Yesterday we found out our permanent sites in Nicaragua where we will be serving for two years. Before I reveal it for my three or four loyal readers, I’ll paint a picture of what this is like:
Imagine that you are a young Nicaraguan and you decide to join the “Cuerpo de Paz.” The Nicaraguan government decides that you will volunteer in the United States of America for two year, so you get on a plane and head to the US. But before you can be a Volunteer you have to go through training for three months and live with an American host family. Your training town is Cortlandt, NY. Of the 17 Nicaraguans you flew to the United States with, you are divided into small language groups to live in different parts of Cortlandt for the three months of your training. Some Trainees are living with families in Cortlandt Manor, some in Buchanan, some in Verplank, and a few in Croton too.
You write home to your family in Nicaragua:
“The food here is terrible. They eat a vegetable with every meal! Sometimes they aren’t even cooked, they are just raw. And they barely eat rice. I think I might starve to death here.”
“Our Training Director keeps yelling at us for being late. I don’t see what the big deal is. I’m usually there within 30 minutes of when they say things are going to start.”
“No one has kids here until they are like 30 years old!”
“They keep taking me ‘hiking.’ I don’t understand why they would want to walk through the woods for hours on end.”
“They only drink water, juice, and milk. They never add sugar to their drinks and rarely drink soda. How am I going to ever get enough sugar here!?”
“The water in the shower is hot. I keep burning myself.”
“The cheese here sucks.”
“They make their coffee with roasted beans. And they don’t put in much milk or sugar. It isn’t very good.”
“All of the kids in the high school are so weird. They wear whatever they want to school and they usually listen to their teachers during class.”
“Everyone stops at stop signs and wears seat belts. Americans are so weird. I wish I could just eat fried rice and beans every meal like I do at home.”
“I tried to walk across the highway and the police yelled at me. I don’t know why.”
“No one gets drunk on Easter.”
“It is so cold here. It was 65 degrees last night and I thought I was going to die. I nearly packed all my bags to come home. In the morning at breakfast when I told them that I was cold they just laughed at me and told me I should just wait for February. I’m so scared.”
Two months into training all of the Trainees gather to hear what their sites are going to be. They’ve heard all about the different cities in the United States and they all have preferences for their site. At the big reveal some of the Volunteers are elated to here they are going to big cities like Boston, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago. But other Volunteers are just left scratching their head. Where the hell is Flint, Michigan? How do I pronounce Schenectady, NY? I though Gary was a common American name, not a city in Indiana.
And that’s what it was like for us yesterday. Some people opened their envelopes and got Muy Muy, Matagalpa or Nueva Guinea, RAAS (small towns, middle of nowhere). I got…
I got León, León, which is the second largest city in the country behind the capital, Managua. León actually used to be the capital, and it is a cultural center and the traditional seat of the liberals in the country. For our hypothetical Nicaraguans serving abroad in America, León is equivalent to a big city like Boston, LA, or Philadelphia.
I’m very happy. I had hoped for a big city near the capital, and that’s exactly what I got. The only downside is that León is hot. Sweltering during the summer (we’re in high summer right now in Nicaragua).
My tasks as a Volunteer will be varied. I’ll be working with one school to implement an entrepreneurship class. I will also be following-up with four schools that have already worked with the Peace Corps. Other than that, León is open to me. There are tons of opportunities to work with businesses or people who want to start businesses since León is such a big city.
My friends and family will be glad to hear that León is a big tourist hub and very easy to get to after flying into Managua. There is also tons to do in the city and in its vicinity. I hope that a lot of people visit me. School is out in December and January here, so I think that would be the best time for people to head down if they are interested in seeing Nicaragua. Start looking for flights now.
I will be visiting León for a few days next week so I will make a post with my impressions. For now, I’m just glad that I didn’t get put in the Compton, NJ of Nicaragua!