Thursday, September 1, 2011

Managua Retreat - Uno

I have arrived! I am officially on Nicaraguan soil. We checked out of our hotel and left for the airport at 3am, flew out of Reagan to Miami at 7am and left for Nicaragua at 11:00am.  Almost everyone was zombies but I feel asleep almost right after the orientation (don’t even remember my head hitting the pillow!) and was pretty unconscious during the flight to Miami.
It’s a pretty surreal experience to run through airports and take flights with a large group of people you’ve just meant. But what a great group!  Everyone really helped each other and my luggage was overweight so some other volunteers let me put some of my things in their bags (shoes are heavy!).  We had our own dedicated check-in line at American Airlines counter- imagine getting 35 people through check-in and security!
We arrived in Managua, Nicaragua at 1:30pm EST (11:30 local); the scenery from the plane was incredible! This place is very aptly named “the land of lakes and volcanoes”. We all went through customs and immigration and we greeted at the door by PC volunteers and staff with big welcome signs… and huge bottles of water.
It was HOT. I don’t think I’ve stopped sweating since I got here. (one of the current PCVs says she takes bucket showers three times a day). While  we were all standing outside the airport waiting for the bus,  I talked to a very nice woman who answered a lot of my questions. I found out at the end of the conversation that she is the Country Director for Nicaragua. So she was the perfect person to answer, as she’s everyone’s boss!
A big yellow school bus arrived to transport us (doin’ it Peace Corps style) to the training facility. It’s a large, fenced off (we’re talking concrete and barbed wire) compound with armed security guards. (Managua has become increasingly dangerous over the years and volunteers are not currently placed in the city. ) The compound is pretty nice, tile floors and palm trees, but there are bars and gates on the windows and doors even on inside buildings.
We went straight to a seating area with a straw thatch hut roof but no walls (like on a tropical island) and ate a simple lunch of baked chicken and plain rice. Nothing was seasoned except with a little salt- Nicaraguans don’t use much seasoning and spices.  We get three meals a day, each one has plain rice and usually a corn tortilla. The food here is simple but good, though the portion sizes are kind of small… or maybe that’s my American portion distortion (can we say weight loss?).

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