Yesterday was a travel day topped off by a radical change of scenery. We left South Georgia at its hottest and driest. It is crazy hot, even at night. Last night we went to bed with the windows open, falling asleep to a light rain. The temperature just right for a ceiling fan and a single sheet. This morning is cool with everything fresh and damp with last night’s drizzle. Stepping outside was like stepping into a tropical dream.
We gathered at the outdoor dining area of the hotel for one of what would be a series of out-of-control meals. Eggs, tortillas, fresh passionfruit juice, homemade jelly, fresh cheese, and beans and rice. You heard me right – beans and rice. Rodney says that the typical diet in Nicaragua is not monotonous. For breakfast, you eat “beans and rice.” For lunch, you have “rice and beans.” And for dinner, you have “gallo pinto” – the Nicaraguan name for the national dish of, you guessed it, beans and rice. As disgusting as it sounds, these beans and rice are really tasty and stick to your ribs.
After breakfast, we gather in the conference room for a Spanish lesson taught by Arturo. Arturo is a bilingual Mexican-American with a degree in teaching English as a second language. He is one of several Peace Corps volunteers we will meet over the coming days. Arturo deftly explains several basic Spanish phrases with a Nicaraguan twist such as the languid “BOOO-WEEEEE-NAAAS” as the catch-all Good Morning-Good Day-Good Afternoon. A unforgetable discussion of Nicaraguan body language from pooched lips to hand signals followed.
Today was the highly anticipated travel day. The trip from Tifton to Warner Robbins to take the shuttle was easy to make. The airport was easily negotiated. We left from Terminal T which was full of flights to Latin America. We spent approximately 3 3/4 hours in the air and landed in Managua at 12:15 PM. Local time is two hours behind Eastern Time because Nicaragua is on Central Time and they do not observe Daylight Savings Time. They don’t have to, since Nicaragua lies so close to the equator that there is essentially no difference in the time of sunrise and sunset from season to season.
Rodney and Hector picked us up in a minibus. They piled our luggage on
top and we took off through the outskirts of Managua. We stopped at Pollo Frito
for fried chicken wings and jamaica. I guess Rodney is showing off his well
developed sense of humor that the first place we would stop would be a fried
chicken place! Jamaica is a delicious tea made of the dried blossoms of the
Jamaica bush which looks like hibiscus. Jamaica is hard to describe but it
tastes like a sugary and spicy Koolaid with a sort of fruity taste.
Less than 3 hours later, having driven through very lush agricultural areas next to the enormous Lake Managua, we arrive in Esteli. The countryside was lush, green and framed by two mountain ranges. We were in a valley of banana, rice, corn and pastures. Cows on the side of the road and horse-drawn carriages.
We were very pleasantly surprised by the hotel. It is set up like little community of villas with a large, al fresco area for socializing and dining. The hotel has a small conference room. We are set up with high speed internet access, Proxima projectors, computers and PowerPoint.
After being up since 3 AM, we made it an early night and went to sleep.
My destination this summer is Latin America. More specifically, Nicaragua. Suddenly, I am grasping at straws in order to revive my high school Spanish career. Por que reflects the often confusing interchangeability of Spanish words. When phrased as a question, it translates into “Why?”. When phrased as a statement, it means “because”. This has been my rebuttal when asked why on earth do I want to go to Nicaragua? Because (insert passionate argument here).
I have been excited about this trip ever since the check has cleared the bank. But, along the way, there have been many who have voiced their uninformed opinions about my trip. Try as they may, they are not going to stop me. Those who have recited their opinions have never been to this picturesque country. Let me express some of my frustrations now at your leisure.
Those who have disapproved have told me I was going to be a victim of cannibalism. If that wasn’t enough, I was told I was going to be eaten by snakes. Although, Mr. Spicer did tell Carl and I that there are pythons that are 15 feet long that can eat a cow or are so poisonous they can kill a cow. I’m fuzzy on the details. I don’t want to find out firsthand. Either one is a terrifying feat for a snake to achieve.
Please stop telling me that Nicaragua is unsafe. In fact, it is one of the safest countries in Latin America clocking in at a crime rate that is less than 1%. This is strange considering that it is one of the poorest countries in this area. If you are a sociology scholar, you would have figured that following by the usual algorithm: the higher the poverty rate, the higher the crime rate. This gives me a sense of comfort knowing that the country I’m going to is safer than the one I’m leaving. I know that sounds strange, but being in a foreign land is scary enough. However, I do realize that violence is everywhere and I do need to take precautions and use good sense.
So, why Nicaragua? Because, I want to experience something new! As my grandmother told me, I am going to go to a place that not many of my family or friends will get to see in their lifetime. I love to travel and have never crossed U.S. borders. Besides, who could argue with Mr. Spicer about going to such a lovely country? It was an offer I could not refuse.
Nearing my departure to Nicaragua, I am beginning to experience mixed emotions. At the start of June I was extremely thrilled about this impending trip. It was the primary topic of the majority of my conversations. I could not wait to experience a culture different from my own. I had painted this magnificent picture in my head depicting all the beauty and excitement that was awaiting me in Nicaragua and looking back now it seems I was purposefully overlooking the bigger picture. Now that the journey is growing near I am beginning to feel the apprehension and sorrow of experiencing a new culture for the first time without them. I am still very excited and ready to go but I also am feeling my mother’s worry rub off on me for the first time since I decided to go on this trip.
When I mention the trip to my family it is the direct opposite response of how I am feeling. My mother and grandmother are very worried that something is going to happen to me and I have had to resort to avoiding the topic with them all together just to maintain peace during our visits. My older brother and sister are very interested in this program and ask a lot of questions about what I expect. My fiancé is the one who is actually funding my trip and he has been the biggest supporter of me experiencing this. He feels that any opportunity to see the world outside of your own and any opportunity to venture away from your comfort zone is a must have experience that needs to be embraced if at all possible. I too believe this but lack the worldly encounters that he has had to back up my opinions.
This afternoon we met to plan the program. We were visited by Tracy Ingram, a reporter from the Tifton Gazette. She is going to write up a story which will be published next week. She was especially interested that Linda, a community member, is going and that we will be keeping up with this blog both now and while we are in Nicaragua so that we can share our experiences. We meet again for the final time before departure in 2 weeks.