During Holy Week or Semana Santa in Spanish, Christian cultures like the one in Nicaragua commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus. Since pretty much the entire country is religious, Holy Week is a nationally recognized holiday! It’s hard for me not to overwork myself but aside from one small conquest to see a famous man in my department, I mostly read.
My small vacation consisted of me visiting The Natural Reserve Tisey Estanzuela and meeting Alberto Gutierrez, also known as the Stone Man, in his beautiful home deep in the Tisey Estanzuela Natural Reserve. He is 76 years young and has been carving stones on his land for over 40 years. He lives on rural land and it’s a bit of a hike but meeting him is half the fun. Not only does he show you his humble home but he makes you sign his book. Only about 1,000 people have met him. He loves taking pictures and showing what historical moments he’s commemorated in stone. Among the birth of Jesus Christ, 9/11 and many cities in Nicaragua. The view was spectacular. You could tell just how much Alberto loved his piece of Nicaragua and the stories it told. His attention to detail was apparent in the fruits, flowers and animals he pointed out at different times during the tour. Despite all the stones he already has, he continues to find mew places to carve drawings and inviting all who will listen to hear his stories.
I’m one year in this thing! Three hundred sixty-five days in Nicaragua and it feels great!
I figured I’d share some insight on how to integrate (since I’ve clearly been doing it, and doing it and sometimes doing it well).
How to Integrate
NUMERO 1. Talk to everyone and I do mean everyone. Your host family, the street dog. The drunk men on the corner (you can always say adios.) Your fellow PCVS, your counterparts, your host niece. EVERYONE. If not to improve your language, then to learn yourself something.
2. Play with children. Children are God’s way of laughing at and with us. Sometimes it will be awkward and other times your spirit animal will roar.
3. See the world from another person’s perspective. Self. Explanatory.
4. Consider the merit of different values. Again. Self-explanatory. This is your time to think outside your own self-constructed box. Question your values and where they came from.
5.Listen. I have heard birds I never knew exists, music I love and can sing along to without knowing the artist. I have heard roosters, buenas, bachata, babies crying and hissing to tell me how beautiful I am.
6. Try. Don’t say you can’t before you even try. Effort can take you a long way.
7. Ask. How can I help the community? How can I meet more people? Will you introduce me to your friends? I’d like to go to the next birthday party?
8. Say yes. When someone ask’s for help, say yes. When someone invites you to a party, say yes. When someone’s asks do you want to learn how to milk a cow, say yes. Keep on saying yes.
9. Teach. Teach your culture, your language and ways and others will readily share theirs.
10. Never assume. There’s always some part that we don’t understand, whether it be the language, the culture, or the people.
Incorporate these tips into your daily lifestyle and no matter where you are, you’ll integrate! Go forth dear reader and be great. Get to know your neighbors and try one of these tips a day. Just one, I’m not asking for much.
This has been a long time coming. I came up with the idea to record a podcast interviewing Nicaraguans who spoke English, talking about my experiences and sharing a few Nicaisms when I first came into Peace Corps. I was a newbie, excited about everything and over-enthusiastic. I made a few episodes, but not many and now in my final year of service, I don’t have much time to make many more. Still, I want the few I made to be heard. Give it a listen! 🙂 Here is the first episode of Nica Taught Me podcast. Hope you like it!
I remember, before turning in my Peace Corps application, the hours I spent googling, “why should I do the Peace Corps” or “reasons to do the Peace Corps.” I have to say, in the time I applied and have been a year in Nicaragua, the search results haven’t changed that much. Even googling the most positive words, the majority of the words were reasons to NOT join the Peace Corps. As usual, I felt the need to rectify that. I asked my fellow volunteers, “what reasons would you cite to tell someone to join the Peace Corps?” I summed it up to this nice list.
Continue reading 10 Reasons You Should Do the Peace Corps
Sector: Small Business Development 65
Educational background: Bachelors in Economics and Sociology/ Global Studies and Social Justice and a Minor in General Psychology (I know it’s a mouth full) from Bridgewater State University
Hometown: Born and raised in Newtown, CT
Fun fact: Although the chisme (gossip) about this has already circulated around some of the PCV community, I have a tattoo of E=MC2 on my inner lip. I got it when I was 17, I was a big Einstein fan at the time.
It’s been awhile since I posted a PCV interview. I have been wanting to do more, however, PCVs are busier than you’d imagine. Nonetheless, I’ll post them as they come. Liz Tarshis is one of the few volunteers, I assumed was in the health sector when I first met her. It’s hard for me to remember she’s a small business volunteer. She reminds me of a European goddess, tall, and ethereal features and I like how poised she is, no matter the situation. We call her Tarsh because there are three volunteers named Liz in our group. So get into Tarsh!
