Nicaragua: Week 1 and 2

Week 1 and 2 in Nicaragua:
Over 20 mosquito bites, bowl full of beans for breakfast, and constant sweating.. I am having the time of my life.
Where do I even start? I only have been here for two weeks and a few days, but it has already been a humbling, exciting, and amazing journey. It almost feels like it is too good to be true. On the plane ride to Nicaragua, Chris (my partner in crime, my right hand man, mi hermano) and I kept reminding each other that this is really happening. Every few minutes we kept experiencing the same realization that we were about to spend the next two months in Nicaragua. We finally landed and managed to make it out the airport without a problem. However, as soon as we stepped out the airport we both instantly felt the brutal Nicaraguan heat. Chris and I immediately started sweating and looked at each other and reality hit us. We were here.

We were picked up and greeted by Greg (our program director) and Moses (our driver). We hit the road and headed to León, that is where we will be spending the next two months in. The pick up truck was only big enough to hold our suitcases. So Chris and I were riding out in the back of the pick up truck’s bed (Don’t worry mom, its legal and socially acceptable). That way our bags are safe. We stop by an art shop that PGL (Project Gettysburg León) helps out and had lunch with the workers. The food, as expected was extremely good and filling. We arrived to León and Greg showed us around and gave us a brief tour. He then dropped us off to our host families. Home sweet home.
I entered my new home and walked into a living room full of people who were anxiously waiting for my arrival. My host mom gave me a huge welcoming hug. The Lopez family immediately sat me down and put a huge plate of food in front of me and introduced themselves…all nine of them.

Marina A.K.A Mama – Host Mom
Sergio – Host Dad
Victor – Host Brother, in his late 30s
Enya- Victor’s wife, in her late 30s
Eric – Host Brother and roommate, 35
Reina – Host Sister, mid 20s
Kenya – Adopted Host Sister, mid 20s
Samir – Victor and Enya’s son, 12
Roxanna – Victor and Enya’s daughter, 7

After I figured out the names, I was put on the hot seat. Answering a million questions. How old are you? How does your tummy feel? Do you have a girlfriend? Do you find Nicaragua women attractive? Do you like beans? Do you play sports? Do you dance reggaetón? What do you study? Where are you from? What do you like to eat? Tell me about your family? Do you drink a lot? Did you try the country’s beer and rum yet? Etc…

After chatting with them for a few hours they realized I was exhausted because the time here was two hours behind from New York. Mama sent me to bed and told me that my new name in Nicaragua is “Phellix Lopez”; I am now a part of their family.

5:30 in the morning and the roosters in the yard were singing. I learned that the people here start the day early. Everyone in my family was getting ready for school or work. Mama served me breakfast with a big smile and watched me eat. That morning Chris, Greg, and I went into the heart of the city and got to know the city of León better.

Our first weekend was a great one; Chris and I checked out the nightlife scene and were excited to find out beer cost less than a dollar. “Gringo” is a term used to described Americans. Chris, is the ultimate Gringo. He walks around with an Indiana Jones hat and a fanny pack. When he hits the dance floor, EVERYONE watches. We easily made friends and got to know some of the locals.

That weekend we also went to Talolinga to check out one of PGL’s gardening project. Talolinga is a small community on the mountain. It was an hour ride and also an hour hike.The very next day, we climbed a volcano called “Cerro Negro” That was an exciting hike. It was the first time I climbed a volcano, and it was also an active volcano. Once I got to the top, I sand boarded down.

The following week was my first week being an art teacher at a school called “Xuchialt”.. I am teaching art teachers how to use programs such as photoshop, garage band, imovie, etc… It was not as hard as I thought it was going to be. Although it is hard for me to teach in Spanish, the teachers that I teach are patient with me and enthused with the course.

The week after I did not teach at the school because I went to Granada to help out with a gardening project. Granada is a beautiful colonial city. Michael was my traveling partner. He is a 60 year old man who lives in New York but travels to Nicaragua at least 8 times a year. He goes to communities and teaches them a gardening method that will increases a garden’s growth and utilizes less space. I accompanied him so I can be a translator, because he was not confident with his Spanish. The community where we had the workshop was a peninsula surrounded by small islands, which were created by a volcano eruption decades ago. The scenery was breath taking. Every view was worthy enough to be a desktop screensaver or postcard image.

The weekend of my arrival back to León was spent learning about the history of Nicaragua. Greg took us to a few museums and taught us about the history. We also went to Managua to see government buildings and to Zip-Line across Managua.

That has been my journey thus far. I tried to squeeze everything. But to be honest, this trip is full of awesome things that it will be impossible to document everything.

– Phellix Rodriguez A.K.A Phellix Lopez

P.S – Chris and I decided not to shave our beards while we are here… Lets see how long we can commit. Also here are some photos of me in Cerro Negro

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