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9 posts • Page 1 of 1
Well, I recently took my first trip to Latin America. I had wanted to go for a long time, but had put it off. My choice was Nicaragua.
I stayed for a month, but was taking a class that consumed most of my time, so I did not get to explore as much as I wanted to, although I still got a lot out of it.
Going through the airport was easy. No problems or annoyances. You do have to pay $10 to enter the country, though. (Or Americans do. Not sure about other nationalities.)
I found my taxi driver shortly after. It was a 2 hour drive to Leon, where I would be staying for the month. The driver spoke a little English, but not much. So I immediately took the opportunity to use my Spanish. I had been studying at home on my own for a couple of months. By “studying” I mean about an hour or so a day of using DuoLingo (which is great, by the way), listening to Spanish music (Bailando by Enrique Iglesias is catchy), and writing vocabulary on a notepad. But I realized quickly that what I knew was not nearly enough. But somehow, I made it through a 2 hour conversation that 90% in Spanish. If I were a swimmer stranded at sea, it would’ve been the equivalent of flopping around until someone rescued me after two hours.
There doesn’t seem to be much between Managua and Leon. A few villages or small towns. It was kind of like driving on a back-road in the U.S. It felt far away from civilization at parts.
When I first got into Leon, I remarked at how beautiful the buildings are. It’s a colonial city, a few hundred years old. The churches/cathedrals will resonate with your soul. There’s a huge one. I don’t know the name of it, but it’s big and white. And you can go on top. When I finally got to do that, I saw all the old buildings, churches, and volcanoes in the distance. It was perhaps the single most spectacular view I have ever seen.
Speaking of the churches, if you go to Leon at least, be prepared to refer to them a LOT. They don’t use addresses there. They refer to the churches (usually) when giving directions. So your “address” might be “3 blocks North and 2 blocks East from the San Francisco Church," for example.
I stayed in a hostel for the month. It wasn’t very expensive, but it was very basic too. But something like that could always be upgraded. I was in a very touristy part of the city, and I realized most of the tourists are European. I asked the lady who owned the hostel and she said Americans are too afraid to come to Nicaragua.
The current conversion is about 26 Cordobas for 1 U.S. Dollar. And it’s cheap to live there of course. I imagined that I could live comfortably there for about $800 a month. Incidentally, a foreign English teacher would not likely make more than that there. I would go eat in a cafeteria type of place most days, and it was usually about $2-$3 per meal. And that was a good-sized plate.
There will be a lot of familiar foods for Americans. Tortillas, rice, beans, chicken, pork, different kinds of bread…all those are typical foods. (And gallo pinto...a lot of gallo pinto.) There was also an abundance of street food, which I love to go get. You could get sandwiches, hotdogs, and hamburgers at many food carts. And there are a lot of carts around where you can get batidos - smoothies. They love smoothies. There is also cheese in Nicaragua, which if you’ve traveled to certain parts of the world, you appreciate.
I did not initially think most people were terribly friendly. As the month went on, I changed my mind as I interacted with people more. Made a few acquaintances, but I didn’t allow myself to get too attached to anyone or anything because I knew it was temporary. (And I didn’t want to stay and teach there.) The people there may have been jaded by having so many foreigners around. I’m not sure. But I was surprised at how few foreigners I heard trying to use Spanish. I always tried when I went out exploring. It was difficult, but I was adding new words and phrases every day.
Taking the class really wore me down, and it didn’t allow me to get out and explore and practice my Spanish as much as I wanted to. But that was my primary purpose and I did get some good stuff out of it.
I did not spend much time outside of class with the Americans who ran it, or my classmates. On the few occasions that we did all go out together, we talked a lot. And there are two main things I learned from them about Nicaragua:
First, they said things are changing to become more “progressive.” I’m paraphrasing. You know what this means: feminism. But given the source, and my limited time to observe the place, I don’t know how true that is. You know liberal types, they are always assured that liberalism will be victorious in every society.
Second, they said that Nicaragua is becoming saturated with gringos, and in the early stages of becoming like Costa Rica. (They have been to Costa Rica at least a few times and compared it based on their experiences, so at least this wasn’t hearsay.) That is to say that it is going to become more expensive with a lot more foreigners f***ing things up.
