Luisa walked me to my first language class; it was in the home of another volunteer’s host family. We had to walk up a BIG hill and I was breathing hard. It’s going to be good exercise every day. We met two of her grandsons on the way, they were very friendly. Most of Luisa’s six kids live on the same road as her, with their families.
Class is in a small front room of a house on the “main street”. There are four rocking chairs and walls painted bright pink. We use a small, portable white board and the door stays open to the street, which is great for air circulation but hard on our concentration. Children and dogs wander by, one dog was so skinny every bone in his body was showing, which was very hard for me to see. It started to rain, as it does every day, or so I heard. I sat in the rocking chair, learning Spanish and listening to the quiet rain… it was a great first day.
Our language facilitator, Maria, admittedly speaks almost no English which makes class harder but I think will be better for us in the long run.
We visited the pulperia (tiny corner store); the town is too small for a supermarket, to practice some our Spanish. During training, we get 35 cordobas a day, which is about $1.50; not quite enough for shopping sprees. But then the snacks in the pulperia cost on average 20 cents, so I’ll survive. After we pass training, I think we get 4500 cordobas a month, out of which we have to pay rent for a room with a family (that includes meals and clothes washing).
Luisa was waiting for me after class (Maria talked to her privately about there being no lock on my bedroom door, which is required by PC policy. I was really nervous Luisa would be upset but everything seemed ok). Allison walked back with us, she lived farther up the same dirt road my house is on. She saw my house and then we went to her house and sat outside eating fresh mangos. It’s nice to have someone nearby who speaks English, even if we don’t really know each other.
Luisa was going to show me how to make mango juice but my stomach was still upset, so she gave me some bread instead. She invited me to the home of her pastor for a cumpleanos (birthday) celebration of a member of her church. Walking there at night was a little hard at first, as there’s not light outside so it was pitch black. Luisa assured me there were no snakes but I didn’t know how to ask about other wild animals. Her nuera (daughter-in-law) and grandson, Carlos Miguel, went with us. Everyone sat in a long room with pink walls, in plastic chairs on either side. Evangelistas don’t dance or drink alcohol, so it was kind of quiet and they didn’t really stand up and mingle. We were served little plates with a corn tortilla, chicken leg, and ensalada, which we put in our laps and ate with our hands. (I love eating with my hands! I think I fit right in..)
Later we were given a small plate of rice with chicken and what I think was pork. I stared at the plate for a long time, not wanting to offend anyone before my host mother told me to just pick out the pork. Not ideal but… I only ate half the rice and wasn’t sure what they did with leftovers. Luisa took my plate, poured my rice on top of hers and covered it with my plate, taking it home to her daughter later. Very practical and just another reminded of how much food we waste in the US.
After we got home, Luisa helped me put up my mosquito net, which was quite an ordeal. Sitting inside it, I felt like I was in a large green bag. However, it’s necessary to keep the mosquitoes off at night, as well as other creepy-crawlies. The house is constructed in a way that allows the outdoor elements inside easily; the walls don’t meet the ceiling/roof which is corrugated metal that sits on top of a wood frame that then rest on top of the concrete walls. So there’s about a six-inch gap between the walls and the ceiling. This is the same for the exterior and interior walls, so you a light in one room goes into another and you can hear every sound in the house. All in all, it’s a typical Nica house, nicer than most.
At night, tiny iguanas crawl scurry across the wall, they’re called escorpios (yeah that scared me at first). There are also other large bugs, none of which I know the names.
After taking a shower (which is a whole other element of Peace Corps fun I’ll discuss later), I settled into bed for my first night here. As I lay under my big green net and listened to the loud symphony of crickets, I had a mild panic attack. I felt alone and scared and wandered what the hell I was doing way out here. I told myself other volunteers felt the same way, PC will take care of me, Luisa understands and I’ll be fine. I went to sleep and woke up to the sun and fresh air and I was ok.
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