by Sarah Jurgensmeyer
Since my arrival in Nicaragua a couple of weeks ago, my experience has been a whirlwind of Spanish-speaking children, gallo pinto, and various English classes. While I spent my spring break volunteering here with Manna, my second trip to Nica has been completely different and much more eye-opening. As summer interns, we have been given greater responsibilities and been trusted with more independence. A succinct description of my time here: I never want to leave.
Despite being in a country where I’m not well-versed in the native language, the people of Nicaragua and Manna have made me feel like I can take on the new challenges that each day presents. The PDs have been incredibly patient with us when we inevitably have (lots of) questions for them about each of our projects, and they’ve been teaching us in a sustainable manner that sometimes takes up more of their time, but ensures that we learn how to do the tasks more independently in the future. With their guidance, I’ve gained the skills and confidence necessary to take vital signs in the clinic (thanks for letting me practice taking your blood pressures over and over), instruct my own bubble-painting Camp JAM, and help teach an English level 3 class about the future simple tense.
The people of Cedro Galán have also been amazingly welcoming, despite my apparent lack of Spanish-speaking abilities. I accepted right away that I had the worst Spanish in our group (I won’t deny it) yet in the community I have found many “teachers” who are quick to offer me patient assistance with learning their language. While I continuously make many laughable mistakes, such as accidentally telling Lorena that I had one apple left in Nicaragua instead of one week, they correct me with a smile on their face as they repeat the proper pronunciation of the word I’m struggling to say. Through their help, reading many English-Spanish dictionaries, and the assistance of my fellow summer interns my Spanish is improving slowly but surely.
My favorite memories have come from these relationships forged with the members of the communities in which we work. I have done two home-stays so far, and it’s an amazing opportunity to be invited into someone’s home to share their life for the night. They have such open hearts and it’s unreal how people I have known for only a couple of weeks can make me feel so comfortable by being so welcoming; never in the States have I been received this way. Getting to exchange stories and life experiences with my new friends is eye-opening and creates relationships that I think I will be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
These past few weeks have presented me with challenges and occasions to step out of my comfort zone, which I have done my best to embrace. I can’t believe my time in Nica is almost up, and the thought of leaving this country and its people (as well as all of my friends in Manna) is so disheartening that I don’t think anyone should be surprised if I “accidentally” miss my flight. I know that I still have so much to learn from this place and these people; I hope (and plan) to return.