Now that I’ve been in Nicaragua for over a week I’m beginning to get comfortable. The heat doesn’t bother me as much and I’m amazed at how far my Spanish has come since I got here. Even in just this first week I’ve been presented with numerous opportunities to step outside of my comfort zone and do things that I’ve never done before. I learned how to take someone’s blood pressure, navigate online medical charts, and converse with people in the community. (Side note: I’m sure my mom is shocked reading this. After I passed out in 7th grade biology, we never thought I’d do anything even remotely medical. Now here I am working in a clinic in Nicaragua. Who knew?)
The greatest opportunity I’ve had here has been getting to know the people in the community. I still have many names to learn and people to meet, but the Nicaraguans I have met so far have been beyond friendly and kind. English class is the time I learn the most about them. The classes are run by Manna Project and are open to anyone who wants to learn. As a result, the class is a mix of ages and backgrounds. English is a skill that will help them get hired, find a better job, and improve their economic status. It is truly amazing to see how hard they work and to have conversations with them entirely in English. As a native English speaker, I’ve often taken for granted just how useful a skill speaking English can be. For the people in our community, it can change their lives. It’s really amazing to be able to give back with something that’s so natural to me.
This past weekend we had the chance to go to Granada, an old colonial city about an hour from Managua. Managua is the capital of Nicaragua, but many of its historical sites were severely damaged in the devastating 1972 earthquake. Because of this, Granada and León are the cultural capitals of the country with many more intact historical landmarks.
Granada is a city unlike any I’ve ever seen. A maze of squat, red roofed buildings, the tallest structures are the churches built in the 15 and 1600s. On the street you’re as much at risk of being run over by someone on a motor bike as a horse drawn carriage. When it was nearing sunset, we climbed the dizzying spiral staircase of Iglesia La Merced to see the view from the top of the bell tower. Granada stretched out below us, with Volcán Mombacho looming in the distance.
On Sunday we went to Laguna de Apoyo, a picturesque lagoon resting in the volcanic crater left by the extinct Volcán Apoyo. The lagoon has several species of fish found nowhere else in the world, and with a depth of 200 meters, is the lowest point in Central America. It was a beautiful way to escape the heat for a few hours and a perfect end to our week.