a homestay family in La Morazan and worked in Camilo Ortega, I felt that I was able to fully immerse myself in the Nicaraguan culture and daily life. I immediately saw the contrast in living situations between where I lived, which is one of the safest neighborhoods with solid, properly made homes, and where I worked, whose residents lived in small, shoddy houses with dirt floors. While we were at work, if I wanted to buy something at the pulperia or corner store a block away from the school, I needed to be accompanied by a resident, even if it was a child, so I wouldn’t be targeted for theft, but while we were home, I felt completely safe walking around. While Nicaragua is a very safe country with a low crime rate, it is also a very poor country and tourists are often targeted for pick-pocketing out of necessity. As more time had passed, the safer I had felt in both my home and work communities because I fell in love with the people, who appeared stoic but after showing a little bit of kindness, whether it’s a smile or saying “Buenas,” they immediately opened up and returned that kindness ten-fold. While they may not have many material possessions, they possess a great deal of respect for themselves and for others, and self-dignity, qualities that I extremely admired. We worked at the school Monday through Thursday and were given the opportunity to travel during the weekends which allowed us to visit the other large cities, like Leon and Granada, and experience the natural beauty and landscape of Nicaragua whether it was by hiking up active volcanoes or soaking up the sun in a surf town. I could go on and on about my time there but overall, it didn’t feel like I was a foreigner but someone who was living and working along side the community, and it was really difficult to have to say good-bye.
Being able to work alongside such selfless individuals who are dedicating their lives for the improvement of lives and the well-being of the residents was such a privilege and extremely rewarding. Our projects that we implemented will continue to expand, and Corey Blant, the volunteer coordinator who was our go-to person, has already begun planning to expand the after-school program so that it’s no longer just one day a week but four days a week with an English class, computer class, games and activities similar to the original Kid’s Club, and a Vivero club. Within 10 days, another group of 5th and 6th graders will be selected and taught the same computer lessons that Randall and I had done with the first group. Although we weren’t able to complete the retaining wall, William and Fran, who are in charge of any type of construction and with whom we worked closely with on the wall, painting, and planting, will continue to see through the project to completion. In addition, we will continued to be updated on the progress of the projects and the future purchases of the remaining budget ($3000 goes a long way in Nicaragua). It is such a satisfying and reassuring feeling to know that the work we all did over the last five weeks will continue to have a lasting impact in the community and that we were able to provide tools and resources that will help improve their lives.
As I said my goodbyes to my wonderful homestay family, the students who would scream my name and hug me, William and Fran, the neighbors that I got to know through late-night conversations on the stoop, and everyone else that made my experience unforgettable, they all asked, “¿Cuándo volverás?” to which I replied, “No sé pero espero que pueda volver muy pronto.” Although it’s rather unlikely that I’ll have the time or money to return within a year or so, I definitely plan on returning so I can see how much my students have grown and how much the community has changed, eat the amazing food cooked by Don Eugenio, and dance with my Nicaraguan mother and sister.