We have been in Granada for two and a half days now, and in Nicaragua for just over a week, but it has felt like a lot longer. Which is a good thing. We are both finding our ways here, with the language and culture, but also quite literally we know how to get around town. I don’t think my words can adequately express how great it feels to come back to town today and not have to pull out Waze (an app that helps with directions).
We’ve had two days at Casa Xalteva Spanish School, and though that doesn’t seem like much, we are both seeing progress in our ability to speak and understand Spanish. Yesterday began with us meeting our teachers and the director of the school, and hearing a bit about what they are trying to do here in Granada. Casa Xalteva’s approach is two fold: they exist to teach Spanish to foreigners, however they do so on a non-profit basis so that the profits from the school can go to support prevention programs for local at-risk youth. As is the case most places, rehabilitation is very difficult to do well here in Nicaragua, and while there are organizations doing just that,Casa Xalteva exists to provide local kids positive alternatives in life. Most of the kids involved in the program come from some sort of vulnerable situation, and though they themselves may not have a drug problem, maybe a family member does. Or even though they don’t live on the streets, they probably have someone in their family who has or currently does. So the idea behind the program at Casa Xalteva is, essentially, to get to them first. Provide these kids with education, homework help, activities and mentorship (all of which empower them as humans) so that hopefully they make better choices for themselves, despite the possible influences from their families or home lives. Which, honestly, is exactly why we chose the school. We believe strongly in helping before things get crazy, or in the case of these kids, before they are exploited or addicted. The same passion we heard in the voice of the director, Simon, is what we feel for the kids of La Chureca.
Our classes go from 8am-noon, with a break around 10 for coffee and the bathroom. Before we head to school, though, our host mom Zoila, makes sure we have a filling traditional Nica breakfast, typically consisting of eggs, gallo pinto (rice and red beans) and fruit. And of course, coffee for me. After breakfast we walk to school (its about five blocks away) and typically visit with our classmates or teachers before its time to get to work. Landon has more Spanish understanding than I do, so from the get go we were in different classes. But the class I began in ended up not quite being right for me, so I volunteered to move down a level to the “New to Spanish” class, which has been awesome. My teacher, Geral, is about my age, speaks English very well, and thinks of very creative ways to present the material. (For instance today, we played a dice game called Farkle in order to practice our numbers). I am in class with two guys from Switzerland, who are funny and very enjoyable to be around. Landon ended up being the only person at his level in school this week, so he gets to take one on one lessons. Typically you pay a little more for that luxury, but he sort of lucked out. His teacher, Maria, is tough on him, but thats ok. We’re here to learn, right? 😉
After class is out we come home and have lunch, with has varied both days. But usually there is rice, and some protein, and maybe beans or some sort of ‘salad.’ [In Nicaragua, ‘ensalada’ looks more like what we would call salsa in the States. You can get normal salad here, but in traditional Nica food, its more like salsa.] By the time lunch is over (around 1 or so) it is VERY HOT outside, and in a country where electricity is super expensive, air conditioners are a luxury. So, in all honesty, the past two days we have gone places to attempt to escape the heat. Yesterday, that looked like the grocery store (we walked VERY slowly down each aisle and ended up spending maybe $2?) and today we ventured to Laguna de Apoyo, a local volcano made lake. There are restaurants and hotels all around the lake, with gorgeous patio views of the laguna, and for the price of a couple of drinks or maybe a meal, you can have access to their dock and swimming area. For Pacific Northwesterners like us, the $5 we spent on drinks was well worth the relief from the heat.
We try to be home by about 5:45 or 6 each night, as dinner is typically ready around 6:30pm. We usually eat our meals with Zoila, her two grandkids, and maybe her daughter. There is also another great granddaughter who lives next door who has eaten with us a few times. She is two years old, her name is Valentina, and she is adorable. We have really enjoyed visiting with the family here, and are excited to progress in our Spanish so that we can do so more efficiently and clearly.
Our after dinner routine is to sit on the porch with Zoila and watch the neighborhood kids play the game of the night (whether its tag or baseball) and just talk. We are able to ask her lots of questions about Spanish, but also, we are getting to know her and her family more and more every day. What we have noticed is this: even though there are areas in this country that need assistance and there exist people who are unable to parent their children well, there are also loads of people like Zoila. People who are proud of their country, love their family and are happy to extend a welcome to strangers. We are so glad to be here and can’t wait to share more as the days go on.