I know that people have a lot of questions about Peace Corps and Peace Corps life, so hopefully I cover the majority of your questions here.
How long will I be here?
All Volunteers have three months of training and two years of service. That’s 27 months in total, which puts my close-of-service date in late May, 2016.
What exactly do you do in Nicaragua?
I am a Small Business Development Volunteer. One of my main jobs is to co-plan and co-teach entrepreneurship classes in Nicaraguan high schools in my site. I also give teacher trainings and work with small business owners and entrepreneurs to help them develop companies.
Do I live in a mud hut?
Not at all. I live in a nice colonial house with a host family. I have four solid walls in my room, and there is a courtyard in the center of the house. My family grows herbs in a small garden in the courtyard.
Do I live with other Volunteers?
No, we are not allowed to. We live separately with host families for the whole 27 months so that we can integrate into communities as much as possible. However, the closest Volunteer is about a 30 second walk down the road.
How many Volunteers are there in Nicaragua?
Last I heard, 155, and we just got a batch of approximately 40 new Trainees last week.
What is your site in Nicaragua, Eric?
And how many other Volunteers are there in León?
There are four other Volunteers in León. That makes five of us, which is the most for any site in Nicaragua:
- Chelsea, Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Volunteer
- Isabel, Health Volunteer
- Joanna, Health Volunteer
- Jen, TEFL Volunteer
There are also a few other former Peace Corps Volunteers bouncing around León, as well as a bunch of other Volunteers in the other towns and villages of the department of León.
Do you have water? Electricity? Internet?
All of the above. The water goes out most days though.
What about a bathroom with a sink, toilet, and shower?
I actually have all of the above. I share a bathroom with the bedroom next to mine, but it is currently unoccupied, so I have my own private bathroom, complete with a sink, toilet, and shower. No latrine for me. However, the water goes out a lot and there is no heated water, so I have a bucket in my shower. It’s an ice bucket shower most mornings for me.
What is the climate like in Nicaragua?
Nicaragua has a tropical climate. Usually hot, unless you are in the northern mountains, and rainy during half of the year.
What about in León?
Even hotter. We are in the 90’s+ most days, and right now it isn’t raining much because of a drought.
Do you speak Spanish?
Yup. All Volunteers are required to be proficient in Spanish to serve. All of my work is done in Spanish, including teaching, co-planning with business teachers, and advising small business owners and entrepreneurs. The only Volunteers that don’t speak Spanish regularly are those that are out on the East Coast where Criole and English are the dominant languages, but even there they still visit Spanish-speaking communities.
Do you have a boss?
Technically, no. US Peace Corps Volunteers, as volunteers, are not employees of the US government. However, Peace Corps Nicaragua does have a staff that makes rules for Volunteers and assigns us to projects and supports us throughout our service. They in turn work for the Peace Corps agency headquarters in DC, whose Director reports directly to the President (no, the Peace Corps is not an agency of the Department of State). So ultimately, I work for Barry O’man, as directed by Congress. NBD.
What happens if you get sick?
The Peace Corps has full time doctors that work out of the office in Managua. If I get sick I can call them 24/7 and make appointments to visit them at the office in Managua. I would just have to take the bus into Managua.
Do Peace Corps Volunteers get vacation days?
Yes, we accrue two days a month. Plus we are allowed three days a month to travel out of our sites. Usually we use these to travel on weekends. The vacation days, on the other hand, are for longer periods of time, like during school breaks.
Can you come back to the United States mid-service?
Sure. We just have to use those vacation days.
Do you get paid?
As a Volunteer I do not receive a salary. However, I do get a monthly living allowance which allows me to pay rent and buy food. My monthly living allowance is roughly equal to my old hourly bill rate at EY, to put things in perspective. I will also receive a readjustment allowance when I get back to the United States. It is meant to help with things like a security deposit or a few months of groceries.
Do you ride a horse?
If you have any other questions let me know in a comment and I will be sure to respond!