Continue reading PCV Liz Tarshis
Saturday, February 6, 2016. Day 340 (OMG OMG so close to one year!) I signed up for a 25K hosted by Fuego Y Agua! They offer 25 K, 50 K, 100 K and a survival run. They also aren’t exclusively in Nicaragua. Always open to travel and experience new things, I decided to sign up and kill 2 birds with one stone. Up until this point, I had never been to Ometepe and had never participated in a marathon. It has always been on my bucket list. I traveled 8 hours and an hour boat ride (including sea sickness) to the island of Ometepe. The race was on Playa Santo Domingo on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua. Although advertised as a 25 K race, they later informed us it was actually 33 K race. Up until the race, I had no formal training. I used the walk to one of my rural schools as a gauge. My school is 8K one way and I was able to do the 16 K walking in 2 hours. So I felt a 25 K would be a challenge but doable. The day before the race, receiving the information about the additional 13 K was a big scary but there was nothing I could do. On the day of the race, I started with two other volunteers with me. One volunteer and I had agreed to walk the entire thing. The other volunteer said she would run a bit. We lined up under the Gatorade advertised start/finish line and raised our right hand as dictated by the announcer then repeated something I can’t remember that ended with, “and if I get lost, it’s my own damn fault.”
Continue reading Fuego Y Agua
325 days in, almost one year since I’ve been in Nicaragua! Today everything broke, I do mean everything. My computer froze, then turned off and then basically gave me the cold shoulder. It was permanently on a black screen. It tried to start up repair and after doing that 12 times, I knew it was at the end of the rope. My basic Nicaraguan phone looked like a bomb that might detonate at any time. The battery swelled so much, I couldn’t even put the back of my phone on. It sucks that everything is seemingly falling apart but I must believe it’s for a reason. We are at an all included resort, one of the very few in Nicaragua. It had food and drinks, even alcoholic beverages with the right color band. Sports, pool, beach, and hot water in the showers, what could be missing? Wifi. Nope, that’s not included in the ridiculously high bill. For four days, I was stuck, unable to do work without a phone, computer or internet.
All the training was in Spanish. My brain feels as if all the life has been sucked out trying to understand it all. But I can say that it gets better as the days go on. The place was beautiful and the ocean sounds were entirely relaxing. I don’t mind any time near a beach. Another in-service training job well done.
I closed 2015 out with a bang! I decided, after a very uneventful Christmas in my site, that I would celebrate New Years Eve the way I wanted. Despite all my friends being in the States for the holidays, I traveled to visit a fellow volunteer in Jinotega. My fellow volunteer has her parents visiting and they were so lovely to rent a room for me! We stayed in an amazing new hotel. It was a deceased former Vice President’s home. It had several old relics and was stunningly fancy. THERE WERE LIVE PEACOCKS IN THE BACK TERRACE! The all white one was so beautiful. I had hot water and wifi, I could not have been more blessed. We climbed to the famous cross. It was beautiful BUT crazy intense. 920 stairs later, I enjoyed an amazing view. Jinotega was FREEZING, no exaggeration I thought I was coming down with a cold. I was not prepared. Afterwards, not wanting to intrude and desperately in need of heat, I traveled to Leon. It is definitely one of the hotter departments of Nicaragua and it has a beach. I have always wanted to bring in my new years on a beach, so this year I did. Despite MAJOR setbacks, I found my way on an exclusive beach in a lodge in Leon with about 15 other travelers. Nicaraguans have a tradition to make a fake man and fill the cushion stuff with fireworks signifiying the burning of 2015. That was really cool on the beach. I said bye 2015 with style and brought in the New Year with the peaceful serenity of the sound of waves. I am most thankful for such an opportunity to see Nicaragua and experience new places. Last year, this time, I was working two jobs and desperately counting down to being a peace Corps volunteer. Now I am here and quickly coming up on my one-year mark! I hope you brought in the New Years well followers and most importantly remember to be thankful! Tomorrow isn’t promised today.
I have been locked out of my account for about a month. Having set my posts to auto-post, I was not concerned. I went to the States, enjoyed my family. Then I found myself loving the break and focused on my vacation when I came back to Nicaragua. But, now I’m back, back with an attitude and you can look forward to seeing more posts from me in 2016! Sorry for the way, Happy Holidays and thanks for reading.
Today, I’m traveling home. I have been counting down the days for this! There are only two things I miss about the states: my family and food. While I will be home I plan to eat everything in my sight! I am going to be doing happy food dance. Do you hear me? Something like this:
As a matter of fact, I have compiled a list of the things I miss and plan to inhale.
Continue reading Why Food Equals Traveling Home