Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Dry Run: Nicaragua Part I

That's right, I'm fortunate enough to get to pretend to be in the Peace Corps before I'm actually in the Peace Corps.  This thanks mostly to the grace of Boss Tony.  And a cheap plane ticket.

Lesson one: Gather important information prior to leaving country.
Half of that lesson is knowing what exactly one might need.  Some smart doctor-like friends were kind enough to mention I might need such things as anti-malaria meds before going.  Booked an appointment the week before departure and discovered a few avoidance shots were also necessary.  No, I don't want Hep A or Typhoid, though I've no idea what either do.  Actually, I've no idea what Malaria does.  They are all bad and possibly deadly.  So I lucked into avoiding those things.

It did not really occur to me (or the others that take care of me) that I might need simple information like an address or a phone number where I can be reached in country.  These are things for which both the US Department of State and Nicaraguan Customs asks.  Whoops.

The kindly Nicaraguan lady asks:  "So where are you staying?  In Managua (that's that capital where I landed)?"
Me, thinking:  "No, pretty sure my friend doesn't live there..."
Her:  "So where does your friend live?"
Me:  "I think the... north... west maybe?"
I have to stop her in the middle of a long list of places I've never heard of.  I'm pretty sure I never even bothered to ask.  Tony was just picking me up at the airport and in my mind that's all the info I required.  And no, I don't really know what I would have done if we missed each other.  Hung out at a nearby bar till he showed up... or didn't.

Lesson dos:  Learn the local language as fast as possible.
Last time I studied Spanish was in middle school.  Can't recall a damn word of it to be frank.  I have managed to learned a couple the past few days in Chichigalpa (see, I eventually figured it out...), like "non comprendo" or "non sei".  Tony filling in as personal translator.

Today, though, I had mostly to myself.  Tony was running around doing important Peace Corps things so I stayed at the family compound.  This place is alive with people.  Coming in an out all day and, somewhat annoyingly, all night.  I've no idea how many people live here, but there are at least five bedrooms and apparently a guy who sleeps outside in a hammock.  I'd wager a dozen people are here at any given moment.  And not a one of them speaks a lick of English (that may be harsh to one of the boys here who recited a story in English... or the little girls who proudly competed to show me how high they could count).

They have a big courtyard area with an outdoor kitchen, a bunch of animals, and a variety of fruit trees (I recognized mango and avocado).  I rather liked all the animals as they spoke about as much Spanish as me.  Well I was on par with the chickens, ducks, parrots, and cat.  The dogs may have had me by a hair.  I sat mostly and ate well (ha! had the dogs on that one).  The ladies were always cooking: some of the stuff they sold, some of the stuff we ate.  I did engage them in conversation or, rather, they tried to pull me in.  I learned "caliente" on account of my propensity toward fire.  I must say everyone is incredibly nice to the useless "gringo".  The best I can do is try to show them I am at least incredibly appreciative of their hospitality.

I fared much better with the children when they all got home from school.  We could do things like whistle at each other and snap our fingers.  Took to the streets to play catch.  Or race each other in a variety of ways.  I totally would have won the one-footed hop, but they all cheated and just ran.  I also learned some versions of pattie-cake pattie-cake, though I've no idea what they had me saying.  Picked it up rather quickly though if I do say so myself.  They also gave me my first real Spanish lesson as we pointed at different things and taught each other how to say them in our respective languages.  That's right, two days in Nicaragua and I'm already teaching English as a second language!

Regardless, I've a strong inclination to pound the ole French language books like a man possessed when I get back stateside.

Lesson three:  Bring your damn camera cord.
Apologies, everyone.  I'll have to add pictures later.  But hey, this is why we have test runs.  Other things to bring: something to sleep in, a watch, hand soap.