But so much of the country is virtually unexplored. You have just a few “big” cities in Nicaragua. (Which only has about 6 million people all together.) After that, there are so many out of the way places no one really knows about. And apparently the culture can change too. I was informed that North-eastern Nicaragua has a lot of Caribbean culture, for example.
So, what about the women?
There is a lot of obesity in Nicaragua. Carb-heavy diets, and some genetic aspect I guess. That said, there are still plenty of good looking girls, the vast majority of whom are very brown of course. (I find it attractive.) I didn’t attempt dating, nor did I perceive any female interest in me. Not that I had time for that. On the streets on the weekends, I didn’t have any interaction with women, nor did I approach anyone.
But I was taking a class about teaching English as a foreign language. And most of the students were in university, or at least around that age. It’s an obvious conclusion from there: you don’t have access to the community (including dating) unless you have a place there. This is one reason why I never want to be a tourist again.
So I got to do practice teaching. And I felt a genuine connection with my students. It immediately felt comfortable and authentic. And there were cute college girls in my classroom. I realized what kind of life might be possible there. One girl in particular really stood out to me: really beautiful, sweet, nice smile, perfect Latina. I thought about trying to talk to her personally before leaving the country, but I never did. (I would’ve not been her teacher once the course was finished, so it wouldn’t have been unethical or showing favoritism that would influence me in the classroom.) I still wonder if maybe I should’ve tried, though surely nothing could’ve come of it.
After one of the classes, I had a few minutes and talked with two of my students in Spanish. Again, I struggled, but I left feeling good. To be a teacher who takes an interest in the language of his students…I think it is essential as a language teacher.
On my last day of teaching, two of my students came up to me and told me that I was a great teacher and made the class really fun for them. It made my day. No, it made my MONTH!
And that was my experience in Nicaragua.
Good account, thanks.
Sounds like a workable place, with outside income.
Congrats on the TEFL.
"Pick a point and go to it."
-- Dr John Hunsucker, speaking about canoeing on Georgia's Lake Lanier, with its irregular shape, and 1000 miles of meandering shoreline
The TEFL was about $1600.
My living expenses for the month were about $700, including the hostel payment, food, and taxis to and from the airport. Transportation could be done much cheaper than how I did it though.
Plane ticket was $400.
Mira, Ghost, Se dice "El Fantasma" ni "El Fantasmo".
(Look, ghost, it's [supposed] to be said as "El Fantasma" not "El Fantasmo").
Eso es algo para reflexionar.
(Food for thought)
It's time to expatriate to evade your fate; it's time to expatriate before the barn door permanently closes on "US" sheep.
Debut mixtape "The Skilled Neophyte of RNB (x64)" dropping Spring 2016 - Follow me on Twitter @eirizarryRNB
I'm not good with telling when to change or not change the ending. Just one of my little frustrations with the language. And on this topic, I really hate that "el dia" is irregular. "Buenas dias" sounds so much better than "Buenos dias."
haha same with "el agua", "el aguila", there's quirks to every language. sometimes there's no applicable logic rules AFAIK.
Edit: I stand corrected, these are to avoid the diphthong of 'la aguila'
It's like in english
terminater vs terminator, adapter and adaptor, or connecter vs connector. Many people, even in engineering, get this wrong.
1)Too much of one thing defeats the purpose.
2)Everybody is full of it. What's your hypocrisy?
I was in a Latin country for a month, and I didn't even realize it was "el agua." Spanish is easy to pronounce and has a lot of cognates, but I think the easiness ends there. People say it's a really easy language, but I don't think there is any such thing.
I also noticed in Nicaragua that most people would not say "de nada." They would usually just say "bueno." Little things like that threw me off too. And I could tell they clipped some endings, though I don't recall which words I heard that with. But that's probably every language that does that.
In Peru they don't say "de nada" much either, usually just "ya". Every country is different and has its own slang and words that are only used there. For example, in Mexico peanuts are "cacahuates", but in South-America they are called "mani". And of course in places like Argentina they don't even say "tu", they say "vos".
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