My First Few Days in León

So I arrived in León on Sunday, and will be living here for the next two years. León is hot (highs the last few days have been 95+), so the very first thing I did was buy a fan.

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After satisfying my basic human needs I was able to explore the city a little bit. If any of you visit me in León for a second you may think to yourself, “I could be in Europe right now.” The churches, the colonial houses – they all have the slightest European feel. Then some lady yelling about tortillas with a basket on her head will snap you out of it.

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Unfortunately, early Sunday morning, the very morning that I moved to León, there was a big fire (apparently electrical) at a popular bar/restaurant in the city called Bar Baro. Bar Baro, along with some adjoining businesses were all destroyed. I actually went to Bar Baro three weeks ago when I was in León. The other Volunteers here invited me and had my “baby shower” there. It’s a real shame what happened, and I hope it isn’t a harbinger for my service here.

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Bar BaQ

And, no surprise, I had to change my host family here. Although the family I stayed with when I visited three weeks ago was very nice, the rent was too expensive and they had an unreasonable 10 pm curfew, seven nights a week. Luckily there was another family in town that was interested in hosting Peace Corps Volunteers, so here I am. They have WiFi, no curfew, and are very laid back. So far I like it here very much, and I prepare my own meals, which is what I wanted the most out of my living situation. I’m also in the lead of Nica 63 for the most host families. Since I had to change families during training I’m up to four families now in less than three months. I think that Tim and Scott have also had to make a change, but only once each, so they are both on to three, while everyone else is on two – their training family and their family in site.

There are six other people in my house, plus me. Doña Evelyn, my host mother, her son, Juan Pablo, his wife, Raquel, and their daughter, Evelyn, who is about three or four. There is also a Spanish girl staying in another room – she also does development work like me, and her Nicaraguan boyfriend, Silvio. That makes six, plus Beyota (sp?) the dog, and a cat or two. The cats and I have a compromise – I pretend they don’t exist and they pretend I don’t exist. So far they are holding up their end of the bargain, and they are also great at pest control.

Beyota is the world’s dumbest, fattest dog. I know that a lot of people boast having the world’s fattest, dumbest dog, but really, Beyota is it. You can’t run on a tile floor Beyota! Stop trying! She is literally right now chasing a fly around the house barking uncontrollably. I’ve seen dogs chase flies before, but not as miserably as Beyota does it.

Evelyn, the little girl in the house, is also interesting. She doesn’t speak English or Spanish. She speaks what I think is a new language called giggle-squeal-cry-a-lot. I have literally never heard her say anything cogent in Spanish, although she goes to pre-school and her parents seem to have no trouble communicating with her. I’ll get some pictures of Evelyn and Beyota up in the near future, since there is nothing cuter on a blog than pictures of dogs and toddlers.

So what am I actually doing in León?

This week I wanted to meet all of the teachers and students I am going to be working with, but that is proving difficult. Friday is Mothers’ Day here, which is a huge deal. It literally rivals Christmas. School is closed on Friday, and on Thursday all they do in school is put on a play for all of the mothers of the students. So there are no classes Thursday or Friday. Add to that the need to practice for the play on Wednesday, some political marches that the kids have to partake in, and some extra time for the teachers to tabulate grades for report cards, and the majority of classes Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were cancelled this week. And yes, these are the same kids who didn’t have school for four weeks because of the earthquake threat level.

Other than my educational responsibilities, I have to get a feel for the economy here and identify ways I can pitch in, which is very challenging. I am basically cold-calling the contacts that I have and the contacts that I make at business organizations and NGO’s in the city. When I’m not on the phone, trying to get information or meet up with people, in Spanish, I’m walking around the city looking for businesses, financial institutions, and other organizations that are worth getting to know. It’s pretty hard, but everyone is very nice and happy to converse with me.

Next week should be good. One of the staff members for the Peace Corps Small Business Development program is visiting me on Monday, and then we have a regional security meeting on Tuesday where I will get to meet all of the other Volunteers that live in the Occidente (the departments of León and Chinandega). I will also get to see my friends Jessica, Blair, and Nick, the other Nica 63 folk that are in the Occidente with me.

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